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Author Topic: Trick to Reading LotR? [Edited: Finished RoTK]
Shawshank
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You know, I really want to read Lord of the Rings. I feel like I should, and I've heard that it's an amazing story and that it's a literary masterpiece.

But whenever I try to read it- I just... can't. I think it might be information overload or something I don't know. I tend to get lost in all the details, and it's such a slow read for me due to the style of it.

Is there anything I can get through to my brain or something that can help me read this?

[ May 12, 2007, 11:11 PM: Message edited by: Shawshank ]

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Lyrhawn
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Skip to halfway through Two Towers.

The first time I read Fellowship and the first half of TT, it felt like a long slog through a muddy field. But the fun stuff for me started in Book Four (if you look at them as six books).

Only after a couple years when I went back to reread Fellowship did I develop a solid appreciation for it, and now I can't imagine skipping it.

Have you read "The Hobbit?" It's an "easier" read if you want something to ease you into it. Also keep in mind that Tolkien's style isn't for everyone.

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Snowman
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Space it out over a two year period. That is what I did when I read it as a 14 year old. I'd probably force myself through the boring parts if I were to read it for the first time at this age though. Especially now that I know that the overall book is worth the read. I'd probably finish it in about one month. Just tell your brain that the overall experience will counter the slow parts, which pan out the later you get into the book.
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Xavier
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1) Whenever Tolkien starts talking about food, skip to the next paragraph.

2) Whenever anyone bursts into song, skip to the next page.

3) If you find yourself reading a chapter about this fella named Tom, skip to the next chapter.

4) Basically, any time you are bored, just start skimming. No one is going to give you a test. You get the basic gist of it.

It took me a few tries, because I hate the man's literary style. I do love the story, but not the writing.

Niki (my girlfriend, if you didn't know) also suggests that if you get to where the fellowship breaks, feel free to skip back in forth between the two stories (like the movie did). She says it worked well for her.

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plaid
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The unabridged audio version read by Rob Inglis is great; I appreciate Tolkien's style much better for hearing a good storyteller go at it.
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rollainm
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
The first time I read Fellowship and the first half of TT, it felt like a long slog through a muddy field. But the fun stuff for me started in Book Four (if you look at them as six books).

I'm beginning to think I'm the only person on Earth that found Fellowship to be the most interesting. It was actually about half way through Two Towers that I started to get frequently bored.
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Lyrhawn
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Fellowship was my least favorite of the movies, because it just feels like it isn't really going anywhere and there's a lot of drag, and the first read through, that felt the same way too. But subsequent reads have really improved my opinion of Fellowship, it's my second favorite I think now, after Return of the King.

Though I like the Silmarillion better than Two Towers, and probably Fellowship too.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by plaid:
The unabridged audio version read by Rob Inglis is great; I appreciate Tolkien's style much better for hearing a good storyteller go at it.

I've been meaning to listen to that for a while now.
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Lyrhawn
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I wish, oh how I WISH I there was an audio version of LOTR and The Hobbit by John Huston. I'd never stop listening to it.

I'll never tire of extolling my love for that man's portrayal of Gandalf in the cartoons. [Smile]

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Earendil18
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My plug goes to the BBC radio adaptation.
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Epictetus
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I second the BBC version. I listened to it on a long road trip to Vegas. When I got back, the books were so much easier, I think largely because I realized the really boring stuff all leads up to and explains the cool stuff. (Except for Tom, I'm afraid I just don't "get" Tom the way my friends do, I usually skip over it.)

Plus Ian Holm does a magnificent job as Frodo IMO.

quote:
I'm beginning to think I'm the only person on Earth that found Fellowship to be the most interesting.
Don't say that, Fellowship is my favorite next to the Silmarillion. [Smile]
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rollainm
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What I want more than anything is to see The Hobbit at least go into production this decade. Honestly folks, McKellen isn't getting any younger.
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rollainm
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Well good. That makes two of us at least.
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Epictetus
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Huzzah! [The Wave]

Sorry but I don't get the opportunity to use that Graemlin very often.

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mimsies
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The Rob Inglis audio version IS good, my son who had just turned six at the time listened to the whole thing. It seems like a good way to go. Much of the slower stuff is more interesting and faster that way.
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Lyrhawn
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The Hobbit WILL go into production before the end of the decade, maybe even by the end of 2007, though that's being extremely optimistic. It's virtually guaranteed. Either New Line will make a crappy version of it, or they will default their rights back to Saul Zaentz who will cajole Peter Jackson into doing it, while offering him a virtually limitless budget. Either way it's going to be made, it just remains to be seen who will make it.

Epictetus - You like the Silmarillion the most?! I officially declare us best LOTR friends! [Smile]

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Euripides
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I read the books while I was bedridden with a cold. Otherwise I might have been tempted to skip the tedious parts or more likely, spread the chapters out over a few weeks.

I was actually a rather dedicated reader; I soaked in every word in the appendices too. I don't remember too much, but hey.

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Liz B
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My husband liked the Tom part, but I think that was only *because* we were listening to the Inglis reading.

I like Fellowship now--all of it--but the first half can really be a drag. When my students (7th graders) want to read it, I suggest they read the first chapter, then skip or skim to the end of "The Council of Elrond." OR I suggest that they try the Prydain Chronicles instead. [Smile]

I read the first 2 as a kid (summer after 6th grade, I think), but never could get into RotK. I finally re-read the first two and read RotK during the aftermath of a blizzard a few years ago, when I was in my late 20s and school was cancelled for a week. The uninterrupted time to read was exactly what I needed, and I loved all three of them.

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Nell Gwyn
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Great timing, Shawshank - I'm actually in the middle of Two Towers right now, trying to make myself like Tolkien.

I read The Hobbit in high school, and I loved the story but hated the writing style, so I didn't bother with the rest of the series at the time. Then after I'd seen all the Jackson movies, I decided to give Tolkien another shot and read LOTR. The style didn't bother me as much as it did with The Hobbit, but I still didn't really enjoy it.

I think that may have been because I still had so much of the film imagery in my head, though. I haven't seen any of the movies in several months, so I haven't been distracted by it while reading LOTR this second time, and I've been enjoying it a lot more. (And I usually skip the songs.)

I've not yet been able to get through Silmarillion, though. Someday, I hope.

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Uindy
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I thought that I was the only person who had problems with Tolkin's writing style. The only book I've been able to get through is the Hobbit. I started LOTR but I just can't get in it. I'll take the sugestions about reading the books into consideration.
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Lyrhawn
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I don't blame people for not liking the Silmarillion. There's almost no dialogue at all, it's just storytelling. It's like reading Middle Earth history book, which is perfect for me, but I'd imagine the average reader would feel it's dry and dragging.

And don't skip the songs! Those are the best part!

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Launchywiggin
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One thing I've always thought: If you don't like something, don't feel obligated to like it because it's a "classic". This is how I've felt about a great deal of the literature I've been forced to read in school--I've learned from it, but I don't like having to take lots of unnecessary steps to enjoy a story (getting through the language, etc.). There are some things (20th century music, Shakespeare) that I've taken a lot of time and effort and study to get to the point where I can really enjoy them--this extra work makes the payoff better, I think.

But in the case of leisure reading, I like sticking with my simple sci-fi and fantasy shtick. As for LotR, I'm very much in the camp of skipping chapters. My first time through I read every word, but every read since then (I think I've only read it 4 times now), I've skipped chapters that bored me. The Council of Elrond sticks out as a "skip to the end" chapter--60 freaking pages of *yaawwwwn*.

What really helped me get into the Hobbit was the illustrated comic-book version by David Wenzel. I read that as a 10 year old and have been a fantasy nerd since. I'd love to see the whole series done by him.

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Snail
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quote:
I'm beginning to think I'm the only person on Earth that found Fellowship to be the most interesting. It was actually about half way through Two Towers that I started to get frequently bored.
It was the same for me. I loved Fellowship of the Ring but I thought it started going downwards from the Two Towers onwards. (The ending of Return of the King, however, was good again.) Silmarillion was good, but the Unfinished Tales was not, and anything that comes after that I've not read.

What is wrong with his writing style? Maybe it got lost in translation, as I read these in Finnish, but I never noticed anything...

Anyway, I have to say that despite his best effort I'm not sure if Tolkien is a match for real myths and folk tales... there's just a special texture that comes with stories that are formed by multiple people in the course of hundreds of years which the work of one man, however talented, cannot match.

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JennaDean
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quote:
Originally posted by Uindy:
I thought that I was the only person who had problems with Tolkin's writing style. The only book I've been able to get through is the Hobbit. I started LOTR but I just can't get in it. I'll take the sugestions about reading the books into consideration.

I was the same when I first read them. Loved the Hobbit, but couldn't get past halfway through Fellowship. That was in early high school, I think.

I'd always intended to read them, though - "someday". When the movies were being made I decided I'd better hurry up and read them before the movies came out. I think having a goal and a deadline helped. And I found that once I got past the Council of Elrond, the action picked up and I really enjoyed the rest of them.

My problems with his writing style are just that I loved his story, but I didn't necessarily love his storytelling. Too much back-history, too much description, too much poetry/song (for heaven's sake, some of it was pages long and not even in a human language!). Of course, when I was a teenager I had a much harder time appreciating all those things than I do now - now I see them as an amazing creation of a whole world, with its layers of civilizations and cultures and histories.

So ... as some others seem to have had the same experience ... it seems age and experience may help!

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pastallpatience
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I kind of see reading LOTR as bragging rights for readers. If you can read it, understand it to a fairly well and somewhat enjoy it, more power to you.
I personally didn't skip any of it. I'm a dork, I want the bragging rights. =)
Death to Achilles,
pap

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Lyrhawn
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I don't remember any of the songs being that long. Hell, the Sorting Hat sang a longer song in Harry Potter than any of the songs in LOTR that I remember. And the majority of the songs were in English.

The only song in Sindarin that I remember was the one Aragorn sang at the end of the book (which is one of my favorites). I'll admit that I find Tom Bombadil a combination of annoying and whimsically enjoyable.

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ElJay
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Mr. Washburn, the school librarian, recommended them to me when I had read everything else remotely interesting in the library in I believe 4th grade. I fell right into them and didn't come up for air until I was finished. I don't remember finding them remotely boring or skipping anything. I've read them every 3 - 5 years since, and I don't remember ever feeling the need to skip or skim anything, although it's been awhile since the last time I read them.

But I know exactly what y'all are talking about, because it's the way I feel about reading Victor Hugo. The first time I read Les MisÚrables, I read every word. I have no idea why. Now when I read it I have a set of guidelines similar to X's above, such as "when you find yourself reading a description of the Battle of Waterloo, skip to the next chapter." Same with Hunchback. Great stories. Some great storytelling. But there's a lot of political commentary that was relevant to the people of his day that means very little now.

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Epictetus
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quote:
Epictetus - You like the Silmarillion the most?! I officially declare us best LOTR friends! [Smile]
Sweet!
Part of the reason I don't give my personal e-mail out to too many people is because it's a Silmarillion reference and it exposes just how big of a nerd I really am. It is a tough read though, I don't blame people for not liking it either.

One of the other things I should recommend is The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad. It's pretty useful because she takes a bunch of descriptions from all the books (Silmarillion included) and put together a bunch of scale maps of where everything is. The Atlas even has a few rough maps of Valinor in it and paraphrases the history of Middle-Earth, which I think might be very useful to a first time reader.

Anyway, trying to figure out where things were taking place was one of the biggest obstacles I had when I first read LOTR, especially since I have the pocket-book versions with really, really tiny maps in the front.

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Flaming Toad on a Stick
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
And don't skip the songs! Those are the best part!

Seconded.
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Nell Gwyn
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Well - I don't really skip the songs altogether. I skim them enough to get the gist, but I don't pay as close attention to them as I do the rest of it. I like reading quickly, and I can't do that while reading poetry. [Smile]
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Lyrhawn
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It took me a LONG time to figure out where everything was. I didn't realize that all of the First Age takes place in an area to the WEST of Mithlond and the Grey Havens, but that it was all sunk into the sea, and none of that exists anymore. I also didn't realize at first that Middle Earth was moved away from an initially very close Valinor.

After they got into the Second age it was easy to figure out where everything is, because I'm more familiar with an atlas of Middle Earth, though most of it takes place north of Rohan and west of the Misty Mountains, so it's not hard when all you have to pay attention to is Eregion, Arnor, Lindon and Gondor.

To this day I have to look at Tolkien's hand drawn maps of the First Age Middle Earth, I have no idea where any of the Elven strongholds are and I've read it a dozen or more times. I know Ossiriand is where the Green Elves are, to the southeast, but a lot of the other names run together, especially the names of the rulers.

I got Finrod, Finarfin, Finwe, etc. all mixed up for a long time. I had to read it probably three or four times before I got them all straight. And I swear, for as depressed as any of you got when (is a spoiler warning necessary? well here's one anyway) Gandalf dies, it was nothing for me compared to the deaths that take place in the Silmarillion. I was absolutely crushed by some of them.

If all of you never even touch the Silmarillion, at least read The Children of Hurin when it comes out later this month. It's the very best the Sil has to offer.

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Lisa
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I'd be interested in a novelization of the movies. Get someone who can actually write, you know?
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Lyrhawn
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I think it'd be terribly bland.

Further, I think it would read like bad fan fiction.

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Cashew
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I read LoTR for the first time the summer I got married, and was absolutely blown away. I read it every summer for the next 5 years (I was in school, so summer was recreational reading time). Since then I've read it probably 12 or 14 times in total. I just finished Fellowship tonight, the first time I've read it since I first heard the movies were being made (so about 8 years?). Thoroughly enjoyed it.
All the things people have said they found a problem are the things that I loved.
The back story? Wow, how TANTALISING was that? (This was 3 years before The Silmarillion came out, so LOTR was all there was.) It gave such a fully-fleshed out feeling to the story, like there was a real history behind the story contained in LOTR.
I loved the appendices, more tantalisation, which I guess will never be fulfilled now, unfortunately.
I loved Tolkien's writing style, the familiar, humorous and conversational narrator tone that he takes in The Hobbit, and all the voices in LoTR. So what if he gets a little 'grand' at times, the story deserves it, he's taking a higher tone that you get when you read traditional tellings of European legends like King Arthur, and Roland, even the Iliad. I can understand that might cause some problems for some modern (and younger) readers, but hey, broaden yourselves a little.
(Some spoilers here, maybe.)

I found his telling exciting, at times intensely powerful (for example, Frodo at the ford against the Black Riders; Frodo again at the Cracks of Doom - SO superior to what they did with that in the movie), and very moving - the account of Frodo's voyage to Valinor always touches me, along with Sam's final scene. The movies rarely reach that level.
Also, I love his descriptive passages. The descriptive detail he uses is so enriching to the story I find myself looking out for them just to savour his language. Every time I read the book I look forward to Tolkien's description of the desolation lying before Mordor, including his description of Frodo and Sam as "little squeaking ghosts that wandered among the ash heaps of the Dark Lord." I just find that whole episode enriched so much by his descriptive skill.
The whole story of Frodo's journey through Mordor is extremely powerful, harrowingly so at times. It's easy to see the horrific experiences Tolkien had in WW1 reflected in his description of Frodo's growing misery and possible destruction.
When Tolkien changes to a 'high' tone, like in his recounting the events on the Field of Cormallen, the reading is a little more demanding, but you have to remember his awareness of, and sensitivity to, language and realise that he was deliberately aiming for a higher tone than the conventions of standard modern English would allow.
He knows how to use language, how to write a beautiful sentence, how to build poetic rhythms into his prose in ways that add fluidity and grace to his telling.
The bottom line for me is this: as much as I enjoy his use of language, the back story, etc, the STORY is so rich, so powerful (I keep using that word) both in LoTR and The Silmarillion, that it overrides any other consideration. I am in awe of the world he created and the incredible depth of imagination that enabled him to imagine such a thing. I look forward to entering that world many more times. And I savour every word.

(edited to expand some thoughts...)

[ April 15, 2007, 07:52 AM: Message edited by: Cashew ]

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happysmiley
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I agree with you, Shawshank, it can get boring. It takes alot of willpower to get through, for certain people (including my self at this point, but not before). I've tried to go back and reread LotR now as a 13 year old but i just can't make my way past the first couple of chapters. I found I could only read difficult or boring books as an 8-10 year old, don't ask me why, I don't understand myself. (LotR, WatershipDown, Illiad, Odyssey for example). Now, I don't even bother. Sometime, you will be capable of reading it, right now it probably just doesn't fit in with you right now. just come back to every couple of months or so and you will finish it. Good luck, i hope you can read it soon, it is a very intriguing story.
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Earendil18
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I bought the Ted Nasmith illustrated Silmarillion. Beautiful renderings of key moments in Middle-Earth history!
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scholar
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I was told to read The Hobbit before Lord of the Rings when I was in jr high. So, I read Hobbit and hated it. I refused to read anymore of the series until I got married and my husband kept pressuring me. I loved them. I actually really liked even the Fellowship. I still don't like the hobbit, but will often reread LOTR.
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Earendil18
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quote:
Originally posted by scholar:
I was told to read The Hobbit before Lord of the Rings when I was in jr high. So, I read Hobbit and hated it. I refused to read anymore of the series until I got married and my husband kept pressuring me. I loved them. I actually really liked even the Fellowship. I still don't like the hobbit, but will often reread LOTR.

Yeah, I read the Hobbit after reading the whole series and to this day I don't find it appealing.

Silmarillion and Lost Tales...rock onnn...

Has anybody seen that full color painted map of the entirety of Arda? Makes you appreciate the enormity of middle-earth.

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
I'd be interested in a novelization of the movies. Get someone who can actually write, you know?

Tolkien can definitely write; he just wrote in a style that is decidedly old-fashioned. I appreciated The Lord of the Rings a lot more after taking a literature class focusing on Tolkien. We read a lot of the literature that inspired him and that he wrote or translated, including Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He may not be the most entertaining, engaging writer by today's standards, but he is certainly not a bad writer.
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Foust
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quote:
1) Whenever Tolkien starts talking about food, skip to the next paragraph.

2) Whenever anyone bursts into song, skip to the next page.

3) If you find yourself reading a chapter about this fella named Tom, skip to the next chapter.

4) Basically, any time you are bored, just start skimming. No one is going to give you a test. You get the basic gist of it.

Um... you know what? Just don't read the books. Just don't. Leave them on the shelf. Turn around and walk away.
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Dagonee
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I read LotR over a single weekend when I was in 7th grade. I've never found it difficult, although the first time through I wanted so badly to know what happened that I did start skimming the songs.

The complaints about the writing style are as foreign to me as people not liking chocolate. [Smile]

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anti_maven
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
quote:
1) Whenever Tolkien starts talking about food, skip to the next paragraph.

2) Whenever anyone bursts into song, skip to the next page.

3) If you find yourself reading a chapter about this fella named Tom, skip to the next chapter.

4) Basically, any time you are bored, just start skimming. No one is going to give you a test. You get the basic gist of it.

Um... you know what? Just don't read the books. Just don't. Leave them on the shelf. Turn around and walk away.
I'll second that.
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Scott R
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quote:
If you find yourself reading a chapter about this fella named Tom, skip to the next chapter.
I thought the Tom Bombadil bits of Fellowship were the best. Sure, they didn't add to the story, but at least they were comprehensible.
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Cashew
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"The complaints about the writing style are as foreign to me as people not liking chocolate."

"Um... you know what? Just don't read the books. Just don't. Leave them on the shelf. Turn around and walk away."

Second both those comments.
Go read Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind...

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kmbboots
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What Cashew said in his/her first post.
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Snail
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quote:
I thought the Tom Bombadil bits of Fellowship were the best. Sure, they didn't add to the story, but at least they were comprehensible.
I thought so too!

In fact, when the first movie came out and my little brother saw that he wanted to read the books next and asked me what was different in the books compared to the movies. I said there's this real cool guy whom they cut completely from the movies. A few weeks later he comes to me and says that he'd love to be reading faster as he's anxious to find out what the cool guy's like, but he's completely stuck in his reading seeing there's this silly person around just prancing around singing songs and absolutely nothing's happening.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
I said there's this real cool guy whom they cut completely from the movies.
Imrahil?

Elrohir?

Elladan?

Glorfindel?

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Snail
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I can't remember for sure but I don't think Imrahil was in the first book. And elves are not cool.
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Lyrhawn
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Oh, good point, Imrahil was strictly a Return of the King character, and I think Elrohir and Elladan only made a guest appearance in the first book until coming back in the third.

Imrahil was still a really cool guy who was cut out of the movies. My favorite character after Eomer.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
I read LotR over a single weekend when I was in 7th grade. I've never found it difficult, although the first time through I wanted so badly to know what happened that I did start skimming the songs.

The complaints about the writing style are as foreign to me as people not liking chocolate. [Smile]

I'll second that, although I'm pretty sure it took me a couple weeks to finish it.
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