Right now, however, I'm working my way through a permanent favorite: The Lord of the Rings. I came home one day to Lance watching the films, which reminded me that I hadn't read the books in a year or two. So I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring and was quickly reminded of how wonderful a storyteller Tolkien really is. I could go on and on about why I love these books (including having done research on them**--nothing like immersing yourself in a topic to solidify your feelings about it!), but I'll just list a few reasons:
- In his essay "On Fairy-Stories," Tolkien argues that the mark of a good story is its ability to pull you--and keep you--into a Secondary World. His own fiction does just that: while I'm reading The Lord of the Rings, I'm in Middle-earth, walking with the hobbits. Enchantment, pure and simple.
- Tolkien is painstaking with his attention to detail: dates, moon-phases, maps, geography, etc. It really enriches the story and makes it into something believable. Even his made up languages sound possible, not...well, made up. Most fantasy books fail in this regard because the names and vocabularies aren't rooted or consistent.
- The structure: but only because I wrote my thesis on the that, so I really pay attention to how the story is set up, and I marvel at how simple--and yet complex--it really is.
- Tolkien plays around a lot with different ways of being a hero. The hobbits don't look heroic, yet they are the ones who can best resist the temptations of the One Ring. Boromir looks every inch the hero, yet he is seduced by the promise of power. Aragorn is far more than he appears, as the story reveals. All that is gold does not glitter...
*Yes, I know I should be doing thesis reading. But I've been working on it and talking to people! So ha!
**My Honors senior thesis. I really wish I had spent more time on it--which I may still.