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Saturday, January 02, 2016

The least of the three

I was rating books on Goodreads today, when it occurred to me why I have never liked The Return of the King as much as either of the two books that preceded it. It is a very good work of fantasy, and it is a satisfactory ending to the trilogy - which was written as a single book - but as one of the three volumes, it is the weakest link.

I read The Lord of the Rings in a somewhat unusual manner. I was at an overnight church lock-in, and I read about thirty pages of a book that someone else had brought. It was fascinated and really leaped right into the action, with someone named Boromir bravely battling some orcs as he defended two little guys with weird names.

Sadly, I couldn't convince my friend to let me take the book with me the next day, but I begged my mother to take me to the library first thing after school. She went one better and picked up the books from there while I was at school, and after I sorted out my confusion concerning which book actually came first, I devoured The Fellowship of the Ring that afternoon and evening, and the rest of the trilogy, followed by The Hobbit, that week.

It was already December, and that Christmas I received a gold boxed set of white paperbacks that I read and re-read until they fell apart. I now have a beautiful red leather set with a matching green leather Hobbit that Big Chilly and the White Buffalo gave me for my birthday one year.

But as much as I loved the books, I noticed that when I re-read them, I seldom read The Return of the King cover-to-cover. I usually skipped ahead once Frodo and Sam reached the swamps. And what I realized today is that in addition to the drudgery of trudging through Mordor as a reader, I've never felt that the Scouring of the Shire ever made any sense, at least not in the form it appeared.

The idea that Saruman and Wormtongue had time to not only travel to the Shire, but take it over and institute a repressive, very anti-Hobbit regime simply overstretched the bounds of my credulity. It simply didn't make any sense to me, then or now. The various endings were otherwise very satisfactory, which makes me think that this was perhaps a very early example of message fiction - in this case, Tolkien's rural anti-industrialism - leading an author astray.

It's a minor flaw, but it is a flaw nevertheless. For all that Peter Jackson has been rightly criticized for permitting the tomfoolery of his fellow writers in The Lord of the Rings, and for the ridiculous metastasized cancer of the second trilogy he produced afterwards, he did well in excising that particular ending from the story.

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160 Comments:

Anonymous Caedmon January 02, 2016 12:58 PM  

I wondered why you'd rated it lower. Agreed with the rating, but it was the trudging that really made it fall a bit short to me. Hadn't given the scourging much thought, but you are right.

Blogger Daniel January 02, 2016 1:03 PM  

I first read the trudging part during a week long illness.

I thought the scourging was comic relief.

OpenID xsyq January 02, 2016 1:05 PM  

I never really thought about the Scouring that way before. To me it's always been a fitting end, as the hobbits go home and put their experiences to good use in driving out the lesser evil that sprang up while they were busy fighting the greater. Sure, you could say that it happened too quickly to be reasonable, and Tolkien's anti-industrialism probably inspired a lot of that scene, but I think the bigger message is about how quickly evil can spring up when there is no opposition from those on the side of good.
Hobbits living comfortable lives fail to see the gradual erosion of their freedoms until it is too late? Sounds somewhat familiar.

Anonymous Feh January 02, 2016 1:08 PM  

I always found Frodo pretty useless and un-heroic at the end. Sam might as well have thrown him in the lava along with the Ring.

Blogger Doseux January 02, 2016 1:11 PM  

I have not even read The Fellowship of the Ring. The Hobbit I devoured eagerly a few years ago, but the other books have not tempted me all this time. I know that this is a cardinal sin in fantasy fandom, but there are so many other things I'd like to read! Perhaps after my current docket empties, I'll pick up Tolkien again.

Blogger JWM January 02, 2016 1:11 PM  

There's an opening for an interesting bit of fan fiction: The story of how Saruman and Grima were able to worm their way into power in The Shire. It could begin with some kindly Hobbits taking in a couple of ragged looking refugees from the war-torn East...

JWM

OpenID Jack Amok January 02, 2016 1:12 PM  

that Christmas I received a gold boxed set of white paperbacks that I read and re-read until they fell apart

I believe I had that same set.

I agree about the trudging through Mordor. It seemed to drag, and Frodo's descent into depression didn't help it move along.

As far as the Shire, I'd always assumed Saruman's forces had taken over the Shire during the main events of the story, and that Saruman and Wormtongue simply fled to their last remaining territory after Orthanc fell. The oppressive regime had already been set up over the winter, probably sometime after the Hobbits left Rivendell.

Blogger S1AL January 02, 2016 1:14 PM  

I'd argue that it's at least as much anti-authoritarian as it is anti-industrial. But are you really arguing that it's less tiresome than Tom Bombadil? That's the part that I skip when I read them.

Anonymous Michael Maier January 02, 2016 1:14 PM  

There is a lot of trudgery in LOTR. JRR got very wordy for long passages that didn't say anything. He needed a better editor.

As for time-frames, it gets vague on how much time passes when and where. That gets annoying to me reading it.

As for it being message-fiction, I can see your point. But

1: if it flies right over the heads of most readers, it's obviously not overly-intrusive to the overall story.

and 2: didn't a lot of time pass in Minas Tirath and Rivendell after Mt. Doom? I seem to recall it took Frodo and Sam a long time to get back.

Blogger S1AL January 02, 2016 1:23 PM  

This raises the question of trilogy endings generally... Is there any trilogy where the third book/movie is the strongest? Thinking on it briefly, every series that I have read - old or new - has a weakness to the ending. To my mind, this may have something to do with a human incapacity; I've never found an ending as simple or satisfactory as that of Job.

Blogger SouthRon January 02, 2016 1:24 PM  

@7 WTF? That was actually one of the parts I missed most in the first movie.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 02, 2016 1:27 PM  

VD,

You or someone else might recall better than I, but what was the interwoven narrative strands during that part? Could their travel have been drawn out to a more plausible length or would there have been other issues created?

Anyone remember how they specifically traveled to get there so quickly?

Blogger Zimri January 02, 2016 1:28 PM  

Not only that but the great climactic battle had already happened, at Helm's Deep. And the villain of that piece was an all-too-human archetype, the powerful force of good who is corrupted by - envy, I think, mostly.

Sauron is a weaker villain; he lacks agency, because all that agency is bound up in that Ring he doesn't have. His armies, likewise, don't react to events; they just march forth at Minas Tirith which is right there and doesn't go anywhere. So his armies don't really have agency either, any more than an amoeba does when it envelopes a paramecium.

OpenID jeffro January 02, 2016 1:32 PM  

The Scouring of the Shire was always among my favorite parts.

I liked Lobelia's spine, the one kick too many for Wormtongue, Merry & Pippin completing their arcs, Frodo having enough with killing, and everyone thinking somehow that Sam was the real hero (and not Frodo). Just plain awesome.

Anonymous kfg January 02, 2016 1:33 PM  

I've always thought that Tolkien's rural anti-industrialism was quite obviously the point of the Scouring of the Shire. It rather puts a hitch in the story flow at the end, but in and of itself it never bothered me.

Nor, for that matter and since the issue has been raised, has the intrusion of Tom Bombadil into the flow of the narrative ever bothered me at all and I was surprised to learn that it was such a common trouble for others. I think the episode is charming.

But yeah, the drudgery trudgery bits are a bit much.

Anonymous Dave Gerrold's Cabana Boy January 02, 2016 1:36 PM  

Have to say, I never really thought about the Scouting of the Shire in that way before.

Then again , I read it when I was pretty young, before my epistemic filters were fully developed, so that slipped past.

Blogger S1AL January 02, 2016 1:39 PM  

@SouthRon - I liked the idea of it, but the narrative was long and boring.

OpenID xsyq January 02, 2016 1:40 PM  

To elaborate a bit further, it was the lesser but more subtle evil who actually threatens the hobbit's homes and families. Sauron's future Shire would suffer the same fate or worse, but he never managed to extend his influence there and was only interested in the Shire as a possible hiding place of the Ring. It was the spite and petty revenge of Saruman that caused the most harm to the hobbits in the end.
I do not read too much into the anti-industrialism because it is merely a vessel for the story. Saruman could have harnessed the ancient necromancers of Barak'dur to wither the land or worked the same magic on the Shire's trees as was done to Mirkwood and had much the same effect.
The Scouring to me is a lesson never to underestimate any evil, a warning of how quickly a people can be enslaved, and a promise of freedom if only we will stand up for what we believe. I was very disappointed when it was not included in the movie.

Blogger Ostar January 02, 2016 1:53 PM  

Saruman went right to the Shire - Frodo went to Rivendell and lingered there for weeks. Hobbits mention they had complacently let Lotho (Saruman's puppet) take over almost a year prior and it's only when Saruman arrived that the wanton destruction started, and that for only a few weeks.

More detail - the takeover of the Shire started happening right after Frodo left with the Ring, about a year before. Lotho became Chief Sheriff and started buying up land and importing Men from the South. Saruman was funding Lotho and buying pipeweed (it's foreshadowed in the Two Towers where the hobbits find barrels of the stuff in the wreckage of Orthanc and wonder what is going on). Saruman arrived at a Shire already controlled for almost a year by his minions.

Anonymous kfg January 02, 2016 2:00 PM  

@17 xsyq:

Well, the way things have gone so far, maybe there's another Jackson trilogy in that. Then we'd have a trilogy of trilogys.

That would make the final movie Revolution 9.

Blogger VD January 02, 2016 2:03 PM  

Hobbits living comfortable lives fail to see the gradual erosion of their freedoms until it is too late? Sounds somewhat familiar.

There was nothing gradual about it. That's the whole problem. Frankly, I view this as being akin to the idiot tunnel-dig in ATOB writ large.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 02, 2016 2:09 PM  

@18 - Ostar has it the correct. Saruman was infiltrating the Shire for some time. His move on it was long planned. To me, the Scourging of the Shire recalls the Suppression of the Monasteries and the Enclosure of the Commons during the English "Reformation." The powerful pushing the poor off the land so they could have even more. As an aside, LoTR is not a Fantasy novel, Tolkien was writing an epic myth for his beloved England, and he did that. LoTR is the English Aeneid.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 2:09 PM  

Scouring of the Shire is my second favorite part of the series, after Treebeard. It impressed me because in real life, it's not over when the exciting part is over. There is no The End. There's still a lot to do after that.

Anonymous WillBest January 02, 2016 2:09 PM  

Its been over 20 years at this point since I read these, but I do recall RotK being my least favorite, and I think that should I read them again I will be scanning over chunks of it.

This raises the question of trilogy endings generally... Is there any trilogy where the third book/movie is the strongest?

I think the issue with sagas is by the time you get around to the ending you have your own thoughts on how it should end. The further the author deviates from your preferred ending the weaker you see the book. Books aren't the only place that happens. Back when I watched TV with any regularity, I was often found the series finale lacking.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 2:10 PM  

The idea that Saruman and Wormtongue had time to not only travel to the Shire, but take it over and institute a repressive, very anti-Hobbit regime simply overstretched the bounds of my credulity.

The travel time is easily explained by the fact that the Hobbits basically stayed around Gondor having a giant party for a year or so before they left for home. And then, once they left, they're specifically described as taking their sweet time about it. They'd done the journey on the rough and in a rush once before, and they did the return in leisure - stopping everywhere to party with everyone again, especially Rivendell.

As for the time to institute the repressive regime, I'm fairly certain that the story strongly hints that they'd been doing that from the outside since roughly the time that Frodo and Sam left. In other words, it didn't creep up overnight - it snuck in over a period of years. Much like SJW entryism, one might say. Now, I'm fairly certain that this is a "blink and miss it" portion of the narrative. But I'm also fairly certain it's there. I'll dig out my copy of ROTK when I get home from an outing with the family and try to track it down.

Blogger The Hammer January 02, 2016 2:11 PM  

With reference to the Swamps, they went through some while in Mordor? I just re-read the trilogy last year, and don't remember any. Confused with the Dead Marshes in the Two Towers?

I was going to say the meeting with Faramir in Ithilien after the Marshes has probably one of favorite pieces of writing of all Tolkien's writing, and definitely my favorite quote on the necessity of war.

"‘But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.’ ‘Neither did the Council,’ said Frodo. ‘Nor do I. I would have nothing to do with such matters.’

‘For myself,’ said Faramir, ‘I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves.

War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise."

Blogger Ostar January 02, 2016 2:13 PM  

ROTK was the weakest of the movies as well. Using the Army of the Dead at the battle of Minas Tirith to save the day made the valor and sacrifice of the Rohirrim pointless.

@12 In the book Minas Tirith was the greatest, but not the only, assault by Sauron. Lorien, the Elves of Mirkwood, Rohan, Dale/Erebor, and the coasts of Gondor (Corsairs of Umbar) all have major battles. Two of those fail because of unexpected aid - the Ents for Rohan, Army of the Dead vs. Corsairs. Dale/Erebor loses and is besieged until Sauron's fall, the Elves fight off the others.

Blogger buzzardist January 02, 2016 2:18 PM  

I never had much of a problem with the scouring of the Shire. Typical English rural anti-industrialism? Yes, but not only that. Part of the tragedy of it is that Frodo and Sam kept pressing forward throughout their journey out of a desire to save the Shire. They kept holding onto memories of it, trying to preserve what it was. The end is devastating because, even though the One Ring was successfully destroyed, they failed.

I think part of what makes ROTK anti-climactic for many people is that failure. For a story so full of heroism, there is no happy ending to that heroism. The only happiness to be found is sailing across the sea to forget. Even in destroying the Ring (and this is a scene that Peter Jackson got very wrong), Frodo failed. He took the Ring to Mount Doom, but it was ultimately destroyed in a fluke--Gollum's exuberant celebration upon taking back the Ring (not a further fight with Frodo, as Jackson dramatized it) caused him and the Ring to slip into the fire. Evil ultimately destroys itself.

That's what is anti-climactic. We can't ever destroy evil. We can simply fight against it. And in this life we, by our own efforts, will always fail. Even where evil does destroy itself, other evil is spreading elsewhere while we've been fighting over here. And yet we have to fight. It's heroic, but utterly depressing.

When we understand this about evil (or at least about Tolkien's view of evil), the Scouring of the Shire fits the ending of the book. It's part of a series of anti-climaxes that are supposed to leave us depressed, angry, and unsatisfied. That's how war veterans often feel for the rest of their lives. Those scenes would not have fit with Jackson's film because Jackson wanted to maintain a shred more idealism about heroism, which he tried to do by bathing the end in nostalgia. It kind of worked for the movie, but it wasn't Tolkien's ending, which was much, much darker.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 2:20 PM  

With reference to the Swamps, they went through some while in Mordor? I just re-read the trilogy last year, and don't remember any. Confused with the Dead Marshes in the Two Towers?

I wondered that as well. I personally fount TTT to be the weak link by far, especially all of the trudgery with the hobbits. It's important to the story, but it lacks oomph. It's easy to get bogged down when the hobbits get bogged down. ROTK, on the other hand, was mostly battles and actually dropping off the ring in the pit of doom.

ROTK was absolutely the weakest of the movies, in my opinion because it's the one that strayed the furthest from the books and engaged in the most Peter Jackson revisionism. Each movie got progressively worse in that regard.

I was going to say the meeting with Faramir in Ithilien after the Marshes has probably one of favorite pieces of writing of all Tolkien's writing, and definitely my favorite quote on the necessity of war.

My absolute biggest complaint with the films (and I have many now) is the way they raped Faramir's character. In all of Middle Earth, they couldn't allow there to be one man who honestly refused to give into temptation.

Blogger Sheila4g January 02, 2016 2:21 PM  

I never loved the scouring of the Shire, but I appreciated it more when I last re-read the books than the first few times -quite satisfactory development of Merry and Pippin. Hadn't really viewed it as a political polemic, but that fits. Like others, I have always slogged through Bombadil and Frodo's trek through Mordor.

@9 - Fair point about the endings of trilogies. I can think of quite a few where the endings were quite a letdown. I haven't really thought about it in depth, but off the top of my head I'd attribute it to being a realist. I like happy endings, but I don't usually find them realistic. It always seems as if all the magic leaves the world, it's always the end of the age of heroes and the rise of the ordinary man.

Plus, even if the bad guys get their comeuppance, the good guys have nothing more to strive for or to achieve, and settling down to everyday existence is portrayed as rather boring. One of my favorites, the "Riddlemaster of Hed" series, has a fairly good third book, but the very end (between main character and his female romantic interest) is also very pro-forma and almost cold. Since main character is now equivalent to ultimate magic lord and "knows" everything, she presumes there's no point to saying or doing anything or discussing anything, because he'd already know what she's thinking. That's not the case, but it's not properly rebutted.

Anonymous KoranBurningFaggot January 02, 2016 2:28 PM  

The story of how Saruman and Grima were able to worm their way into power in The Shire. It could begin with some kindly Hobbits taking in a couple of ragged looking refugees from the war-torn East...

The United Notions used Hobbit Tax dollars to import them and give them section 8 housing.

Could their travel have been drawn out to a more plausible length or would there have been other issues created?

One day of trudging through a swamp trying to avoid enemies will be a lot slower than a large group moving quickly not caring if a group of 5 or less noticed them.

importing Men from the South. Saruman was funding Lotho and buying pipeweed (it's

All you need to be a wizard in Middle Earth is a hat and a drug problem.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 02, 2016 2:29 PM  

One of the keys to understanding Tolkien is his concept of eucatastrophe - good coming out of bad - see: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Eucatastrophe

Blogger automatthew January 02, 2016 2:34 PM  

Saruman's orcs, the Uruk-Hai, are larger than the Mordor orcs, and it is implied that Saruman has been breeding orcs on humans.

Bill Ferny, who appears in Bree early in The Fellowship of the Ring, is one of the ruffians in the Scouring of the Shire. Ferny has been hanging out with a sallow and squint-eyed Southerner who is later implied to be part-Orc, and who was the one who told the Nazgul that Frodo was at the inn.

Saruman thus had agents in Bree from before the time that the hobbits left the Shire.

Blogger DBSFF January 02, 2016 2:42 PM  

Coincidentally, just watched the extended edition last night. My girl was asking what was changed and as I was explaining that Saruman and Wormtongue didn't die at Isengard, I pointed out that the movie ending for them made a hell of a lot more sense.

Blogger The Hammer January 02, 2016 2:46 PM  

I read Stradford Caldecott's "Power of the Ring" before my re-read last year. It gave me a strong appreciation for this chapter, especially when I finished the trilogy again.

He argues below there is a different primary purpose, while acknowledging the secondary purpose of rural anti-industrialism (I would argue it may be more about distributism in opposition to capitalism, but that's off-topic). His conclusion is quite germane to what this blog has become about, interestingly.

" 'On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey. Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind, "Well, if that isn't the crown of all!' he said. 'Strider, or I'm still asleep!'

We too need the King to take his throne, in his 'great castle, hundreds of miles away' (Butterbur). For then we can go back to our own polluted landscape, with its mean brick houses and its small-minded officials. its devastated orchards and avenues of trees. We can return there endowed with the authority of servants and friends of the King, to commence our own task: the task that awaits us at home.

The great battles are over, the Ring of Power destroyed, and that King restored to the ancient throne of Gondor. Frodo and Sam have been honored on the field of Cormallen for accomplishing the quest. The Hobbits, transformed and ennobled, return to the Shire and must now defeat the unexpected evil they find there...

The success of the hobbits in dealing with this final peril would not have been possible-would have certainly not been believable-if they had not experienced the epic adventure as a whole, and if we had not seen them transformed into heroes of song and legend; so that when they are plunged back into the banality of the Shire they are able to defeat the evil they find with grace-the gifts-that they received on their travels.

Those hobbits who have not been so initiated into heroism are helpless to oppose a force that enslaves by fear and exploitation of self-interest. But the travelers have passed through the darkness, in the Barrows, in Moria, in battle and in Mordor itself. The half-darkness of everyday evil hold no terrors for them. They have been broken and re-forged through service to others: to Frodo, to Theoden, to Denethor, to the peoples of Middle-earth...

The scouring of the Shire is written not just as an account of the author's psychological and spiritual journey, but as a call to arms to the reader, as a blast of the horn of Rohan summoning us to the help of our friends and the healing of our world. We too, if we have imaginatively accompanied the hobbits on this journey from the mundane to the epic and back again, are initiated into the realities that exist behind the veils of everyday life. Tolkien hints that a similar heroism is called for in us, as we see the England of own day laboring under the disguised slavery of consumerism and overrun by half-orcs who despise our traditional way of life.

This is the heroism which expresses itself not by the sword (although strong action may be indeed be called for), but by placing ourselves at the service of the Light in whatever way is demanded of us in our own circumstances. 'I do so dearly believe,' Tolkien wrote, 'that no half-halfheartedness and no worldly fear must turn us aside from following the light unflinchingly.' "

Anonymous Steffen January 02, 2016 2:46 PM  

About the "idiot tunnel-dig in ATOB"? When I encountered that part of the book, I scratched my head and assumed there must have been an off-stage conversation with Lodi about a cave network nearby they could enter with a little excavation work.

Did ATOB get an edit to that effect after I read it?

Blogger buzzardist January 02, 2016 2:47 PM  

@24

As for the time to institute the repressive regime, I'm fairly certain that the story strongly hints that they'd been doing that from the outside since roughly the time that Frodo and Sam left. In other words, it didn't creep up overnight - it snuck in over a period of years. Much like SJW entryism, one might say. Now, I'm fairly certain that this is a "blink and miss it" portion of the narrative. But I'm also fairly certain it's there. I'll dig out my copy of ROTK when I get home from an outing with the family and try to track it down.

I've always had the same impression. Saruman and Wormtongue had their hooks in the Shire for a long time. I think I remember a reference to changes starting in September, and it's March when the Ring is finally destroyed, so Saruman had a long time to wheedle his way into power in The Shire. Thus the Shire made a natural bolt hole for Saruman and Wormtongue upon their escape.

Of course, Saruman's objective for revenge against the Hobbits also motivating his actions. His home and life had been destroyed, and so Saruman wanted to ensure that nobody returned to a home unscathed.

Frodo's mercy toward Saruman is the one redeeming point of the scene. Even in this, Frodo refuses to cut Saruman down, which Saruman laments as ruining his revenge. Once again, evil is its own end when Wormtongue kills Saruman. The only victory for good is found in mercy.

Blogger Cataline Sergius January 02, 2016 2:48 PM  

which makes me think that this was perhaps a very early example of message fiction - in this case, Tolkien's rural anti-industrialism - leading an author astray.

Nobody remembers it today but environmentalism used to be a conservative cause. Lefty's wanted to beat the Earth into submission.

And speaking of forgotten things, how is possible that so many people completely forget about Tom Bombadil. I mean the guy is there and everything. He should be hard to forget and yet he is always the most forgotten character in the Middle Earth.

Part of that is simple enough, he adds nothing but filler to the story. Lift him out or skip over that part and you miss nothing. Tolkien himself didn't seem to have a good idea why he included him but felt that it was important that he did so.

I have no idea why, other than he was another anti-industrialization motif.

Blogger The Hammer January 02, 2016 2:53 PM  

"My absolute biggest complaint with the films (and I have many now) is the way they raped Faramir's character. In all of Middle Earth, they couldn't allow there to be one man who honestly refused to give into temptation."

Indeed. To be fair, he did show Aragorn refusing it, but he screwed Aragorn up by making him modern and conflicted about his identity.

I think John Wright said that Jackson just doesn't understand honorable and noble characters, and it is on such short supply in real life and fiction today.

Blogger Pseudotsuga January 02, 2016 2:55 PM  

I read the Hobbit as a 6th grader. The next year I was looking for more of the same, and I realized that there was this "Lord of the Rings" thing, with three different books. I only found the 2nd and 3rd books in the library, so I started with the Two Towers, and only read The Fellowship of the Ring a few months later. That book sure helped explain some things to me since I started out in media res after the breaking of the Fellowship!
I have never been dismissive of the Scouring of the Shire chapter. It seems to me, rather than a coda or a second ending, like a localization of the evil that was ended. The War of the Ring was not just found in some distant country, with some distant kings, but in your own shire, in your neighbor the miller's son, and so on. I think that's part of Tolkien's point.
Also, in making a long denouement after the fall of Sauron, Tolkien is doing two things: the first is the focus on loss and sacrifice. Readers need to see how damaged Frodo really was, and how much he personally lost (not to mention the rest of Middle Earth, as the Elves packed up and left at the end of the Third Age and the start of the Fourth). We don't get that if the plot ends at the crowning of Aragorn and the next minute everybody's saying goodbye at the Havens.
The other thing Tolkien is doing is staying true to his "source." We have to not mistake the genre. Tolkien wasn't writing a novel. He was writing a pseudo-history, and he wasn't thinking about audience reaction to "multiple" endings. He wasn't writing a modern novel, with a cinematic pacing or plot structure. The point is that for every story, there are multiple "endings" in different places and for different people, whether the high culture of Gondor or the "low" culture of some obscure Northern region.

Blogger Aeoli Pera January 02, 2016 2:56 PM  

@28 Leonidas,

My absolute biggest complaint with the films (and I have many now) is the way they raped Faramir's character.

Ditto. They get all of the characters wrong (both LOTR and Hobbit movies), but it's worse when it's your favorite character.

Blogger jamsco January 02, 2016 2:57 PM  

"There was nothing gradual about it. That's the whole problem. Frankly, I view this as being akin to the idiot tunnel-dig in ATOB writ large."

It's still possible to retcon that right out in SOS, Vox.

Wait, are you saying that the scouring was worse than the tunnel dig?

Blogger Aeoli Pera January 02, 2016 2:57 PM  

Actually I take that back, Sam Gamgee was perfect.

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau January 02, 2016 3:16 PM  

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Blogger Skylark Thibedeau January 02, 2016 3:18 PM  

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Blogger Skylark Thibedeau January 02, 2016 3:25 PM  

I started The Lord of the Rings with The Two Towers. First read on a Band Trip to Mexico when I was a teenager. I always thought it was the best written of the three parts skipping most of the poetry and myth.

I do like the Charge of the Rohirrim and Gandalf's meeting the Witch King at the gates of Gondor of in Return of the King but to me the book is mostly a Coda once Gollum accidentally destroys the One Ring. About a third of the book is appendix.

Anonymous WillBest January 02, 2016 3:25 PM  

Actually I take that back, Sam Gamgee was perfect.

Sean Astin might very well be one of the strongest men in hollywood. He had to overcome an awful lot abuse growing up in addition to the fame of being a childhood actor. He found God, and in an oddity for the profession has been married to the same woman for 20+ years.

Anonymous karsten January 02, 2016 3:25 PM  

For me, The Two Towers is the weakest book in the trilogy. By far. Also the poorest of the three films, though Jackson did manage to improve it, in some ways.

My only problem with the Scouring is that Saruman is too weak an opponent without his staff. (But that's a consistent criticism that I have with Tolkien -- he underpowers his villains and overpowers his heroes. It's why Fellowship is the best book and best film: the bad guys are in the ascendancy and the good guys are having a rough time of it.)

At any rate, I have no beef with message fiction, so long as I'm in agreement with the message, and so long as the entertainment level still holds up. In the Scouring, it mostly does, apart from the one flaw that I just noted.

Blogger VD January 02, 2016 3:49 PM  

I would have been fine with some variant of the Scouring if Saruman and Wormtongue hadn't been involved. That was just inexcusably lame.

Nor does it make any sense to claim Saruman had been working on infiltrating it for years. He was building up the Uruk-Hai! He had no plan to go and live there as a powerless "Sharkey".

Blogger PatrickH January 02, 2016 3:59 PM  

The Rangers were protecting the Shire from foes that "would freeze their blood." But they came south with Halbarad to fight and die defending Gondor. So the Shire was alone, no more Border Patrol, and the same "migrants from the South" now had free play while the big fight was happening lower down. I think the southern "migrants" were Sharkey's guys, and always had been. Did Sharkey and the Worm have time to set up the Shire as their fall-back? No. It was already prepared. They filled a void, now that the Big Bad was down down down into the Zero. The Scouring not only made plot sense, it was completely necessary. There is such a thing as clean-up operations.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:03 PM  

The scouring of the Shire is an important but painful part of the Story. It lets the reader realize that doing nothing would not have saved the Shire. That the war would reach even there. And had Frodo not gone... it would've been much much worse.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:07 PM  

Ok, I had to check. The oppressors had arrived "fall of last year", and it was organized by a hobbit that the Finnish translation calls Näppy. Then Saruman arrived and took the organization over (which was not pre-planned), but the oppression had been going on for more than a year.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:07 PM  

"I would have been fine with some variant of the Scouring if Saruman and Wormtongue hadn't been involved. That was just inexcusably lame."

I agree with this part of it. Its like JRR just didn't want to bother thinking up additional characters and thought oh... I'll just make it their out. Which is silly.

Anonymous Samson January 02, 2016 4:09 PM  

Besides what others have noted, Scouring shows how the hobbits have increased their socio-sexual ranks:

In the upper rooms were little rows of hard beds, and on every wall there was a notice and a list of Rules. Pippin tore them down. There was no beer and very little food, but with what the travellers brought and shared out they all made a fair meal; and Pippin broke Rule 4 by putting most of the next day's allowance of wood on the fire.

Come on, that's adorable.

It makes sense that you don't enjoy the anti-industrial message. I've realized lately that I don't care for science fiction *because* I dislike techno-industrialism.

I'm surprised to hear criticism of "drudgery trudgery". As someone who lives for long walks in the woods, I love those parts.

Agreed that RotK is the weakest book, but not by much. Denethor is the most under-appreciated character in the series.

Nobody remembers it today but environmentalism used to be a conservative cause.

Lots of us who hunt and fish remember it!

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:10 PM  

After Frodo left, this hobbit had started acquiring real estate, and then "fall of last year" he had started bringing outlaws to Shire to act as his private police force.

Anonymous Samson January 02, 2016 4:12 PM  

Sean Astin might very well be one of the strongest men in hollywood. He had to overcome an awful lot abuse growing up in addition to the fame of being a childhood actor. He found God, and in an oddity for the profession has been married to the same woman for 20+ years.

That's very interesting, thanks. I never cared too much for Astin's portrayal of Sam, having always imagined Sam as a bit more surly and less blubbery than Astin made him out to be.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:14 PM  

"My absolute biggest complaint with the films (and I have many now) is the way they raped Faramir's character."

The Ents also got hosed.

But come on... Sam and Frodo got the worst of anyone. They made them gay.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:16 PM  

Yes, they made the Ents comical.

Big mistake.

Anonymous Samson January 02, 2016 4:17 PM  

Nor does it make any sense to claim Saruman had been working on infiltrating it for years. He was building up the Uruk-Hai! He had no plan to go and live there as a powerless "Sharkey".

I always had the idea that Saruman visited the Shire occasionally as "Sharkey", but never planned to move there permanently *until* he was booted out of Orthanc; it was his Plan B (or Plan C, who knows).

Honestly, I never get people who nitpick or care about these sorts of things...

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:19 PM  

So, in conclusion, Saruman had not planned to live in the Shire, nor did he take an active interest in it. He probably was merely aware of what was going on. Then, after losing Isengard, he had to go SOMEWHERE, and Shire was a low-hanging fruit. The work was already done for him, all he had to do was to owerpower the one hobbit.

Anonymous Anonymous January 02, 2016 4:22 PM  

--Porphyry
Is this a good place to ask how good the Altar of Hate is? ( I would go down the list of book review posts, but I would like to get an actual opinion from someone who has read it. And that didn't seem likely given the way the internet works)

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:23 PM  

This is Saruman. He could go anywhere he wanted.

I would've expected him to go someplace far more remote.

Anonymous come on pilgrim January 02, 2016 4:23 PM  

I always thought Tom Bombadil was absolutely essential to the book --- not to the story as such, but to the book as a whole. Bombadil is pretty much the first time the book steps out of fantasy conventions (wise old grumpy wizard, magic ring, naive country folk unaware of Evil) and shows you Middle Earth as a fully-realized world. Bombadil is the first time that the book becomes genuinely mysterious, and shows you that there's far, far more to Tolkien's world than swords and wizards and whatnot. Granted he doesn't add anything critical to the story, but he adds a lot to the mythos. I understand why they couldn't wedge him into the movie, but I was sad that it was so.

As for scouring of the shire, it never occurred to me to be critical of that, one way or another. I read the book as a kid, and at the time Tolkien had been so impressive for such a sustained length, I just figured he's the pilot here, he must know what he's doing. But yeah, the story is effectively over after the hobbits are celebrated in Gondor.

btw, I always wondered, why didn't they, back at the Council of Elrond, just put Frodo on the back of one of the eagles and fly him to Mount Doom, the whole thing could have been done with in an afternoon.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:25 PM  

" Denethor is the most under-appreciated character in the series."

...

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:27 PM  

This is Saruman. He could go anywhere he wanted.

Shire was the choice that would hurt Frodo and Gandalf the most, though.

Anonymous Anonymous January 02, 2016 4:30 PM  

Porphyry--
Personally, with regards to Lord of the Rings, the first time I read it I felt that the story should have ended at Pelennor fields; wrapping up the Hobbit elements and proceeding directly to the Grey Havens shortly thereafter.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 4:31 PM  

"Shire was the choice that would hurt Frodo and Gandalf the most, though."

Its fascinating that you think someone like Saruman would have short term time preferences.

its not the time to try to hurt anyone. Its the time to get away and reassess and fortify and rebuild. The hurting comes later.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 4:33 PM  

Its fascinating that you think someone like Saruman would have short term time preferences.

I absolutely think this. After being embarrassed the way he was, I think he was completely consumed with revenge, no matter how impotent, if only it would hurt those who embarrassed him.

Blogger JaimeInTexas January 02, 2016 4:41 PM  

How else to show the corruptibility of Hobbits? Saruman just being evil against the mostly clueless and happy-go-lucky halflings. Also, how else to establish the bonafides of the four adventorous Hobbits before kin?

Blogger buzzardist January 02, 2016 4:43 PM  

@48

Nor does it make any sense to claim Saruman had been working on infiltrating it for years. He was building up the Uruk-Hai! He had no plan to go and live there as a powerless "Sharkey".

Ending up in the Shire was never Saruman's plan. But this doesn't preclude him from having agents in the Shire long before he finally ended up there. We know that SJWs are not content to leave any good, wholesome thing alone. Why should evil in Tolkien's world be any different?

Is it lame that it was Saruman and Wormtongue? I can see a case for this. But I think Tolkien wanted to bring the Saruman/Wormtongue thread full circle. Saruman's home is lost, so he flees and seeks revenge. Frodo, who has grown virtuous and wise, shows him mercy. Evil (again) ends up destroying itself. Everyone left at the end will work hard to clean up the mess, but they and the place will never quite be the same. A little too neat and contrived that it's Saruman and Wormtongue? Maybe, but there were thematic elements that made those two a better choice than some new, random characters introduced at the novel's end.

That's why it kind of felt satisfying when Jackson killed off Saruman and Wormtongue early. It seemed almost like a good reminder--when you defeat thoroughly corrupted, depraved, evil foes, don't leave them alive. Look at how much trouble was prevented by their early deaths.

Anonymous Anonymous January 02, 2016 4:45 PM  

Porphyry--
But I did enjoy the ability to see the hobbits in action actually fighting , or not fighting for freedom. Therefore I cant say the last part was entirely a loss.

OpenID Jack Amok January 02, 2016 4:55 PM  

So, in conclusion, Saruman had not planned to live in the Shire, nor did he take an active interest in it. He probably was merely aware of what was going on. Then, after losing Isengard, he had to go SOMEWHERE, and Shire was a low-hanging fruit. The work was already done for him, all he had to do was to owerpower the one hobbit.

Yeah, I agree (since I already said as much back in comment #6...).

Is it lame that it was Saruman and Wormtongue? I can see a case for this. But I think Tolkien wanted to bring the Saruman/Wormtongue thread full circle. Saruman's home is lost, so he flees and seeks revenge.

I also thought it was a message that you can't just leave an evil foe alone once you've beaten him. You must destroy him, or you risk him scrabbling together whatever scraps of power he can to take revenge.

Blogger Ahazuerus January 02, 2016 4:56 PM  

Tolkein explicitly disavows the idea that the scouring of the Shire, or any other part of LotR, has ANY allegorical message. The anti-industrialisation charge, with England's green and pleasant land as the Shire, is as old as the first published copy of the trilogy.

Tolkein wrote that allegory is a writer's betrayal of his readers, an attempt to impose on the reader what ought not to be imposed.

People persist in seeing it, but Tolkein was consistent and vehement in his denials.

Blogger VD January 02, 2016 4:59 PM  

Tolkein was consistent and vehement in his denials.

Irrelevant. If it's there, it's there. Sometimes the author doesn't intend, he reveals.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 5:08 PM  

I agree, denial of allegory is not denial of a theme. Allegory is intentionally and deliberately trolling the reader. Trying to package a message in such a way that his guard is down because he doesn't realize until the end that a message is being given. The fact that Tolkien denies THIS, doesn't mean that the work is not influenced by ideas external to the story.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr January 02, 2016 5:22 PM  

To me, the Scouring was about demonstrating that the Hobbits, particularly the four heroes, could take care of themselves and their homes without help.

And I thought ROTK was the best of the books. The scene when Aragorn arrives at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is one of the most beautiful passages in the English language.

As for Frodo, the whole point is to show that he's given everything. He comes out of this physically injured, but with the mother of all cases of PTSD. Anyone who's been under sustained high stress will tell you it leaves scars. And I think Captain Tolkien drew heavily from those years in the trenches of the First World War to craft it.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 5:25 PM  

I would have been fine with some variant of the Scouring if Saruman and Wormtongue hadn't been involved. That was just inexcusably lame.

That's a matter of taste. Yours and mine vary.

Nor does it make any sense to claim Saruman had been working on infiltrating it for years. He was building up the Uruk-Hai! He had no plan to go and live there as a powerless "Sharkey".

This is factually incorrect based on the text as written.

As noted in @32 above:

Bill Ferny, who appears in Bree early in The Fellowship of the Ring, is one of the ruffians in the Scouring of the Shire. Ferny has been hanging out with a sallow and squint-eyed Southerner who is later implied to be part-Orc, and who was the one who told the Nazgul that Frodo was at the inn.

Bill Ferny isn't the only one to have been in league with foreign agents. There's strong implication that the Sackville Bagginses had been under Saruman's influence as well.

Also, before the Hobbits leave the shire there is talk about pipeweed being in short supply that year. Later, when Merry and Pippin find a stash at Isengard they specifically note that it's Longbottom Leaf - a Shire brand - and lots of it - because Saruman has had his agents in the Shire redirecting it south for his own men for some time. You might say that they were hit by the very dangers of free trade that you like to point out so often.

We're talking about the supreme wizard in the land - a man who is basically the equivalent of an archangel become flesh. He had his hand in all kinds of comings and goings throughout the land for millenia before the events of the story. To say that he couldn't divert some small portion of his attention toward the Shire over that time is ridiculous.

The final strike of driving it home and taking it over wasn't planned. It was a strike of opportunity from a man who had nothing left except to strike back against the people who - in his mind - had wronged him. I've said it many times and in many places, including the comments on this blog: there is very little so dangerous as an ordinary man with nothing left to lose. Add in to that the fact that you're essentially dealing with a fallen angel, and the idea that there's no way he could have done it is... silly. Especially given that it's well noted throughout the entire series that his major gift is that of persuasion.

He's had agents in place in the Shire for years - this is noted at several points throughout the text, even if the clues are subtle.

He's got the gift of gab.

He's got no lack of motive.

He's got a band of ruffians who are still quite loyal to him and quite fond of him.

He lashes out with his last breath in the only way still open to him.

May not be your favorite part of the story, which is fine, but it's in no way illogical. Face it: you know Scalzi would do this to you if you were each placed in the right roles for it and he had the means to pull it off.

Anonymous cincinnatus January 02, 2016 5:26 PM  

I absolutely think this. After being embarrassed the way he was, I think he was completely consumed with revenge, no matter how impotent, if only it would hurt those who embarrassed him.

@Markku
Indeed. Being evil quite often turns men into gammas.

Irrelevant. If it's there, it's there. Sometimes the author doesn't intend, he reveals.

@VD
I always looked at the Scouring as an apparently unconscious slap at Communist dictatorships, myself.

Blogger Ahazuerus January 02, 2016 5:39 PM  

@72

Before I read his foreword containing that denial, in the 3rd or 4th copy I've owned, I assumed that it was deliberate.

I aint saying it's not there; just that he disavowed any such intent.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 5:46 PM  

"Indeed. Being evil quite often turns men into gammas."

except Saruman isn't a man.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 5:46 PM  

"Irrelevant. If it's there, it's there. Sometimes the author doesn't intend, he reveals."

meh.

The fact that you create a message in your head doesn't make the message exist.

Blogger bob k. mando January 02, 2016 5:51 PM  

26. Ostar January 02, 2016 2:13 PM
ROTK was the weakest of the movies as well.



disagree, and said so at the time.

Jackson's Fellowship and Two Towers ( apart from the Balrog ) were disastrous clusterfucks. the "let's dump Aragorn into the river and pretend that he's drowned" episode in TT was especially atrocious. why? because Aragorn is THE KING WHO RETURNS in RotK, you fuckwit, Jackson. there can be no 'tension' about Aragorn's survival when everyone in the theater knows that he is going to take the crown at the end of the last movie.

Jackson's LotR movies were of the same presentation as Lucas' ep 1-3. first two movies abominable, third barely presentable but still below average story wise.


29. Sheila4g January 02, 2016 2:21 PM
Hadn't really viewed it as a political polemic, but that fits.



Tolkein always denied that the Scouring was a polemic.

pretty hard to deny, though.



33. DBSFF January 02, 2016 2:42 PM
Coincidentally, just watched the extended edition last night.



another difference which Jackson filmed but which was cut from the theatrical release was the parlay with the Mouth of Sauron.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-OtDodfECQ

this is how the returning king acts? bullshit, absolute crap.



65. Nate January 02, 2016 4:31 PM
Its fascinating that you think someone like Saruman would have short term time preferences.



regardless of their native abilities or acquired power, this is one of the prime features of sociopaths / borderlines;
their absolute infantile demands for the subjugation of all those around them, ESPECIALLY anyone who has 'humiliated' them ( even if you didn't mean too ) in some way.

Blogger S1AL January 02, 2016 6:08 PM  

Both Faramir and Denethor were badly treated by the films - Faramir's nobility was replaced with infantility, and Denethor's grave sorrow with petty cruelty. Denethor was not a villain. And it's a real shame, because the actor who portrayed him is quite good.

Blogger Dexter January 02, 2016 6:16 PM  

"I would have been fine with some variant of the Scouring if Saruman and Wormtongue hadn't been involved. That was just inexcusably lame."

I agree with this part of it. Its like JRR just didn't want to bother thinking up additional characters and thought oh... I'll just make it their out. Which is silly.


And yet if he'd introduced some new and completely different Bad Guys for the Scouring of the Shire - in the second-to-last chapter of the third of three long books - everyone would be complaining, "who the fuck are these guys and why did he bring them in so late in the story?"

It has to be Saruman, or delete the Scouring entirely. A final confrontation with Saruman's third-rate Shire minions (Bill Ferny etc.) would be anti-climactic to say the least.

Blogger bob k. mando January 02, 2016 6:23 PM  

78. Nate January 02, 2016 5:46 PM
except Saruman isn't a man.



neither were Morgoth or Sauron or the Dwarf Lords who fell to their rings.

this does not negate the point.

Blogger Groot January 02, 2016 6:38 PM  

@11. NorthernHamlet:
"the interwoven narrative strands"

Behold the XKCD Movie Narrative Chart of Lord of the Rings. It explains all, visually. (Bonus Star Wars and several others.)

Blogger Ostar January 02, 2016 6:47 PM  

"Pimple" was the nickname of Saruman's Hobbit agent in the Shire, Lotho Sacksville-Baggins (Frodo's cousin). Seriously.
I think maybe Tolkien realized how ridiculous he would be as the Scouring villain at the end and killed him off before the Hobbits even returned.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 7:00 PM  

"regardless of their native abilities or acquired power, this is one of the prime features of sociopaths / borderlines;"

Again... its more than a bit daft to run about applying human psychological issues to what amounts to an archangel.

Blogger Nate January 02, 2016 7:03 PM  

I mean have you kids read the rest of Tolkein? Do ya know what Saruman has done in the past? We're not talking about some insignificant little wizard riding on Sauron's coat tails here.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 7:04 PM  

But for that exact reason, Saruman has never known defeat. So he doesn't have the maturity to deal with it when he encounters it for the first time.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 7:06 PM  

When it happens, it's Ronda Rousey on steroids.

Umm, I mean, on MORE steroids.

Blogger Danby January 02, 2016 7:12 PM  

Where else could Saruman have gone?
South lay Gondor. East Rohan. Northeast Fangorn and Treebeard, Southwest and west, howling wilderness. North, mountains and Rivendell. Northwest, Dunland and the Shire.

That was his only escape route. Not every party of men or elves would have a Gandalf along to spare his life.

Anonymous Dr. J January 02, 2016 7:26 PM  

Again... its more than a bit daft to run about applying human psychological issues to what amounts to an archangel.

Well even Vox presented Fallen Angels as petty and ultimately fairly powerless in the face of believers. You weren't paying attention during Gandalf the White's exchange with Saruman, which states that Saruman has been stripped of his power and replaced by Gandalf. He's left only with the power of his voice, and it took months of using that to convince Treebeard to let him go.

And (nuclear nerd observation ahead) - the Maiar are lesser angels, the Valar are the archangels.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 8:07 PM  

"this was perhaps a very early example of message fiction - in this case, Tolkien's rural anti-industrialism - leading an author astray."

It was that, and flawed in just that way, but I think it was principally a Shakespearean turn to lessen the shock to the reader of returning to reality from the world of High Fantasy by passing through Low Fantasy on the way.

At that it succeeded.

Blogger slarrow January 02, 2016 8:12 PM  

I'm surprised that no one has pointed out how the Scouring sets up the poignancy and bitter sweetness of Frodo's departure. His suffering that brought him such renown from the great has made him an alien with no place in his own land. His companions, who have not suffered as he has, have grown in their adventures and take charge in the Scouring. Indeed, the appendixes show how their actions establish them as leaders and the founders of great houses in their own right.

But Frodo has no such role at home. He is nonviolent and forgiving, even sparing Saruman for memory of his greatness. For the reader, it is a powerful moment. For the hobbits, though, it would have been an incomprehensible one. The very experiences that make Frodo so noble also make him unsuitable to live in his home.

Tolkien doesn't write this as message fiction. He writes it because he once came home from the Great War. The Shire has been saved, says Frodo, but not for me. That is the danger and fear for all those who go off to war.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 8:24 PM  

Hammer at @34:

Beautiful, beautiful comment. You've revealed your quality.

Anonymous Anonymous January 02, 2016 8:25 PM  

@20 VD "the idiot tunnel-dig in ATOB"

Vox, That was one of few elements I really did not like in (the mostly excellent) ATOB; the logistics are impossible. Why did you do it, what purpose did it serve? It seems you're unhappy with your own creation...can you expand on why the 'idiot tunnel dig' came into being?

(And FWIW, the first one wasn't so bad, although the timing was off; it would have worked better for at least a month siege, I assume the second one is the one you you used idiot for).

Daedalus Mugged

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 8:30 PM  

"'Indeed. Being evil quite often turns men into gammas.'

except Saruman isn't a man."

Do you imagine the He who made the Grey White could not also allow the one who forsook the duty that came with that rank to be reduced to the status that fits that behavior?

Perhaps it was even a mercy. What fitter punishment could be imagined?

Anonymous keener January 02, 2016 8:31 PM  

---Desiderius

It grates. I've read all kinds of reasons for it. I think a) it's an author fantasy rather than an outgrowth of the plot. God knows I would like to scour some shires myself but it doesn't quite fit.

b.)I don't have a copy to hand but I think the narrative moves from intense direct scenes --- direct scene after direct scene after direct scene --- in the journey to Mordor and the last scenes ---and if the shire-scouring had been written in narrative summary it would have worked better. Narrative summary and direct scenes have to be balanced off against one another. Otherwise you get this 'Bolero' effect.
Some of the best examples of this symphonic effect of direct scenes balanced with narrative summary are in First and Second Kings. They knew what they were doing, those old guys back in 600 B.C.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 8:31 PM  

Why did you do it

Does Vox appear to you like a man who has dug a lot of dirt?

Blogger Glaivester January 02, 2016 8:36 PM  

There was nothing gradual about it. That's the whole problem. Frankly, I view this as being akin to the idiot tunnel-dig in ATOB writ large.

I'm sorry, I can't figure out what ATOB is.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 8:36 PM  

"It grates."

Perhaps it does. I was caught in the afterglow. Tolkien could have included a phone book in the appendixes, I would have eaten it up.

Blogger S1AL January 02, 2016 8:38 PM  

@08 - "Does Vox appear to you like a man who has dug a lot of dirt?"

I have to imagine he gave up on it after hitting himself with a shovel one too many times.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 8:40 PM  

@93: To be honest, I avoided that line of argument because I assumed Vox had heard it before and it simply didn't work that way for him. He's not the only one who feels that way.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 8:40 PM  

"The very experiences that make Frodo so noble also make him unsuitable to live in his home."

That's a Machiavellian way to put it. Was Sam less noble?

No, Frodo had just given too much, had been wounded too deeply. The Great War observation is apt.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 8:43 PM  

@95: Why did you do it?

I would imagine it was a result of his well noted shortcomings in spatial reasoning.

Anonymous Leonidas January 02, 2016 8:45 PM  

No, Frodo had just given too much, had been wounded too deeply. The Great War observation is apt.

The book is unquestionably a product of its time.

Anonymous szIlk January 02, 2016 8:46 PM  

Why all the hate'n on the way J.R.R. handled the Scouring of the Shire. Did you all forget that they found that Sauraman had been trading with (and by extension influencing matters) in the Shire when Merry and Pippen found the pipe weed in the stores at Isengard. That was found out in the "Two Towers". Why would a wizard in a fantasy novel need any more time than what Saurman had when he was banished from Orthanc?

Blogger Banjo January 02, 2016 8:53 PM  

@99 Glaivester

That is Vox's book: A Throne of Bones

OpenID Jack Amok January 02, 2016 8:55 PM  

I would have been fine with some variant of the Scouring if Saruman and Wormtongue hadn't been involved.

Thinking about it some more, I think maybe it should have just been Wormtongue. Saruman killed at Orthanc (or fled and abandoned Wormtongue), Wormtongue - a sort of human version of the corrupted but clever and resourceful Gollum - escapes the Ent's siege and flees to the Shire, where he takes over for the agents his boss had sent there months earlier.

This would solve Nate's problem, but still preserve all the plot points people have mentioned. Also, it would fit in with the overall Tolkien theme of the bad guy lieutenant stepping up as a B-grade sequel to his vanquished boss.

Blogger VD January 02, 2016 9:23 PM  

Why did you do it, what purpose did it serve? It seems you're unhappy with your own creation...can you expand on why the 'idiot tunnel dig' came into being?

What second one? There was only one. I simply forgot that the amount of earth a Roman legion could dig in an afternoon in a TRENCH could not be dug in a TUNNEL. The volume was fine, the access was not.

Translation: my spatial relations got me.

I'll probably fix it for the new hardcover later this year. It shouldn't be hard, I just need to extend the time.

Blogger VD January 02, 2016 9:24 PM  

I think maybe it should have just been Wormtongue.

That would help, but again, things had gotten too advanced too quickly.

Anonymous RJJameson January 02, 2016 9:28 PM  

Sarumon lost all of his power. There could be no retreat and rebuild for him because he had nothing to rebuild with. He would never have been able to return as a mini-Sauron (just as Sauron was a mini-Morgoth). Sarumon was sent to Middle-Earth for a purpose, and after Gandalf confronted him in Orthanc, he was stripped of his power and left with nothing. How, I do not know. Magic in Tolkien's world is a deeply hidden affair. All he could do was squirm in the dirt and snap in envy and bitterness at the good people in the world whom he had fallen beneath.

OpenID Jack Amok January 02, 2016 9:53 PM  

That would help, but again, things had gotten too advanced too quickly.

Things had started as soon as the four hobbits left the Shire (clandestinely probably even sooner). But I suppose it's an interesting question - how long would it take an oppressive regime to get installed?

Well, these days, the more significant question is how long does it take to uninstall one.

Anonymous Anonymous January 02, 2016 10:05 PM  

@109 VD, the first was digging out of the beseiged castra to behind the nearby hill and marching away, the second was the [600 mile] tunnel to Savondir at the end. Even the logistics of "where do you put the dirt" never mind 'get the food' to support so many men working so hard so continuously just don't work.

If you're making edits, lengthen the time for the first, do away with the second, or work in an access to an underground dwarven world...although the air shafts and caloric logistics would not work for an [abandoned?] dwarven kingdom without surface access.

@98 Markuu...I expect Vox's use of his big brain to be more valuable than moving dirt...but that is why I expected him to understand that doesn't work without him actually having been a miner.
DM

Anonymous Rhys O'Reilly January 02, 2016 10:09 PM  

Whilst the scouring of the Shire is anti-climatic after the big battles I always found it to be emotionally impacting because of what I thought Tolkien was saying. This is the first time I have heard that the scouring was to push Tolkien's anti-industrialist views.
I thought the scouring was supposed to be an allegory for how you can't really go home after war; home, even if it is physically still there, is not what you remember it. The illusion of safety has been lost. Further, I thought Tolkien was making a reference to how the war touched all corners of England, indirectly, if not directly, and that the 'innocence' of ignorance of the small English village can never be found again.

However you write that story it can only ever be anti-climatic. You go a world away and fight great battles and then come home but home is not really the home of your pre-war days; to you that is something as troubling as the greatest battle but to everyone else it is nothing.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 10:16 PM  

IT IS SCIENCE, BITCHES!

One person can dig about 20 centimeters per hour. No data on how well it scales up as you add manpower.

Blogger automatthew January 02, 2016 10:16 PM  

Dwarven tunnel at the end put me in mind of the Fair Folk's extensive network in Prydain. You never have to look around very far to find an outpost.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 10:18 PM  

Oops, I looked at the wrong column. Depth instead of distance. So, about 60cm, not 20.

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 02, 2016 10:24 PM  

You have it exactly backwards - the Scouring is totally and entirely necessary to complete the stories of the characters.

Message fiction? Nonsense, not Tolkien.

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 02, 2016 10:30 PM  

@75 has it.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 10:32 PM  

Thinking about it, no, the project will not scale up well. There is no parallelism in the digging part. There is no use making it wider than one person. One person is always going to be doing actual digging at any given moment. Only the removal of dirt can be helped by adding manpower, but the speed will be capped to what one person can dig, without having to worry about getting rid of dirt. My guess is that the absolute maximum speed you can take it to is one meter per hour, by rotating the digger all the time and switching to a new guy the moment the last one's arms start to lose strength. And having everyone involved in the removal of dirt.

Blogger Markku January 02, 2016 10:34 PM  

Trench is very different because you can separate it to as many segments as you like. Tunnel you can't.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 11:00 PM  

"The book is unquestionably a product of its time."

And yet here we are discussing it in our own, where its themes still resonate, and ever will.

The great ones have a very real timelessness.

Anonymous Desiderius January 02, 2016 11:04 PM  

"Things had started as soon as the four hobbits left the Shire (clandestinely probably even sooner)."

Yes, things had started when Saruman first met the gaze of the Eye in the palantir of Orthanc. Gandalf's interest in the Shire would have kindled Saruman's, and Gandalf's went back to the time of The Hobbit.

OpenID xsyq January 02, 2016 11:13 PM  

All I can say is that a year and Saruman producing the Scouring fails to strain my +1 Suspenders of Disbelief. But then again I believe in the Book of Mormon, which is filled with dozens of stories of people pulling an Israel and snubbing God right after He raises them up, so my Suspenders probably have a +5 against tales of Sudden Civilizational Collapse.

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 03, 2016 12:20 AM  

As somebody else pointed out, Saruman had his roots in earlier than that year. Pipe weed is found in the tower at Isengard - grown in the Shire.

Anonymous Flyover Resident January 03, 2016 2:37 AM  

Good to know I'm not the only one who skims through Sam and Frodo's long depressing slog, though, as I recall, that generally leads to me skim-skipping through half of TTT as well as ROTK.

And as long as we're sharing movie gripes (we are, aren't we?) one thing I really missed seeing in the third movie was the entry of the outlying troops into Minas Tirith, as witnessed by Pippin. Silly, I know, but it's one of the most poignant scenes in the book for me. "Too few, always too few ...."

Anonymous WillBest January 03, 2016 3:07 AM  

I suppose it matters what you are digging through. A wider tunnel allows people to hold shovels and others pick axes. Job specialization tends to enhance productivity.

Then again if you are going to make the tunnel larger than you are going to need support beams, so where is that material coming from and then the dirt/clay/rock needs to go somewhere. But also the more people you put in the tunnel the more O2 and CO2 issues you will have.

Blogger Ahazuerus January 03, 2016 3:47 AM  

On the theme of coming home, I left home in the 90's and returned in 2000. I was never comfortable (at home) again. By coincidence I hired a lady finishing a tourism marketing degree. Her thesis was about the difficulties returnees face adjusting to a home that doesn't feel like home any more but rather some alien fantasy of home.

To me it is obvious that was Tolkein's intent in the Scouring, but none of us can escape our historic context. It's not so much that LotR was a product of its time (although it was), but that JRRT was a product of his time.

IMHO.

Anonymous A. Nonymous January 03, 2016 4:11 AM  

And I thought ROTK was the best of the books. The scene when Aragorn arrives at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is one of the most beautiful passages in the English language.

Indeed. For that (and so many other reasons) RotK has always been my favourite of the three.

Anonymous Samson January 03, 2016 4:59 AM  

And I thought ROTK was the best of the books. The scene when Aragorn arrives at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is one of the most beautiful passages in the English language.

Indeed. For that (and so many other reasons) RotK has always been my favourite of the three.


Yes, of course. Some people don't like Tolkien's style(!), but that passage is poetically sublime. Nowadays I don't have time to go through LotR regularly, but there are a dozen or so parts I will jump to and re-read, the above being one of them.

I don't think anyone meant to imply that RotK sucks. It contains what I think is one of the most spiritually-charged scenes in the series, when Gandalf tells Denethor that it's not for man to pick the hour of his own death, and only the wicked kings of old did so. What a challenge to our present day, when the dominant paradigm is that Man is the only sovereign authority over himself.

Anonymous Samson January 03, 2016 5:04 AM  

On the theme of coming home, I left home in the 90's and returned in 2000. I was never comfortable (at home) again. By coincidence I hired a lady finishing a tourism marketing degree.

"Tourism marketing degree"? A whole degree? Sheesh.

Anyway I had the same experience, having grown up in the same place till late 20s and then forced to move away for work. I was terribly homesick at first, and on top of that later discovered that "you can't go home again". But I think for some people (like myself), it's spiritually healthy to be made to feel this sort of rootlessness - it's a reminder that our permanent home isn't here.

And I suppose in a way that's why I enjoy Scouring.

Blogger VD January 03, 2016 6:17 AM  

the second was the [600 mile] tunnel to Savondir at the end. Even the logistics of "where do you put the dirt" never mind 'get the food' to support so many men working so hard so continuously just don't work.

If you're making edits, lengthen the time for the first, do away with the second, or work in an access to an underground dwarven world..


Ahem... you clearly needed to read a little more closely. There was absolutely no digging involved with regards to the second tunnel.

Blogger Sanne January 03, 2016 7:26 AM  

If you look at LOTR as the story about WWII a lot of things which seemed puzzling become obvious. Don't forget that Tolkien was a devout Catholic.

Blogger S1AL January 03, 2016 11:19 AM  

"It contains what I think is one of the most spiritually-charged scenes in the series, when Gandalf tells Denethor that it's not for man to pick the hour of his own death, and only the wicked kings of old did so. What a challenge to our present day, when the dominant paradigm is that Man is the only sovereign authority over himself."

Even more impressive to my mind is the passage in the Silmarillion where Tolkien described the Numenorean society as beginning to die because they "began to prize the names of their old men above their new children", or something to that effect.

Blogger Dr. Mabuse January 03, 2016 11:19 AM  

"And as long as we're sharing movie gripes (we are, aren't we?) one thing I really missed seeing in the third movie was the entry of the outlying troops into Minas Tirith, as witnessed by Pippin."

It's one of my favourite passages in the book. But of course Jackson would drop it, and for the same reason as he dropped the SotS. Because in his movies, wars aren't won by nobodies from the boonies; only the Heroes get to do anything at all. Tolkien took the trouble to create real characters out of the populace: Beregond and Bergil, Ioreth and the main doctor, everyone was doing his or her part. But in the movies, everyone runs around like headless chickens until the Hero steps in to save the day.

The Scouring of the Shire is about the heroism of the little guy. The heroes Merry, Pippin and Sam are there to rouse the Hobbits and lead them, but *everyone* fights and defeats the oppressor. Fighting evil isn't something that is only for larger-than-life characters, we all have to do it.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 03, 2016 11:46 AM  

@137 You're spot on regarding Tolkien's perspective that everyone, even the smallest people, can be hero's. One of the best books I've read on the origins of Tolkien's inspiration and the "meaning of his work is, http://www.amazon.com/The-Guardians-Fallen-Kingdom-Tolkiens/dp/1491031530 an amazing and unfortunately, little read, masterpiece. Author explores in depth your very observation (and much more).

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 03, 2016 12:04 PM  

Sane,

WWI, not two. Tolkien was much more affected by the first war.

Anonymous Samson January 03, 2016 12:22 PM  

Even more impressive to my mind is the passage in the Silmarillion where Tolkien described the Numenorean society as beginning to die because they "began to prize the names of their old men above their new children", or something to that effect.

Yup, I love that line too. Are you sure it's in the Silmarillion, or is it in the Appendices? Someone above mentioned that a large portion of RotK is the Appendices, and I wanted to say, yeah, I consider that a positive... the Appendices are full of that sort of spiritual insight.

Blogger Sanne January 03, 2016 1:44 PM  

Malcolmthecynic, I think he was influenced by both and also by the political situation before and after WWII. It's about the men of the West taking their last stand against the dark hordes from East and South yet though they win the Old Order is destroyed forever. The price they have paid for their victory is actually too high. That's why the end is so bittersweet.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 03, 2016 1:52 PM  

Two of Tolkien's best friends died in WWI, their death impacted him greatly. With the rise of Hitler, Tolkien was presented with a new problem, the rescue of the Northern Thing from Hitler's misuse. This desire informed both, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, adding to the complexity of his mythos. Not only would he gift England with a national mythos, he would rescue the Northern Thing. He did both.

Blogger bob k. mando January 03, 2016 4:31 PM  

103. S1AL January 02, 2016 8:38 PM
I have to imagine he gave up on it after hitting himself with a shovel one too many times.



he certainly hasn't hit himself with a roll cage very often.

Anonymous karsten January 03, 2016 5:05 PM  

Greg Johnson has an excellent write-up about the Scouring:

http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/01/the-scouring-of-the-shire/

Best passage:

"The closest historical analogy to “The Scouring of the Shire” comes from Germany, where various Freikorps groups — militias of demobilized veterans — put down Judeo-Bolshevik Putsches in Prussia and Bavaria. Furthermore, the successor of the Freikorps was the NSDAP, also led and staffed by veterans, which finally put an end to the Weimar Republic. It is a model worth contemplating today as thousands of white veterans return from a Jewish-instigated war in Iraq to face 30% unemployment in a homeland overrun and despoiled by non-white immigrants. They are a constituency just waiting for a leader."

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 03, 2016 6:23 PM  

#141

I'm not so sure, though it is indeed hard to imagine that the second war didn't affect his thinking at all. Still, I remember reading some letters where Tolkien was quite annoyed that people kept referencing the second war when he always maintained that WWI affected him more.

Blogger S1AL January 03, 2016 6:41 PM  

"Are you sure it's in the Silmarillion, or is it in the Appendices?"

Honestly, I'm not sure. I thought it was prior to the fall of Sauron, which puts it in the main text.

"Tolkien took the trouble to create real characters out of the populace: Beregond and Bergil"

My biggest disappointment in the movie is the lack of Beregond. He's my favorite character of the series.

Blogger Dr. Mabuse January 03, 2016 7:15 PM  

#138 - Well I think I'll have to find a copy of "The Guardians of the Fallen Kingdom", if only because I'm half Serb myself! It looks quite interesting. Thanks for the link!

Blogger Joe Keenan January 03, 2016 8:07 PM  

@147 It's an amazing book, it along with some other books recently read, cleared up a lot of the confusion I had surrounding LoTR. I knew the Riders of Rohan were Polish Hussar's, but I had no idea how much Tolkien worked in Eastern European history into his tale. The book amazes.

Blogger The Hammer January 03, 2016 10:20 PM  

@96, Desiderius, thanks.

@137 and @138, you will probably enjoy "The Power of the Ring" by Stradford Caldecott too. I quoted an excerpt in @35 that is quite in line with what you said.

Anonymous VFM something... January 04, 2016 4:40 AM  

Sam *was* the real hero.

Blogger Robert Elfers January 04, 2016 9:44 AM  

I have read the stories, including The Silmarillion since my early teens many times.
I have come to the conclusion that thereason for the Scouring of the Shire was lost in editing. I believe that Saruman was staging a comeback and the Shire was to be followed by a campaign through Arnor which would have positioned him near to Angmar.

Anonymous Gecko January 04, 2016 1:39 PM  

@19 Ostar is right on. The time required works just fine.

@50 PatrickH is also correct that the departure of the rangers allowed the influence to advance more rapidly.

@49 Vox, you are correct that Saruman did not plan to live there, but he did plan to dominate aspects of that land. Some of it was out of bitterness toward Gandalf and the things he loved. You must remember that Saruman loathed Gandalf for a long time. He openly mocked Gandalf's fascination with the Hobbits, but secretly took to pipeweed himself. After Isengard fell, his plans for Uruk-Hai obviously changed. His bitterness toward the Shire increased exponentially, so he spitefully used what resources he had left to strike a petty blow against it.

You are also correct in that the main thrust was not a gradual erosion. However, the hobbits, long shielded from the outside world, were soft enough to not require a gradual erosion. Therefore, I disagree with the claim that the time required stretches the bounds of credulity.

@67 Nate, you forget that Saruman could not rebuild. See comment @113 by RJJameson. In fact, Gandalf spoke directly of Saruman's lost powers.

@32 Joe and @76 Napoleon:

Eucatastrophe - this is what makes "The Return of the King" my favorite. A point that many seem to miss is that the unfurling of Elendil's standard from the ships is actually the greatest eucatastrophe in the books, with the eagles and Gollum's fall being lesser aftershocks. (In The Hobbit it was the eagles at the mountain, and in The Two Towers it was Eomer's arrival at Helm's Deep, with Faramir's outright rejection of the ring striking me as a another small eucatastrophe.) Part 3, afterall, was not named "The Unmaking of the Ring."

Gondor's great hope, the Ride of the Rohirrim, had ended with the death of Theoden. Eomer lost all hope with the sight of his fallen king and unexpected sister. "Death, death, death! Death take us all!" His ensuing berserker rage was glorious but perilous, and all hope was lost with the sight of the black sails. Then came the greatest moment of the tale:

"And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them. And then wonder took him, and a great joy."

This great joy was the event for which everything else had built up. It is the turning point of Aragorn's personal conflict with Sauron. Now, the mere mortal's taunting with Narsil via the Palantir is seen for its brilliance. The standard of Elendil is unfurled - the banner of the heirs of the Faithful, who resisted Sauron from beginning to end. The corruption of Numenor is undone, and the glory of the line of Elros is restored. The king has returned.

This is Tolkien's tribute to the eucatastrophe of greatest story ever told - the resurrection of Christ.

Blogger jimmy_the_freak January 04, 2016 2:41 PM  

I always thought that using Saruman and Wormtounge in the scouring of the Shire was meant to show the cost of misplaced mercy.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 04, 2016 5:27 PM  

@149 Your post was awesome ordering the book!

Blogger Joe Keenan January 04, 2016 5:38 PM  

@152 Gecko....awesome analysis!I'll be re-reading that several more times!The book that returned me to Tolkien was, http://www.amazon.com/Tolkiens-Failed-Quest-Michael-Jones-ebook/dp/B00UNCO6VY author examines Tolkien's attempt to rescue the Northern Thing....and finds it wanting. I disagree, but he makes some thought provoking assertions that returned he to reading 'Fantasy.'Then I read Guardians, Flieger, and Burns work (and more). It soon became apparent to me his work is of amazing depth and breadth. Again, great write up!

Blogger Carl Philipp January 04, 2016 11:46 PM  

@63 "btw, I always wondered, why didn't they, back at the Council of Elrond, just put Frodo on the back of one of the eagles and fly him to Mount Doom, the whole thing could have been done with in an afternoon."

"Tum te tum, I think I'll log into BaradNet and check my Email. Hey, I have a message from my black raven scouts about an enormous eagle on the move that they spotted from hundreds of miles off, one of those magical birds that are technically my enemies but are usually recluses that only leave their homes to help out the people I hate most? Why don't I focus my magical eye on it for a second to check... Hey, is that my ring? And instead of going towards Gondor, it's headed straight towards... towards me? Do those fools actually mean to... DESTROY my ring instead of use it? Well, good thing I can just station 100,000 archers on the slopes of Mount Doom."

And that's not even mentioning the flying heavy cavalry which, at the time, the Fellowship didn't know about.

Terrible plan.

Anonymous Gecko January 05, 2016 9:00 AM  

@155 Thanks, Joe! Look up Tolkien's essay on eucatastrophe if you like the subject. He talks about how all men have a natural desire for heaven an that authors of stories about the land of Faerie try to capture an imperfect essence of it here on Earth. Wonderful stuff.

@156 Carl, there's a website that laid out a pretty good case that Tolkien made a mistake in not at least mentioning the possibility of using the eagles. I'd love to see the matter debated in a thread here or on Nate's blog. Then we could move onto whether balrogs had wings.

An important point many seem to forget is that the Council of Elrond was called to decide what to do with the ring, not how. The Fellowship was tasked with working out the logistics. Astute readers will recall that the Fellowship planned to travel to Gondor first and then evaluate their options. The eagles were potentially still on the table, but it was not to be.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 05, 2016 5:20 PM  

@157, Gecko,Do you refer to, On Fairy Stories? I've read that several times (even wrote an essay on it to help organize my thoughts around Tolkien's work). And Amazon has informed me the book is on its' way!

Anonymous Gecko January 06, 2016 9:14 AM  

@158 Joe, yes, I believe that's the one. I've read so much Tolkien that it's all like one big tome in my mind, and I can't always remember exactly where I read what. I blame Christopher.

I think "On Fairy Stories" actually sheds some light on the continuing degradation of SFF. I don't follow the man's blog religiously, but I seem to recall John C. Wright discussing this. It's right up his alley, at least.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 12, 2016 5:14 PM  

@ 159 Gecko, I can relate to not being able to remember where I read something, really should of studied mnemonics! I got the Caldecott book....great read! I've read it twice so far, get something more out of it each time I pick it up. I go to Wright's blog too, he does have his pulse of what's wrong with, or perhaps better, how to write Fantasy. Leo Grin wrote a great piece on the problem in Fantasy, you would probably enjoy that if you read it.

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