The Reread: Prologue
It’s been a very long time since I read The Lord of the Rings. Which is significant, since I read it on average once a year from the age of twelve, and had the book pretty much constantly open for the seven years I belonged to the Tolkien message board that broke my heart (and my spirit and my will and my confidence and don’t worry I’m stopping now). The movies were first a source of wonder, and then encroaching horror and frustration; many of the people I was friends with turned out to be the worst friends ever; it all ended with both a bang and a whimper, and between all of that and simply having burned out completely I haven’t been able to open the book again since about 2006.
I tried, too; I read The Hobbit last year and had a ball, and a group on Goodreads – two, actually – hosted reads of LotR, and I thought something in there would be the icebreaker. Nothing was. It was almost as though I kept willfully forgetting to open the book.
What was the icebreaker was the discovery that Audible.com finally had a non-dramatized unabridged version of The Lord of the Rings available. I tried the sample; the reader, Rob Inglis, has a very good voice; I spent a credit. And here I am. It’s been interesting in the past to follow along with a couple of newbies who wrote online about their first time reading the book – I kind of thought it might be interesting (to future-me at least) to put some thoughts down as I slowly make my way through the book for not the first nor the twenty-first time, but the first time in many years, a return with nearly fresh eyes to a place once more familiar to me than any other. I once knew this book backward and forward, the walk-on characters and the nuances and motivations, the songs and stories and history. For seven years of my life I regularly talked to people who took their online names from the book (as did I, in a way), and every day was threaded through with discussion and reference until, after the bang-and-whimper, it seemed every single page was peppered with little landmines. Which is part of why I haven’t read it in all these years. Baggage, not Baggins.
So. In my postings I will try not to do too much comparison to the movies. I will try not to memorialize the bad associations, but let them flow by unremarked; I will probably note the good ones as they pop up. I will be referring to the Lord of the Rings as “the book”, not the trilogy, out of habit; it was written as and intended as one book, broken up by the publishers; also, I’ve been using a one-volume edition for many years. Oh, and I am going to be doing my best to clear the movies out of my head – but I doubt I’ll be able to. I have a feeling there’s going to be some comparison going on…
I can promise there will be little or no coherence or structure to these posts; I can’t help but think of George Carlin’s “Brain Droppings”, except I also can’t promise funny.
The Prologue is not included in the audio version. Kind of a shame, but I guess with the accumulated heft of hours already they didn’t want to go there, and it might leave newbies completely confused, I suppose – or bored. Their loss.
The performance copyright is 1990, so well before the films could have any influence on voices. Unfortunately, in some cases. But no – it’s fine. It’s not Sean Astin and Ian Holm, that’s all. It’s fine – just different. And I must say the narrator’s pronunciation is accurate, for the most part – Sauron isn’t SAW-ron, and Tolkien isn’t TOLL-kin. (I think the emphasis may be incorrect on Isildur, though.) The reading is very listen-to-able.
It’s almost funny how many sentences and passages trains of thought chugging off on new lines. Past associations are everywhere, of course. And the distance between the last reading and now is – as I kind of hoped – sparking off all sorts and kinds of speculation; it’s a weird combination of deep familiarity and fresh eyes (ears). I think I love this. Still. Again. Thank God.