Preliminary Thoughts

The Hall of Fire's extended chapter by chapter discussion of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
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Preliminary Thoughts

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

There has been a request made that we embark on Tolkien's best-known and best-beloved book, The Lord of the Rings I am hoping that people will be interested in participating in such a discussion; there is certainly much to be said! Before we get started, I wanted to both share some preliminary thoughts, and invite others to do so, in order to hopefully facilitate a more successful discussion in the long-term.

My hope is that this discussion is as broad as possible. I would like it to be open to any kind of contribution, from the observations of a first time reader (if there really are such a person around here), to the most detailed and geeky analysis of those who have read the book dozens of times, as well as the drafts contained in the HoME books, and/or scholarly works by the likes of Shippey and Flieger, et al. I honestly believe that this broad range of input can co-exist, if people are open to letting it do so. I requires a certain degree of cooperation of empathy from all involved, but this is a special group of people, and I am confident that we can do it.

I do think that the best way to organize the discussion is to do it chapter by chapter, but I am thinking that I want to avoid the dynamic of one person (be it me or someone else) opening each chapter with a summary of the entire chapter. Rather, I would like to open up each chapter to discussion to whatever thoughts that anyone wants to share, and let it proceed organically, with people responding to each other's comments and letting it build accordingly. If that doesn't seem to be working, we can always move to a more structured format, but I do want to avoid the type of thing where one person asks a bunch of questions about the chapter and people respond to those questions. I really think that approach is too limiting. But before we get started, I'd like to hear what others think.

So?
Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Primula Baggins »

This sounds like a good plan, Voronwë, letting the discussion grow organically. Some chapters will require more time than others! :)

It might be good to have someone <eyes Voronwë> in charge of nudging discussion on to the next chapter once posts about the current chapter seem to be winding down. Not rushing things, but making sure they don't stagnate, either.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Yes, I am willing to take on that role, at least to start, though I might try to recruit people to help as we move long. This is, after all, a bit of a long book.
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Post by Holbytla »

Well I've read it 25 or so times and I can maybe contribute something here and there once I see where this is heading.

I remember being upset when I found out that Bilbo was no longer the "main" character and put the book down for two years.

Tolkien's best-known and best-beloved book, The Lord of the Rings


I am curious as to how this is worded. Is it intentional that you use book in this instance? Wasn't it really one story and many books?
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Holbytla wrote:Well I've read it 25 or so times and I can maybe contribute something here and there once I see where this is heading.


I'm really looking forward to your participation, Holby.

Tolkien's best-known and best-beloved book, The Lord of the Rings


I am curious as to how this is worded. Is it intentional that you use book in this instance? Wasn't it really one story and many books?


Well, I suppose it depends on how we define "book". It true that the full story is divided into six sections that Tolkien called "books", but they weren't meant to be published separately in any way. But he certainly meant it to be one story, published as one book. When he was pushing to have both LOTR and the Silmarillion published, he specifically states that they had "only one natural division into two parts" (being LOTR and the Silmarillion). He states that LOTR is "as indivisible and unified as I could make it." He then adds "It is, of course, divided into sections for narrative purposes (six of them), and two or three of these, which are of more or less equal length, could be bound separately, but they are not in any sense self-contained."

When he abandoned the idea of having it published with the Silmarillion, the publisher did to publish the book in three separate volumes, because of cost concerns and concerns that the public would not be willing to purchase such a massive book. It has, of course, been published in a single volume in recent years, though most people probably retained their three volume sets. I purchased my first single volume version of LOTR earlier this year because I noted that it was standard practice in scholarly works to cite the single volume edition and I do have some references to LOTR in my book, and I wanted them to be consistent with that standard practice.
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Post by Holbytla »

Yeah I remember that from Letters, but I am wondering something.
Since he was constrained to print it in separate volumes, and iirc since he hadn't finished the ROTK when TTT was published, didn't that at least somewhat alter the creation?
Didn't the necessity of publishing three books in fact make them three books and no longer one?
Were the breaks at the end of each book constructed in a way more conducive to three books rather than one?
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Actually, the only thing that was unfinished was the appendices. The book itself was finished by 1949, even though none of it was published for another five years!
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Post by Sassafras »

Now here's a topic that sparks my interest .....

Honestly, I don't know how many times I've read LotR .... dozens at least, although I did have a period in the 80's when I don't think I picked it up at all.

I think the idea of allowing the discussion to evolve organically is an excellent suggestion.

Count me in. But probably not until we reach 'Shadow of the Past' .... I invariably skip the introductory chapters .... yes, blasphemy, I know, but I claim a genetic aversion to 'tweeness' in general. It's the reason I still can't get through 'The Hobbit.'
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Post by Inanna »

Am on - and I think the organic way is better! I remember VTSG faltered.... and maybe that was because we tried to do it in a structured way. I was late on many summaries. :(

Though if we could move on organically to another chapter at a specific point in time, that would be good too.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Mahima, do you mean a preset schedule, or more of someone saying "okay, it looks like it time to move on".

The problem with a pre-set schedule is that people's real life schedules often don't seem to cooperate, and so inevitably people still have something to say and get left behind. On the other hand, a pre-set schedule keeps things moving along. I can see arguments either way. What do others think?
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Post by Primula Baggins »

Not a schedule, I hope. More like, "If no one has anything to add in the next day or so, why don't we move on?"

"Tweeness," Sass? Them's fightin' words in these parts. :P (Though I admit that's often where I start, too—not that I dislike the early chapters, just that I want to be swept up in the story.)

Edit: Cross-posted with Voronwë. I do find schedules problematic. If there's not much to say, why not move on? If we get deeply absorbed, why not linger?
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Post by Inanna »

Well, either would work. I agree with Prim, that pre-set schedules have problems, but it keeps things moving (as V said). Except that we have to give people time to read the next chapter, right?

So, how about we open a new thread for the new chapter and say.... starting in 2 days or something like that?
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

My intitial thought is that I don't think separate threads for each chapter are necessary. I had thought to keep the entire discussion in one thread, like we did with the Silmarillion discussion. But perhaps this is worth thinking about further. We could, perhaps have more than one thread active at a time, which would give people an opportunity to comment in the previous chapter (or previous chapters, even) after we have moved on, without disrupted the discussion about the current chapter. But would that be too confusing and unwieldy? Hmmmm? I think I still lean towards one thread, but I am definitely open to doing it the other way.

Anyone else have any thoughts about this?
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Post by Cerin »

I've never participated in a group read of LoTR, so I'll plan on joining in.

I found that having a schedule worked very well for me, for The Warden reading. Of course, I seem to be the only one left reading there, so apparently it wasn't such a panacea for everyone. :D
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Post by Primula Baggins »

:oops:

Two simultaneous nasty editing jobs have eaten my life for the past two or three months. I apologize for broken promises in that thread, because I still want to finish the book for my own sake.

But that's an example of what can happen. And somehow once I fall out of a scheduled thread, I feel a lot farther behind than in a thread that's wandering along however. Which makes me hide from the thread instead of reading what I can and hoping to post when I can. But that's just me.

Maybe we can try the organic approach and see if it gets too slow and annoying for people?
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

While I personally do like the structure of a schedule, I think it would be better to avoid one. But let's see what others have to say. This group is a bit Entish, and I don't think trying to force any kind of "hastiness" on to it is going to be productive.

I'm thinking this discussion is likely to take a couple of years, easily.

Anyone have any thoughts about the one thread versus multiple threads question?
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Post by Alatar »

Personally I like the idea of multiple threads, allowing people to work at their own pace, rather than have people commenting on Chapter 1 while others are crossposting about Chapters 2 and 3. I'm sore we'll run into the occasional, "As I said in the Chapter 3 discussion" issues, but I think thats preferable to the alternative where people may feel they've fallen too far behind and just stop. It also gives those, like myself, who might be interested in comparing the HoME versions more time to do so.
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Post by Rowanberry »

I think VTSG faltered in that, nobody was willing to do the introductions any longer, and some who had promised to do so just disappeared before it was their turn... :(

Some kind of a loose schedule might be good, If we want to keep the discussion in one thread; no fixed time for each chapter, but rather something like Prim and Mahima suggested. Otherwise, it would be more clear to have different threads for different chapters.

I'm in, for as much as I have time for it.
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Post by ToshoftheWuffingas »

Or perhaps we could tackle it by examining a theme at a time or a character at a time. That way the discussion can move up and down the narrative freely. That was a suggestion only, I am not tied to any approach.
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Post by axordil »

It may sound grandiose and unwieldy, but could we not have a forum specifically for the discussion, with a thread per chapter, and every thread stickied in order as it was created? It would make it easy to find things at least...:)
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