How I Discovered The Fantasy Genre Through Tolkien (Guest Post by E.E. Rawls)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Tolkien Books

Fantasy took on a whole other light for me the day I first met Tolkien’s work: The Lord of the Rings.

It was the year my family moved back to America from Italy—a difficult transition, as Italy had been my home for 6 years, and was the longest we had remained in one place for my dad’s job. That year was a low point in life, and I needed something encouraging, something adventurous, to lift me up. The timing of this could not have been more perfect.

There was a movie coming out in theaters called The Fellowship of the Ring. I knew nothing of it or Tolkien, but my parents seemed pretty excited about it. They couldn’t remember the whole story, so they gave me vague summaries of the series which I didn’t understand at all. But the movie’s preview showed elves and gorgeous mountains covered in snow, so I thought, “Sure, why not. I’ll go see it.” Little did I know what I was in for!

The movie began, with dark enthralling scenery and a melodic voice. My eyes grew wide as I was sucked into another world.

This was fantasy unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I knew I liked fairies and other fantasy-ish things, but I hadn’t been deeply immersed in the fantasy genre until this moment. There were elves who were not the happy helpers of Santa. There were more-than-creepy goblins, trolls, and orcs. Grand places like the Mines of Moriah, and enchanting Lothlorien, and gorgeous Rivendell—places beyond my limited imagination! And there were hobbits, a new race of people who were the smallest of all, and a lot like me. Froddo was the only one brave enough to take on the challenge of destroying the Ring. Small as he may be, and ignorant of combat skills and traveling, yet he was the one person willing to give his life to save the world—and that captivated me. It made me see that, no matter what I lacked in ability, anything was possible if only I put my mind to it.

Once the movie ended (and on such a heartbreaking cliffhanger!), I went straight to the bookstore and bought the whole series and The Hobbit. I could not wait a whole year to find out what happened next! So I read them all within two weeks, and went looking for more great works in the fantasy genre afterward. The Lord of the Rings gave me the escape and time I needed to adjust to a new life situation, and it voiced lessons I would hold close for years.

My favorite quotes are:

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.” (This scene touched me so much, I remember the tears in theaters!)

Even after so many years, Tolkien’s world has stuck with me, just as it has for so many of you, and is what encouraged me to begin creating my own worlds through writing. This year I hope to publish my own debut fantasy novel, and all because I went to the theater that day, long ago, and met Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

About the Author

E. E. Rawls is a full-time author currently residing in New England. Europe is the source of her writing inspiration, after having lived in Italy for six years. A time spent road-tripping through the Alps, exploring castle ruins and dungeons, wandering Victorian towns and tucked-away villages, discovering their hidden legends. She now lives off of coffee, games, and bookshelves, with goals to one day master the arts of drawing, riding a dragon, and speaking Tolkien’s language of the Elves.

You follow her blog at  www.rawlse.wordpress.com or sign up for to get exclusive content from her about her projects at http://eepurl.com/2F36f.

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The trailers for Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens) indicated that this would mostly be a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated Disney film, but I suspect few movie goers have a problem with that.  When you combine a beloved story, excellent songs, gorgeous visuals, and the star power of Emma Watson, you are surely heading for cinematic gold.  Beauty and the Beast may not surprise, but it delights–and that’s all it needs to do.

The film does flesh out a few parts of the story, adding motivations for the protectiveness of Belle’s father, showing why Belle is such an outcast in her village, and elaborating a little on the Beast’s past.  Some moments in the original story that may have puzzled viewers are explained or modified.  For instance, in the original it’s unclear how a bookseller says in business in a village where the only reader borrows and does not buy books.  This version gives a nod to viewers’ questions by creating a more realistic scenario for Belle to borrow books.

Questions of feminism and how this version would address it and the potential of Stockholm Syndrome surrounded the film before release.  Belle’s character is fleshed out more so that her strength, kindness, and fearlessness are highlighted.  And there is at least one extended scene where viewers can see the Beast’s kindness and the connection he and Belle forge.  Belle also directly addresses her status as a prisoner.  These moments are few and short, however, so that the bulk of the story focuses on the familiar scenes, with a few dialogue changes to keep things fresh or add humor.

However, the story really does not need many changes to be strong.  The makers seem to recognize that the relationships are what really drive the story.  By focusing on the bonds between individuals, whether it’s a father-daughter relationship, a romance, or a friendship, the film finds its heart.  Love in all its forms is supportive and powerful and transformative.  The message may be as old as time, but it is a message that continues to resonate.  No modifications needed.

The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound is hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring several guest posts.


lay-of-aotrou-and-itrounInformation

Goodreads: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: November 2016

Official Summary

Unavailable for more than 70 years, this early but important work is published for the first time with Tolkien’s ‘Corrigan’ poems and other supporting material, including a prefatory note by Christopher Tolkien.

Set ‘In Britain’s land beyond the seas’ during the Age of Chivalry, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun tells of a childless Breton Lord and Lady (the ‘Aotrou’ and ‘Itroun’ of the title) and the tragedy that befalls them when Aotrou seeks to remedy their situation with the aid of a magic potion obtained from a corrigan, or malevolent fairy. When the potion succeeds and Itroun bears twins, the corrigan returns seeking her fee, and Aotrou is forced to choose between betraying his marriage and losing his life.

Coming from the darker side of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, together with the two shorter ‘Corrigan’ poems that lead up to it and which are also included, was the outcome of a comparatively short but intense period in Tolkien’s life when he was deeply engaged with Celtic, and particularly Breton, myth and legend.

Originally written in 1930 and long out of print, this early but seminal work is an important addition to the non-Middle-earth portion of his canon and should be set alongside Tolkien’s other retellings of myth and legend, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur and The Story of Kullervo. Like these works, it belongs to a small but important corpus of his ventures into ‘real-world’ mythologies, each of which in its own way would be a formative influence on his own legendarium.

Review

In Britain’s lands beyond the seas
the wind blows ever through the trees;
in Britain’s land beyond the waves
are stony shores and stony caves

This year’s official Tolkien Reading Day theme is “Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction,” so perhaps this isn’t the greatest time for me to admit that I am not always a fan of Tolkien’s poetry. It’s hit or miss for me, and much of it tends to the sing-songy. However, I think Tolkien excels when working with older verse forms, such as Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry, so I really enjoyed The Lay of Aotrou, his take on a Breton lai. You can see from the excerpt above that it’s in octosyllabic rhyming couplets, and I was drawn in by the writing and the story from these, the very first lines.

Flieger has been going on about the “darker side of Tolkien’s imagination” since she also worked on The Story of Kullervo, but while the story is definitely sad, I don’t know that it’s particularly darker than much of Tolkien’s other work.  The Silmarillion has some dark moments.  Mostly, I was struck by how much it sounds like an authentic medieval lai.  It definitely has Tolkien’s style about it, but the writing, plot, and general message all hit the right tone for me.    It does seem to have a bit of a superficial message–don’t mess with dark magic–and ends with a very medieval invocation to the Virgin Mary.  Yet the story is captivating, and I think there’s room in the poem for more interesting analysis and interpretations.  (I actually would have loved to see Flieger take on some more analysis, but I suppose some will be forthcoming in Tolkien studies.)

The book also includes two other Corrigan poems that are supposed to be precursors to the Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, and while they are presented as complete, they definitely seem less sophisticated.  Here’s an excerpt from the first one, which has some of the sing-songy air that I don’t like about some of Tolkien’s poetry:

“Mary on earth, why does thou weep?”
“My little child I could not keep:
A corrigan stole him in his sleep,
And I must weep.”

Basically, I felt these two poems were interesting in terms of illuminating Tolkien’s composition process and his reworking of material. They also present some more traditional views of corrigans. However, the Lay of Aoutrou and Itroun is the real start of this book.

There are some notes on the texts after each poem (but, once again, nothing to alert you in the text that there’s a note for the line to look for), that outline a few historical and linguistic concerns. I’m fairly familiar with medieval literature, so I didn’t need a lot of the notes, but my impression is that they would give a good amount to context for a reader who isn’t that familiar with the Middle Ages, without being overwhelming.

Beyond the core poem and the two Corrigan poems that are its precursors, Flieger attempts to bulk up this book with some manuscript drafts and some comparisons of versions between Tolkien’s work and his sources, but ultimately there’s not much material to work with.  The book is about 100 pages and took me less than an hour to read in full.  Flieger apparently doesn’t have much to say even in the introduction, which is only four and a half pages and spends about a full page of that quoting Christoper Tolkien’s Note on the Text–which the reader would presumably just have finished reading.  The core poem is great, and I’m pleased to see it back in print, but some of the latest Tolkien releases have been obviously struggling for content, and it’s painfully true here. If you’re really into Tolkien, this is a nice addition to your collection, but I can also understand just borrowing this from a library or a friend to read the poem and passing on purchasing.

4 stars Briana

Classic Remarks: Changes from Book to Film in LotR

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.  Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating!  This week’s prompt is:

Discuss one of the changes Peter Jackson made from the book while adapting The Lord of the Rings.  What did this change add to or take away from the story?

Below are spoilers for The Lord of the Rings--book and films!

“But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.”  –Faramir, The Lord of the Rings

So Faramir, captain of Gondor, repudiates the One Ring and its tempting offer of unlimited power.  Faramir understands that he cannot clam for himself the ability to rule over others through force.  He understands that, even if he took up the One Ring for a noble cause, the unlimited power it offers would ultimately corrupt him.  And he understands that the ends cannot justify the means.

Faramir also understands he does not want to win a victory through gaining control over the minds of others and bending them to his will because such a victory would be empty.  What then would he have been fighting for?  He explains to Frodo that he does not, as Boromir does, delight in the arts of war for themselves: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”  He defends the freedom of Minas Tirith and its people.  If he overthrew Sauron to save his city only to become the next Dark Lord and to subjugate his people to his will, then he would have won nothing.

In his book, J. R. R. Tolkien juxtaposes Faramir and his strong sense of morality with his brother Boromir, who initially falls to the lure of the One Ring, only to repent of it before he dies.  Boromir shows us the weakness of man–of every person, even though his failings have made many a reader dislike him–and how easy it is to be seduced by the prospect of power of control.  Boromir is not inherently a bad person.  He is a valiant man who cares about his city and wishes to relieve his people of the fear and the suffering they endure under the shadow of Sauron.  He desires the Ring for a noble cause.  He unfortunately allows that desire to consume him, and to lead him into dishonorable actions.  Readers are meant to identify on some level with Boromir, who wishes to do right but does wrong–but who can still acknowledge his guilt and seek forgiveness before the end.

But Faramir is not necessarily a character readers identify with–he is a character readers can look up to and admire, and hope to emulate.  Faramir shows the possibility of moral strength and integrity of character.  He shows that not all people are weak like Boromir, but that some can train themselves in discipline and in wisdom, and so pass the test when it comes to them.  Faramir and Boromir comment on each other and reflect two distinct paths individuals can take when confronted with temptation.  Faramir is, in many ways, what Boromir could have been, and should have been.

Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien’s story radically changes Faramir’s character, however, to make Faramir less admirable and more relatable.  His Faramir initially claims the Ring to bring to his father to save Minas Tirith.  His motivations are weak–he desires the approval of his father, who only ever had eyes for his more militant son Boromir.  And so movie-Faramir takes Frodo and Sam on a pointless and roundabout journey to Osgiliath only to realize there that he has taken on more than he can handle, that the Ring is bad, and that the Ring really ought to be destroyed.  So he release Sam and Frodo after taking them far out of their way and delaying their journey by some time.

Because movie-Faramir is acting much like book-Boromir, Jackson thus has to transform movie-Boromir into a more dislikable character.  In Jackson’s version, Boromir appears at the Council of Elrond as rather unintelligent and maybe bordering on the boorish.  He talks clearly out of turn to indicate his desire for the Ring, to insult those who are not fighting on the front lines, and to question Aragorn’s authority.  From the start he seems unwilling to accept the Council’s decision but joins the Fellowship to make sure his country is represented (either to gain glory in the history books or keep an eye on it–his motivations are somewhat ambiguous).

This depiction of the character is in contrast to the book where Boromir initially arrives to seek Elrond’s wisdom on the matter of a dream, does not initially respond to the revelation of Aragorn’s identity but later desires Aragorn’s help (though he is a little doubtful he is really seeing Elendil’s heir–which is hardly unwarranted as Aragorn himself seems to understand), graciously defends the valor of the men of Rohan, and judiciously asks for more information about the ring he is seeing (Galdor and Frodo agree more information is needed).  His eyes “glint” at the mention of the One Ring.  But it takes him awhile to suggest that the Council use the Ring and he does not claim it for himself or for Gondor: “Let the Ring be your weapon, if it has such power as you say. Take it and go forth to victory!”  At this moment, he seems concerned about defeating Sauron and not himself, and perhaps as if he does not understand the Ring’s power fully or what is at stake with its use.  He also agrees to the Council’s final decision.  On the whole, book-Boromir is rather more restrained, more generous, and more noble.

But Jackson does not stop there with his transformation of Boromir.  In the extended films there is even a scene in which Boromir blithely picks up the shards of Narsil (the sword that cut the ring from Sauron’s hand) despite its being an ancient and honored artifact.  He then clumsily drops it when he notices Aragorn in the room.  There is also an added scene is which victorious military Boromir joins with Faramir in a nice brotherly moment while also seeming maybe a little too find of alcohol.  Jackson is building up the idea that audiences should not like Boromir, an apparently somewhat dumb military man, too much.

In making these changes, Peter Jackson’s films change the meaning of Boromir and Faramir’s presence in the story.  Faramir is no longer a character who gives us hope through his integrity but a man who chooses to do wrong because he lacks self-confidence thanks to his strained relationship with his father.  And Boromir is no longer a flawed human readers can recognize themselves in, but a somewhat distasteful one they may prefer to distance themselves from.  But not all characters are meant to be relatable.  Further, a relatable character need not be morally weak or unsure to be relatable (witness how Jackson also changes the character of Treebeard so that he does not initially support the overthrow of Saruman but must be tricked into it, and the character of Aragorn so that his doubts about taking up his responsibilities as king are highlighted throughout the films).  And not every flawed person must also be dislikable–the point is that we all have some room for improvement and that Boromir is not alone in sometimes being weak.  But neither is he alone in being capable of redemption.

Jackson’s changes suggest that unselfish motivations or sacrificial love are rare, perhaps present only in his story in the actions of the Hobbits rather than in a number of characters.  And his changes suggest that those who are weak and fail are not wholly deserving of our sympathy.  But Tolkien’s message is so much greater.  Tolkien’s story suggests that good people exist, that temptations can be overcome, and that the world is not wholly devoid of kindness and wisdom.  Tolkien’s story suggests that hope can be found in the unlikeliest of people and places.

Did you participate this week?  Leave your link in the comments below!

The Elf Name Generator

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Pick the first letter of your middle name to discover your name.

A: Enel
B: Voronwë
C: Finduilas
D: Curufin
E: Amdir
F: Indis
G: Aredhel
H: Maglor
I: Lúthien
J: Salgant
K: Elemmírë
L: Míriel
M: Nellas
N: Amarië
O: Tatië
P: Celebrían
Q: Mithrellas
R: Rúmil
S: Irimë
T: Penlod
U: Nerdanel
V: Lindir
W: Orophin
X: Gwindor
Y: Findis
Z: Finrod

Pick your favorite number to discover your title.

1. Bloodstained
2. Golden-Tongued
3. Sea-Wanderer
4. Strongbow
5. The Wise
6. Fell-Fire
7. Silver-Foot
8. The Crafty
9. Strong-heart
10. The Fatherless
11. Master of Fate
12. The White Lady/Lord
13. Ill-Advised

Pick your favorite color to discover your home.

Red: Imladris
Orange: Tirion
Yellow: Lórien
Green: Tavrobel
Blue: Gondolin
Purple: The Havens
Black: Nargothrond
White: Edhellond
Brown: Formenos
Pink: Harlond

Be sure to share you Elven name with us in the comments! You might also like this site, which tries to translate English names into Elven names.

Tolkien Lessons: How His Work Influences My Work (Guest Post by Linda White @BookManiaLife)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Tolkien Books

Last year, I attended a local con here called CONvergence. I was an Invited Participant (their caps, not mine) and they asked that I be on at least four panels. I was looking at the schedule and one session jumped out at me right away – Perambulatory Journeys. All I could think of was Tolkien. I mean, I could think of no others.

Curious, I put out a call on Facebook, and lots of folks came back with other suggestions. Who knew? But Tolkien was tops on my list. The conversation at the panel was great, and even delved into Pokemon territory (this was right before the game got hot).

Sometime during this whole process, it hit me that I was, myself, writing a perambulatory journey. I wasn’t trying to copy Tolkien, but my characters needed to get from point A to point B, and since my work is set in Neolithic Great Britain, there weren’t a whole lot of options. They walked.

How long does it take to walk from Salisbury Plain to Orkney? How many obstacles would they encounter? What would happen to them along the way? How would they eat? These were all questions I would have to face. Research. Lots of research. My world was real. I knew that my characters were walking a fixed number of miles. Tolkien had no such limitations. How far was it to Mordor, anyway? In some ways, I kind of envied him. Why hadn’t I been brilliant enough to invent the whole world, even if only to save myself all these bothersome details? But that didn’t fit the story I wanted to tell, so it was a moot question. Would sure have made things easier, though.

And the other obstacles. Crossing water made me research the types of boats that would have been used at the time. I couldn’t just invent it. And for food, I am not going to go ahead and invent something like cram or lamas bread, because really, that’s been done. For me, it ended up meaning a lot of research into the foods that would have occurred naturally – berries and nuts and other hunter-gatherer fodder. But these were real considerations. And Tolkien had to consider them too – if only so that his world would be consistent. He couldn’t have wooden boats used in an area devoid of trees. He couldn’t have too many gentle comforts (think how many times they had to run or were captured and lost everything!). The small thing like Bilbo finding his pipe intact towards the end of his journey made it all that much more touching.

I am rereading The Lord of the Rings right now, and enjoying it. I think I have read it twice before, but it has been years. I am finding swaths that I don’t remember, because the movies are so ingrained on my brain. But those parallels are helpful too. What did the movie makers leave out? Why? What is really necessary to tell the story? It is helpful to look at a story that I know really well (and to be fair, doesn’t have the emotional attachment that I probably have to Harry Potter), and make these comparisons. Then I look at my own work and think, huh. What is this scene doing? How can I set up this bit so that it is useful later? And if I introduce this character just once, and never mention him again, is he really necessary?

So while I don’t want to write the same story – I don’t want to be derivative in any way – there are lessons here. I have realized I have several books about the world, apart from the multiple copies I own of the stories. So complex, and so deep. This time on my reread, I am looking further into the background. I am actually using the books that I have, like A Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster and The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook (which is like an encyclopedia).

Apart from the obvious walking parallels, Tolkien is never far from my mind when I think about writing. If you’ve read the biography by Humphrey Carter (which is excellent), you will know that Tolkien started out with languages, and generally invented the story and the world to give his languages a culture to belong to. It’s absolutely fascinating, especially for me, someone who once tried to build a major in linguistics (it didn’t exist at my college and there weren’t enough classes to cobble one together). He spent years playing with these languages. Then he spent years writing the stories.

Unfortunately, he also spent a lot of time playing solitaire in his study, and every time I think of what he could have been doing instead, it makes me cringe. And I take that as an example for myself, when I find that I am a) spending too much time on bookstagram or Twitter or b) spending too much time diddling about doing things that simply will not matter.

We only have a given amount of time on this earth, and we must use it wisely. And if you’ve got a story to tell, a world to tell people about, do the telling! Don’t fritter away your time. And do the homework. Make it worthwhile.

About the Author

Linda White will be collecting books as long as the floors hold out. And she wants to read them all! She loves beautiful books. Read, travel, hike, book arts, paper crafts. She runs BookMania, an editorial services agency, and Publishing Bones, a website for writers. You can also visit her on Twitter and Instagram.

Myths, Marriage, and Making a Fool of Myself: Tolkien’s Legacy (Guest Post by Claire Wong)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

There’s a lot of advice I’d like to go back and give to my 15-year-old self, and somewhere on that list would be “make sure you marry someone who accepts and endorses your love of Tolkien’s work.”

So when my husband surprised me on my birthday with a copy of a brand new posthumously-published Tolkien book, I knew I’d made some good life choices to reach this point.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is a book containing two long poems that tell the stories of characters such as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun. It’s inspired by Old Norse mythology and features dragons, dwarves, doomed marriages and grisly deaths. This is not likely to be made into a film trilogy any time soon.

Gripping though the story is, it’s the style that really stands out. For where many authors choose to “update” mythology for their own time, retelling an old story in a modern format (Adele Geras’ novels “Troy” and “Dido” are just two of hundreds of examples you could find), Tolkien has stayed true to his source material by writing the poems in the traditional style of the Norse Poetic Edda. It’s not difficult to spot comparisons with Old English and Beowulf as you read it. The effect of this is that the reader is transported to another time and place. You have to imagine yourself in a Viking hall in a Scandinavian land many centuries ago. In the light of a roaring fire, a bard steps forward and begins to recite: he is telling you the story of the Volsungs.

It was therefore perhaps an error on my part to take this book into work and read it during my coffee break. You see, so good is Tolkien at his craft, that the words on the page are just crying out to be spoken aloud. Go on, read this next section out and see how delicious the words are:

In forge’s fire
of flaming wrath
was heaviest hammer
hewn and wielded.
Thunder and lightning
Thor the mighty
flung among them,
felled and sundered.

Isn’t it wonderful? The rising and falling rhythm with the alliteration makes a beautiful combination. It’s wonderful, that is, unless, like me, you just accidentally read those words out to a room full of your colleagues. Ignore the strange looks; they don’t understand.

Spoken poetry has been an important part of many cultures, from the Ancient Greek poet conjuring up the destruction of Troy by reciting lines from the Iliad, to today’s poetry slams where performers compete to deliver the most powerful verses. Some words simply refuse to stay confined to a page.

I challenge you to get through The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun without needing to hear how the words sound as Sigurd faces the dragon Fafnir:

but fell Fafnir
folk all name him
of dragons direst,
dreaming evil

Or indeed when he wakes Brynhild from her enchanted slumber, rather like Sleeping Beauty except that Brynhild is a lot fiercer than your average fairy tale princess, and even in her sleeping state wears full armour with a sword by her side. The relationship between these two is also less ‘happily ever after’ and more grim Norse myth, but you’ll have to read the book to find out exactly why.

All this muttering poetry to myself reminded me of another favourite Tolkien quote, from The Two Towers, where Gandalf says “I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to…!”

So if anyone looks at you oddly while you read Tolkien’s poetry, just tell them it’s a sign of your wisdom.

About the Author

Claire is an author and charity worker based in Yorkshire, where she spends a lot of time writing her next novel from a two-hundred-year-old cottage while drinking coffee and listening to folk music. Visit her at Claire Wong Writing.