I don't know about you, but for me there are some books that I cannot simply "read". With some books, I need to know more, I need a background and a map, a way in. There are some books that I anticipate struggling with, as though there was a trick to them or a knack, that picking them up and just reading them wouldn't be enough for me to appreciate their words. This is the case for Lord of the Rings. I feel like Jillian, it is with great trepidation that I begin this particular journey and I have waited for a year (since starting the 100 Greatest Books list) for the right moment, a readalong or some kind of challenge. And now, as mentioned in a previous post, one has presented itself: it's time to begin Tolkien's trilogy.
The plan isn't the problem, it's perfectly do-able:
The Fellowship of the Ring
- July 4/5 – July 7: Chapters 1-6 of Book One
- July 7 – July 11: Chapters 7-12 of Book One
- July 11 – July 14: Chapters 1-5 of Book Two
- July 14 – July 18: Chapters 6-10 of Book Two
Return of the King
- July 18 – July 21: Chapters 1-5 of Book Three
- July 21 – July 25: Chapters 6-11 of Book Three
- July 25 – July 28: Chapters 1-5 of Book Four
- July 28 – August 1: Chapters 6-10 of Book Four
- August 1 – August 4: Chapters 1-5 of Book Five
- August 4 – August 8: Chapters 5-10 of Book Five
- August 8 – August 11: Chapters 1-4 of Book Six
- August 11 – August 15: Chapters 5-9 of Book Six
My problem is I have understood The Lord of the Rings to be fantasy literature, and I don't appreciate fantasy literature (I know I have said I loved Harry Potter, but to me it was like reading Mallory Towers or St. Clare's by Enid Blyton, only with a magical twist). However, perhaps this is the wrong approach: I read a comment from James Rosenzweig at Jillian's with great interest (and a little excitement) suggesting that The Lord of the Rings may be read as a kind of English mythology.
It may also help to think of [Lord of the Rings], not as “fantasy” (a genre that hardly existed in the decades when these books were written) but as “mythology”—Tolkien occasionally admitted straightforwardly that he was interested in crafting a sort of English mythology (The Shire being closely modeled on memories of rural England in his childhood, etc.). Many people who don’t like modern fantasy do enjoy Greek mythology, for instance, despite its magical creatures and godlike warriors, etc., because of the deeper ideas it often explores. Now, I wouldn’t say that most modern fantasy can stand up to a comparison with The Odyssey (to take one example), but I think Lord of the Rings in particular is at least not badly outclassed in that league, and is in some ways superior. I don’t know if thinking of LOTR in that light will help diminish the impact of your total lack of interest in fantasy, but I figure I’ll make the best possible case going in.I am interested in mythology and myths of origin (yes, despite not getting along to well with Homer, I did love Tales from Ovid and am intending on reading Metamorphoses as soon as I can get a hold of it, and I did love Genesis), so I think this is my way in. I read a little more on Wikipedia, and I came across this, too:
After his death, Tolkien's son Christopher published a series of works based on his father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda, and Middle-earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.To me, this is far more interesting than I thought. The idea that it is a kind of legendarium, or collection of legends, makes it far more exciting than I anticipated. So finally, I feel I have a reason to read this trilogy, that it is going to be a worthwhile read for me (I wouldn't suggest any book isn't worthwhile, I mean that I feel I will get something from this other than reading it because I ought to). I've gone from accepting I have to read this at some point, to desperately looking forward to settling down on the sofa with Trot and a cup of coffee and finally beginning! It does mean putting down The Mill on the Floss for a couple of hours (which is not easy, that book is perfection), but yes, finally after a year, I am ready for Lord of the Rings!