Fellowship of the Ring: reading notes

by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh)

A quick note on spoilers: In general when I’m doing these reading notes I will try to avoid spoilers or at least mark them and/or put them under a cut. However, given that Lord of the Rings is such an old and well-known work, I will be adhering less strictly to that.

“It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew: gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful.”
p. 393

It strikes me how incredibly modern that section sounds. I tend to think of Tolkien as one of those people with an almost magical link to the past (which makes sense, given his vocation) but here all the talk of things coming into being as we perceive them has a very 20th century sensibility about it. I’m not trying to say that it seems out of place–that might be part of the magic, actually, that he has a very pre-Industrial Revolution character thinking in this very modern way without it seeming wrong.

“‘Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,’ he [Aragorn] said, ‘and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must travel, you and I. Come with me!’ And taking Frodo’s hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.”
p. 395

I didn’t cry when Gandalf fell (this time–the first time I read the series there were buckets), but this bit, which almost seems like a throw-away line, made me tear up. Something about the irrevocability of that last sentence strikes me as enormously tragical.

“And I reckon there’s Elves and Elves. They’re all elvish enough, but they’re not all the same. Now these folk aren’t wanderers or homeless, and seem a bit nearer to the likes of us: they seem to belong here, more even than Hobbits do in the Shire. Whether they’ve made the land, or the land’s made them, it’s hard to say, if you take my meaning.”
p. 405

When I first read the series I loved Rivendell. I mean, I love Elves indiscriminately, but I really loved Rivendell. Something about the “Last Homely Home” always got me. On this re-read I still love Rivendell but suddenly Lothlorien has come to the fore. I think it’s partly that I’ve become very interested in land and landscape and how it interacts with characters (this was the focus of my Pride and Prejudice/North and South thesis). And, okay, read that sentence again. In Sam’s opinion, Lothlorien and its Elves are bound more closely than the Hobbits and the Shire. That’s quite incredible. Also, all of Tolkien’s amazing description has helped a lot.

[Reading notes? A possible new feature I’m trying. Less formal than an actual review and more specific. We’ll see if it lasts. Since it’s more me blathering on than anything else, don’t necessarily expect anything sensible.]

5 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reading notes

5 responses to “Fellowship of the Ring: reading notes

  1. but this bit, which almost seems like a throw-away line, made me tear up.

    I cry every time I read that section.

    • Maureen E

      Gah! I had never had this problem before! I remember going “Oh, that’s a bit sad,” but not this massive crying spree.

  2. Pingback: The Two Towers reading notes, Book III « By Singing Light

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