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Old 08-30-2006, 02:29 PM   #4
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Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
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Originally Posted by zifnab
The other times I have read LOTR I went to work with a “serious” mentality, trying my hardest to break down structures, over turn rocks for hidden meanings, searching my heart and soul for all symbols, metaphors and allegories (even though Tolkien declared his distaste for allegory in all its form, when Catholicism is such a part of you…) .
I used to do this. I have shelves full of books I used to help me do it. I used to do it even when I knew it was a mistake. I think for me what finally broke me of it was the CbC read through of LotR. I approached that by reading the chapter each Sunday, along with the relevant section of HoM-e & referrring to various volumes of criticism, volumes of myths, folklore & psychology. I would then write a long essay. I did that every week for over 18 months. By the time we'd reached RotK the whole thing felt like a chore, but, well, I'd started it & I wasn't going to give in.

By the time we finished it I felt I had 'studied' the thing so much that I never wanted to 'study' it again, or even read it again for a couple of years. Of course, I got some insights into the work, partly due to my own background study, partly due to reading the thoughts of others, but overall I kind of regret doing it. Its made me a bit negative about that whole approach (which see the recent 'Spun Candy' & 'Lord of the Bible' threads).

In short, I think its a mistaken approach. When we first read the book we didn't analyse, break down, 'interpret' it. We were just swept along by the story. That's how it managed to work its magic on us.

There is, I suppose, always a desire to know more about something we love. We want to know more about the sources, about what inspired Tolkien, how he could have managed to create this other world which is so 'real' to us. We find out that he was inspired by the Eddas, the Mabinogion, Beowulf; we maybe turn to those same sources (but rarely find what we expected - they aren't Middle-earth).

I've said it before, but I'll repeat myself. We need to leave our baggage on the threshhold as much as we can, forget trying to discover 'sources', interpreting it in the light of psychology or comparative myth, stop trying to find Biblical analogies, allegories of WWII, political messages or anything else. Let Frodo be Frodo, Gandalf be Gandalf & Middle-earth be simply Middle-earth - just as it was when we first found it. Its a bit more difficult the second, third, or even twentieth, time around, but its worth the effort. What we gain from a 'serious' reading is rarely worth having - in my opinion, of course.

Last edited by davem; 08-30-2006 at 02:32 PM.
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