Saturday, September 15, 2012

Slow reading The Lord of the Rings

I'm reading The Lord of the Rings again -- slowly. As a teen, and afterward, there was always time to read LotR at speed, to devour each page, chapter and volume, there and back again.

But I was always struck (as an author) by Tolkien's remark about the long period of time he took to write the novel and plodding on until stopping by Balin's tomb in 1940. Does that slow process of development, stops and starts and deep thought, reward slow readng? So I am reading LotR slowly, at a different pace, taking a page or a passages here and there, and months later the breaking of the Fellowship looms.

I've learned that it is worthwhile re-imagining Middle-earth, for its depth and strangeness, as well its familiarity. The movie trilogy is so strongly realised that there is a danger of its imagery effacing the books, and so rereading slowly is a way of restoring details, incidents and scenes and even the faces of characters from one's own inner vision. The long trek out of The Shire, the barrow-wight, even the wolves of Hollin are all encounters worth recovering.

The landscape of Middle-earth is still New Zealand for me, but I find it tinged now with the woods of the northeastern United States. After many shifts in landscape and setting, I find Galadriel's decision, 'I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel,' very moving.

It's sometimes the details, a camp, a song, a glimpse of the Brown Hills, that make the story. Slow reading is one way to get back to these details.