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Old 05-19-2005, 05:28 PM   #64
A Mere Boggart
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Originally Posted by Bethberry
Why do we reread Tolkien so much? To return to that first experience? Or to see things there we didn't 'see' the first time? One of the paradoxes of reading is that both are probably true, and any explanation of what happens when we enter subcreation has to account for all possible experiences, and not presume one only.
I think the question of why we re-read Tolkien may be at the heart of the loss off enchantment. For me, and no doubt for most other readers, nothing can beat that first read of LotR, the sense of wonder which it fostered. And most of us return again and again, but is each time as good as the first time? It might be pleasurable, but we do not have that sense of wonder in quite the way that we had it the first time. This is akin to the law of diminishing returns - we eat a piece of cake and it was so good we go and get another but though it is just as wonderful we can never get that 'hit' we had the first time.

We reread Tolkien because we are seeking the thrill all over again. For some of us, on a re-read we endeavour to recreate that feeling by immersing oursleves in to the world as deeply as possible, losing ourselves in the words. For some of us, on a re-read we seek to find parallels. Neither is wrong. But what would be wrong would be to read the story in the first place seeking to find answers to those things which are in our own world. Why is that wrong? Because we would simply deny ourselves a lot of pleasure. And I would doubt that we would ever return to the book because we would fail to be enchanted. It wouldn't be morally wrong, or anything like that, but it would be a damn shame, and is the primary reason why I am extremely glad that LotR is not a typical book used for study in schools.

Originally Posted by davem
A secondary world must not be dependent on the primary world in order to make sense. If it requires us to analyse & interpret it in order for it to make sense then the sub creator has failed, & produced an allegory to some degree or other.
This to me explains something of the difference between different types of novel (I won't say fantasy novel, as I think it applies to any novel) - we have those which immediately plunge us into another place/time and those in which we must first travel through a reflection of our own world. In the latter I find that it is much more difficult to get that sense of being lost or enchanted as I find that while reading I am waiting for the characters to come back into the grey real world, and for the spell to be broken. This does not happen in Tolkien's work, it is immediately immersive and needs no plot hook to the primary world.

Tolkien's world, as something utterly different to our own, does not need us to have an understanding of the primary world, which is why it is also not necessary to compare aspects of it to the primary world. It is complete in itself. It also appeals to many people of many cultures, suggesting again that due to its contained nature it does not need to explain itself.
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