Books that Matter: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Books that Matter

I remember the day I started The Fellowship of the Rings. I was thirteen years old, in the seventh grade. It was mid-December, just before winter break. The first Lord of the Rings movie had just been released, and my family planned on going to see it on Christmas Even.

I had just over a week to read it. I finished The Hobbit the day before. I couldn’t wait to start.

My Language Arts teacher lent me the book. That afternoon, I started to read. The book was dense, but I devoured every word. I finished on December 23, 2001. For Christmas that year, my parents gave me the trilogy. Those copies are dog-eared now, the covers ripped and peeling, the pages still in tact (somehow). I am not certain how many times I read them, but the number is probably close to 20.

The stories captivated me. They entranced me. The elves, the hobbits, the orcs and the men of the West. Gollum. Gandalf. After many readings, my favorite characters have changed. These days, I am very fond of Faramir and Eomer, and Eowyn as well. I will always be fond of Sam as well.

The Lord of the Rings inspired my writing. I discovered it about the time when I determined that I could write novels if I really wanted to. Naturally, my first attempts were blatant rip-offs as I attempted world building, but I soon realized that I could take inspiration from the world. Already a mythology nut, I delved deeper into the Nordic, Irish and Welsh stories, learning and reading.

I also realized, importantly, that making up a language is tough. It wasn’t just random words thrown together. There needed to be continuity, traceable roots, rules, etc. You can’t just chuck vowels together and call it a day. At this time, I also began learning German, followed by Spanish. Seeing how these languages worked gave me great respect for Tolkien’s linguistic capabilities; I’ve resolved to stay away from creating my own languages.

It’s been years since I have read the trilogy, must be senior year of high school. The stories, the characters, stay with me fondly. I look forward to reading them again some day, to bask in the epicness of it all.


The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Last night, between hacking my lungs out and listening to my neighbors’ cheesy-awesome 1980’s tunes, I started writing Per Ardua ad Astra (bit of a mouthful, by no means is this the final title).

Beginning a story is difficult for me. I have no problem writing internal scenes, even endings, but the whole first-impression thing…I feel that if I can’t strike the right tone with the opening line, the rest of the book will suffer. Look at some of famous opening lines:

“Marley was dead to begin with.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.” The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling.

These opening lines capture the essence of the stories to follow. As for me, my opening line is pseudo-epic and quite frankly, reeks. It doesn’t fit with the vibe that I hope to achieve. Oh well. That’s what rewrites are for!

And I’m not going to rewrite a scene until I’m completely done. Unless I come up with a better beginning.