Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tale We've Fallen Into

I first started reading J.R.R. Tolkien when I was about 19 years old. I remember one marathon reading session over a Christmas break from school. I really wanted to finish the Lord of the Rings Trilogy before I went back to reading books for school. The words of these books created amazing images in my mind that stay with me to this day. Tolkien had a great depth of knowledge and the books can be read on several levels. Recently, a friend reminded me of the following quote from The Two Towers. It can be read as great dialogue in a fantasy novel, a meditation on the life of a country or culture, a meditation on cosmogeny (the origins and meaning of life), or even, a meditation on one's own life.

We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same — like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of the Lord of The Rings. Agincourt: Methuen Publications, 1971, p. 320, 321.

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