Anyone is free to comment, only not on any pages we have not yet read, it is neater and more organized that way please.
Because time is almost like gold these days if you can only read one page a day or a week, that is just fine. Comment on what you have read and dig deep into your senses, your heart and give us something to really think on. Sometimes the simplest observation is astounding and makes everything in the book so alive.
So anyone ready or interested, come prepared to share your thoughts from the first chapter first page thru the fourth page. I hope we have a meaningful time. And we start monday in four days.
How very wonderful dear Gwindor, to hear from you. As I told someone else a little whiile ago, our lives really are like Bilbo Baggins of the Shire explained to his beloved Frodo in the movie. He showed how we are all players in a great drama and each one of us in our turn comes upon or leaves the setting. So whenever you are able to join us it will be our privelege and honor.
We shall start this journey I think with our thoughts upon the person who created this work, this epic master piece. Now some will say it was all from his creative genius, others will say Illuvatar, but whatever the ratio and however it came to be, we here can at least agree that it was a magnificent grand amazing work that was not only a story, but an entire sub world complete with fully usable languages , maps and directions to places so aptly described, so real to our imagination that we can breathe the rarified air of Imladris, suffer thirst and noses burning with the acrid stench and death dealing air of Mordor; feel the utter joy of seeing beloved faces after seeing Mordor, the symbol of all evil go down like a house of cards, or feel the crawling fear as we wait with bated brearh along side Frodo and Sam for the orcs to pass or the ringwraiths and their steeds. I cannot think personally of many writers who I am familiar with that have touched me in the way professor Tolkien did.
So here he is , in a seemingly ordinary moment of time, marking papers, tired , maybe hungry, perhaps even a tad bit depressed at things he was going through in the household such as illness, money problems, thwarted hopes and dreams in relation to moving upward in his appointments at university
Suddenly, he sees a blank sheet of paper, something quite coveted in those hard monetary times, and voila , just like that he grabbed it and immediately wrote; In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Just like that with no seeming prior inspiration.
So before we get into the first chapter proper I would like a few thoughts on JRR Tolkien himself.
Did you know of this author prior to reading the Hobbit? If so , did the first page of the Hobbit just sweep you away, or did you find it tedious or hard to go along with until you got into the story line and began to identify with the characters?
I am sorry to say I never had the privelege of having read the book or any of Tolkien's work until I was cajoled into viewing The Fellowship.... But although I thought the opening line of the book novel and interesting and although I immediately wanted to know more about Gandalf, I did not appreciate the book for about a chapter. I had, never in my life, been remotely interest in what I called Fantasy so the entire concept left me rather cold. i had always been a Dosteovsky , Du Maurier, Christie , Victoria Holt sort of person, and of course Tolstoy. But after the first chapter and feeling rather fatigued and perhaps annoyed with the too over the top antics and such of the dwarves and Bilbo I sort of fell in with them and became one with them in purpose and adventure to my own amazement. By the third chapter I was terribly depressed and also fiercely determined that all evil, should be overcome and extinguished. It was always to me a battle against all darkness in order to achieve that which one was in fact purposed for in life. The jewels meant zero but I was on edge to see how each character dealt with the lure of wealth. I wanted to see the dwarves and Bilbo rise to the occasion and beat evil fairly and come out pristine and I wept over those who failed the mark.
Anyone else have thought? We will take the whole week, everyone is busy and then move into chapter one, the first four pages for the next week. This study is not going to fly away in quick speed, but will be like life in the Shire, slow and methodic and comfortable with plenty of time for tea and cakes and second breakfasts for all.
Humphrey Carpenter wrote a book Tolkien: A Biography. I have not checked to see if it was authorized or not, but I read some things I have read else where so I will share and amend if necessary down the road.
I was searching the information to see how early in life John Ronald Ruel Tolkien, mostly called Ronald when young, was drawn to words , languages , the love of philology. The earliest I could find was when his mother Mabel, having become sick and tired of the 'wild' and strange life and terrain, the oppressive heat etc of Bloemfountain Africa, the place John and his little Brother Hilary were born, and wanting to go to England, her home until she had relocated in AFrica with Arthur the children's father,and did. The boys were very young and just as they were celebrating their first real English Christmas they received word of Arthur's death. The little forlorn family stayed with Mabel's relatives and were comsfortabe , but being the sort of woman she was, Mabel thought it wrong to impose any longer and moved the children to a decent brick home in Sarehole I think it was where so much of Bag End seems to be drawn from including a mill and a farmer who grew mushrooms which the boys pilfered and who chased them away and was known as the 'black ogre' by the two ever after.
Befpre that though, at some point, Ronald had looked out of the window in a not so nice place and would be fascinated by the strange names and words on the Welsh coal mining trucks. That fascination never died and the Welsh language was in part used in one of his made up Elven languages far down the road.
It also said that, once Mabel and her sister were ostrasized by the family and Mabel cut off from financial assistance for becoming Catholic, she homeschooled her boys for a while. She herself spoke English, German, Latin Frencn and perhaps other languages and played piano and could teach art. Seeing that her oldest boy was absolutely drawn by words she gave him several books to read that would assist and challenge that love. Thus the fascination with words and where they come from, the unique sounds and meanings.
In view of this it seems the most natural thing in the world then for our hero's absorption and creation of a different or sub world in which to show case his self created languages.
This morning after I put the banana muffins to bake in the hot oven at five I had a few moments before people would begin to stir for the day and so I started again at the beginning of The Letters, something I have only done once before.I generally start at whichever letter heading seems most informative or interesting at that particular moment. Being Jewish I get exhausted reading from left to right , so it is relaxing if I must read in English which I do love just the same, it is relaxing to just start reading something in the middle or wherever and start on the right hand side which is silly I know..........
So I took the time to read the gentleman I mentioned previously as having written about JRR and how he would chose a letter from the mountain that existed then Christopher would hear what he had to say, then they would come toa collaberative decision.I finally knew why so few letters to Edith were included and to the other boys and Prisca(Priscilla) If the letter did not include anything really about Tolkien's works it could be omitted just because of the space and how much things cost. So I was finally alright with that. I must say it was rather shocking really how Ronald went from poverty and abject grief over his mother and lingering grief over his father to having his own room at college, his own name painted at the bottom of the stairs, tea in his room and great friends to read what he wrote in those days to.There was such a comraderie between the fellow, you could see a definite loving family emerge between them. It was lovely and he could try all sorts of things out and get a good critical judgment between the close yet tough and discriminating group. So that too was a good time to practise his craft in writing.
I like the idea of this thread; I think I'll be popping in, in future, as and when I can. :)
Yes, Humphrey Carpenter's biography was authorized; the family allowed him full access to Tolkien's papers including his diaries and his fiction and non-fiction typescripts and manuscripts , and I think he did a very good job. Similarly with the editing of Tolkien's letters though, as Leelee mentions, Humphrey and Christopher were sort of constrained by space, so they had to pick and choose carefully. But not all the letters are about JRR's writings; some are 'good advice' to family and friends. They're all of them pretty absorbing. I'd like nothing better than to see another volume (or two, or more).
Carpenter's biography of Tolkien was the standard work for many years, and is still a very good introduction to the subject, but there are several other works which may be of interest - the first and most important being Scull and Hammond's two-volume work, 'The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide'. If you enjoy reading 'Letters', Leelee, you'll love this! The first volume, the Chronology, gives an account of Tolkien's life year by year, and is absolutely fascinating. for example, few people knew that Tolkien was down for creating an entire edition of Chaucer's works - he was commissioned by the Oxford University Press; it was to be called 'The Clarendon Chaucer', and if it had seen the light of day, it would be (probably) what Tolkien would be most famous for, outside of his fiction. but he didn't finish it, for one reason or another, and one of life's great opportunities passed him by.
On another note - Wayne and Christina also give a lively account of Tolkien's visit to Italy in the fifties, using much previously unpublished material from Tolkien's diaries. There's so much to read here - and in Volume II, there's even more - much information on Tolkien's life and works; a sort of 'Who's Who?' and 'What's What?' for Tolkien studies. Fascinating stuff. I may say, with all modesty, that my name appears in the (long) list of folk who in some way helped Christina and Wayne over the book's nine years of preparation; in my case with snippets of information. For instance, I once had occassion to write to Priscilla Tolkien, asking about a list of names I found pencilled in a book, including that of Joan Blomfield. I'd met Priscilla several times before and since, at various functions; and always found her to be a warm and welcoming person, always happy to answer questions about her father. I gather that, in the family, she is regarded as the fount of family knowledge.
Miss Tolkien wrote me a charming letter, giving information on all the people in this short list; and mentioned that Joan Blomfield was a student of her father's who married another of his former students, the eminent Icelandic scholar, Gabriel Turville-Petre. Prisca's parents, Ronald and Edith were guests at the wedding.
So it was with great glee on my part when I saw this snippet of information repeated in a bookseller's catalogue earlier this year; the book in question was a copy of Tolkien's 'A Middle English Vocabulary' (1925) with Joan's ownership signature. So what comes around goes around..
Joan Turville-Petre was asked by Christopher to edit his father's lecture notes on the Old English poem 'Exodus' - this book was published in 1982.
Thank you very much each of you for your contributions, it helps others, many who have not been inclined to read The Hobbit, to get the flavour of the writing and peek into the private and public life of a man of such charm, integrity, honesty and talent. Geordie your associations and opportunities are invaluable and thank you for that.
In the depths of my heart, I still feel that whatever detours or mistakes if one can call them that, were made by Christopher in the works, scholarly or no would have been respected by his father and allowed to exist. He himself did not finish what he had started so many years before, he longed for it to be out there, and really when you look at the amazing changes in the characters in his works, the several different renditions of things , like the story of Galadriel. I am of the opinion that story wise the son was very very close in thought to the father, whatever their differences were in life such as the fact the father abhoured the thought of the son flying a plane, one of those'machines' that destroy. But if the letters that were included in The letters are any proof of the extreme closeness of thought then I honestly do not think writing or scholarly approach makes a difference, John Ronald gave the body of work to a trusted son who, in turn wished to honor his father's heart and direction perfectly.
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