cremains: (Default)
I'm re-reading the trilogy again and have some thoughts.

1. The story really suffers from not knowing a pre-transformation Saruman. There's a striking moment where Gandalf is exiled to the top of Orthanc, and he remembers how what is now a prison used to be the place where Saruman would go to look at the stars. I want to know more about that Saruman, who was apparently so trusted by Elrond. It's hard to recreate him from the sneering, rainbow-lycra-cloak wanksta that we meet. Gandalf then looks down and sees that what used to be green and living is now metal and crawling with frightening creatures, a powerful metaphor for Saruman's mind, and one which implies that some part of it is now too held prisoner. But where is it, what is that like at all? I don't think we even ever get a hint.

2. Tom Bombadil is way less bad than I remembered and while the poetry is pretty cringe-worthy, the prose in that section is so rich, and Goldberry is also more puzzling (in a good way) as I read and re-read. I now think that Tom Bombadil gets a bad rap, while on the other hand Bilbo gets way too much credit.

3. I think Sam is a drastically misread character. First, he is clearly a genius: he learnt the alphabet from Bilbo ("meaning no harm" as his father said), and then managed to wrench out reams of information simply from being around educated people and their conversations, poetry, literature, history, Elves and Elvish. Sam is routinely able to give a relevant poem on a random subject when it arises which he memorised simply from hearing it at most a couple of times while tending the garden outside. The others are superficially impressed ("Sam!"), but at the same time are amused and distracted by his funny mannerisms while declaiming poetry, which from Tolkien's description seems to be akin to the way high school kids recite "In Flanders Fields" on Remembrance Day, super awkward, hands behind back, air of overseriousness, etc. Also, their basic impression of Sam doesn't really change in response, they're STILL surprised the next time and Sam STILL is expected to wait on them without a thought: early in the journey, when they arrive in Buckland, four baths are given to the hobbits -- one each for Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, right? No, one is for some dude named Fatty Lumpkin and Sam is presumably fluffing their towels and soaping their loofahs. Does Sam ever get to wash himself? Does he do that while the others are eating? If so when does he get to eat and what? I guess he does this with the servants of Brandy Hall.

The way the narrative is constructed (and plays up Sam's working class mannerisms and speech) also sort of tricks the reader, in that I think most of us come away thinking that the poetry (which he also composes) and fact recital is a sort of quirk of Sam's rather than if you think about it evidence of an intense hunger and ability to learn. He is able to take so much in simply from absorption, which I think accounts for a lot of behaviours which are interpreted as "devoted servant" characteristics rather than his way of educating himself. For example, I think the reason why he goes and sits down nearby when Bilbo and Frodo are having a conversation in Rivendell is because he expected to learn something, as this is the way he did so when he was young. This must also be a strong motivating factor in his decision to go uninvited to the secret Council of Elrond.

Anyway I think Sam's story arc is becoming more attached to and familiar with Frodo for his own self, getting to know his "master" which becomes easier as his sources of knowledge and new information expand greatly, yet his opportunity to learn is severely curtailed by hardship.

tl;dr It doesn't surprise me that a literally starving, aching person travelling almost 24/7 in an evil land on a mission of life and death, who is able to bust out a perfectly-remembered poem about elephants the first time he ever sees one (while it is busy killing people), is also the future ruler of Hobbiton.

Visit

Dec. 19th, 2011 01:53 pm
cremains: (drunken vulcan)
As soon as I got to the cafe, S. (6) started waving and singing my name. When I got up to the table and greeted the kids, he asked me how much I thought I was worth. "A thousand sheqels," I said. He grimaced and "secretly" checked to see how much fake money he had with him. "Uh... how about 200 sheqels?" he asked. "OK." I took the plastic card and he squealed with delight that he had bought me and now I was his; he grabbed my arm and hugged it tightly. Of course then came the real point: "And since you are my slave you have to do whatever I want."

"What do you want?"

"Uh... eat milk and meat... TOGETHER!"

"Asur," I said, raising my eyebrows.

Y. looked gravely up from where he had been playing Mario. "You are never obligated to do what your master says if he orders you to do something forbidden," he told me. He's been learning a little about slavery recently and was asking such intriguing things the time before as, are waiters my slaves?

S. next ordered me to eat a sufganiah, a sort of doughnut. I went down to the bakery part to find one and Y. came happily with me to order a hot chocolate cake.

***

The loathesome YMCA tower has been banging its bells in the night and early morning; even in Jerusalem it's hard to escape Christmas carols, in this case clumsily banged out by some American Protestant Quasimodo in a moustache and sweatervest. At night when we pass by with the kids I like to tell them, "Wow, look at the light on that tower... it looks just like a firey eye, doesn't it? A firey eye watching us all the time, from some sort of dark lord?"

My hope is that they will grow up and one day be able to read secular books, and then they will read Lord of the Rings, and then they will get a strong image in their head of the YMCA whenever they read about the Eye of Sauron, and be filled with fear and aversion, and have no idea why.

Betrayal

Nov. 16th, 2011 08:52 am
cremains: (drunken vulcan)
This dream took place in Orthanc, which a traitorous Darth Vader had wrest from my control (I was Emperor Palpatine). Now I was an exile in my own empire. I had to sneak inside the tower to re-establish myself; I managed to evade the guards of the gate, and inside found a sympathetic guard from the Bronx named Eliana who said she would help me rule again. And how would this be accomplished? She took me up and down Orthanc's old-fashioned elevator, collecting extension cords and, most importantly, my old boombox.

The dream cut to Darth Vader closing in on me.

Suddenly a blast of music was heard as everything was hooked up - Frank Sinatra. Vader recoiled but then shouted to his minions, "Get the boombox, the emperor's strength is in song!" He grabbed it out of my withered hands himself and then threw it down the elevator shaft as I writhed on the floor. Victory was his.
cremains: (drunken vulcan)
This dream re-wrote the part of The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo encounters Galadriel and her mirror in Lothlorien.

It consisted entirely of an insanely accurate replay in my sleeping brain of the "Sweet Dreams" video, only with the understanding that Annie Lennox was Galadriel and she was talking to Frodo. I guess the dude badly faking cello while spinning around in a meadow is Celeborn... which also somehow fits...

Elves

Aug. 9th, 2011 08:30 pm
cremains: (drunken vulcan)
Dream #1: A flood of the world, very peaceful, and the waters alternated between bright tropical warm ones and elaborately-tiled, impossibly deep swimming pools. Greenery was everywhere, and parrots and colourful fish. I swam, relaxed. This is my second dream of a peaceful armageddon via flood.

Dream #2: I was walking home from Meah Shearim with Y., carrying klaf (parchment) and a kulmus (quill pen). It was a happy, fun scene, and we had been chatting together, but then within the dream I woke up and told someone what I had just dreamt. The unseen person replied, "This is the interpretation. Y. is like the klaf, not yet written. You are like the kulmus, empty of having done anything good or worthwhile."

Dream #3: This was the best one.

I was sitting on the beach with Gandalf on a chilly, overcast day. He said to me, "Frodo, do you know why there are no longer any Elves in the world?"

"No," I replied, "Why?"

He blew a smokering. "Because of a bad experience with indoor tanning."

I looked at him.

He explained to me. "The Race of Men had offered the Elves unlimited indoor tanning, but alas, it had resulted in either orange skin or had had no efficacy on them. Because of this the Elves became infuriated and left our world forever. If you want proof," Gandalf continued, "Consider this beach. It used to be where the tanning beds were located, until the Elves cursed them and flooded the studios with seawater."

I was amazed and went to investigate. I waded hesitantly into the grey sea, a little more and a little more until I was dog paddling in what I thought was shallow water.

Suddenly there was a dull boom and a brilliant light from below illuminated the waters. I could suddenly see that I was miles from the bottom of this impossibly deep sea and began panicking from a sharp feeling of vertigo. I screamed and thrashed and finally felt Gandalf's hand closing on mine, dragging me towards the shore.

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this hill is far enough

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