“I wish it need not have happened 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.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I said my next post would be about bacon. And it was. But it’s not finished yet, so it’s sitting around in “private” status, still being tweaked and fussed about. Fear not, it will appear, eventually.
Some of you will agree that Tolkien is almost as good as bacon, though, won’t you? I gave you a nice inspirational quote from none other than Gandalf, didn’t I? Well, if not, humor me and read on.
The reason I’m writing about Tolkien (and not bacon) is that I happened upon a really good post about blogging. If you blog, you’ve probably read several of these types of posts: tips for being a better blogger, ways to “monetize” your blog (i.e., put ads in it), etc. Most of these are earnest and undoubtedly correct. But until now, none of them particularly inspired me.
Whenever I happen to mention that I have a blog, (which happens incredibly infrequently because I’m super-crappy at promoting my blog) people sometimes give me similar kinds of tips. This is especially true if they are themselves bloggers. One of the most common “tips” has to do with the title or headline of your blog posts. You’re supposed to use catchy/trendy phrases or name people/things/events that will come up readily in search engines. You’re supposed to keep them short. You’re supposed to make lists or use provocative-sounding phrases. All of these things will grab readers’ attention. Apparently internet-scanners have the attention span of a fruit fly, and we. must. capture. this!
Until now, I pretty much threw that advice out the window. Other than the recurring “How to be Happy:” theme or the “Why…” titles, I generally title my posts willy-nilly. I’m not trying to make a living with this – it’s honestly just for fun at this point. I didn’t want to look like I was Selling Out To The Man. But hats off to People I Want to Punch in the Throat for making me laugh frequently in her blog. I’m willing to try something new, so I did come up with a Top-Five-type list. Whether this particular topic lends itself to a top-five-type list remains to be seen. You be the judge.
We also need a teeny tiny bit of backstory here. I don’t want to just launch into a list; it seems ill-mannered. The Curious One really likes being read to at night, and I really like reading to him. We tackled The Hobbit some time ago, and he wanted to move on to the rest of my impressive 1980’s boxed set (see fuzzy picture below):
When I was a kid, I got through the first two books and fizzled out somewhere in the first third of The Return of the King. There’s a dog-eared page as a permanent remnant of my failure as a reader of Tolkien. But that all changed when we started the bedtime reading schtick. Now, I will be certain to finish the whole set (unless The Curious One fizzles as well).
So, this is a really great thing. Completely win/win. It’s a series of moments filled with things that are important to me: being with my kid, having alone time and being really “there” in that time, reading, etc. However, this particular selection of bedtime reading material is not without its challenges.
Caveat: Please, please, Tolkien-lovers and afficionados, don’t flame! I love Tolkien too! That’s why I tackled the boxed set! This is a happiness blog, for cryin’ out loud. We have no haters here. I think Tolkien is a genius, and I want my kid to know his work, and I could only hope to write 1/1,000,000th as well, ever. Having said that, one must choose bedtime reading carefully.
Now, without further ado:
FIVE REASONS WHY TOLKIEN MAKES FOR TROUBLESOME BEDTIME READING:
1) Unless you are British, you sound sort of stupid reading it. Or at least I do. I keep lapsing into my horrific Brit accent, because saying things like “ere long” and “we shall make merry” and “O! Lo beyond the hills” just doesn’t work with my flat Midwestern accent. (“What accent?!” I hear my fellow Michiganders declaim.) However, my listener does not appreciate my Gong-Show-quality abilities, and protests. So, I’m stuck listening to myself sounding pretty foolish. But hey, it’s for the children!
2) J.R.R. is constantly describing directions, weather –particularly mists–, and foliage. Most of these phrases are descriptive and lovely. You can really see the scene as you read (e.g., “The mist was flowing past him in shreds and tatters . . . faint stars were appearing overhead amid the strands of hurrying cloud and fog. The wind began to hiss over the grass.” (p. 193 of my copy of Fellowship). That’s not even one of the best ones; it’s just an example I could find quickly. This is amazing stuff. But some of it leaves me bewildered, and it’s late. Did I mention it’s bedtime? Sometimes I get through a particularly lengthy passage and The Curious One says fuzzily, “Mwhah-huh? Uh, what were you saying? I fell asleep.” No, I’m NOT reading all THAT again. But don’t worry, we’ll wax poetic about the leaves or the directions (or the mist, or the sunlight, or the drops of dew) again soon enough.
3) Odd names make my child giggle uncontrollably, thereby shaking bed and interrupting my “flow”. I’ll admit it: sometimes I get into the Zone while reading to The Curious One. I start reading really well, like those people who do the books on tape. I have different inflections for different people’s dialogue,. I’m pacing dramatically. And then…I have to read “Oin, Gloin, Ori, Dori, and Nori” or ” Fatty Lumpkin” or “O! Ho, Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!” and he loses it. He’s giggling and bouncing around and wiping his eyes. I’m trying to focus on the tiny font and faded pages, and my really excellent elocution, and completely losing my mojo in the process. Sigh. Thanks, J. R. R. (Secretly, though, I love watching my kid crack up, and I know it’s a special moment that shall someday not happen, etc., etc. So maybe this isn’t so troublesome, after all.)
4) Some truly creepy characters are inexplicably glossed over. Warning: potential spoiler alert, if you’ve not read Fellowship. Here’s an example: Barrow-wights? Frodo & co. stumble around in the Barrows (though they were expressly told NOT to, might I add) and then somehow wake up in white robes, covered in gold, half-zombified. What the–? And some haunted, eerie personage called a “barrow-wight” has apparently put them there. Okay, this is getting good. It’s not just directions and hilltops and flora and the River Withywindle. This is ACTION! But pretty much all we get to hear about (at this juncture, anyhow) is some kind of screeching and a clawlike hand scrabbling about. Really?! I have about 30-45 unanswered questions here. But, for now, at least, they’re rescued (by none other than our good pal Tom Bombadil) and they’re frolicking naked (yep) and eating (of course) in a meadow. Hmmph. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes less is more. I’m not looking for Saw, here. But just give me a little more on this scary guy!
5) Too many songs. Yeah, yeah. Don’t start flaming, here. I know you love the dwarf-songs of yore as much as the rest of ’em. I’m just saying, remember I have no British accent, and no music is provided. So if I start reading the songs, I’m pretty much just chanting along. Songs are meant to be sung, not read. Sometimes the songs repeat stanzas/verses/whatever, as songs are wont to do. The Curious One holds no truck with this. “Skip the songs!” quoth he. So, unless it’s really short, or seems like it’s important to the story (like when Bilbo and/or Frodo mysteriously break into song/poetry and then are perplexed about why they’ve done so), I do as he asks. Which takes away a good chunk of the beginning of The Hobbit, anyhow.
And there you have it. If you can get past these challenges, you too can delve into Middle Earth and all the adventures therein. The Curious One and I are still game, and we’ll see if we ever hear from those pesky barrow-wights again…