Saturday, December 15, 2012

Think Like a Hobbit

Alright, I know some of our Loyal Readers are off to see The Hobbit this weekend.  At least a couple of our favorite authors will be right there with you.

Maybe you recall the LotR references in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao? Here's Junot Diaz in a new book about authors' favorite reads, My Ideal Bookshelf,
I think it was the way Tolkien created this extraordinary, secondary world, and how, through that, he enchanted the primary world. That resonated with me. His books had the power to transform what we otherwise take for granted. Reading The Lord of the Rings made me see how a novel was another – and see that I could immigrate there, too, whenever I wanted.
And he expands on this a bit more at NYT:
Tolkien I grew up on, fed my insatiable Ungoliant-like hunger for other worlds; I was a young fan and yet, even as an adult, I continue to wrestle with Tolkien for reasons that have much to do with growing up in the shadow of my own Dark Lord — that’s what some dictators really become in the imagination of the nations they afflict.
(Read the whole article for more reading recommendations from Diaz).

Salman Rushdie was also an early Tolkien fan,
There was a sweet, elderly gentleman called Mr. J. B. Hope-Simpson, who apart from being a good history teacher was also the person who introduced me to The Lord of the Rings when I was fifteen. I completely fell in love with it, somewhat to the harm of my studies. I still remember it in uncanny detail. I really responded to the language project, all the imaginary languages. I got quite good at Elvish at one point.
While you're waiting for The Hobbit Part 2, you might find this 2003 Guardian article, in which Rushdie shares his opinion on the second film in the Lord of the Ring series, interesting. Written on the eve of the Iraq war he examines the appeal of Tolkien's tales of good men at war in a struggle against a Great Evil.

Finally, I think this article from the BBC, The Somme and Tolkien, does an excellent job explaining how Tolkien's tales grew out of his experiences in World War I, and more than Dark Lord dictators  and ferocious battles, why we love hobbits,
In spite of the horror of total war, Tolkien chooses in his writing to focus his attention on the redemptive power of individual human action offered unconditionally as part of a common cause. Frodo Baggins is each of us aspiring to do good within modest limits.
"I should like to save the Shire, if I could," says Frodo early in his quest. "Though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words."
Tolkien's epic works are large-scale memorials to the modest struggles of ordinary people doing their best for good against the forces of inhumanity. They are a brilliantly achieved exemplar of the way the human imagination can configure a better future even in the aftermath of senseless, bloody destruction.
That's right, in the face of the latest disaster, think like a hobbit: light a candle, write a letter, build a better world.
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