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So I've just finished Return of the King. I love Lord of the Rings so much. It's so rich and thick and complicated. I'm really interested in portrayals of masculinity and I think the Lord of the Rings is especially interesting in the way it portrays masculinity because it contains conflicting and competing masculinities and it contains non straightforward masculinities.

I think the fact that this book is partly an exploration of masculinities is why people (especially straight men) get really irate when you point out the homoeroticism between Sam and Frodo. It's as if people think that men who love men don't have a masculinity and therefore can't be men.

The films really foregrounded the homoeroticim and whenever I said "clearly Frodo and Sam were in love with each other" I almost invariably got the reply "well why cant they have just been very good friends?" They could have been but they weren't. It is a less than radical interpretation to pull out that they were in love with each other from the book. Their love for each other is not an adaptation or a retelling, it is there in the original text.

One of the things I love about this story is the deep understanding of trauma. It contains happy endings for grownups. The understanding that even if you win the war you are still left carrying greif and pain at the losses, destruction and wounding you have experienced. And that even if you win the war everything passes. everything changes, and everyone dies.

I love the Lord of the rings, but it has a fair whack of imperialism in there, and I was wondering, what if some one wrote the history from the Orcs point of view? I was moseying around google looking to see if anybody had done this and stumbled across this on wikipedia:

The Black Speech is the fictional language of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. Sauron created the Black Speech, as an artificial language, to be the sole language of all the servants of Mordor, replacing the many different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants.

I think much could be made of this. If you take someones language away, you annihilate their culture, you commit cultural genocide. So we could read LOTR as the Orks being a colonised people who were used as cannon fodder in a war between two imperialist powers.

OR the Orcs genuinely thought they were on the side of good, because the west was all run by feudal systems which suck beyond reckoning for the people at the bottom.

And we can ad some political intrigue in that maybe Aragorn WASN'T the heir to the throne, he was just some stray orphan boy and Gandalf and Elrond between them told him he was and because they told him he would be brilliant he became brilliant.

I think I would really like to do this. it would take a long time because I would need more of a grasp of the geography, history and cultures of Middle Earth but I think it would be really interesting
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This is the third time I read this book but the first time I really enjoyed it. The first time I was too young and the second time I was too rushed. Going back to it was prompted by the films, I love them but I know that they meander away from the original story. I read it slowly and really luxuriated in it.

This book is criticised a lot because of its lack of characterisation but its supposed to be part of a myth cycle. Myth cycles have never been big on characterisation, they are all about archetypes and overarching narrative. To me it reads as if its not supposed to be an actual journey but a metaphor for a psychological one. I feel that a myth cycle that contained lots of characterization and lots of personal angst would be flawed in itself.

I do have issues with the gender and class relations in it but i took in to account while reading not only was it set thousands of years ago but Tolkien started writing it in 1937 when unequal class and gender relationships were seen as normal.

It also seems like an elegy in some places, a meditation on loss, on how what has been can never be again whatever the outcome of the journey, which may very well have been the effect of the wars on Tolkien's subconscious although he denies that that's what it was consciously about.

I love that parts of it are so dark, I love the scenes in the mines, just for themselves, their darkness and claustrophobia, but also because they can be seen as metaphors for the darker more frightening parts of who we are.

Tolkien is also often criticised for lack of pacing in his narrative but I thought the juxtaposition of the slowness of the narrative with the urgency of the fellowships journey set up some interesting tension for the reader

I also love some of the gems of wisdom

I wish it need not have happend in my time'said frodo
'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'

He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens

After having read it again it is obvious where the films differ from the book, but I really like that because that's how cultures treat myth cycles, they foreground and mutate the bits that are culturally relevant and background the bits that aren't


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October 2010

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