Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm There. (Tolkien's Descriptiveness)

I read halfway through the Lord of the Rings some years ago, and pooped out. I have to say, Tolkien gives sooooo much history, backstory, many, many names of much detailed description.

But this time, I'm making myself slow down and actually read the words he wrote. There's no speed-reading here. There's no surfing and skimming through. It's actual reading.

Guess what I have found? I found myself staying up late last night because Tolkien's description of Lothlorien was so beautiful, I couldn't bear to 'leave.' I also stayed up to keep reading because his descriptions of the Mines of Moria are so haunting that I had to read myself out of the darkness of caves and depths.

I remember being young and visiting the Tom Sawyer cave in Hannibal, Missouri. The tour guide had clearly given many tours already that day, and when she droned about turning the lights off so we could see how dark Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher had it, I didn't really hear her...but I remember the darkness. It was dark, and I can't (with my little talent) describe it other than saying 'It was dark!' But Tolkien had me, with my imagination, in the Mines of Moria, with the threat of the creatures the Dwarfs had awakened, with the Dwarf hero Balin having died of those creatures...I was there, people.

Here are a few paragraphs of description from the end. I'm recalling all the days I've ever been on a river, been near rapids, been in fog, been in dusky evenings. He's got me there. I can see it. I'm there, in my mind.

One by one Aragorn and Boromir carried the boats, while the others toiled and scrambled after them with the baggage. At last all was removed and laid on the portage-way. Then with little further hindrance, save from sprawling briars and many fallen stones, they moved forward all together. Fog still hung in veils upon the crumbling rockwall, and to their left mist shrouded the River: they could hear it rushing and foaming over the sharp shelves and stony teeth of Sarn Gebir, but they could not see it. Twice they made the journey, before all was brought safe to the southern landing.

There the portage-way, turning back to the water-side, ran gently down to the shallow edge of a little pool. It seemed to have been scooped in the river-side, not by hand, but by the water swirling down from Sarn Gebir against a low pier of rock that jutted out some way into the stream. Beyond it the shore rose sheer into a grey cliff, and there was not further passage for those on foot.

Already the short afternoon was past, and a dim cloudy dusk was closing in. They sat beside the water listening to the confused rush and roar of the Rapids hidden in the mist; they were tired and sleepy, and their hearts were as gloomy as the dying day.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. 1955: New York, Ballantine.

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