With the first installment of Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit appearing in cinemas in a matter of days, I've been reading Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and some commentary lately to bone up on all things Tolkien.
I'm a big Tolkien fan -- as I'm sure are so many of the readers of this blog. If you're interested in commentary on Tolkien's work, I highly recommend J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by T.A. Shippey, which I just finished. It's been out for twelve years now, but I found it to be a great introductory work to Tolkien criticism and makes the point that J.R.R. Tolkien was -- suffice it to say -- a very special author. A paragraph from the closing few pages was especially poignant and I thought I'd mention it here. It talks about fantasy literature on the whole and is a statement that could equally apply to comic books:
The argument that fantasy is intrinsically less truthful than realistic fiction could be extended to say that realistic fiction is intrinsically less truthful than biography. But we all now (know) that fiction allows a writer to express something, perhaps metaphorically or by analogy, which could not be expressed by history. The same argument should be extended to fantasy. That is surely why so many writers of the nineteenth century, including the ones most closely concerned with real-world events, have had to write in a fantastic mode.
Long ago I asked my English teacher if I could write an essay for class about The Lord of the Rings. She declined because it ‘wasn’t really literature’. Admittedly, having read it three times prior, it was a somewhat obvious way to cheat on a high school project. But I also didn’t quite understand what she meant by it not being 'really literature'. It certainly seemed like literature to me! Shippey's book takes aim at anyone who thinks in a similiar fashion and I wish I had the help of his ideas to refute my old teacher's idea back then.
|The street in Oxford, England where the Eagle and Child pub is located. It's the circular blue sign in the distance.|
I hope you enjoy the film. With the exception of a few things (notably Faramir) Peter Jackson has proved he’s good at making Tolkien’s stories into feature films. I’ll be reviewing them here so keep an eye in the next week or so. Thanks for reading!