Currently Reading is a new feature I plan on including regularly. Of course, nine times out of ten "Currently Re-reading" would be a more accurate title, but I don't think I'll bother with the distinction.
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"Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?"1
Actually, I finished my second full-length read of Lord of the Rings last Friday night, down on the couch with a bad cold. Technically, however, I can still claim to be in the middle of it since I'd like to read the appendices.
I've decided that full appreciation of Lord of the Rings absolutely depends on reading it more than once. It made far more sense on a second trip through; I found myself rooting for minor characters like Beregond this time around, people (and other sentient creatures) whom I barely noticed in the first read because there was so much to keep track of.
It still didn't appeal much to my girly side. I had less sympathy for Eowyn than I did at first, and her shift from Aragorn to Faramir was still too sudden for believability. Galadriel, however, intrigued me more than before, and the Lothlórien scenes--utterly destroyed in the movies--were among my favorites.
Without a lot of female characters and the requisite emotions to empathize with, I had to lean on Sam for that interest. Which leads to the thing I noticed most clearly during this read: that Tolkien flavored his story with much love of the sort shared by, say, David king of Israel and Saul's son Jonathan--as David eulogized his friend,
"I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan ...
Your love to me was more wonderful
Than the love of women."
The passion of Sam for Frodo is a beautiful thing, and I can understand why some interpret it as a sexual relationship: that's the only reference point our culture has for such an emotion. Post-Freud, we tend to think of passionate love as erotic at root. But Sam's love for Frodo, that of Legolas for Gimli, and, for that matter, that of Gimli for Galadriel, is something we could stand to admire without our Freudian blinders. It is also something we could use more of nowadays.
I think I'll make another go of reading The Silmarillion. Last time I tried, I got about two pages in; if I can survive Dante's Inferno, however, I should be able to get through Tolkien's history book.
1 Tolkien, J.R.R., Return of the King (New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group), 246