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Ron Reed

Lord Of The Rings: Real Tales

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Loren Wilkinson read this passage as part of a course on theatre that we did at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, couple weeks back. I think it has a lot to say about stories, what they do in our lives, and something about finding the stories in our own lives;

"I don't like anything here at all," said Frodo, "step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid."

"Yes, that's so," said Sam. "And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually - their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on - and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same - like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?"

"I wonder," said Frodo. "But I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale. Take any one that you're fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don't know. And you don't want them to."

"No sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that's a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it - and the Silmaril went on and came to Earendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We've got - you've got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales ever end?"

"No, they never end as tales," said Frodo. "But the people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our part will end later - or sooner."

J.R.R. Tolkien

Lord Of The Rings
, Book IV, Chapter 8, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"

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Ah, reading that brings back quite a flood of emotion. I'm so pleased that Peter Jackson managed to get a bit of that into his film. It really does get to the heart and the truth of a story. Tolkien himself had quite a bit more to say about story, as I'm finding in his Letters. He had a fundamental belief that life was ultimately part of a larger Story, and that our attraction to stories (especially of the sort he wrote) was due to this reality. He says it better than I and I highly recommend his Letters.

Ron, you live in Oregon? I'm in Eugene.

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WhyFjord wrote:

: Ah, reading that brings back quite a flood of emotion. I'm so pleased that

: Peter Jackson managed to get a bit of that into his film.

I was actually a bit annoyed by that scene in The Two Towers when I first saw it -- it seemed too self-conscious, as all paeans to heroic tales do when I come across them in heroic tales, and much more so when I learned he had added that scene to the film in re-shoots post-September 11 -- but then someone pointed out to me there was this basis for Sam's speech in Tolkien's book itself, and I didn't know what to say.

: He had a fundamental belief that life was ultimately part of a larger

: Story, and that our attraction to stories (especially of the sort he wrote)

: was due to this reality.

No argument THERE!

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... Tolkien himself had quite a bit more to say about story, as I'm finding in his Letters.

Have you read his essay On Fairy Stories? Has lots on this subject.

Ron, you live in Oregon? I'm in Eugene.

I love Eugene! What a great city.

But no, I live in Vancouver BC. I was recently in Ashland at the Shakespeare Festival, helping with a summer school extension course offered by Regent College. Heaven.

Ron

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