5 May 2015
On the Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
Dear Friends and Family,
I just finished my annual reread of The Lord of the Rings, and I was struck by something I’ve never noticed before. In the penultimate chapter, ‘The Scouring of the Shire’, we meet Sam’s sweetheart, Rosie Cotton. The film version of sweet Rosie introduces her to us at the beginning, making her a barmaid at The Green Dragon Inn, perhaps even landlady the way she sees all the customers out. Book Rosie is certainly different. We don’t learn about her existence until The Return of the King, she certainly isn’t a barmaid or landlady, or at least we’re given no indication that she is. All we really know about her is that Sam seems to have loved her for some time and she is one of the many…
The sense of grief that pervades Tolkien’s writing is probably its greatest quality. There are a couple different facets to this, though. One is a genuine sense of sorrow. Much of Tolkien’s writing deals with themes of exile, loss and death, and these situations evoke genuine grief. Love is lost, life is lost, and home is lost. These things stain the land – the land itself is, in a sense, grieved.
Another facet, one that Lewis wrote on frequently, is longing – for Tolkien, the longing for Eden. Even though the world is a place of sorrow and grief, love and beauty still lurk. Then land which aches with the grief of war, exile and death also longs for the restoration of Eden and even the surpassing of Eden, when, to paraphrase the prophecy of Turin, all the wrongs, all the griefs, all the hurts of mankind are redressed and…
Writing quality historical fiction is challenging. This is especially true if one wishes to avoid the common crutch that a talented writer of the last century first labeled “gadzookery.”
And just what is this faux pas we should avoid when writing about the past? Well, it relates most directly to the dialog placed on the lips of historical figures. The offensive technique involves the overuse of archaic expressions or phrases. (Some would argue it includes any use of any archaisms.)
If the word gadzookery sounds a tad, how shall I put it, “goofy” to you, you may prefer using another word that means the same thing: “tushery.” Tushery was coined by Robert Louis Stevenson. Way back in the nineteenth century.
Gadzookery is a newer version, insulting the same lazy writing technique. I believe it may have been coined by Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992). Sutcliff’s historical influence has exerted a literary influence…
This month LHP is highlighting some of our readers’ favorite previous posts from our authors. We hope you enjoy them!
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a picture of Susan that ISN’T Anna Popplewell?
When we think of The Chronicles of Narnia, Susan is not, perhaps, the first character that comes to mind. She is robust and relatively well developed, but she also seems to be more of a supporting character. After all, it is Lucy who leads the children into Narnia and seems to form the strongest bond with Aslan. Edmund is the traitor redeemed, and Peter becomes the High King. Susan’s most unique aspect is also one of the most controversial points of The Chronicles: She is the only one of the four Pevensie children to fall away and not make it into Aslan’s country at the end of The…
There is a detailed entry on “children’s literature” in the Brittanica Library (Ex Encyclopedia Brittanica?). Of UK children’s literature it claims:
The English have often confessed a certain reluctance to say good-bye to childhood. This curious national trait, baffling to their continental neighbours, may lie at the root of their supremacy in children’s literature. Yet it remains a mystery. But, if it cannot be accounted for, it can be summed up.
It also argues that:
In two fields … English post-war children’s literature set new records. These were the historical novel and that cloudy area comprising fantasy, freshly wrought myth, and indeed any fiction not rooted in the here and now.
Of Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction:
There was fair reason to consider Rosemary Sutcliff not only the finest writer of historical fiction for children but quite unconditionally among the best historical novelists using English. A sound scholar and beautiful stylist, she made few concessions to…
It seems fitting that I finally posted my post of the first Hobbit movie on the Professor’s birthday. According to my calculations, this is his one hundred and twenty-fourth birthday. And still timeless in our minds and hearts.
If you catch this post tonight, pop on over to the Live Birthday Toast Celebration hosted by Dr. Corey Olsen, The Tolkien Professor, and his friends. It’s a video stream of them chatting entertainingly about Tolkien, his books, and the films, accompanied by a chat window for average viewers like us. Even if you can’t stay for the whole thing, you can pop in and out with ease. Highly recommended.
This is hardly the sort of thing you all deserve after waiting so long without much activity from me, but I bow to the request of a friend. I mentioned in passing to Jubilare that I’ve done more silly doodling than serious writing in the past months, and she suggested that something silly might do her good. Perhaps it might do me some good, too. You yourself, of course, are invited to enjoy or skip this entirely as you please.
Keep in mind that my only formal artistic training is an elective basic drawing class I took in my senior year at college. It required that I buy fancy pens and pencils, and special paper and ink, and officially-recommended erasers. I spent hours observing, measuring, trying to get all the darn lines and shadows right. For my final project I copied a frame from Casablancareasonably well (my Ingrid Bergman actually looked kind of like the real one, but I couldn’t master her cute nose), and also pulled off a self-portrait that looks significantly cooler than I ever have in real life. In short, I vastly exceeded my own expectations with some of my final artwork and got a B+ in the class.
The results of that class are not featured below. Rather, the below doodles were done with any common pen or crayon I had, and for no other artistic reason other than I was bored and wanted to amuse myself or someone nearby. I am not a very good drawer, but sometimes I do succeed to amuse.
The one below was doodled at an Italian restaurant on my mom’s birthday. I had my niece and nephews sitting around me at the table. It’s one of those restaurants where they have white paper for placemats and they leave crayons next to the salt and pepper whenever your party has kids in it. So to keep busy while we waited for our food to arrive, we doodled, did wordsearches, and played games of tic-tac-toe and hangman. Then I showed my nephew Aaron, age 8, a huge blank space and asked him what I should draw there. “Something AWESOME,” he said. “Okay,” I replied.
The next one is part of a letter I sent to one of my friends earlier this year. He hadn’t been feeling well, so I sent him some George MacDonald and Rosemary Sutcliff to read. There wasn’t much to say, letter-wise, since he already knew the books were coming, but I couldn’t just let a piece of paper stay blankand all, so…
They’re not all that crazy, actually. Sometimes when I’m particularly bored at work, with nothing else to do, I grab some scratch paper and let a pen wander on it. Sometimes story notes come out. Sometimes I try to draw Gandalf and a grumpy dwarf emerges instead.
One day I remembered how much I loved drawing those scribble-tornadoes that I’d learned to do in elementary school.
And then a bit more recently I got sorta contemplative and wanted to see if I could actually draw a simple, but reasonably evocative setting. I tried to stick with shapes I thought I could handle and just…doodled. So here it is. I kinda like it. Aaron told me it was “amazing.” He says that about a lot of my doodles.
I know this is all hardly a replacement for a post of real, thoughtful substance about fiction, but if it cheers someone up, then it’s hardly a waste. God bless all of you. Hope to write again soon.