aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Book review, of sorts

Well, I finally got around to reading The Children of Hurin. It is, indeed, one of the Great Tales as Tolkien envisaged it. It is a sad tale, of course, and I knew all the parts before reading this coherent start-to-finish narrative. Anyway, I quite enjoyed it.

I first began reading The Lord of the Rings forty years ago this summer. It took hold of me in a powerful way. I read, and re-read, and then re-re-read it, many times. I could not at first find The Hobbit for sale in our little town, but there was a copy at our local library: an old, hardbound copy with Tolkien's original text in it (with the very different Riddle Game between Bilbo and Gollum).

Those who know LOTR only through the movies -- or worse, in a reflection produced by the mirror of later fantasy lit and role-playing games -- may love this work, but they often don't understand it. To understand Tolkien, you have to understand a lot about his linguistic passion. When he said the sources of inspiration for his work were "fundamentally linguistic" he wasn't kidding. Tolkien's stories grew out of everything he knew and loved in Old English and Middle English literature.

This is why I have not ever actually watched the movies and why I avoid most of the commentary -- not because I am a purist, or cannot bear to see this treated uncanonically (shoot, Tolkien himself often could not settle on a canonical version of some of his stuff) -- but because I see so many people greedily grabbing at what they barely understand to make something else out of it. It's like the bozos who made a new version of Messiah -- to make it more "accessible" to modern musical taste. Ugh. To "correct" or "improve" or even "update" an artist requires one to be an artist of almost the same caliber -- and certainly, it depends not only upon one's skill as an artist, but upon one correctly understanding the intent of the original artist.

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