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Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’

I’ve thought about this moment for so long – the moment when I sat down to put my final thoughts in writing. Though this will be a long post, I don’t think it can do justice to the 900-some that I’ve already put down. There is much I want to say, but it will always be dwarfed by the enormity of writing a post every single day for two and a half years. Did I actually write more words than Tolkien in this tale? I might have. It’s close, at any rate. It doesn’t matter. The final product, or the end, is much less when compared to the whole, the journey. So, I sit here, taking my first sips of a scotch given to me by my father for Christmas 2012 (I saved it for a special occasion, which I learned would be this moment), trying to explain what all this was and what it meant.

Let’s start at the beginning. What a very good place to start.

It was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from college at Northwestern University about a month and a half prior, and I was bored. Hammered into my brain by commencement speeches (one from the biggest Tolkien nerd of them all, Mr. Stephen Colbert) was the idea that I had to make my own way. I went to school for theatre, so that meant that I was looking to make art – to create something. I didn’t know what to do. I was auditioning, of course, and looking for day jobs to pay the bills that were about to kick in (I still hadn’t moved out of my college apartment, though I would shortly), but I hadn’t found a job, and I don’t believe that I had even yet auditioned for the first role that I would land, which was, coincidentally, from the first audition I had post-graduation.

In case you’re curious, this is about the point where my word count equals near to the length of an average post. We’re going WAY over that today.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

At the time, I really felt the need to make something, and make something original. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite had the ability to come up with something all my own. I had some ideas, but they never amounted to anything. Then, I got a gift. On a trip out to the East Coast to see my girlfriend’s family, her mother gave me my birthday present early. It was the beautiful, leather-bound 50th Anniversary Edition of The Lord of the Rings. Upon returning home, I knew I had to do something special with this book. I wanted to delve into it as deeply as I could, and combining that desire with an oddly unique short story concept (Jorge Luis Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”), I had my plan.

For those of you who might not have been aware, I actually wrote the entirety of Lord of the Rings as I wrote this blog. I typed it up, purely for myself, in a plain text document. This mimics what Borges’ character does, rewriting Don Quixote word for word. The narrator of Borges’ story, a book reviewer, finds Menard’s version of Don Quixote more insightful than the original. Theoretically, that can’t be possible. It’s the same book, but that’s the quirk of the magical realism. Something is new about it – updated, modern. Menard was a genius.

I am not a genius. If I was, this would probably have turned into a source of income, or at least wildly popular online. “If no one’s paying you after 500 pages,” a friend told me shortly after beginning, “you might want to stop.” I laughed that off. This was never meant to be classically successful, but interesting, fun, and a way to get my creative juices flowing. Sure, the scope of this project was mind-numbing (1000 straight days?!), but I thought that added to the challenge. I have to admit, I really did think I’d screw up at some point or another, out of boredom, anger, or other things keeping me busy. I never did. I hung with it. That friend from above? “It’s quite the stunning achievement,” he said just last night. He’s actually a professional TV/book/film critic over at the AV Club. He knows things.

Meanwhile, I'm more like Jon Snow.

Meanwhile, I’m more like Jon Snow.

As for end goals, I…didn’t really have any, or know what they might be. I wanted to know more about Lord of the Rings, sure, but that was more of a hobby interest. I wanted to create my own art. Yes, I did that. Also, some part of me wants to write a book at some point in my life. It’s a side dream. I don’t want to be a writer professionally, but I do enjoy it. And I thought that if I could literally write this great work myself (meaning Lord of the Rings), maybe I would understand a little bit more about how to author such a piece. I don’t know if I really got that, but I understand how quotes and semicolons work better now. That’s a start.

In truth, I probably learned more general life lessons than anything else. Routines are good; they’re something to hold on to, but they can also drag you down into monotony. While I always knew that I would at least have a small part of my day blocked off for focused writing, I also always had a twinge of anxiety that I had to get it done. That feeling when you get home at 3am and you know you still have to hammer out a cogent blog post? Not a good one. That similar feeling when you go to bed knowing that you have next to no time the following day to do your post? Also not great. (I wrote posts as early as 5am, and as late as 4am.) But I did it, and somehow, I know now that I can commit to doing things like that. I’ll find the time. If you really want to do something, and you make it a priority, it’ll happen.

In other life lessons, creating is hard work, but it can be done at times of need. I think it’s a romantic notion that inspiration will always be there when your greatest work happens. As much as I want to be a romantic, that’s just not true. Sometimes, you have to slog through something. Sometimes, something great comes out of it. It doesn’t always, but once you get started, you can hit that rhythm. Getting started when you’re not feeling it is the hardest thing. I still have that problem with a lot of things I do that are self-motivated. Just start. Get those first lines out, onto the page or into the room, and perhaps great things will follow. In a way, you create your own inspiration.

…I think I was inspired a bit by writing that.

So, what do I do now? Well, for a long time, I’ve meant to read The Silmarillion. I actually haven’t done that before. That’s on my list, along with reading Lord of the Rings for pleasure at a totally normal pace. I read fast, so I could probably have it done in a week or two instead of two and a half years. That will be a different experience. Though some people have asked, I have no plans to do this sort of project again anytime soon (and no, not with The Hobbit). It was a lot of work, and I want to focus some of that energy in other places now. I’d like to use my new-found hour or two every day towards other endeavors, whatever they may be. We’ll see.

That’s it, at least for the part of this post that most people will care about. Below, I’m going to list some fun facts, along with some special thanks to those who helped me along the way. This was a wild ride in many ways, some that I didn’t expect. Thanks for joining me, in whatever small way, in the musings of my strange mind.

P.S. Have you ever hovered your cursor over one of the pictures on the blog? There’s ALT text hidden there! REPLAY VALUE!

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Fun facts! A lot of things happened since I started this blog. Let’s talk about them.

The blog was started (with the introductory post) on July 26th, 2011. It has been…

996 days since then! 2 years, 8 months, and 22 days!

Where did I post all these posts?

-Evanston, IL (my apartment, a Starbucks in town, possibly other places)

-Chicago, IL (my apartment, friends’ apartments, the French Market at Ogilvie Transportation Center, the office where I worked, possibly other places)

-St. Charles, IL (my parents’ house)

-St. Louis, MO (friend’s apartment, a hotel just outside of town)

-Spring Lake, NJ (a bed and breakfast on the shore, girlfriend’s grandfather’s house)

-Austin, TX (my apartment, friends’ house, a hotel in town)

I think that’s everywhere!

I spent two and a half years reading ONE book, but I read others, too!

-The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Ender’s Game

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons

Neverwhere

-Lots of plays

I think that’s everything!

I recorded songs! About those…

I recorded 66 separate tracks, totaling 39 different songs (and one medley). According to my iTunes, it totals 1 hour and 33 minutes of music. Meanwhile, I totally learned how to play the ukulele…but not so much the mandolin. (Still working!)

And what about other things going on in my life? During this time…

-I’ve lived in three different apartments in three cities – Evanston and Chicago, IL and Austin, TX.

-I’ve had three “major” jobs. (And numerous part-time or temp positions.)

-I’ve performed in three plays, five films, one TV documentary, one local commercial, five voiceover spots, and one really awkward a cappella concert.

-I’ve had one amazingly supportive girlfriend.

The above being said, let’s get to the people I want to thank.

-Briana, my girlfriend, who doesn’t think this is at all strange.

-Barb and Peter, my parents, who don’t understand this, but “skim” it anyway.

-Debbie and Jeff, my girlfriend’s parents, who bought me the book in the first place.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the book in the first place.

-Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote a strange short story that inspired me in a strange way.

-Sharon and Anakin, friends who kept up every day, and who I believe are my top commenters.

-Dan, a friend who I’m pretty sure read most of this, and who started his own short-lived blog.

-Sam, a friend who I’m pretty sure didn’t read most of this, but who would totally get each and every one of my jokes.

-Ned, a friend whose blog (though never finished) inspired me to start my own.

-Kevin, a friend who I admire immensely as a writer and creative thinker.

-Phil, a reader who I inspired to finish his own project, and whose project inspired me to keep on going.

-Justin, a friend whose motivation inspires me, and my roommate for two of these years.

-Matt, a friend whose exuberance at the discovery of this blog was unmatched.

-/r/tolkienfans, a subreddit where my blog got just a small bit of publicity, and a community of Tolkien enthusiasts who talk about really interesting things. It was here that I first got hooked on Reddit. (I try to help out when I can, especially with textual evidence! Hint: my account name is an anagram of Pierre Menard!)

-You, reader, because no thank you list would be complete without a cheesy shout-out to you, whoever you are!

That’s all, folks! Live well, do interesting things, and be happy! It’s more fun that way.

-Dave

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This page moves by fast. Frodo and Sam are looking at the Red Book, full of Bilbo’s and Frodo’s stories. Its title page is a mess of scratched out ideas.

Because sometimes you change the title.

Because sometimes you change the title.

Frodo’s story is unfinished, and a few pages are left blank at the end. Frodo will give the book to Sam, and now it’s Sam’s turn to write.

Frodo and Sam set out from Bag End on September 21st (the day before the big birthday day). They ride out through the Shire, seeing parts of it that they saw at the very beginning of their great journey.

First Mentions:

-Strider: Frodo’s pony, the very one that bore him all the way home from Minas Tirith. It’s no secret who he’s named after.

-the Stock Road: A road through the Shire, undoubtedly to Stock.

And, I mean, about half this page is taken up with the numerous titles, subtitles, and parenthetical additions to the titles of the Red Book. It was quite the tale, and the story’s changed since Bilbo first put it down. I think some of his edits are in there, but also those that Frodo changed or added once his story became a part of the whole. Once again, I’ll bring up that this is technically the framing device of the whole book. If you want to think of it this way, we’re reading the Red Book right now.

Or, don’t think of it that way. Sometimes it feels more like an adaptation of the Red Book. It has been mentioned that many editions are made throughout the following years and years, so it’s possible that someone eventually fleshed out this great tale from the ramblings of the two hobbits.

Well, Tolkien did that, I guess. META.

Sly dog.

Sly dog.

Finally, I want to touch on one sad note. According to the Internet (well, according to…life), the horse who played Shadowfax in the films, Blanco, has died. He fell ill some time ago, and the decision was made today to put him out of his suffering. While unfortunate, I’m sure many horses couldn’t have ever dreamed (if horses do that) of being such a beautifully prominent character on screen. And I’m sure that he lived as good a life as a horse can.

But in our story…

No one dies today.

“‘It seems like a dream now.'”

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No, no, not the book and everything. We still have two more weeks of that. What’s over? Just this battle. The Battle of Bywater! Epic.

The page begins with the cleanup of the battle. Some 70 (70!) ruffians were killed, along with 19 hobbits. The ruffians are buried unceremoniously in a pit, and the hobbits in a grave that would later be marked with a stone and garden. Hobbits like gardens.

Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin ride back to Bywater with the Cottons, and discuss their next steps over lunch. It’s clear that they must now strike out against Sharkey, and Farmer Cotton prepares an escort to bring them to Bag End. The road there is depressing, with familiar buildings in disarray or completely torn down, and new ones rising bleak from the rugged earth. The Shire is in a bad way.

Sometimes, that one new building just doesn't fit in with the rest.

Sometimes, that one new building just doesn’t fit in with the rest.

First Mentions:

-the Battle Pit: The mass grave of the ruffians, which gets a way cooler name than it deserves.

-the Battle of Bywater: That was this battle! It has a name now, so it’s official.

-the Greenfields: A battle in the Shire some 300 years ago. It was here that, through victory, Bullroarer Took invented the game of golf.

-the Red Book: What a meta moment! The Red Book of Westmarch is the volume in which Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures are detailed. This is the first time we’ve heard about it in a direct, official sense.

-the Old Grange: A granary in Hobbiton that’s been torn down.

As I noted above, the mention of the Red Book of Westmarch is a strangely meta-textual moment. On the page, we’re talking about the way that the hobbits remembered the participants in the Battle of Bywater, which becomes legend. The names of all present are written in the book, and historians vow to commit them to memory. Of course, the book is much more than that. Bilbo’s “first edition” contained his story of the journey to the Lonely Mountain, edited in part to detract from the importance and treachery of the ring, which he was keeping secret from many at the time of his writing. He entrusts this book to Frodo at their last meeting in Rivendell in hopes that he will edit things up a bit. (We saw this not too long ago!) A second edition is created, this time with Frodo’s story added. Numerous other editions are made and passed down, until supposedly the book (or a copy of it) comes into J.R.R. Tolkien’s keeping. He translates it to English, and these great stories are told.

The cover of Bilbo's book is indeed subtly red.

The cover of Bilbo’s book is indeed subtly red.

Of course, this is all a fiction. The stories came from Tolkien’s imagination, not an ancient book in a strange language. However, there’s nothing wrong with finding some magic in it.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-Greenfields

I mean, after all, what if it were true?

No one dies today.

“Bagshot Row was a yawning…”

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Why, raise the proletariat, of course.

This seems impractical.

This seems impractical.

Merry proposes the idea that they raise an alarm to urge hobbits into action. It’s clear that many don’t like this new regime, but they’re too afraid to do anything about it. They need leadership and coordination, which are the exact sorts of things that these four hobbits learned in their travels. Sam makes to ride off to the Cotton farm, while Merry blows the horn given to him from Rohan. Its call is answered by others from around the Shire.

Sam arrives at the Cotton household, and is met by the family. At first they prepare to defend themselves, but then see that Sam is no threat.

Unity for the hobbits! Instead of being a scattered, insular, yet peaceful people, perhaps they have it in them to organize and enact change. There might be some inherent political message here, but I’ve never thought of this book as one that has heavy-handed themes. In fact, I’ve heard that the only message Tolkien ever acknowledged is the theme of deforestation evident in the ents’ story. Hard to disprove that one.

Some of these trees were my friends.

Some of these trees were my friends.

Thankfully, the plan is working, and quite immediately. In a way, they’re the Paul Revere of hobbits…

Even though it’s been said that most of the Paul Revere legend is fabricated.

No one dies today.

“‘He’s here and his friends.'”

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Okay, okay. So, this is a really big deal. Aragorn motions for Frodo and Sam to come sit by him, and he sings their praises while bowing down before them. A conveniently placed minstrel offers to sing of the hobbits’ deeds, and the entire force listens to his tale for the next few…hours?

Hear ye, hear ye.

Hear ye, hear ye.

When the tale is told, Frodo and Sam are directed to a tent where they finally change out of their rags. Gandalf comes to present them with finer clothes, as well as some of their most treasured belongings.

So, I found it interesting that, when this full story is told, presumably in song, Tolkien doesn’t write it as he has with every other song. Sure, we skip the meat of it, but the minstrel sings just as any other character speaks. Thankfully, I took this as an opportunity to not do a song today. I mean, we’ve heard it already, right?

In addition, how is it that this man knows enough about the journey to sing of it? If Frodo and Sam have been knocked out all this time, it’s not like anyone’s been talking about the finer points of their adventure. Sure, knowledge is there to be had from bits and pieces of the journey, but not all those long days and nights when they were stuck in Mordor more or less alone. Is this guy just making it up, then?

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-greathearts

He made that word up, so his creativity is not to be questioned.

No one dies today.

“‘I do not wish for any sword,’ said Frodo.”

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It’s crawling time. When Frodo and Sam get up to get going once more, Frodo suggests crawling. Okay. Let’s do that.

Move, move, move!

Move, move, move!

The road cuts across Mount Doom before them, a pathway built and maintained that stretches from Barad-dûr to the mountain. Frodo suddenly stops and looks east, seeing Sauron’s fortress before him. Sauron’s attention is turned elsewhere, however, towards the battle brewing with Aragorn’s forces at the Black Gate. Frodo collapses at the sight.

First Mentions:

-Sauron’s Road: Aw, it’s his personal road! I mean, I guess what else are you going to call it?

-the Window of the Eye: This appears to be a window to Sauron’s own chamber in Barad-dûr. This begs the question…

So, what about that Eye of Sauron? Book purists say that Peter Jackson’s depiction of Barad-dûr with a big old flaming eye on top was ridiculous. Sure, it really doesn’t seem to fit with the way magic and structures worked together in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but hear me out a second…I think Jackson’s version was fairly darn faithful to the text. Observe: “One moment only it stared out, but as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red, the flicker of a piercing Eye.”

Does that not sound somewhat like what the film visualized? Now, much is made of similes when comparing the text to the films, such as the balrog’s shadow stretching out “like two vast wings.” Does that mean the balrog has wings, or that its shadow merely acts like wings? Much debate. In the Eye of Sauron’s case, we have another simile: “But as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red.” However, this simile doesn’t appear to be talking about some sort of flaming eye. In fact, it mentions the possible existence of a window, but the flame and eye are not included in its comparison. In essence, it says that a flaming eye spouts from something like a window, but does not imply the true existence of a window.

So, yes?

So evil.

So evil.

There isn’t a pure and simple answer here. I didn’t think that there would be anything this notable to debate, though. I had assumed that we never got a clear description of Barad-dûr, and most people simply didn’t envision it having a flaming eye atop it. Not to say that it couldn’t, but no one specifically said that it did. Instead, we do have a description, and it actually seems to indicate this appearance.

And what does it matter? Envision it how you like. I’m reading too much into things, like I do.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-Sammath

No, that is not an alternate nickname for Samwise, but maybe it should be.

No one dies today.

“Faint, almost inaudibly, he heard Frodo whis-…”

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This is a complicated page! Forces are marching, fighting, arriving, coming, going…there’s a lot to cover. In a nutshell, though, when I said yesterday that it feels like something bad has to happen soon, I was right. It does.

It was only a matter of time.

It was only a matter of time.

Let’s just go through what happens and who goes where.

Men of Gondor (led by Imrahil) ride to the aid of Éomer. They fight against the Haradrim, but have no hope against the towering oliphaunts. To make matters worse, more men and orcs are sent from Osgiliath. A new captain, though not as terrifying as the Witch-king, rules the forces of evil. He has less restraint.

Meanwhile, the men still in Minas Tirith see black ships arriving at the docks on Anduin.

First Mentions:

-Húrin the Tall: Leader of a force from Minas Tirith. Has some position as the “Warden of the Keys”. That sounds semi-important.

-Gothmog: Lieutenant of the forces of evil, now in charge. He’s that deformed pink dude in the movie.

-Variags: Men from the southeast. Allied with Mordor. Vague Variags!

-Khand: Land from which the Variags hail. Somehow similar to Rohan.

And that felt like a lot of new stuff! None of these people (or that one place) are horribly important, though it’s just another example of how detailed this world is. So detailed, in fact, that we can trace ages back to see that Húrin the Tall was named after Húrin, one of the legendary men of old. We call today’s Húrin “the Tall” because the other Húrin is definitely the better one. Tolkien wrote a whole separate book about him!

And it looks surprisingly Greek.

And it looks surprisingly Greek.

Of course, if you’ve seen the movie, you have no fear about these ships rolling in. It only makes sense that every man in Minas Tirith assumes the worst, and that every town down Anduin to the sea must have fallen to the pirates. Let’s watch what happens.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-succour

-Gothmog

-Variags

-Khand

-dromunds

Sorry if I spoiled anything.

No I’m not.

Days Until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 59

No one dies today.

“‘Come back to the City before all are over-…'”

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