RSS

Tag Archives: j.r.r. tolkien

The Chronicles of Prydain: A Disappointment

The_Chronicles_of_Prydain_(book_cover_collage)

I picked up the Chronicles of Prydain on a whim. I knew they had won several Newberry awards, so I thought they ought to be good. I started the first book and read it to the end. It seemed mediocre to me. I thought that the rest of the series was probably better. So I picked up the second book, which had won a Newberry Honor. Blah, I decided. I tried the third book. I liked it a bit more–it had stronger plotting–so I tried the fourth. Blah again. Well, I decided, the fifth was the Newberry Medal winner, so it had to be extremely good. I read it, finished it, and have spend the last few days irritated at Lloyd Alexander.

On one hand, I feel a bit guilty. The Prydain Chronicles have won medals. They have a lot of diehard fans, including one of my younger brothers. And I don’t like them. At the moment, I feel like a book heretic. But I haven’t changed my mind.

On the other, I can write a long list of the things to dislike. Eilonwy’s chatter is annoying, which makes it hard for me to consider her a strong heroine, even if she does love adventure. The dialogue often seems stilted, especially Taran’s. The plots are often loose at best, and frequently problems are solved by deus ex machina. The characters are underdeveloped. Some things don’t make sense–why would Dallben, Taran’s guardian, let Taran go off on a wild goose chase to find his parents when Dallben already knows what happened to them? If he wants Taran to develop more as a person, he could tell Taran the truth and then ship him off to wander.

I don’t want to be too hard on Lloyd Alexander, largely because of the fact that he wrote the series nearly fifty years ago. There weren’t nearly so many Dark Lords populating the fantasy scene back in those days, or orphan boys with secret destinies being raised on farms by old enchanters. Things that now appear as cliches were fairly new. So far as I’m aware, almost no one–Tolkien’s Hobbit being the exception that comes to mind–had written epic fantasy for children until Alexander came along. If I had lived fifty years ago, perhaps I would have been as impressed by Alexander as the Newberry Committee.

But I think a major part of the problem is that Alexander wrote his fantasy strictly for children. Many people who read the series as children seem to have retained their fondness for it after growing up. But adults who come to the series for the first time often have a different experience. Some people would argue that that is not a weakness–children’s books and adults’ books are separate categories. I disagree. And I have C.S. Lewis on my side. Lewis believed that high quality children’s books should be able to appeal to both children and adults. Good books should grow with their readers. If only children can enjoy a book, then it is not really worth being read by anyone.

Two authors come into my mind when I think of fantasies with which to compare the Chronicles of Prydain. One is The Lord of the Rings–a book to which the Prydain series seems to owe many of its themes. Even its ending seems like a poor (not to mention abrupt, disappointing, and rather strange) copy of Tolkien’s conclusion. The other is the Harry Potter series, which was written decades later and also owes a debt to The Lord of the Rings. All three series include a hero of humble origins who has an important calling, as well as a Dark Lord of sorts. I love The Lord of the Rings. I like Harry Potter (although I wish that he would stop lying to his friends and teachers, and also that J. K. Rowling’s writing style were better). Both series, however, seem more inventive than the Chronicles of Prydain–despite the fact that Tolkien’s work is decades old and that Rowling borrowed some major ideas from him. However “low-brow” Rowling is, many adults are able to appreciate her books, despite not having read them as children. And Tolkien has certainly grown with me since I first read him as a teenager. Prydain–not so much.

My final word? The Chronicles of Prydain are okay. Just okay. Many kids will like them. But I can think of many other children’s fantasy authors that I would sooner recommend.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Children's Literature, Fantasy

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Why the Silmarillion?

When I planned a paper around J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology and told my professor that I wanted to use The Silmarillion as a source, his reaction was one of confusion. Why would I need to use The Silmarillion? Wasn’t The Lord of the Rings enough?

Note to any Tolkien lovers who are about to rise up in arms. This professor is no idiot (some professors are). He likes good literature. He also did not have a prejudice against fantasy as such; in fact, he was quite familiar with The Silmarillion. He just didn’t see the point.

He’s not alone. While Tolkien’s more devoted admirers consider anyone who does not appreciate The Silmarillion a “fake fan,” many of the accused would insist they aren’t fake fans. They are fair-weather fans. And fair weather is a good thing. The sun is nice. Also puffy white clouds, and birds that chirp happily.

So. Paper aside, is The Silmarillion really that important? A short Q&A for the uninitiated might help:

What is The Silmarillion about?

The Silmarillion is the history of Middle Earth up until the beginning of the Fourth Age. It starts out with a creation myth and ends up in heroic legend and, in places, history. It is from an Elvish perspective and mostly concerns events related to the Elves, with the exception of a few humans who became involved in Elvish affairs. Most of those humans are ancestors of Aragorn and Elrond. (Yes, Elrond is in here. So is his twin brother. So are Galadriel and her brother, Finrod.)

Did J.R.R. Tolkien think I should read it?

In a word: yes. Although The Silmarillion as we know it was not published until after his death, Tolkien hoped to publish an earlier version along with The Lord of the Rings. His publishers refused, but Tolkien’s letters reveal that he often had to dip into Silmarillion material in order to answer the questions of people who wrote him. To really understand some things in The Lord of the Rings, you have to know more about the Elves. And you can only find that in The Silmarillion.

Isn’t The Silmarillion boring?

No. But you have to understand how to approach it. A lot of people come to The Silmarillion expecting a second Lord of the Rings. So they end up disappointed. The Silmarillion simply cannot be read as an adventure story. It isn’t one. But if you start out realizing that you are reading a book of mythology, then your perspective changes. Understand what you are getting into and don’t try to rush your reading. Good mythology is meant to linger around in your head.

I feel like I understand The Lord of the Rings. Are there any other reasons to read The Silmarillion?

Yes. If you are into mythology, Tolkien’s mythology is a delight for its own sake. But it also shows the complexity of human (and Elven) nature even more than The Lord of the Rings. Not all Elves are good, and some of the Elves are only good sometimes. Young Elrond and his twin brother are raised by the man who attacked their settlement and kidnapped them. They even have a good relationship. And that’s only the beginning.

I still don’t like The Silmarillion….

Okay. Just so long as you understand why you don’t like it. Mythology isn’t for everyone, and not everyone likes every mythology. That’s fine. But understand—The Silmarillion is mythology. It’s not a second Lord of the Rings. And some of us prefer it that way.

Is there a more interesting book that includes some of the stories from The Silmarillion?

Well, for a general overview, there’s this video. But your best bet, for a real taste, is to try The Children of Húrin. While it’s more depressing than The Silmarillion considered as a whole, it reads more like The Lord of the Rings. It covers the story of Túrin Turambar, which appears more briefly (and with a few conflicting details) in The Silmarillion. If you like flawed heroes and evil dragons, it’s the place to go.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Fantasy

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Wingfeather Saga: A Wonderful Surprise

Warning: Don’t go into the forest. Don’t go, even if the thwaps in your garden are driving you insane. It won’t be a very enjoyable walk. And you had better hope you don’t run into a horned hound. Or worse, a toothy cow.

On the other hand, if you think toothy cows sound interesting, you might want to give The Wingfeather Saga a try. A series of four books by Andrew Peterson, it chronicles the adventures of three siblings: Janner, Kalmar (“Tink”), and Leeli. In a world filled with dangerous animals, the three face a greater danger. The Fangs of Dang, nasty lizards who rule their hometown of Glipwood, think that their family is hiding a secret—the location of the Jewels of Anniera. The three children do not know what the Jewels are, or where they are located—but when the Fangs come, sent to their continent, Skree, by Gnag the Nameless himself, they know how to do the most important thing. Run.

On-the-Edge-of-the-Dark-Sea-of-Darkness-195x300The Wingfeather Saga is Andrew Peterson’s first series of books. It is not, however, his first experience with writing—I became familiar with him as a songwriter before I learned that he was writing a fantasy series. A lot of his older music doesn’t really interest me—generally speaking, it sounds like CCM as usual. His most recent album, Light for the Lost Boy, is a different story. It’s more evocative, more imaginative. A couple songs sound more like his past songwriting, but the majority of the songs are a full level above any of his previous work.

Maybe Peterson found his second wind. In any case, his songwriting experience means that when he includes songs in his series, they actually sound like songs. I cringe to think of some of the sad attempts at balladry that I’ve come across in the fantasy novels I’ve read. Understanding the rhythm in poetry never seemed difficult to me growing up—maybe it was the product of my musical education. But a creative writing class in my undergraduate days taught me that even if rhythm isn’t that difficult, it’s at least more difficult for some than others. Anyway, ballads aren’t easy to write. But Peterson could easily put the songs in his Wingfeather Saga to music; all are all well-written, and some are frankly beautiful.

Aside from songs? The Wingfeather Saga melds gentle humor (I loved the “footnotes,” especially in book 1) with some very serious themes—themes so serious that my local library classified the final book as young adult. The series is really not aimed at the young adult market, although teenagers (and some adults) may enjoy reading it. It’s been compared to The Lord of the Rings, but I think that’s pretty inaccurate. Similarities to LotR mainly consist of an evil enemy who uses evil monsters and the fact that the book is fantasy. In other words—not much. Being aimed at children, it’s more comparable with the Narnian Chronicles, but without an Aslan-substitute. Thank God! It’s one of the first Christian-themed fantasies that I’ve read that haven’t either tried to force an incarnation of Christ into the story or included explicit theological discussions. Aslan is wonderful, but I recall reading that one of Lewis’s friends had been considering a similar story, with Christ incarnated as a tiger. When he saw Lewis’s story, he scrapped his plan. Overkill kills.

Tolkien wrote that there was only one incarnation of Christ, and therefore he did not even intend for any of his “good” characters to be Christ-figures, let alone actual incarnations of Christ. In this regard, Peterson follows Tolkien. He includes a “Maker” who is active, but mainly behind the scenes. Peterson’s “Maker” is more obviously involved than was Tolkien’s “Eru,” but most of the time it isn’t in-your-face. A non-Christian wouldn’t be able to read this series without realizing that the Maker is, in fact, God—as some have been able to read Lewis without realizing that Aslan is a “supposal” about Christ. But Christian readers who dislike preachy fiction can relax. Peterson does not preach. He sings. And that is what makes him so unusual.

Tolkien was Catholic. Lewis was an Anglo-Catholic. Both are favorite authors of Peterson’s, which, for an evangelical, is not extremely unusual. Finding an evangelical who also likes George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton—as Peterson does—is rarer. And one who admires Thomas Merton? Practically unheard of. But Merton, too, numbers among Peterson’s favorite authors. Yet Peterson is a pastor’s son, raised, as he puts it, in the “nondenominational denomination.” As far as I know, Peterson hasn’t changed “denominations.” He clearly remains an evangelical Protestant. And that makes him extremely unusual. Evangelicals with vivid imaginations who like both G.K. Chesterton and Thomas Merton have a tendency to end up in the high church somewhere. Yet Peterson apparently hasn’t—and his fantasy world seems as Protestant to me as Tolkien’s is Catholic. His world is vivid with an appreciation of ancient truth—the sort of viewpoint I associate with the high church. But Peterson’s concept of ancient truth seems lifted more from Genesis than from a continuous church tradition.

Beginnings, in the Wingfeather Saga, are a big deal. There are multiple characters with close ties to past ages of Peterson’s fantasy world—even an ancient rebel (an amalgam of Cain and Nimrod?) called Ouster Will, whose death was shockingly close to the time the story takes place. (For the record, I love Ouster Will’s name. It’s perfect on so many different levels.) Where Tolkien drew largely on pagan mythologies for his own fantasies, shaping them according to his liking and the influence of Catholic tradition, Peterson seems to have internalized Tolkien’s characterization of Christianity as “true myth.” Lewis did that, of course—Narnia resulted—but his focus was more on the New Testament. But Peterson has discovered the “true myth” of the Old Testament. The Annierans are a chosen people, exiled from their homeland. And the genesis of the world was not so long ago.

What about problems? Well, the Wingfeather Saga isn’t Narnia—although a child might not notice the difference. The writing style is good, but there are places where we are told a bit too much about Janner’s feelings through his thoughts, rather than seeing him act. Those were the places where I got squirmy. Also, the serious themes of the later books don’t always meld easily with the lingering thwaps and diggles.

In general, however? Wingfeather’s series is better than average for fantasy, and worlds beyond most Christian fantasy attempts. Start with book 1, and don’t skip around in any of the books. I found out about a couple characters’ deaths too early because I assumed that this was a nice kids’ fantasy series where nobody important dies.

The Wingfeather Saga is definitely a nice kids’ fantasy series. But it’s also a tale that Peterson tells in deadly earnest, toothy cows notwithstanding. Naming a single theme for the story is difficult—as it should be. But if I were to pick only one, I think it would be salvation.

A costly salvation, without an awkward Aslan-substitute in sight.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Reading Upward–for Pleasure

Imagine this scenario: someone writes a book called Why Don’t People Read Anymore?

That was supposed to be a joke. 

Actually, NPR published an April Fools’ Day article called “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” earlier this year. Many people didn’t actually click on the article, instead posting angry comments below it–“I do too read!”–before NPR revealed the prank. The real question, as Jay Hathaway later observed, isn’t why we don’t read. It’s why we comment when we’ve only read a headline.

It was a walk through a bookstore earlier today that got me into this train of thought. There were lots of books on reading–how to read literature like a professor, etc. The bad thing is that I’ve known professors who probably never read anything worthwhile. If you have to read like a professor, don’t read like those professors.

Alan Jacobs, a professor at Wheaton College, doesn’t think you should read like a professor, either. In fact, he says, he began to lose his ability to read for pleasure because he was so used to scanning what he read for important information. His book is The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. It is a mostly pleasurable read, fortunately.

Jacobs takes on people who argue that you should read what is “good for you.” That, he says, is precisely what you should not do. If you only read what’s good for you, regardless of whether it interests you and even whether you can understand it, then you’ll lose the ability to read for pleasure. (You also may not understand what the book in question is talking about. In sum–you’re wasting your time.)

Yet Jacobs also suggests reading upward. What he means by that is, if you like The Lord of the Rings, try reading Beowulf. Don’t read downward, to cheap fantasies that have none of Tolkien’s power. Read for pleasure! Poorly written stuff simply isn’t as rewarding. And if you like Jane Austen, read other novelists of her era. Don’t read downward to all the Jane Austen “sequels.” They aren’t nearly as pleasurable as Austen. If you turn to them out of a love for Austen, you’re cheating yourself.

Above all, enjoy your reading time. Jacobs apparently considers lying about what you have read a lesser evil than never reading anything for pleasure. Personally, I’d rather know someone who forced themself through Plato’s Republic to no benefit than someone who would prefers seeming intelligent to being honest. A comment like that makes me wonder whether Jacobs has ever known a pathological liar. Short version–it makes you hate lying.

So read upward–for pleasure. And if admitting that you read for pleasure embarrasses you in front of your friends, ditch the friends.

Please.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Nonfiction

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

What’s with All the Stupid Fantasy?

I recently picked up a book about why manners are important. That may have been the title; I can’t remember now. It was sold in a shopping complex where about the only thing I could afford was a sandwich. Which was all I wanted, fortunately. But I did page through the book. It was exactly what it said, and I could appreciate most of it, even though etiquette was always my sister’s hobby, not mine. But one section gave me pause.

The author evidently loves novels of manners because she likes realistic characters who have to work through their flaws and mature. So far, so good. But she finds the current taste for fantasy disturbing. Imagine, she says, a fourteen-year-old girl who reads fantasy exclusively. Most of the time she reads stupid, caricatured descriptions of people who like to swing swords around. What little good fantasy she reads involves black and white moral dilemmas with characters so elevated that they are unrelatable and teach little about how to live in the real world. (I can only assume the author was thinking of Tolkien.)

I sympathize with some of the author’s complaints. Although I consider fantasy my favorite genre of literature, I actually do not read it very often. I don’t like the stupid characters, either. Especially the warrior elf queens who feel like they were invented to prove that women can be tough. And there are other problems with fantasy stories beyond those that might irritate a Jane Austen fan.

C.S. Lewis complained about people who wrote “science fiction” stories with perfectly ordinary plots—spy-stories, romances, and so forth—which have nothing to distinguish them as fantastic but the unusual setting. There are still a lot of stories like that. Whatever fantastic elements are there feel arbitrary. The wonder and sense of strangeness are missing. If you read fantasy for “otherness,” then the pickings are very slim.

I’m not going to comment on the author’s shallow interpretation of Tolkien except to say that if she thinks Boromir, Denathor, and Saruman fit neatly into black-and-white categories, she hasn’t been reading carefully. And The Silmarillion includes characters even more complex than those in The Lord of the Rings—if complex is what she really wants. (Sometimes I think that what people mean when they object to “black and white” characterization is that they don’t like reading about a world where a clear good and a clear evil exist, even if both are complex. But I would say, with Tolkien, that the real world is like that. Good and evil may be complex, but no one will be talking about shades of gray at the Last Judgment.) As for relatable, I think that in some ways Tolkien’s characters are more relatable than “realistic” ones. Frodo is an Everyman—as is Gollum. Archetypes are relatable precisely because they are archetypes. And archetypes can be complex.

The truth, I think, is less that fantasy characters are not relatable and more that the author could not relate well to fantasy characters. Well—that’s fine. Everyone has a favorite genre. I would rather relate to Frodo, or Faramir, than to Elizabeth Bennett. (In the past, I have even tried to deal with difficult people by trying to imagine them as Gollums, who, if evil, are also pathetic and in need of compassion.) It’s a personal preference. People who like good fantasy (scarce as that is) are not inferior to people who like good novels of manners (and I’m sure there are bad ones). It’s a difference in kind of taste, not necessarily quality.

But I recently re-read J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories,” and it brought another problem into view. Tolkien believed that fairy stories were the hardest form of literature in which to write. To produce something that attempts to show what reality is really like, while simultaneously rearranging that reality, is extremely difficult. Thus, someone attempting a novel of manners has an immediate advantage over someone attempting a fantasy. In Tolkien’s words:

Fantasy has also an essential drawback: it is difficult to achieve. Fantasy may be, as I think, not less but more sub-creative; but at any rate it is found in practice that “the inner consistency of reality” is more difficult to produce, the more unlike are the images and the rearrangements of primary material to the actual arrangements of the Primary World. It is easier to produce this kind of “reality” with more “sober” material. Fantasy thus, too often, remains undeveloped; it is and has been used frivolously, or only half-seriously, or merely for decoration: it remains merely “fanciful.” Anyone inheriting the fantastic device of human language can say the green sun. Many can then imagine or picture it. But that is not enough—though it may already be a more potent thing than many a “thumbnail sketch” or “transcript of life” that receives literary praise.

To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent mode.

Another potential misunderstanding comes because, over the course of the last century, literature has grown more and more like drama. “Show, don’t tell” is the instruction I was given when I took a creative writing course in college. It works well—for realistic fiction. In fantasy, things don’t work quite the same way. My English professor warned our class, “Showing is not always superior to telling.” She was right. Of course, a fantasy can tell too much, but the point is this—realistic fiction and drama may be able to grow together, but drama and fantasy have no such luck. Even modern fantasy movies, with all their special effects, cannot exactly reproduce the feeling of “otherness” that a good fantasy story creates. I like The Lord of the Rings films, with a few reservations, but I don’t go to them for “otherness.” To fully appreciate the Elves, and Lothlorien in particular, you need the books.

Fantasy is hard to write. Flannery O’Connor once remarked that so many people had learned to write a “competent” short story, that the short story was in danger of dying of competence. Fantasy has no such problem. And your creative writing class may not help you—“show, don’t tell” injunctions only go so far.

If you love novels of manners, then go read them—by all means. Beyond reading a few fantasy classics, most works in the genre aren’t worth your time. But don’t blast the genre. Competent fantasy is harder to write than competent realistic fiction. Keep fourteen-year-olds away from the warrior elf queens, please. But introduce them to the good modern authors of imaginative fiction: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engel, Ray Bradbury. And if they run out, try going back in time to Beowulf. Or The Kalevala. Or The Niebelungenlied.

Jane Austen would be okay, too.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Fantasy

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

God of Brook and Brush

My high school experiences with nature poetry were less than ideal. After being subjected to William Wordsworth’s more didactic poetry, I concluded that Wordsworth was dry and boring. (My other reading didn’t help matters. Chesterton’s analysis of how the old poets sang of the “gods of the brook and brush” rather than the brook and brush themselves left me considerably biased against the romantics.)

My freshman year of college, I expounded those opinions to my English professor, who quickly told me that the romantic naturalists were anything but boring. Still, it took several more years for Wordsworth and I to heal our quarrel. Even the healing was an accident; I was bored and picked up my mother’s old Norton Anthology. I found some of Wordsworth’s better poetry and changed my mind. Even so, Wordsworth is not my favorite nature poet. That role goes to Gerard Manly Hopkins. Hopkins’ poetry is, admittedly, more difficult to decipher than Wordsworth’s, and it reminds me more of T.S. Eliot than of any 19th-century romantic. Hopkins comes across as a very modern poet. Yet Hopkins reminds me more of the old poets Chesterton spoke of–though, not being a pagan, he sings of the God of brook and brush. From his poem “God’s Grandeur”:

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Hopkins’ poem “The Starlit Night” contains what is currently my favorite description of the natural world.

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!

I realize that my Tolkien obsession is showing, but “fire-folk” and “elves’ eyes” are phrases too wonderful not to love. Hopkins brings to my attention something that was pointed out yet again to me in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. In the modern West, we have a temptation to ignore anything with a scientific explanation. Know how colds can be cured? Don’t pray about them. Know all the scientific “laws”? Forget that things didn’t have to work that way. Understand that a star is a flaming ball of gas? Tell yourself that every time you’re tempted to wonder at the night sky.

Or you could remember that science only explains what exists. It does not, however, infuse those things with meaning. People do that, and poets like Hopkins do it especially well.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 7, 2014 in poetry

 

Tags: , , ,

Fell and Fair: The Fall of Arthur

FallOfArthurJ.R.R. Tolkien is one of those authors who tends to inspire either love or hatred, and even those who love him hate him every so often. The man was brilliant—and hardly finished anything he started. Thus the loving hatred. Christopher Tolkien has done wonders in editing his father’s unfinished projects, but sometimes even his efforts fall short in the face of half-done manuscripts and illegible writing.

The Fall of Arthur, published last year, is one of those manuscripts with which Christopher Tolkien could only do so much. J.R.R. Tolkien launched the poem intending to describe Arthur’s final conflict with Mordred in alliterative verse. Unfortunately, he became distracted by The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien writes, “At the victorious end of the sea-battle…my father ceased to work on The Fall of Arthur: in my view, one of the most grievous of his many abandonments.”

Grievous, indeed—at least for those of us who love epic poetry. Very few poets have been interested in writing epics for the last hundred years or so. C. S. Lewis dreamed of doing it, but he eventually realized that poetry was not his calling. Tolkien’s narrative poetry was brilliant, but it was his hobby, and his most famous poems are the shorter ones in The Lord of the Rings. Fortunately his son’s work has left us with some of them, not least The Lay of Sigurd and Gudrún published in 2012, which (fortunately) is a complete story, unlike The Fall of Arthur.

Don’t pick up The Fall of Arthur because you like The Lord of the Rings; it has only a tenuous connection with Tolkien’s mythology. Don’t pick it up because you like Arthurian stories, because it isn’t a complete story. The poetry, however, is worth reading, even if it isn’t complete. Tolkien’s word choices, as always, are exquisite.

Some have criticized the manuscript for its negative portrayal of Guinevere: “As fair and fell   as fay-woman/ in the world walking   for the woe of men/ no tear shedding.” Of course, with the manuscript unfinished, we have no way of knowing how nuanced Tolkien’s final portrayal of Guinevere might have been. Beyond that, however, we do know that Tolkien goes beyond his source material in describing Guinevere’s feelings at all.

Unless you’re a hard-core Tolkien fan, you probably don’t need to own The Fall of Arthur. Try badgering your interlibrary loan librarian instead. It will save you money, especially since the book is a hardback.

My final opinion on The Fall of Arthur? If Tolkien were alive, I would kill him for not finishing the poem. Sadly, he’s dead.

That is the source of this problem—along with many others.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 24, 2014 in poetry

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: