O.k., what the heck is 'Lord of the Rings'?

Jason_Els

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There are passages of such stunning beauty as to carry the heart far away into an imagined realm and though you may return to the practical world, part of you will remain there forever; longing and reminiscing. It is a bittersweet jewel of work:
"Even as they gazed, the Silverlode passed out into the currents of the Great River, and their boats turned and began to speed southward. Soon the white form of the Lady was small and distant. She shone like a window of glass upon a far hill in the westering sun, or as a remote lake seen from a mountain: a crystal fallen in the lap of the land. Then it seemed to Frodo that she lifted her arms in a final farewell, and far but piercing-clear on the following wind came the sound of her voice singing. But now she sang in the ancient tongue of the Elves beyond the Sea, and he did not understand the words: fair was the music but it did not comfort him."
and:
"He led Frodo back to his own little room. It opened on to the gardens and looked south across the ravine of the Bruinen. There they sat for some while, looking through the window at the bright stars above the steep-climbing woods, and talking softly. They spoke no more of the small news of Shire far away, nor of the dark shadows and perils that encompassed them, but of the fair things they had seen in the world together, of the Elves, of the stars, of trees, and the gentle fall of the bright year in the woods."
and:
"At its head there rode a tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse, if horse it was; for it was huge and hideous, and its face was a frightful mask, more like a skull than a living head, and in the sockets of its eyes and in its nostrils there burned a flame. The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man."
and:
"Hurrying forward again, Sam tripped, catching his foot in some old root or tussock. He fell and came heavily on his hands, which sank deep into the sticky ooze, so that his face was brought close to the surface of the dark mere. There was a faint hiss, a noisome smell went up, the lights flickered and danced and swirled. For a moment the water below looked like some window, glazed with grimy glass, through which he was peering. Wrenching his hands out of the bog, he sprang back with a cry. "There are dead things, dead faces in the water,' he said with horror. 'Dead faces!'"
There is nothing like it anywhere. It is still the best piece of fantasy fiction ever written.
Thanks,
Jason Ashley
 

Rob Gillespie

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"The land had changed. Where before the green dale had lain, it's grassy slopes lapping the ever-mounting hills, there now a forest loomed. Great tree, bare and silent, stood, rank on rank, with tangled bough and hoary head; their twisted roots were buried in the long green grass. Darkness was under them. Between the Dike and the eaves of that nameless wood only two open furlongs lay. There now cowered the proud hosts of Saruman, in terror of the King and in terror of the trees. They streamed down from Helm's gate until all above the DIke was empty of them, but below it they were packed like swarming flies. Vainly they crawled and clambered about the walls of the coomb, seeking to escape. Upon the east too sheer and stony was the valley's side; upon the left, from the west, their final doom approached."
 

Iain Lambert

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"Where before the green dale had lain"
Sorry to disappoint you Rob, but those rumours about me and Mr. Winton are completely spurious...

ps. sorry to keep denying rumours here. Anyway, the Babylon 5 one is just a recurring in-joke. Tolkien was using classic mythic quest archetypes long before either Straczynski or George Lucas got a chance. Which, I suppose, is why everytime I try to read a fantasy novel written in the last 50 years I give up in short order as it just seems like a Rings ripoff.
[Edited last by Iain Lambert on September 04, 2001 at 03:25 AM]
 

Michael Caicedo

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Ok. Like John, I was not really familiar with the LOTR series, so I guess this might be a fun read. Now, my question is, how does Frank Herbert's Dune series fit into all this? I did read the first three books in the Dune series and seems like Herbert had also created a fictional world - galaxy for that matter - complete with history, language, etc... Does anyone think Dune might have also influenced Lucas' Star Wars?
------------------
Michael Caicedo
Winter Park, FL
- At my signal, unleash hell...
 

Richard Kim

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Does anyone think Dune might have also influenced Lucas' Star Wars?
Definitely, the desert planet Tatooine seems to be an homage to Dune, with moisture farms, 3P0 mentions the spice mines of Kessel, and the "chosen one who will bring balance to the Force" in Episode 1.
 

Ryan Jameson

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The land had changed...
That's a cool section in the book. I just finished reading that part. I've been working on LOTR for my second time now, and find it's even better than the first time I read it. The first time through, I was in such a hurry to devour it, I didn't take the time to thouroughly enjoy it like I am now.
The part where the Ents take thier revenge was peculiarly structured. It was obvious to us, the reader, that it was Ents that are attacking, but the way it was written was as if from the view of Gimli and the others who didn't realize what the trees were. This made the part confusing to me at first, but now I appreciate it as quite a clever bit of story telling.
Ryan
 
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Well, this started out as a search on the word "Dragonslayer", but I have to respond to the posts on the possibilities of the influence of Wagner on LOTR.

I don't want to spend too much time on it, mainly because I don't want to seem to be aiming this at Mr. Markworthy-I'm not, just his possible sources of information--but many of those who are apparently not fans of his music have found it easy to disparage Wagner because Hitler liked his music by spreading it around that he was some kind of proto-Hitler. Hitler probably liked flowers and puppies too, but that doesn't reasonably imply anything about flowers' and puppies' feelings about race and politics.

Not to say that Wagner wasn't an opportunist and a hypocrite. Many of his closest relationships were with Jewish composers, but in the presence of anti-Semitic potential money backers, he was happily anti-Semitic, which was unfortunately probably no more so than anybody else in Europe at that time. There was nothing about any of his operas that could be considered racist or fascist, and, for one example to his credit, when bigots protested that the conductor of the first performance of his very Christian-oriented opera Parsifal was going to be a Jew named Levy, Wagner stuck to his guns and refused to go with another conductor.

As far as a possible influence on Tolkien--if it existed at all it was probably minor. However, the sources for Wagner's four-opera epic "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (The Ring of the Nibelungs or ROTN) were many of the works that were a core part of Tolkien's academic interests.

For instance, among the norse/icelandic stories that both would have read was a tale of how the trickster Loki, travelling with the ruler of the gods Odin, killed an otter swimming in a river who had caught a salmon. They wanted both the salmon and the otter skin. This otter turned out to be a dwarf named Otr whose family was less than happy. To get out of trouble, Loki finds another dwarf and steals his cache of gold. He discovers that the dwarf is concealing a ring and demands that too. The dwarf curses the ring and hands it over. They fill the skin of Otr (his otter-skin) with the gold as reparation to his family. The first opera of ROTN involves a dwarf stealing magic gold from deep beneath the river Rhine from the river's daughters and making a ring from it that would give him tremendous power (which Odin then coveted and tried to steal from him, thus invoking a curse on the ring that becomes the focus of the rest of the story). The story in LOTR of how Smeagol "found" the cursed One Ring involves him stealing it from an acquaintance who found it while swimming in the river and which of course Bilbo stole from him, inheriting the curse and passing it on to Frodo.

So we have a cursed gold ring, swimming in rivers, multiple thefts, inheriting of a curse. If you dig some more you find special swords, the passing of the old for the new, self-sacrifice, fiery endings, etc.

Anyway, there are lots of parallels like this and Tolkien could not have been unaware of ROTN, but the two works are incredibly different in the larger stories they derive from these sources. There is nothing in Tolkien that stands out as a direct influence, and all the elements of LOTR that it can be argued are shared with ROTN from the common sources flow much better into LOTR from those sources than they do from Wagner's use of them.

I would argue that it is just an odd coincidence that two artistic geniuses drew so much in common from the same sources and leave it at that. Plus, I can't see Tolkien liking Wagner's music, which I think his biography confirms.

The many parallels between the two stories make a fascinating study, though, and the sheer number of them is mind-boggling.

-Robert

Edited to fix mis-remembered story of Otr.
 

Mike Broadman

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Re: Wizard of Oz
He is also one of the most controversial figures in musical history, whose written tracts are full of philsophical meandering. Most controversially in an article in which he attacked Meyerbeer's music, he took a stand against what he called "Hebrew flavor" in music for which he has been judged an anti-Semite. There are writers who argue that he was not anti-Semitic, but the issue has been clouded by the use of Wagner's music and symbolism as part of the mythos of Nazi Germany, and the ardent welcome his heirs gave to Adolf Hitler and Nazi ideas as the Fuhrer's hosts at Wagner's festival theatre in Bayreuth. The Nazi government's use of Wagner was so pervasive that to this day musical organizations in Israel refrain from playing Wagner's music out of respect for the painful associations it recalls to many who survived that era.
- Taken from www.allmusic.com
Was Wagner an anti-semite? Probably, but then so too were most people at that time and place. If you read Shakespeare and Ivanhoe, their depiction of Jews are shockingly anti-Semitic when looked at through our modern cultural sensibilities. Does this excuse racist beliefs? Of course not, but there is not reason to believe that Wagner was particularly worse than anyone else at the time. It's just that Nazis used to play his music at concentration camps, so the mental and emotional association is natural, as is Israel's decision to not play his music.
 

andrew markworthy

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Just for the record, Wagner was considerably worse than many at the time and furthermore should have had the intelligence to know that what he was doing was fundamentally wrong. He is a prime example of the adage that the deadliest poisons are distilled from flowers rather than weeds. For anyone who thinks that Wagnerian culture was a relatively harmless thing which just happened to get appropriated by the Nazis, try reading a history of Germany, such as 'The Third Reich' by Michael Burleigh.
 

Terrell

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Which, I suppose, is why everytime I try to read a fantasy novel written in the last 50 years I give up in short order as it just seems like a Rings ripoff.
I do assume that you know there were works of fantasy and fairy tale that came well before LOTR. Tolkien has had a major influence on fantasy, no doubt. I would call Tolkien the father of modern fantasy.
 

Tom Ryan

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I find it astonishing that someone could be ignorant of the existence of LOTR. John, I recommend you read the book immediately
. No quibbling, just read.
-Tom
 

Inspector Hammer!

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Why oh why did you have to revive this thread!?

Seriously though, I am somewhat embarrased by it now. I started it in August of last year, and since then i've gained a much better understanding of this amazing story, still havn't had time to read the books, but I intend to when I get a chance.
I saw the film and thought it was absolutly amazing filmmaking, right up their with 'Star Wars'. This thread really kinda irks me because it forces me to try to think why the hell I had never heard of this story growing up!?
What went wrong? Was I just in the wrong places at the wrong times and not heard it? Why didn't I ever even hear of it? Why didn't my teachers in school make us read the books, or at least makes us fammilliar with Tolkien?
Well, it's almost a year later and I do get it more now, and as I said, I intend to read the books as soon as I can.
 

Chris Lynch

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And since the thread did get dredged up again, I'll take the opportunity to mention that TIME Magazine did a retrospective story about 3 or 4 years ago on L. Frank Baum, in which it is reported that the Gold/Silver Standard Allegory associated with The Wizard of Oz is complete nonsense, it was invented later by others.
 

Art Martinez

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The amazing thing is that LOTR (pre-movie) seems to owe a lot of it's popularity to word of mouth and recommendations. I graduated high school in 1995 and I took 3 years of AP English. (Advanced Placement) Each year we were given a list of about 100 works of literature that we were told would be helpful in knowing for college courses. Tolkien was never on the recommended reading list for any of my AP English classes.

While LOTR has been a popular story for half a century, it has achieved this status without the aid of it being considered a classic in educational circles. For every writer that calls LOTR a modern epic, there is another that calls it fantasy dribble. (Though any book that has sold 100 million copies world wide has to be important on some level. IMO)

So to make a long story longer it does not surprise me that you had not heard of LOTR, John. Back in 1987 my parents bought a VCR. (VCR... Art shudders at the thought) The first movies they rented for me were The Goonies, and the Rankin/Bass version of the The Hobbit. After I saw the animated version of The Hobbit I learned that there were books of the movie that took the story further. Without that chance rental it might have been some time, before finding the books.

So even though Tolkien still receives mixed reviews as to the placement of LOTR on the list of best works of literature, I think that Tolkien said it best himself, "All that is gold does not glitter."
 

Tom Ryan

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Art, I think that LOTR is and should be easily recognizable because it's so popular, not because it made it into critical or educational lists. The books that make up LOTR have sold over 100 million copies worldwide, quite a phenomenon.

-Tom
 

Terrell

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John, don't feel bad. I hadn't heard of LOTR until I was in college. None of my high school or college professors ever mentioned Tolkien or LOTR either. They are most certainly popular on a mass level. But they were not something I was required to read either. I'm trying to read them now, but I'm not off to a good start.
 

Chris Lynch

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I was lucky enough to have a mother who was a BIG Tolkien fan. I was raised on those stories.
Plus, I am a pretty big geek.
 

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