Amazon’s New Tolkien Epic (Is This Trip Necessary?)

I’m one of many people who love J.R.R. Tolkien’s milestone fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. I love it so much, I didn’t watch the movies. And I don’t think I’m going to watch this “billion-dollar saga” produced for streaming on Amazon Prime, a la Game of Thrones.

Why not? Well, of course they’re going to tweak this classic to make it more–I dunno: can we say “woke”? More in line with the conventions and shabby “values” of a cultural era which Tolkien himself surely would have despised. And so, for instance, Galadriel–presented in the original as wise, thoughtful, and powerful–is now decked out with a sword and armor… and I don’t want to be there when she resorts to jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks to wipe up the floor with the bad guys.

So this new TV series will be called The Rings of Power, taking the story back several thousand years (based on The Silmarillion, published posthumously and not actually written by Tolkien–whose son, Christopher, cobbled it together from his father’s vast store of notes; and also the “Appendices” attached to Lord of the Rings), with new characters added, that no one ever asked for.

They just have to screw around with it, don’t they? Maybe they can squeeze some transgender into it. I wouldn’t put it past them.

Warning to authors who don’t want their work vandalized–don’t die! Your copyright runs out and then they try to make more money off your name. And they really don’t care if they turn your vision into balderdash.

 

 

‘Idiot: “Lord of the Rings” Is Racist’ (2018)

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Orcs from the movies–they need a Safe Space

The fact that there are no such thing as Orcs doesn’t faze this alleged science fiction writer: he’s hot to trot for Orcs’ civil rights!

Idiot: ‘Lord of the Rings’ is ‘Racist’

Well, we do know this, don’t we–leftids are only happy when they can find something to complain about and spoil normal people’s fun.

We read fantasy to get away from stuff like this. The surest, deadliest way to kill a fantasy is to inject it with the follies that beset us in the real world. So much for escape!

Liberals are people who want to tunnel into prison camps.

‘A Message from Sauron’ (2015)

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Now that they’ve learned how to steal elections, and will never again be voted out of office, Democrats no longer have to try to pass themselves off as human. But that mask has been slipping for years.

A Message from Sauron

It’s so nice for them. The Dominion voting machines spit out however many votes they need, and they stay in power forever. Plenty of time to Fundamentally Transform America into a real-world Mordor.

‘Tolkien Was Deeper Than I Thought’ (2013)

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Shortly after publication of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien had a very strange experience.

Tolkien Was Deeper Than I Thought

He could only describe it by saying it was like actually meeting one of the characters he thought he’d made up–Gandalf the Grey, the wizard. If you haven’t read the book, trust me: this is not the sort of person anyone encounters in real life.

Once you’re able to see the Christianity in Tolkien’s work, you can’t unsee it.

Everyone who works in Christian fantasy owes him a debt.

‘Hobbits, Orcs Colonize New Jersey’ (2014)

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Actually, the Orcs aren’t so much interested in colonizing as they are in tailgating and honking at you to drive faster–especially when you’re stopped at a red light. When they’re not doing that, they’re operating leaf blowers.

Hobbits, Orcs Colonize New Jersey

But what I really wanted to do with this post, back in 2014, was to call attention to what was then my newest Bell Mountain book, the seventh in the series, The Glass Bridge. I still marvel at the way artist Kirk DouPonce brought Gurun to life.

I find it very hard to remember she’s not a real person. And sometimes I don’t bother trying.

 

‘My Enhanced Bio’ (2015)

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You name it, I’ve been there

I’ve been saving this post for a time when something just has to be done to pump up this blog’s readership; and that time is now.

My Enhanced Bio

You may think that this is all of my biography. You’d be wrong! I can invent more as needed. If certain presidential candidates can do it, then why not me?

I’d just like to think I do it better.

How I Fell in Love with Fantasy

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Someone around here was enthused enough to prefer my books to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Well, what can I say?

I first read The Lord of the Rings in high school, and it overwhelmed me. My imagination was already on fire, thanks to Edgar Rice Burroughs–first his Pellucidar novels, and then his tales of adventure on Mars. But Tolkien–!

I was astonished that such a book could ever have been written. Burroughs’ books are short; Tolkien’s was a monumental trilogy. You wind up spending a lot of time in it. The marvelous thing about The Lord of the Rings was that it positively came alive for me: it made me believe in the story that it told. Perhaps it was the mass of detail: Tolkien’s imaginary world is vast. To this day, after many re-readings, I’m sure I could find my way around the Shire, and I’m sure I’d like it there. And I’d know which places to avoid–Mordor, Mirkwood, and the Mines of Moria.

I’ve never seen any illustrations of LOTR which satisfied me. That’s because Tolkien’s art made his people and places real to me, as if I’d actually been there, seen them; and any illustration is, of course, someone else’s imagination, and can never show me anything exactly how I’d already imagined it myself.

It gave me a burning desire to write fantasy. I can’t even guess how many pages I turned out in notebooks, and on my old manual typewriter, trying to imitate Tolkien, trying to match him. But I can say it took several decades for me to realize that the world didn’t need another Tolkien: any fantasies I wrote would have to be my fantasies, and no one else’s. And that took another couple of decades to accomplish.

It’s important to remember that when LOTR came out, there was nothing else remotely like it. Since then, the fantasy genre has been suffocated with Tolkien wannabes, shamelessly ripping off his once-upon-a-time unique creation. I still love Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves and warriors, etc., but find everybody else’s cheap imitations intolerable. I suspect that if my first reading had been now instead of then, it wouldn’t have had the impact that it did.

Burroughs and Tolkien inspired me, and I doubt my own books would ever have been written if I hadn’t read theirs first. I still stand up and salute The Chessmen of Mars, and in my imagination, search for the road to the forest of Lothlorien.

What’s So Hard About Writing Fantasy?

When I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in high school–and I’m currently re-reading it, I don’t know how many times–it blew me away. I didn’t know it was possible to write such stories; but a couple of chapters into it, I knew I wanted to write fantasy. It took me over 40 years to come up with Bell Mountain.

A lot of people write fantasy, but according to any number of readers, few write it well. After Tim Wildmon interviewed me on his internet TV show, he turned to his assistant and shook his head. And said, “He made the whole thing up! Whew! I don’t know how you do that.”

Practice, man, practice…

People ask me why I have to sit outside to write it. Well, the phone doesn’t ring outside. I’ve got trees and sky, birds and squirrels, to keep me company. And I have to get myself into a world that doesn’t exist except in my imagination. I have to be able, in my mind, to see it and hear it and touch it. This takes a great deal of concentration, easily broken.

I have to relate to characters that I invented as if they were real. Although I’m inventing what they say and do, think and feel, I can’t just have them do anything I want. They have to behave as if they really live. Again, lots and lots of concentration. A character like Helki the Rod doesn’t just grow on trees. He has to say and do whatever he would say and do if he were real.

I have to see these landscapes, it has to be a movie in my mind. And I have to resist the temptation to load my story with elves and dwarves and wizards and all the other stock characters that burden so many other fantasies. No invincible female warriors, no crusty but benign old sages. Impossibly beautiful, know-it-all elves, uh-uh. Otherwise, next thing you know, all you’ve got is a pile of cliches.

It’s all very difficult, a constant challenge–but it’s the kind of work that I love best. The finished product has to be very different from everybody else’s finished product. I reach back into vanished worlds of the long-gone past and pluck out animals that most of my readers never heard of before. Creatures known to us only imperfectly, from bones and scientific speculations that may or may not be accurate.

Nor can I do any of this without prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Which leaves me, when a book is finally done, figuratively gasping for breath and wondering, “Well, now what do I do???” But the Bell Mountain stories are a kind of history, and in history there’s always yet another chapter.

School: Private Conversation Isn’t Private

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Our public education system continues to poison our society. Thanks (I think) to Linda for this news tip. (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2017/05/17/augusta-school-department-punishes-employee-for-telling-coworker-i-will-pray-for-you/)

In Augusta, Maine, a public school employee was recently disciplined with “coaching”–can these people do euphemisms, or what!–for saying, in a private conversation with another employee who is also a member of her church, “I will pray for you.”

Well, hey, hey! She was “instructed” never to say such a thing in any private conversation. Hello! Aren’t private conversations private anymore? Not in a public school, they aren’t. The employee has filed charges against the school district for religious discrimination.

Even more disturbing, school officials told her that she cannot use “phrases that integrate public and private belief systems.”

Whoa! Hold it right there! Since when does America have any “public belief system”? Has the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment been repealed? Did it happen while we slept? Who established a “public belief system” that binds us all? (“One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them…” –Tolkien)

These people have got to be sent packing, before we all wake up behind barbed wire. Who do they think they are?

Wake up, O spirit of 1776! Wake up!

Loving a Fictional Character

King Theoden, from the Lord of the Rings movie (which I didn’t see, but never mind)

There are hundreds of characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but only one that stirs me to the point of tears: old Theoden, King of Rohan. I love this guy! And I do mean love–as if he were my grandfather. How in the world did Tolkien do that?

When we meet him, Theoden is a broken-down old crock who has been skillfully manipulated to sap his morale and make him feeble before his time. But he comes back from that. The hero inside him, once he has been healed by Gandalf, bursts out like a fireworks display. At the same time, he is gentle, kind, and even humble: and everything he does, everything, is motivated by just one thing–by love. Love for his family and friends, love for his allies in the war, love for his country and its traditions. And love for every little thing with which he has been blessed. Love that is willing and able to sacrifice himself for what is right, for what is true.

Tolkien doesn’t tell us so. That never works. He shows it in what Theoden says and does, in his every word and action. Easy to say, but hard to do. If great art was easy, everyone would do it. It really is an amazing feat of art to create a character that a reader can actually love. Lots of authors can create characters that amuse us, or annoy us; but to inspire love is something special.

Hard to do: but for any writer, well worth trying.