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Old 08-14-2014, 02:12 PM   #1
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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Pipe An early Lord of the Rings fan review

Recently I bought a copy of Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis (Ballantine, 1988), in the hope that it would contain some interesting Inklings anecdotes. I'm not disappointed. The entry for Saturday, 12th November 1949 is the earliest opinion of LR that I've ever seen, and it bears examination because it offers a classic first-time reader's reaction and simultaneously predicts one of the biggest misconceptions that the book generated. I'll let Major Lewis continue.

Quote:
I have just finished in MS. Tollers' sequel to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings. Golly, what a book! The inexhaustible fertility of the man's imagination amazes me. It is a long book, consisting very largely in journeys: yet these never flag for an instant, each is as fresh as the one before, new colours available in profusion, whether the journey be beautiful or terrible. Some of the scenes of horror are unsurpassed, and there is wonderful skill in the way in which the ultimate horror - the Dark Lord of Mordor - is ever present in one's mind, though we never meet him, and know next to nothing about him. The beauty of Lothlorien, and the slightly sinister charm of Fangorn are unforgettable. Frodo's squire, Sam Gamgee and the dwarf Gimli are I think the two best characters. What is rare in a story of this type, is that there is real pathos in it; the relationship between Sam and Frodo in the final stages of their journey moved me greatly. How the public will take the book I can't imagine; I should think T will be wise to prepare himself for many crits. on the lines that "this political satire would gain greatly by compression and the excision of such irrelevant episodes as the journey to Lothlorien". Indeed by accident, a great deal of it can be read topically - the Shire standing for England, Rohan for France, Gondor the Germany of the future, Sauron for Stalin: and Saruman in the "Scouring of the Shire" for our egregious Mr Silkin, the town planner (and destroyer)! But a great book of its kind, and in my opinion ahead of anything Eddison did.
What I find particularly interesting about Major Lewis' comments are the allegorical equivalences that he saw from the standpoint of 1949. Who nowadays would imagine Gondor to stand for Germany or Rohan for France? I've certainly never seen those suggestions made before, although Stalin as Sauron may have done the rounds at some point. I find it fascinating that someone was considering this question before The Fellowship of the Ring had even gone to print, and seeing it for the red herring it undoubtedly is. It's also reassuring after so many years of reading discussion forum posts about Tolkien that naming favourite characters has been a part of the Tolkien experience since the beginning.
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Last edited by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh; 08-15-2014 at 06:21 AM. Reason: Grammar (hem, hem)
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