November 3rd, 2019

(no subject)

I'm listening to the Lord of the Rings BBC radio dramatization, which is lovely, much more a love-letter to the book than the Jackson films (which I also love but for very different reasons). But they still entirely skip over skip over the whole sequence between leaving in Crickhollow and arriving in Bree, and those chapters matter to me. Granted, I've been living in them these last few weeks while I was writing, but I think they've always So I want to talk a bit about why.

They're delightfully pastoral but at the same time utterly magical. It's a sequence full of sentient trees and ridiculous men and their dyad-like wives and truly terrifying wights and landscapes that look like half-decaying teeth protruding from the gums. It's so unusual to me encountering it at the end of the twentieth century, and that shocking-me-out-of-my-contemporary-reality quality just fires up the imagination, doesn't it?

The hobbits are all so foolish (or naive) about how they navigate it, and broken (I love Frodo's moment of temptation to leave his friends to the barrow-wight). But there's more than just luck there. They show they can learn to navigate this world, and they have a central courage and goodness about them that kind of shines through. And having it shine through first in these dangers just beyond the border of their home, that somehow makes them that much more approachable to me. I feel like they're going through things only a half-step beyond what I could go through, and seeing this very human, imperfect way of navigating that just feels... familiar, I guess.

It also makes the world feel fully fleshed out. It's like filling out around the corners as they say in the Shire, isn't it? You have these baddies who are local, not really an obstacle directly related to your main quest but just a general bit of danger that must be navigated around. And on the other side, you have allies like Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, but only in a very limited sense. They're imperfect, they're driven by their own priorities and are only going to be an asset in a very limited way that also must be navigated. It feels like the hobbits are swimming in a churning river with all these churning currents and peaceful stretches and perhaps even an occasional log they can use to buoy themselves up, and they have to endure it all to get to their final goal, but the fact that those obstacles and helps are there somehow makes the adventure more organic and certainly less limited than it could have been. I can't quite explain it, but it's such a poorer world without all that.

There's also such a sense of history: about the ancient old Forest that connected up with Fangorn and the like back in the elder days, the ancient kings with their ancient blades and the whole history of actual wars and kingdoms falling and an ancestral graveyard that predates them, the ambiguity of just who Tom and Goldberry are and where they fit into all this, and the barrow-wights too, whether they're some sort of evil spirit called down by Melkor/Sauron/the Witch-king, or whether they're more like Shelob, an independent source of malevolence that even Sauron has to navigate around. It's all just so beautiful and interestiong and... yeah. What an hors d'oeuvre to the feast!

(Though, admittedly, Tom B.'s actual songs are a bit silly and not particularly well done. Less actual poetry would have been a good thing here!)