“I Sit Beside the Fire and Think”– Home, Hearth, Hobbits (Guest Post by Tom Hillman)

Tolkien Reading Event 2018

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. 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.


I sit beside the fire and think

of all that I have seen,

of meadow-flowers and butterflies

in summers that have been….  (excerpt from FotR)

Ever since the first time I read ‘I sit beside the fire and think’ as a young boy, it’s been my favorite. It has always spoken to me of home, just as I think it does to Bilbo, but it speaks in a more complex and poignant way than most other hobbit songs.

Of these, Pippin’s ‘Sing hey! for the bath at close of day’ (FR 1.v.101) is probably the most purely hobbit-like. In a simple meter — iambic tetrameter, which seems characteristic of hobbit poetry* — it embraces the beauty and pleasures of water in its various forms, but emphasizes the special joy and even nobility of the hot bath ‘that washes the weary mud away’.  Few things could conjure a more comforting image of home than Water Hot which so thoroughly redeems our weariness that we end up playfully splashing water with our feet, or even, as in Pippin’s case, creating a fountain.

Similarly in Three Is Company the hobbits sing a song — ‘Upon the hearth the fire is red’ — which begins and ends by evoking hearth and home, roof and bed (FR 1.iii.77-78). Yet Bilbo wrote the words to this song, and his experiences gave him a deeper perspective. ‘[N]ot yet weary are our feet’ tells us that we are not ready for home and bed. Adventure and discovery await us before then. We never know where we may find ‘the hidden paths that run / Towards the Moon or to the Sun’. All that we may meet on our journey, however, will in the end fade before the lights of hearth and lamp that summon us home to bed and board.

Immediately after the end of this song, however, the approach of a Black Rider impresses the dangers of the journey upon them. After their last near encounter earlier in the day the hobbits had seen Bilbo’s warning about the perils of stepping out the front door take on new meaning, as it must when Ringwraiths show up down the lane. Adventures are too often ‘not a kind of holiday … like Bilbo’s’ (FR 1.ii.62), nor, as events at Crickhollow will show, do front doors keep all perils out (FR 1.xi.176-77).

We may also discover a little noticed counterpoint to the hobbits’ song in the hymn** to Elbereth sung by the elves whose arrival drives off the Black Rider. The longing for their home ‘[i]n a far land beyond the Sea’, which lies at this song’s heart, balances the exile of the elves against the security the hobbits (wrongly) feel is their due in their own Shire (FR 1.iii.83). Though the elves know where to find those ‘hidden paths’, they linger ‘in this far land beneath the trees.’ Their ‘chance meeting’ with Frodo, who regards his own journey as a flight into ‘exile’ for himself and his companions, brings face to face those whose age-long exile is nearly over with one who senses that his home will soon be forever lost to him, if indeed it has not already been lost.

If we take a further step back towards that home, we come to the first song that Frodo sings, Bilbo’s ‘The road goes ever on and on’, which he recalls, not from conscious memory, but from some deeper place beyond all names. Yet, as many have remarked, Frodo’s version differs in a single word from the one Bilbo recited as he left Bag End seventeen years earlier. Bilbo sets off on the road, ‘pursuing it with eager feet’  (FR 1.i.35), but Frodo’s feet are ‘weary’ from the start (FR 1.iii.73). Recall ‘the weary mud’ in Pippin’s bath song, to be washed off at journey’s end. Recall the ‘not yet weary’ feet of Bilbo’s walking song. These songs better suit the ‘eager’ feet of Bilbo, who embraces both journey and journey’s end: ‘I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains’ (FR 1.i.33). That Frodo has a different attitude towards his journey is part of the tragic situation in which he finds himself, for which the Ring is largely, though perhaps not solely, to blame. Like Merry, who ‘loved the thought of [mountains] marching on the edge of stories brought from far away’, Frodo may have ‘longed to shut out [their] immensity in a quiet room by a fire’ (RK 5.iii.x.791). If  so, that was not to be.

Bilbo’s embrace of journey and journey’s end alike is also visible in ‘I sit beside the fire and think’, yet this poem is also firmly tied to the idea of hearth and home by the repetition of the initial line to begin the third and fifth quatrains and the variation of it in the first line of the last. It is the song of someone whose days of adventure are over, but for whom memory and reflection on the time he spent journeying enrich the life he now lives by hearth and home. Nor need we think of this poem as applying only to Bilbo in his years in Rivendell, where he introduces us to the poem. We can also easily imagine it across the decades he spent in the Shire after his return, dawdling with his book, walking the countryside with Frodo and talking of adventure, ‘learning’ young Sam Gamgee his letters and telling him tales of the Elves. The walking song he composed the words to, the evolution and distillation of ‘The road goes ever on’ from the poem we first see at the end of The Hobbit, and his meditations on the ‘dangerous business’ of stepping out of one’s home and into the road, all point to the close connection between ‘there’ and ‘back again’. So, too, does his exchange with Sam and Frodo at Rivendell:

 

‘Books ought to have good endings.[said Bilbo] How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?’

‘It will do well, if it ever comes to that,’ said Frodo.

‘Ah!’ said Sam. ‘And where will they live? That’s what I often wonder.’

(FR 2.iii.273-74)

And Bilbo’s last quatrain, especially its final words, is significant in that it comes after the bow to approaching death in ‘a spring that I shall never see’. For tales goes on despite death.  With ‘I listen for returning feet / and voices at the door’ Bilbo also accepts that his part in the tale has already ended and that others will carry it on and bring the word of their journeys back to him. In just this way he awaits the return of Sam and Frodo. In this way, too, Sam and Frodo, who both finally expect not to survive their quest, imagine that their part in the great tale in which they have found themselves will come to an end for them, but that others will have their own parts to play later on. It is no accident that the book itself ends with Sam at home in his chair by the fire.

At the last, that is what all the tales are about.

‘I sit beside the fire and think’ is not in iambic tetrameter, but in alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, which is more characteristic of Elvish poetry, and likely shows the influence of such poetry on Bilbo.

** If alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and trimeter distinguish Elvish poetry, one may rightly ask why the hymn to Elbereth is not in this meter, or in the single lines of heptameter which also occur (e.g., ‘Nimrodel’). The answer lies in the fact that the song is mediated through the understanding of the hobbits — as the text explicitly says at FR 1.iii.83:

 

It was singing in the fair elven-tongue, of which Frodo knew only a little, and the others knew nothing. Yet the sound blending with the melody seemed to shape itself in their thought into words which they only partly understood. This was the song as Frodo heard it…


*All citations reference the single volume fiftieth anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings, Houghton Mifflin (2004).


About the Author

You can find Tom blogging at his website Alas, Not Me.

Review: Tolkien in Translation edited by Thomas Honegger (Guest Post by Jenna)

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 in translation 2

tolkien translation 1

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a paper about translating Tolkien for an undergraduate course. Numerous challenges accompany the task of translating literature. Tolkien crafted his stories on a foundation of language. His careful use of the English language and his creation of Middle-earth’s own languages further complicates the process of translating his works. As he wrote of The Lord of the Rings, “Hardly a word in its 600,000 or more has been unconsidered” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 160). Though my paper never materialized, the beginning of my research led me to Tolkien in Translation¸ a volume of works that “reflects on some of these challenges and how different translators overcame them” (back description). This book is the fourth volume in the Cormarë series from Walking Tree Publishers. The series currently consists of 35 books collecting scholarly papers and studies about Tolkien and his writing.

Tolkien in Translation contains six papers, one that posits a translation theory for Tolkien’s work and five that each focus on a particular language of translation. Allan Turner’s “A Theoretical Model for Tolkien Translation Criticism” gives the collection context by providing a translation model that complements the articles to follow. Turner adapts George Steiner’s hermeneutical theory of translation. The fundamental idea of this theory, particularly as applied to Tolkien, is that to produce an accurate and faithful translation, the translator requires a deep acquaintance with the source text. This idea connects the six papers. Whether the authors of the papers explore their own translation or critique others’, they each appreciate that a translator of Tolkien must understand not only the text which they are translating, but also Tolkien’s other writings and comments about his Middle-Earth universe.

“In the Middle-Earth books, the interconnections are so frequent and complex, and the pitfalls for the translator who does not know the larger structure so numerous and well hidden, that ‘ordinary competence and conscientiousness are simply not enough” (Nils Ivar Agøy, 42)

Even if you’re not specifically interested in translation, you may learn something new about Tolkien’s language choices from this text. For example, the works about the Norwegian and French translations both comment on English’s Germanic background. Tolkien often selected words with a specific English history. This background means that English has many words of a particular history that Norwegian and French cannot necessarily trace or replicate. In addition, each work references Tolkien’s own comments on translations. Readers unfamiliar with Tolkien’s opinions on translation can still gain a sense of how he would have liked to see his work treated.

Discussing translation necessitates a discussion of Tolkien’s stylistics. When I first considered the difficulties of translating Tolkien, I thought only about the meaning he built into his names and his constructed languages. Never mind the choices he made when using the English language! As a native English speaker, I rarely stopped to consider what kind of impression his use of English made on me, the reader. This is just the sort of thing to which a translator must pay careful attention. Sandra Bayona’s exploration of socio-linguistic features in the Spanish translation of The Lord of the Rings exemplifies this idea. For example, the phrase ‘I reckon’ (frequently used by Sam) is translated seven different ways in Spanish (82-3). ‘I reckon’ loses its significance as a marker distinguishing Sam’s discourse. Bayona’s close reading of the text identifies a number of speech elements that convey meaning easily lost in translation.

If pressed to choose the paper in the collection that least interested me, I would choose Arden R. Smith’s “The Treatment of Names in Esperanto Translations of Tolkien’s Work”. This paper is the only one that focuses on name translation. The paper consists of numerous list and charts detailing one translator’s poor and inconsistent choices when translating names into Esperanto. I can appreciate the challenge of an Esperanto translation. Esperanto was a language constructed to be simplified and easy to learn, in order to facilitate universal communication. Tolkien certainly wasn’t going for language simplicity in his works. However, I found the Esperanto translation errors less interesting than, say, the Spanish missteps, because Esperanto is not a living language with the history and connotations of the other languages explored.

Some final comments on the three papers I haven’t yet mentioned: The second work in the book is a reflection, as Nils Ivar Agøy explores some of the decisions he made in translating The Silmarillion into Norwegian. This is the shortest work in the collection, and the only one that focuses on The Silmarillion. Vincent Ferre, Daniel Lauzon, and David Riggs’ paper provides an explanation of how the awkward choices and delays in the French translations may have contributed to France’s cool reception of Tolkien. Mark T. Hooker’s “Nine Russian Translation of The Lord of the Rings” provided me with the most ‘did you know’ moments in the book. I.E. Did you know that The Lord of the Rings first circulated in 1960s Russia as an underground condensed translation by a woman named Zinaid Anatol’evna Bobyr’, because official translations were banned until the 1980s? (120). Each of these articles sheds illumination on an aspect of Tolkien’s work that may have gone unconsidered had it not needed to be translated into a particular language and culture.

I recommend Tolkien in Translation to those with an interest in how language shapes literature. Tolkien fans will find much to appreciate in this accessible collection. A companion volume, Translating Tolkien: Text and Film (Cormarë Vol. 6) [link: http://www.walking-tree.org/books/translating_tolkien.php%5D also looks promising, though I have not yet read it.

About the Author

Jenna enjoys reading Tolkien, middle grade, and speculative fiction, though she blogs about all kinds of books at Falling Letters. She will be moving to Vancouver in the fall to begin a master’s in library and information studies. You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

My Tolkien Collection (Guest Post by Emily @ Rose Read)

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.


Greetings, weblings! My name is Emily, and I blog over at Rose Read. Here’s a little about me: I am a grad student studying Library and Information Science, though I started out as a high school English teacher. I also work on MuggleNet.com, the #1 Harry Potter fan site, and I co-manage the Apparating Library Book Club for the Harry Potter Alliance. Other than books and blogging, I love musical theater, hiking, dark chocolate, Mumford & Sons, owls, and unicorns. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @enchntdrose or my blog at www.rosereadblog.wordpress.com! Thanks to Briana and Krysta for letting me do a guest post – let’s get started!

Today I’m going to share with you some of my most prized books in my entire personal library: my Lord of the Rings trilogy box set, which is a second edition from 1965. This set has sentimental value as well as being just really pretty. It was given to me after my childhood best friend’s grandmother passed away. My best friend and I would often spend time playing at her grandmother’s house, which was always great because she had the BEST cookies and a really cool old house to explore. One of our favorite places in the house was the basement. I remember it as a very dark, plush lounge, complete with a fancy old bar, fancy plush chairs, and a fancy, giant, old bookshelf. My friend wasn’t much of a reader, but I was always enamoured at the old bookshelf and would spend time just staring at it, afraid to touch any of the old volumes. After her grandmother died, my friend’s mom gave me this set of books from that very collection. The set still has its box and dust covers pretty much pristine. The top edges are tinted and there are pull-out maps in the back of each book. I love them more than a person probably should love inanimate objects. Behold:

Tolkien Books

Fellowship of the Ring

Lord of the Rings

Tolkien Map

Beautiful, no?

I’ve tried my best to find other Tolkien books to match these for the rest of my collection. I managed to find a Silmarillion copy that is from the same publisher, and it’s an American first edition, so it matches pretty well. Unfortunately, I do not have the dust cover, but it’s still pretty:

Tolkien Books

Then I have a first American edition copy of the Book of Lost Tales, which matches the others, too! This one does have the dust cover!

Book of Lost Tales

I sadly do not have an old Hobbit copy, but I do like the edition I have. Also pictured is A Tolkien Miscellany with short stories (that has AWESOME cover art of Smaug) and 3-Minute J.R.R. Tolkien because I am a sucker for pretty illustrated “quick guides” like these.

Tolkien Quick Guides

Tolkien Quick Guides 2

And that’s the extent of my Tolkien book collection. I know it’s probably not as large as the collections of Tolkien fans reading this post, but it is very special to me. I tried to build it around my prized trilogy set, which will forever remind me of the giant old bookshelf and the kindness of my friend’s grandmother. I tried reading different editions once, and it just felt wrong. I love the mustiness of these books and the memories they hold of the dark, plush basement – somehow the smell turns to Gandalf’s pipe-weed, and the dark basement into a candle-lit Hobbit hole, and it’s all part of the magic.

Do you have special copies of any Tolkien books? I know I can’t read any other copies than these!

Whimsical Fairies: Tolkien’s Disowned Poem is My Favorite (Guest Post by Lyse @ Belle Reads)

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.


Early in Tolkien’s career, he published a whimsical fairy poem. It was quite popular at the time, although he eventually came to distance himself from it, as one does with early writing. In the time before his graceful warrior elves were introduced, he portrayed happy little creatures, the elves of fairy tales. He titled the short piece with words that conjure very different images in his well-known books: “Goblin Feet.”  Here is the first stanza:

I am off down the road
Where the fairy lanterns glowed
And the little pretty flitter-mice are flying
A slender band of gray
It runs creepily away
And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing.
The air is full of wings,
And of blundery beetle-things
That warn you with their whirring and their humming.
O! I hear the tiny horns
Of enchanted leprechauns
And the padded feet of many gnomes a-coming!
O! the lights! O! the gleams! O! the little twinkly sounds!
O! the rustle of their noiseless little robes!
O! the echo of their feet – of their happy little feet!
O! the swinging lamps in the starlit globes.

 

Tolkien seems to have written the poem for his fiancee, Edith Bratt. And while he may have come to regret it, this poem has always been my favorite of his verses. I do like The Lord of the Rings, of course, and I’ve read Roverandom and portions of The Silmarillion. But “Goblin Feet” is my earliest memory of Tolkien’s writing.

His writing, not of him. I was born knowing about Tolkien. My older sisters were a little obsessed with LOTR. They had movie calendars and all the soundtracks and beautifully matched trilogies. So I knew about Tolkien. But I wasn’t allowed to see the movies (my parents were quite concerned about the violence) and too young to read the books. I tried to join the obsession though. I memorized the track listings from hearing the soundtrack too many times. And I kept all the loose sheets from my sister’s page-a-day calendar. Even now, broody Aragorn graces my wall, reminding me of 2003, which is, now that I think about it, a really long time ago.

Aragorn Poster

So I knew about Tolkien. And when I discovered “Goblin Feet” in my Favorite Poems: Old and New, I was astonished. This was Tolkien just for me. This was Tolkien of the scary orcs and too-old-for-me bloodshed writing about dancing and fairies and everything that warmed my small girl heart. This was Tolkien in a length and lilt that I could memorize and impress adults with. This was Tolkien I could dance and skip and imagine to.

I’m sad–not surprised, but sad–that Tolkien eventually disowned this poem. “Goblin Feet” is the perfect amount of whimsy and earnest awe for small children. And for adults. We could all use more whimsy in our lives. Even today, 10+ years later, this poem reminds me of the little girl who was so yearningly serious and daringly whimsical. She might have been idealized and suppressed over time, hidden by “maturing” and “responsibility,” but I hope she never stops looking for fairies.

About the Author

Lyse was born into a family of Tolkien enthusiasts and proudly displays LOTR art on her mantelpiece. When she’s not doing adulty things, she reads YA & blogs about whatever enters her mind. Follow her blog at https://lyseofllyr.blog/ or follow her on Twitter for hardcore fangirling.

The Book That’s Not Supposed to Exist (Guest Post by Joanna Maciejewska)

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.


The Last Ringbearer

Whenever I watch Aragorn’s coronation scene in The Return of the King, with Eowyn standing in the crowd beside Faramir, I can’t resist thinking: “Poor Eowyn. A victim of the Elven conspiracy!” What an odd thought, you say? Not so much if you have read the book that changed my perception of the coronation scene.

I’m not a devoted Tolkien fan. Yes, I read it when I was young, but before him there were countless other books, including another pioneer writer, Robert E. Howard, and a Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (if you’ve heard of the Witcher video games, he’s the writer who wrote the books the games were based on), so The Lord of the Rings was just (I can almost hear you gasping!) another fantasy book, and I never fell in love with it. I could probably redeem myself by admitting I loved The Silmarilion much more, but that would likely be countered by the fact I enjoyed the Hobbit movies.

Anyway, I digress. My experience of the Aragorn’s coronation comes from the The Last Ringbearer by Kiryll Yeskov, as opposed to Tolkien.

The Last Ringbearer was fun. Even though it kept the major events that readers know from The Lord of the Rings intact, it depicted the war between Orcs and other races from an entirely different angle. The story focused on the quest to separate the Elven world from the magicless Middle Earth—a mission given to two soldiers from the destroyed Mordor army by a Nazgul, but the more interesting bits were in the background. For example, the poor Orcs were attacked for their attempts of bringing industrial progress and science to the Middle Earth, and their bad and cruel image was nothing more than Elven propaganda aiming to discredit their enemies.

I won’t recount the whole story, as it’s available on Wikipedia (or you might decide you want to read it yourself), but as you might have guessed, in The Last Ringbearer, it’s Eowyn who is Aragorn’s loved one, but he is stuck with Arwen due to Elven plots. In this reimagining of Middle Earth’s history, it’s not the happily ever after one could expect.

What’s even more interesting than the story in the book is… the book’s story.

Even though it’s been published in Russia, and then translated into several languages (including Polish which made it available for me), it’s considered copyright infringement by the Tolkien Estate, so has never been commercially translated or published in English.

I learned about the book’s rough path long after I’d read The Last Ringbearer, and it made me regret I hadn’t paid closer attention to reading this book (which I got from the library), and that I didn’t reread the original work along with it, to discover more interesting tidbits of the alternative story of Middle Earth. All I have left is the memory of the Elven conspiracy that always returns when I see poor Eowyn standing beside Faramir.

But now, after all those years, since my English is much better than when I was young, I might reach for the non-commercial translation available on the net, and once more explore all the details that had escaped me during my first read-through.

What about you? Would you read The Last Ringbearer if it was published in English? Maybe you stumbled upon its non-commercial English translation available online? What did you think of it? Or maybe you agree with Tolkien Estate’s stand on the derivative works and would rather not see this book around?

About the Author

I grew up in Poland, spent over 8 years in Ireland, and I’ve recently moved to Arizona. I have several short stories published in Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Science-Fiction Fantasy i Horror”, “Magazyn Fantastyczny”, “Esensja”) and anthologies (Fabryka Słów, Replika, Solaris).

Visit Joanna at http://melfka.com.

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.

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.

My Journey Through Middle-Earth (Guest Post by Nandini)

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.


My fascination with this fictional land began at the age of ten, when my brother was watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy on TV. I caught only parts of it, but was so intrigued that I borrowed the DVD box-set from a friend and re-watched it in full with my family. I vaguely remember sitting on my bed, trying to recall how the soundtrack went because I was mesmerised. I’d like to believe that I haven’t truly left Middle-Earth since then.

I borrowed the complete unabridged collection of the books from my school library two years later. I finished a majority of it when I had taken sick leave for three days – I distinctly recall taking the bulky book with me when I was waiting to see the doctor at his clinic. I tried to read as many books by Tolkien that I could get my hands on after that and breezed through The Hobbit, The Children of Húrin, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales and The Shaping of Middle-Earth. The most obvious piece missing from this list is The Silmarillion, which I plan to finish in March 2017 as a part of my personal celebration of the Tolkien Reading Day.

If someone told me to close my eyes and picture my happy place, it would be Lothlórien. There’s just something magical and ethereal about Middle-Earth that I can’t quite put into words. The strange beauty, the descriptions of the land and the awareness that each rock, tree or creature has its own purpose and will transports me into a place that seems surreal. Reading through the rich prose gives me a feeling of going on a vacation without having left the comfort of my room. I get lost in the pages and when I put down the book, it seems as if I’ve emerged from a dream. I have yet to find another series that has provided such an immersive experience. I am in awe of how detailed the world is; the words make the place come alive in my mind. The characters also make up a large part of why the series is special to me. It is incredible how some characters who only appear briefly in the story are so memorable – take Lady Galadriel or Tom Bombadil, for instance. My favourite of the lot, however, is Samwise Gamgee, who many believe to be the actual hero.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has had such a huge impact on my reading habits and my personality that I consider it to be a part of me. Fantasy became my favourite genre after I fell in love with the trilogy. I’ve talked about it on my blog several times and even dedicated a month-long series to it. My kind and considerate friends gifted me a replica of the Evenstar necklace from the films for my 21st birthday. I found the hardcover movie tie-in edition of The Return of the King quite by accident at a bookstore for a ridiculously low price and I can’t resist the urge to talk about how extraordinarily lucky I was that day. I recently won a quiz that had The Lord of the Rings as one of its five main topics and got all the questions based on it right. I do a marathon of the films and re-read the books every year – it’s almost become a ritual now.

Being such an ardent fan also comes with a sense of responsibility, especially in the digital world where opinions are broadcast on a daily basis. Some comparisons between Tolkien and George Martin’s works have sprung up these days, with debaters being unaware of how different they are and arguing for the sake of winning some sort of popularity vote. Tolkien’s works have also been criticised as being racist or unsuitable for the modern reader. Some of the comments on such topics seem to have no basis in fact and have left me outraged, to be honest. I do realise that I have a personal bias with regard to this, so I try not to respond where I feel this would be an issue. While healthy debates are quite welcome and are necessary, I feel that as a member of this wonderful community of readers who love and respect Tolkien’s works, it is my duty to not descend to the level of trolls and engage with them just to prove a point, which could potentially harm the reputation of other fans across the world. My sole aim is to share the joy of reading that I have experienced and I hope that my journey would encourage another to try out his works as well.

I’d like to conclude by sharing a few lines from my favourite song in the books:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
–The Road Goes Ever On (The Fellowship of the Ring)

About the Author

Nandini Pages That Rustle

Nandini Bharadwaj, a 21-year-old from Bangalore, India, is an expert at dabbling in a bit of everything. She will graduate as a Telecommunication engineer in May 2017 and wants to earn a PhD someday. When she’s not typing up posts for her blogs, Pages That Rustle and Unputdownable Books, one can find her stuck in a book, watching a movie or marathoning a TV show. She also likes to cook, and her favourite flavour is chocolate. Her biggest dream is to have a packed and organised floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in her bedroom. She can be found online on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Goodreads.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Guest Post by Crystal)

Classic Literature Event

This July Pages Unbound is celebrating classic literature with a collection of guest posts. We asked other readers to tell us what one of their favorite classic is and why we should read it.

Crystal is a new-ish blogger who loves getting lost in books. Visit her at Lost in a Good Book.


East of Eden

When I first heard that Pages Unbound was allowing bloggers to do a guest post about their favorite classic novel I was so excited to be a part of it.  Who doesn’t want to sing the praises of their favorite books for everyone to see?  Plus, being a guest blogger meant the possibility of having conversations with so many more people about your favorite book than you might otherwise.  Then a few days later I realized … that meant I would have to write about it. What in the world could I say about this book that someone else hasn’t already said, and undoubtedly said better?  I’ll do my best.

Introduction

Most people are familiar with other books by Steinbeck.  Books they read in high school like The PearlThe Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men.  But if I’m being honest I didn’t like those books much.  But East of Eden. It is simply a masterpiece.  A book of truly epic scope. Here is the jacket description.

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamilton’s—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

It’s so hard to put such huge themes into a couple of sentences.  I’m going to list a couple of my favorite things about the book and not even attempt to cover the entirety of it.

Best villain ever!

Cathy Ames.  As a young girl reading this book, I found this character completely fascinating.  She’s a psychopath of the highest order.  She has the face of an angel and the heart of … well actually she has no heart.  She is amoral, evil, murderous and conniving.  It was the juxtaposition of her loveliness and her innate badness that had me spellbound.  I’d never seen another girl like her in books. She slithers in and out of this book like the snake she truly is. Did I mention the biblical symbolism in this book? Cathy is the devil in a white dress. But I won’t spend too much time on her … let’s move on.

Cain & Abel

Steinbeck took the story of Cain & Abel from the Bible and set it in modern times with this book.  In doing that he made it a very human story, one that is easy to understand, and internalize.  Oh, the things we do for love. The terrible things we do especially when we perceive the lack of love. In the bible story, Cain and his brother Abel offered gifts to God.  God accepted Abel’s gift and rejected Cain’s. Cain suffered from the rejection but instead of internalizing that pain and rejection he blamed his brother and became enraged, killing his brother.

We see this in the story play out in East of Eden.  First, with the brothers Charles and Adam and then again through Caleb and Aron.  The Trask family seems fated to continually re-live the story of Cain and Abel over and over again.  Destroying one another in the process. However, they are provided with a pair of prophets.  Samuel Hamilton and Lee, who hold out a ray of hope to them.  Which leads to my third point.

Timshel

Samuel Hamilton is a neighbor whose kind and level headed influence bring relief to the beleaguered family.  Lee is a servant of sorts who nurses the family back to health after Cathy has decimated them and then gone away.  Together, the prophets shore the family up, try to help them mend and along the way illuminate the story of Cain & Abel. A quote from Lee is important here.

“Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”

“I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.”

“Ten years nearly,” said Lee. “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James Version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”

Samuel nodded. “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.

Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”

Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. “Lee,” he said, “don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!”

He and his friends did study Hebrew and they determine that the true meaning of the admonition God gives Cain is that word Timshel.  They recognize that it means “thou mayest” rule over sin.  Not “thou shalt” which is a promise.  Not “do thou” which is a command. But “thou mayest”. Which gives men power over their life.  They have a choice, there is no fate that the family is bound to.  Instead, there is an opportunity to change their lives.

Conclusion

This is what speaks to me about this book.  In the face of all this evil, all these curses that go back generation upon generation we still have the gift of free will.  We can do more with our lives.  I can’t resist a book with that kind of message.

I’d like to recommend going to the link I’ve included below.  East of Eden was the first book for Oprah’s book club, and she did vast amounts of research and video and essays on the book.  It is a really great accompaniment to the book.  I hope I haven’t given too much away.  If you haven’t read it before, do yourself a favor.  It’s truly great.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/oprahs-book-club-east-of-eden-by-john-steinbeck

-All the stars in the sky!
5 stars