Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings

I'm forever drawn to Tolkien related things, either for myself or any of the guys in my family, I have a bunch of the old paperbacks and this one was a recent addition to the shelf. My father read all of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and the Hobbit out loud to my brothers and I when we were small kids. Also fewer kids. So these characters have been with me pretty much as long as I can remember. Which means that my level of being weird over them is pretty high, and I can understand that not everyone cares that much about whether the LOTR is allegorical.1

Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings by Lin Carter reads like an academic essay from the days where you couldn't write an essay on Twilight for college.2 It is a delightful piece of nerd nostalgia that I really enjoyed, even if a great deal of it doesn't seem to be about LOTR.

Some history of Tolkien's writing years are given, but mostly the focus here is the LOTR. The book covers several chapters of summary of the trilogy, and it actually makes for interesting reading, if only to see what Carter chooses to leave out or talk about too much. Also you can cringe when he says that Eowyn is Theoden's daughter and not his niece.3 There is also a lot of speculation about the Simarillion and what that would further explain, since the book had not been published yet.

The later half of the book seems to be a history of the Epic Tale.4 There are many descriptions of ancient epic heroes fighting the gods to save the world that Carter puts forward as the stories that made possible LOTR. While I enjoyed learning about many of them, I'm not certain that Carter is putting forward anything too radical. It mostly seems like he is just giddy over finding so many things that seemed to inspire Tolkien. And I admit that seeing a list of names that includes my favorite dwarves is from a copy of the Poetic Edda is pretty damn cool.

I say read this if you both really like Tolkien and reading about writer inspiration. A good read, but not a must read.

Another reason why I read this book is because my husband, brothers, and my father are all rereading the LOTR together and meeting up after each book to talk about them. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!5

1. No.
2. Don't look at me, I wrote about Harry Potter.
3. I guess Carter probably didn't have LOTRwiki to help him out. But come on!
4. Eurocentric Epic Tale.
5. Who else is excited that I learned how to make footnotes?

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