Niggle and Numenor
Keywords:epic, prose, novel, Lord of the Rings, LotR, The Hobbit, Hobbit, drama, scenery, hero, heroes, legend
Author Joy Chant begins this article recounting their beginning experience with Tolkien’s work – namely, reading “The Hobbit” and ““The Lord of the Rings”. She believes that before the “cult” (as she puts it) of Tolkien, one could still be amazed by these books – in other words, be so unsuspecting that the wonder found within comes as a surprise rather than something to be expected. Seeing the book with fresh eyes is now nearly impossible, but Chant has tried to with this article. She wants to explain what makes these books so good, so endearing. She begins by approaching the novel itself fundamentally different – it is not a novel, as many people claim, which is why criticisms of it suffer when it is considered as such. It is more of a prose epic. “The Hobbit” may be more novel-esque, but “The Lord of the Rings” remains prose. Chant cites the use of Tolkien’s gentle slope of actions, from rising action to climax to anticlimax (the weddings, and scourging of the Shire). The delineation of the characters, too, follow more of an epic prose style than a novel style. The characters are not developed, they are presented. The characters are not changed by the end, generally, but they are tested by a great ordeal, testing, and judgement. The good stay good, the bad remain bad, the prideful are consumed, and the kind are loved. She then discusses Tolkien’s ability to craft drama, scenery, and his absolute creation of middle-earth – not as a stand-alone but as an in-between world. Like a mixture of reality and history and the fantastical elements of fantasy all mixed into one. He also uses a lot of legend in his work – in the magic and the people. The magic of this world, Chant claims, is consisted of naming sacred objects. Gandalf, as a character, is the abstraction of all wizards in literature – from Odin to Merlin – and becomes aloof and intangible in a way. He is a Wanderer, a Grey Pilgrim, and has the sensibilities of a grandfather. Aragorn is a distillation of many heroes. Many tropes of characters fall into Aragorn, but they all feel natural and complete.
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