A Stroll through Middle Earth

I don't know about you, but I'm really tearing through books lately. I've mostly been catching up on some urban fantasy, waffling between the giants who released this summer (Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, and Kim Harrison) and solid indie authors (like Kim McDougall and Lisa Blackwood). But sometime last week I decided to go old school epic fantasy and tackle J.R.R. Tolkien.

This is only my second read-through of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I first read them in high school, although I got interrupted in a funny way. My father got into a Jules Verne kick in the middle of my Tolkien binge and made me stop to read Journey to the Center of the Earth so we could discuss it. I hated the switch so much, my vitrol against Verne has became a family in-joke. (Apologies to any Jules Verne fans. I'm sure he's great, but some wounds heal very slowly.)

Now I've been told as an urban fantasy writer that modern readers don't care for epic fantasies like The Lord of the Rings. It's got too many unpronounceable names, they're making up songs and poems every other page like rap battles, and Tolkien knows more history about his side characters than I know about my own extended family. (Feeling jealous, Ancestry.com?) And honestly, I get why it's not for everyone. The books are more slowly-paced than most modern reads, and the world building can be incredibly overwhelming.

That being said, I'm thoroughly enjoying my classic re-read. I'm much more familiar with the movies at this point so it's fun to peek inside the character's heads for their thoughts. The big legends become more well-rounded than just pointy-hatted wizards and goofy dwarfs. You can see their flaws more readily, which make them relatable, which I assume Tolkien intended. And it is also fun to discover the birthplace of so many tropes I enjoy today, from those found in UF books to role-playing video games.

And hey, did you know that Tolkien used the word "tween" in The Fellowship of the Ring? He writes of Frodo as "still in his tweens, as hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.”

I accept this new definition for “tween” as accurate and approved by a literary legend.