Saturday, 11 January 2014

rereading lord of the rings: notes 4

The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One: The Ring Sets Out.

Chapter 7: In the House of Tom Bombadil
By accident or design, we are now off the map. The map at the start of this volume shows only the Shire's known world. Which isn't a bad way to emphasise that for the hobbits this is literally uncharted territory.

In a modern book, Tom Bombadil would be too good to be true, and would in fact be sinister/bad in some way.

The first proper female character appears, thought combining the two cliches of simply a wife and also a godlike creature.

The old forest a hostile foreshadowing of the ents.

A peculiar chapter. What's the purpose of the characters Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and the pages devoted to them? A pause; a first positive experience beyond the Shire; a relief from grimness? Nature of the characters and their place in the scheme of things (as yet) unexplained. The power of story and song? A sense of longevity? Forget their fears for a while? Yet why stop their flight so readily? Confident they are in hands and timetable of a greater power? Being fortified for journey?

Tom character a bit annoying to many readers, surely? He seems a powerful and significant character to be unmentioned or unknown by Gandalf, say. Puts on ring without effect, sees Frodo when Frodo is wearing the ring. He seems a bit out of place, not fitting in with the carefully-constructed world and history. Mythical. I remember Tolkein wrote a poem about him, and wonder if he's fitting into the story a pre-existing character.

(Did later read the Wikipedia entry for Tom Bombadil, which is quite interesting and informative.)

Chapter 8: Fog on the Barrow-downs
Old-timey/high/poetic language not a problem from the hobbits, only when others come in, and myth and history being retold. Poetic descriptions of landscape etc are tedious to me. Songs are too, somewhat, but don't last long, and also admire the attempt (often repeated in subsequent fantasy novels, rarely successfully) to put what are essentially ballads and folk songs into a story - a hard thing to do, but a key part of that world's culture (as ours). Which is why the orchestral score instead of folk music in the films is such a big lack in my view. But jost not very good songs, not sure they would work as folk songs. I'd like to see it done well. Music ard to write about, of course.

An atmospheric chapter, English-imbued in fog, landscape and myth. Surprised not in film, until the rescue by Tom Bombadil, which explains its omission (if he rescued them, the previous chapter would have to be included; if he didn't tricky question of who does or how they escape). The rescue adds to the oddness/implausibility of Tom Bombadil, with his speedy and powerful response, which feels very unsatisfactory.

This scene is the one most like a Dungeons & Dragons scenario yet.