Reading Tolkien

IMG_1353This is my first time reading Tolkien and, admittedly, I’ve been hesitant to start. In the past, I adamantly refused to read his works — The Hobbit, LOTR, The Silmarillion, etc. — believing, rather stupidly, that only losers read Tolkien (I mean, the man created Elvish) and, I, being quite naturally a loner, feared adding loser to my list of titles would not help my situation. I don’t know if during his (illustrious) career he had spare time to feel sorry for himself, but, if he had, it wouldn’t surprise me if he also came up with the oft repeated school-yard refrain, Loser + Loner = You.

Self-doubt’s a career-killer. Hum. No, more accurately, self-doubt’s a killer — end of statement. And working my way through LOTR, I can’t help but wonder if he encountered it. As I said, the man devoted himself to elves and dragons and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah — I’d bet Bag End that, in his day, he had critics who saw just that and only that. But, perhaps I’m editorializing here and placing my own insecurities as a wannabe writer onto a legend. Maybe Tolkien believed so ardently in his enterprise he couldn’t hear the voices of doubt. In any event, thank god he kept writing because the world is certainly a better place with Sam and Frodo and Gandalf laced into it.

And, that said, I’m loving The Fellowship of the Ring! Omigod Elven-lore! And Tom Bombadil! And Barrow-wights! And *places palm over heart* and Sam — oh simple, grounded, devoted Sam! Loving it!

Lots of singing and dancing, though. Like, lots. Was not expecting that, nor was I expecting to find myself actually enjoying it all. After all, they are Hobbits, inclined to simple merry-making, romping, leisure and elevenses — so who am I to judge. In fact, while reading the (ample) Hobbit lore Tolkien weaves in and out of the piece, I find myself attaching many Hobbit traits to Humanity. It’s the inclination of the reader to appropriate the traits of Men in Middle Earth to the Mankind of our universe, but I argue that they’re different. Tolkien’s Men possess an abundantly avaricious-spirit, similar to the Dwarves, save that Men will compromise anything for more. This malleability becomes a trait particular to the race of Men and similar to Mankind. In fact, I’d say it’d be the same as Mankind if only the Hobbits didn’t dance and caper about so much. In their antics, they display many of the best Human characteristics: humor, friendship, good stewardship, sense of duty. But for as Human as the Hobbits can be, I find their capacity for idleness and sloth so irritating and conclude that those are truly traits of Hobbits for they possess it in excess.

I think all this speaks to Tolkien’s masterful character crafting — creating fictional races that seem at once alien and native to the reader’s self-concept and makes for enjoyable and unpredictable reading.

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