The Coziest Fantasy Novels When You’re Snowed In.

The snow is falling, it’s too early to shovel, and you’re stuck in the house. The perfect time to go to a whole other world. I mean, that’s what fantasy novels are for, right?

Maybe you’re cold, tucked under layers of clothes and blankets, and sitting around your heater. You’re in that state that comes with blizzards, halfway between wakefulness and cozy relaxation. You’re awake but if you laid down now it might be the best nap you’ve ever taken.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood for the bleakness of certain fantasy novels such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Fantasy’s not known for its coziness but it has its moments.

Before it becomes darker in the later volumes, Harry Potter’s first three books The Philosopher’s Stone (or The Sorcerer’s Stone), The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban lean more towards children’s novels then the latter. Before Harry discovers the dark side of the Wizarding World and his past he gets to see the light side like a cup of warm hot chocolate.

But you’re all grown up, and you’ve already read through those enough times that you need something new. While Brandon Sandersons’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are much more intense, his debut novel Elantris unravels the mystery of its world more slowly. The story crecendos with the right amount of action perfect for reading with a single lamp with a blanket wraped around you.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems like it was written for getting snowed in. It’s a road trip across America and across the mytholigical landscape of the past. With Norse mythology involved you know they’ll be snow.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind can be harsh, but not intense the same way grimdark novels can be. It’s more melancholic than grim. There’s a sadness to it that you can appreciate sitting down at your kitchen table after shedding your snow boots and warm your hands back to normal temperature.

Maybe you want a bit more adventure and a lot more snark. After shovelling your driveway you can laugh at Sam Sykes’ characters constant quips. The pacing is slow, but the story never bores you. It’s part of what’s great about Sam Sykes’ style of writing, he takes in time developing his plot and letting his characters breathe like real people.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings always felt like the perfect for books to read during a snow storm.  It has that feel of a classic novel or of a story being read to you by a parent.

Then when you’re done, if you’re shivering in your home, then you can pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture (via Instapaper.)

“The Inklings were different. They clung by their fingernails to the past, to old languages and old books and old-school habits and values. They could be cranky geezers — beer drinkers who wore tweed, refused to admit women to their ranks and recited Anglo-Saxon poetry for fun. They expected to be ever-more marginalized and sneered at, although they did fight like hell to keep Oxford from updating its syllabus to included such new-fangled entertainments as Victorian novels. Still, they assumed that they’d lose eventually. They were so unfashionable! So how did they end up taking over popular culture?”

“Yet Tolkien, and to a lesser degree Lewis, arguably have a bigger foothold in the early 21st-century imagination than Carroll, Wilde or some fictional police inspector. Why should that be? Surely one of the best explanations so far has been advanced by the academic and Tolkien scholar T.A. Shippey, who believes that Tolkien drew forth the long-submerged mythic past of the Anglophone world by means of his deep, historical knowledge of the English language.”

“The standard sophisticated take on this fantasy is that it’s childish and escapist, that it posits a past that never existed. And that’s true — Tolkien, who regarded the modern, industrialized world as a hellscape ravened by soulless machines (he hated cars), happily copped to the escapism bit. “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home?” he retorted.”

“Is it any wonder, then, that it isn’t the modernists, those poets of disintegration and speed and fleeting solitary experience, that readers keep returning to, but these fusty holdouts and abstainers, the guys who said, “We’d prefer not to”? Being Christian was just one of their ways of putting on the brakes, and it’s far from obligatory — let alone the central secret to their appeal. None of us gets to live in the Shire, but we haven’t lost our appetite for the kind to stories that are told there. Those stories are still the ones that feel the most like home.”

Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture

May 31, 2015 at 04:08PM

via Instapaper http://ift.tt/1JgxAZo

How Did Peter Jackson Read This Passage and Still Get the One Ring Wrong?

In book six, which is the first part of Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee is alone in Mordor with the One Ring having just found out Frodo is still alive and taken captive after the confrontation with Shelob.

     His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad- dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be. In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit- sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. ‘And anyway all these notions are only a trick,’ he said to himself. ‘He’d spot me and cow me, before I could so much as shout out. He’d spot me, pretty quick, if I put the Ring on now, in Mordor. Well, all I can say is: things look as hopeless as a frost in Spring. Just when being invisible would be really useful, I can’t use the Ring! And if ever I get any further, it’s going to be nothing but a drag and a burden every step. So what’s to be done?’

Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh must have read The Lord of the Rings before they decided to write the scripts yet somehow to most of the viewing audience the only power the One Ring had was to turn people invisible. Then again these are the same people who thoughts a simile about stretching shadows meant Balrogs had wings, that the metaphor for Sauron’s reach across Middle-Earth meant he was a giant flaming eye, and that because Ents language is much slower than English that this meant they were both passive and unaware of Saruman’s destruction.

I wonder if people ask them the same questions friends will ask me when they find out I am an avid reader of Tolkien. “Why is the One Ring such a big deal if it just turns you invisible? To convey it did anything else, it was probably a bad idea to show that scene of Isildur retreating into the water with the ring on and turned invisible. It was probably a bad idea to cut this bit of dialog between Frodo, Sam, and Galadriel.

‘I would ask one thing before we go,’ said Frodo, ‘a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?’

‘You have not tried,’ she said. ‘Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring- bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger? Did you see my ring?’ she asked turning again to Sam.

‘No, Lady,’ he answered. ‘To tell you the truth, I wondered what you were talking about. I saw a star through your fingers.”

You could easily cut to her ring after showing Frodo, then do it again after showing Sam to show he can’t see the ring. You can cut this dialog down a bit and still have it explain how the ring works. This is literally dialog you could of used, Jackson. You show plenty of times when resisting putting on the ring is difficult, but you do a terrible job of showing why the ring is a power, a threat, and wanted by Boromir and Denethor (Faramir too in the movie version.) What about how the ring makes Frodo appear to Sam when Gollum swears upon the precious?

For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another’s minds.

That’s not a metaphor, that is literally how the One Ring’s power affects Frodo by being its bearer. Hard to convey, maybe, but no less hard than the spirit world in which Frodo enters when he puts on the ring. Later when Gollum tries to suggest giving the ring to him Frodo tells him.

In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!’

Having this dialog would

  1. Show how the ring gives the power to command, even to a hobbit.
  2. Show how Frodo has grown in power, even though the ring is making him weak physically the closer they get to Mordo
  3. Show how susceptible Gollum is to the power of the ring
  4. Give some well needed credibility to your version of Frodo, who has been made younger and has all the parts where he has shown any sort of bravery cut from the movie, but that is a post for another time.

It is one thing to cut parts of the book out of the movie. Obviously there are time restraints but some of these moments would add seconds, maybe five minutes at most that could easily but cut elsewhere.  It is not a matter of audiences being dumb either, but the One Ring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is not explained very well at all. It is portrayed as more of an sigil for addiction rather than an artifact of power.

 

The Battle of Pelennor Fields | Quote by J.R.R. Tolkien

“In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen.

“You cannot enter here,” said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. “Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!”

The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

“Old fool!” he said. “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!” And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

via Goodreads | Quote by J.R.R. Tolkien: “In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black s…”.

Gives me chills down my spine every time I read it. One of the few times Peter Jackson was able to evoke the same kind of emotions in the film version was Rohan’s charge into battle.

 

First Impressions of The Hobbit: Battle of (the) Five Armies.

Right off the bat you are going to be entering spoiler country for the movie which premiered last night / today.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

The biggest complaint everyone has had about the Hobbit movies in general has been either 1) It’s bloated 2) It’s different from the book 3) Too much CGI and 4) It’s not The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I don’t have any of these problems with the movie. I don’t think it’s bloated because I left this movie wanting more. I don’t care that it’s different from the book, I already own the book. The CGI is a bit much, I’ll agree with that but ultimately hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the movie. Lastly, I don’t think The Lord of the Rings trilogy is perfect either. In fact, there are some things I like better than in the original.

That’s the movies as a whole but the subject of this post is the third movie. I refuse to add that extra the before Five Armies so please excuse me. I’m going to use a system of what I liked, what was so-so and what I didn’t like.

What I Liked

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, who is revealed to have taken the Arkenstone during his confrontation with Smaug, steals every scene. He’s the voice of reason where Gandalf fails to be and as the hobbit of the Hobbit he brings the everyman perspective to this giant world of lords and kings.

The final fight between Azog and Thorin on the ice. They did a good job of amping up the threat of Azog from the first movie and mostly absent appearance in the second movie. The two felt evenly matched to me where I thought it was going to be rather one sided.

The purpose of why Sauron wants the Lonely Mountain and his hope of returning the kingdom of Angmar to power. I don’t know if it’s accurate to the geography of Middle-Earth but I did find it really interesting. In addition to this, the appearance of the nine men who received rings of power was fantastic. As minions of Sauron to have armor that was like his but suited to each individual one was a thrill to watch.

In the same scene, from Galadriel’s use of her ring of power to watching Saruman and Elrond take on the nine ringwraiths was one of those “We never get to see this, I am so glad we’re seeing this” moments.

I was also joyfully surprised how much of the siege of Erebor and Bilbo’s involvement with manipulating Thorin for peace wasn’t change all that much.

Bard too was a breath of fresh air, much more of a leader and doomsayer akin to his book version than I believe he was in Desolation of Smaug.

Lastly, a part of the movie I swore was going to be cut, the auctioning of Bag End made it into the movie with a cameo by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and the company Grubb, Grubb, and Burrows.

What Was So-So

The opening scene that led to Smaug’s defeat at the heads of Bard the Bowman was great but I felt like it should have been the ending of the last movie rather than the beginning of this one. I understand why they put it at the beginning of this one but the ending of the second wouldn’t of felt so abrupt.

Also, the death of the Master. Why was Stephen Fry killed off so quickly? Seemed kind of a waste to me.

What I Didn’t Like

Not enough Bilbo and this is in part due to the ending. Far too abrupt for my taste, which I am sure they did in response tot he complaints of Return of the King’s ending. There was no Bilbo being named Elf-friend after returning those jewels to Thranduil. There was no return visit to Beorn’s house. There was no return to Rivendell, where Bilbo would have Sting’s elf runes inscribed on it.

That weird transformation Galadriel went through in fighting back Sauron looked awful. I liked what she was doing but not how she did it. Also, why did Galadriel become suddenly weak but Elrond and Saruman were fine? Don’t say because she used up her power to heal Gandalf because Sauron clearly says to her that she was losing power before that. Thirdly, I was really hoping Galadriel was going to come in with badass armor. She knows how to fight, she isn’t just this wafting faerie with superpowers. When she finally starts acting badass they just screwed it up by giving her this weird dark aesthetic. It did not work for me at all.

One thing everyone can agree on, why did the character of Alfred get so much screen time? If anything he should of been killed by Smaug and his character replaced by the Master. That would of been more in line with the book and Stephen Fry is a very talented actor who would of made a much better comic relief than whoever Alfred was played by.

I didn’t completely hate the Dragon sickness, it is a part of the book I had hoped they would explore but it took up too much screen time. I liked the choice of Thorin starting to sound like Smaug but that scene, and the one where he finally snaps out of it went on for too long in my taste.

A realization that I had during this film about Azog, Bolg and the orcs in this trilogy is that I don’t like the choice to have them only talk in black speech at all. Orcs from Mordor spoke in Westernesse (English or whatever language you’re reading the book in) why do these orcs only speak in another language? I understand why, I just don’t think it was a good choice for all three movies.

Again, I said this in my Desolation of Smaug review but while most people feel tacking on Tauriel was unnecessary I feel Legolas is the part that should be cut. A lot of it was either bad or worthy of being cut in my eyes. The drama with his dad, the information about his mother, the fight with Blog all would of been parts of the movie that I edited out.

In fact, I think Tauriel character serves as a far better foil to Thranduil than his son does. She’s a lower class elf, in the elf king’s eyes, who could of shown him the error of his ways. Instead, Legolas just buts in to prevent her death. The only part I enjoyed with the character was his shooting the orcs in Thorin’s path from the tower, and him giving Orcrist to Thorin to save his life.

Lastly, and this harkens to the ending again, there’s no resolution for so many characters. What happens to Saruman when he says “leave Sauron to me”? Are we just supposed to assume he does something? So Radagast was on top of the eagles, and that’s all we get? No explanation to why he isn’t in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We don’t get to see the burial of Thorin, Kili, and Fili. We get no resolution with Tauriel. Everyone’s already complaining about the movies feeling bloated, that’s never stopped Peter Jackson before. Now suddenly, he’s had a change of heart and tried to make the ending as brief as possible leaving the ending very unsatisfying as far as my opinion is concerned.

Resisting Reading.

I haven’t always been an avid reader. I have always had great reading skills but reading books for leisure was something I resisted up until I went to college.

I was often bullied, made fun of and nicknamed from elementary school until the end of junior high school. Nerd & Geek culture wasn’t like it is now. If you were different, you were bullied and you couldn’t be more different if you did anything that fell into that kind of nerdy category like reading for fun. That was something losers did, losers who tried to be smart and being smart meant you were an outsider. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t what being a man meant. This is, of course, the opinion of the 6 to 12-year-olds who bullied me and even amongst some of my peers. I honestly don’t remember people who were good at math getting the same chagin and those who read books for fun. It was either sports, video games, professional wrestling or cool action movies. Never books.

It’s not as if my parents didn’t try. They read to me as a smaller child and every time they went to the library they would ask me if I wanted anything. “No,” I would say and play through Super Mario World for the 50th time. When a Border opened up for the first time near our house, I believe around when I was 12ish, is when my parents got me to read some books. It wasn’t many though. In fact, it was a series by Bruce Coville that started with Aliens Ate My Homework. 

I can think of so many times I was bored in the library, walking up and down the aisles. I wonder how many times I passed J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, or Douglas Adams walking those aisles. Instead of reading it I would wait for the library to get the latest copy of Nintendo Power. That’s how I discovered the Nintendo 64, through the library’s copies of that magazine.

The dilemma I faced though was that I wanted to be a writer. It’s hard to be a writer if you’re so resistant to liking books. If you look at my 6th grade yearbook, when they ask what you wanted to do when you grow up I wrote movie script writer instead of writer or novelist because writing wasn’t cool but movies were.

Then when I met who would become my best friend from 8th grade to 12th and he introduced me to hip-hop I suddenly had a new world to explore that I never had before. In my mind, writing other genres of music was about playing instruments first and lyrics second. With hip-hop, it was mostly about the words and the rhythm of words. When he would ask me to join his rap group, I suddenly had an outlet for my writing. I wasn’t very good at the performing part but I love writing lyrics. So many marble notebooks just filled with lyrics and song ideas.

I was always good at reading though. When Shakespeare was taught in class I had no struggle with the language. Spelling and vocabulary tests were what I lived for. When my 10th grade English teacher showed us Finding Forrester I immediately connected with it.

Then we had a major falling out and I was left without my main group of friends. Suddenly I hated writing, very resistant of it. I associated writing with that friendship and I had no desire to do it anymore. Without music or writing I had to think of what I was like before I met my highschool group of friends. Besides video games I would read comic books. My dad would bring home bundles of Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Simpsons comic books for me to read. I remember this shop my mom used to hate bringing me to because the parking lot was so bad and immediately looked it up. There, I saw Green Lantern Rebirth #3 and asked the clerk about it. He found me copies of the first and second issue and that’s where my comic book habit started and my love for reading began to grow strong again.

It was when I went to a Barnes & Noble for the first time that I started transitioning from comic books to books. It all began with this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then at Christmas I got an equally beautiful copy of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been all about books since then.

What is Tom Bombadil’s significance? The answer from J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

“Tom Bombadil is not an important person – to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a ‘comment’. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. but if you have, as it were taken ‘a vow of poverty’, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien; Letter #144

The Magic of Middle-Earth is Unexplainable, Nor Should It Be.

For this is what your folk would call magic. I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy – Galadriel

 

“Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic—but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power, at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific, magician. There is one proviso : if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories.

This video has been gaining traction today detailing how Legolas could not really see as far as he claims according to the laws of physics. This is a common occurrence when it comes to the fantastical things in Tolkien’s Legendarium. The problem is that Tolkien’s magic cannot be explained using a set of rules. It is more mythical and mysterious like the folk tales of Anglo-Saxon, of Norse sagas, Arthurian romance and probably the Old Testament.

I can’t believe I have to explain this but magic isn’t science, it doesn’t have to be explained. It can be, and that can be fun too. Brandon Sanderson is known for his magic systems. He even has what he calls Sanderson’s Laws for his series of rules when creating magic systems. Patrick Rothfuss goes to painstaking details to create rules for his magic system. Then comes naming. Naming cannot be explained like love, humor or music yet no one gives Rothfuss any guff trying to explain the rules of naming.

My point is you can have a magic system in a fantasy book that does not have rules and the work of J.R.R. Tolkien is a prime example. The problem is that “magic” in Middle-Earth is what men and hobbits calls thing they cannot explain leading to reactions like the Galadriel quote above. “Magic” is part of Arda (the earth) itself and the elves are connected permanently to Arda. What we as readers such as men and hobbit may see as magic the elves see as a natural part of their skills and their very being. It is more of a divine power with few explanations to how it really works.

Here is where critics start throwing out words like Deus ex machina without fully understanding what it means. What makes Tolkien’s works have that mythical feeling about them is that there are aspects that cannot be explained such as the elves, the wizards, Balrogs and beings like Sauron.

Partially to blame is Hollywood, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and films in general. Those are visual mediums, as such they need visuals to convey what is going on. The problem is magics is not all visual in any of Tolkien’s books. While the film showed forcefields and battles of light coming from his staff and slashes of his sword versus the Balrogs swipes and cracks of his whip the fight in the books is more of a battle of wills, a battle of power between to divine beings that we cannot see with barely any swordplay.

The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
‘You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. ‘I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’
The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly onto the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.
From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.
Glamdring glittered white in answer.
There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. The Balrog fell back and its sword flew up in molten fragments. The wizard swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.
‘You cannot pass!’ he said.
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed.

Neil Gaiman has a great quote about magic in film when talking about the film adaptation of A Winter’s Tale which by the way is a terrible movie mostly despite his warm review of it.

There’s a thing that happens in Hollywood, when you hand in a script with magic in it, and the people at the studio who read it say “We don’t quite understand… can you explain the rules? What are the rules here? The magic must have rules” and sometimes when they say that to me I explain that I am sure it does, just as life has rules, but they didn’t give me a rule book to life when I was born, and I’ve been trying to figure it out as I go along, and I am sure it is the same thing for magic; and sometimes I explain that, yes, the magic has rules, and if they read again carefully they can figure out what they are; and sometimes I sigh and put in a line here and a line there that spells things out, says, YES THESE ARE THE RULES YOU DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION and then everyone is very happy. 

I understand, I really do. It seems frustrating because we live in a world of science that strives to explain how the universe works and that can be beautiful but Middle-Earth isn’t our world. It is a epic myth such a The Odyssey, The Prose Edda, The Arthurian Legends and Beowulf. The problem is people still come along and try to explain it or disprove parts of it.

The other problem that pertains to the video about Legolas’s eyes is the perceptions that elves are just some kind of different humanoid type species. Elves are preternatural beings, outside the rules of nature yet also connected to nature itself. This comes from the Tolkien Gateway entry on elves under arts, crafts, powers and magic.

Other races often spoke of ‘Elf magic’, or of objects made by Elves as if they contained enchantments. It is unclear how accurate it is to call Elvish arts and crafts ‘magic’ or ‘enchanted’. Elves themselves only used these words when attempting to simplify or clarify how elvish-made things seemed to have a special quality that no other races were able to achieve. Powerful Elves seemed to have control over nature and the elements, their clothes seemed to shine with their own light, their blades seemed to never lose their sharpness. Less educated folks couldn’t explain these effects, so they simply called them ‘magic’. However, each race had their own special abilities that seemed incomprehensible to others. Hobbits had a seemingly supernatural ability to hide when they wished to remain unseen. Dwarves were unmatched in the art of mining and building halls underground. Wizards had such wisdom and knowledge of the world and all things in it that they appeared to have mystical powers. To each of these races, what they did had nothing to do with magic, it was just how they did things. It may have been so too with Elves. Whether there was any kind of mystical energy involved in the things Elves made can never be proved or disproved.

N.K. Jemisin who wrote the Inheritance trilogy wrote this great article for io9.com just on the subject of magic and rules titled Why does magic need so many rules? In it she makes a connection of what might be the blame for why modern fantasy readers and viewers need rules for magic in Dungeon and Dragons which has rules clearly defined using systems of numbers. Why stop there though? What about video games which also when it comes to magic has a system in place for how magic can be done but Jemisin argues…

It’s supposed to go places science can’t, defy logic, wink at technology, fill us all with the sensawunda that comes of gazing upon a fictional world and seeing something truly different from our own. In most cultures of the world, magic is intimately connected with beliefs regarding life and death – things no one understands, and few expect to. Magic is the motile force of God, or gods. It’s the breath of the earth, the non-meat by-product of existence, that thing that happens when a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it. Magic is the mysteries, into which not everyone is so lucky, or unlucky, as to be initiated. It can be affected by belief, the whims of the unseen, harsh language. And it is not…

 

In LotR, sometimes magic meant forging a ring with a chunk of soul melted into the alloy. Sometimes it meant learning obscure/dead languages, or talking to obscure/dead creatures. Sometimes it meant brandishing a particular kind of stick in a particular kind of way, and shouting really loudly. Sometimes it meant being born with pointy ears, and sometimes resisting magic meant being born with hairy feet. It was organic, embedded, a total crapshoot. And it was wonderful.

 

The point is, magic can have a system of rules such as Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series or Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, hell, my own fiction has a system of magic but quit trying to find fault in Tolkien’s magic system because magic doesn’t always need so many rules.

Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION

Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION « Nerdist.

Over on Nerdist.com Amy Ratcliffe is starting a book club. The first book she’s selected is J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Silmarillion which I read right before returning to college in 2012.

It starts off slow but by the end I really loved it and contains the most intense stories J.R.R. Tolkien has ever written.

The Silmarillion was intended to be the three-volume Translations from the Elvish Bilbo wrote in Rivendell and later left to Frodo. Christopher Tolkien later said he regretted not making this apparent in the published copy of the book.