At last! Day 5. A present that a person might be glad to receive.
OK, five may seem a touch excessive. But this True Love is not a person of moderation, as all the fowl he has already bestowed upon his beloved bear witness.
But she doesn’t have to grit her teeth to thank him for these. She can show her appreciation by painting her nails to tone in with his gift.
DAY 5 BOOK
It has to be The Lord of the Rings.
I know that true Tolkien fans will already be writhing* at this. But I did say these books would have associative rather than literal links to the rhyme, right from the start.
So brace up, Elven Folk.
The Lord of the Rings is an epic. By the time it was published, JRR Tolkien, who wrote it, was a distinguished Oxford don who taught the origin of the English language, unto the third and fourth generation out of the past, and was steeped in Anglo Saxon poetry, Norse legends, mythology and Greek myths. But he had been building Middle Earth all his life.
According to John Garth, who wrote the illuminating Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien began the first Middle Earth story in hospital after the Battle of the Somme. “He turned Middle-earth into an arena of perpetual conflict between good and evil – the kind of materialism that was killing so many men of his generation on either side,” wrote Garth.
But above all, the book is filled with wonderful characters. Flawed and often bewildered, they have to take — and sometimes change — sides in the epic conflict as the Dark Lord seeks the One Ring of Power and the Allies unite to help the homely Hobbit Ringbearer to destroy it, and so free the world from terror and darkness.
The films may have made it famous but it was an international best seller thirty years before Hollywood took a hand.
I loved it so much that when I went abroad for the best part of a year, I gave my then boyfriend his own set. He was dubious about elves and wizards and had steered well clear of sorcery stuff in his reading, as he pointed out.
His first letter told me he’d seen the light. He was hooked inside two days. By the time I got back he was reading it from the beginning for the second time.
People all round the world go to Lord of the Rings conventions, identifying with the characters like Galadriel and Elrond in the picture above. That’s love.
And, alone of all the books on this list, it got its own set of UK commemorative stamps! This one shows the approach to Rivendell, the Last Friendly House before the perilous journey begins.
WHY READ THE DAY 5 BOOK?
The Lord of the Rings has everything. Ethnic issues in the uneasy relationship between hobbits, men, elves and dwarves, that have to be constantly renegotiated. Huge challenges which only some of the characters are equal to and never easily. The highest stakes. Temptation. Betrayal. Pride. Kindness. Heroism. Friendship. Redemption. An elegiac sense of loss that haunts every parting.
Even a love story or two. Oh, Faramir and Eowyn! Both rejected, both equally heroic, hopeless and alone in their grief. The love story is there and gone in a few pages but oh, it echoes.
Above all, it’s an absolutely edge-of-your-seat roller coaster of a cracking read. Along with myths and legends, Tolkien loved Rider Haggard who wrote some of the best man-against-insuperable odds adventure. The Lord of the Rings is a textbook page turner.
True fans will know from Tolkien’s rhyme about the rings of power that there’s a countdown in odd numbers from 9 to 1. Except for 5. That’s 9 for Mortal Men, 7 for the Dwarf Lords, 3 for the Elven Kings and then the big 1, which the hobbits (just) manage to destroy in the fires of Mount Doom.
That’s no, repeat NO, 5. Someone should write a sequel about it.
I found the trilogy in New York and took it with me to Entebbe where we stayed for a week – no one wanted to be on that trip, as there was nothing to do in Entebbe. So I read. And I loved it. When I came home, I went to WH Smith’s and found The Hobbit, so I read it backwards. I admit to being rather resentful when the films were announced, and only saw the first, dragged along by a child. I prefer my own images. I did love it on the radio, though.
Actually, I loved the radio version, too, Lesley. I’d forgotten that. At a horrible time in my own life, i used to do the ironing while it was on and have a moment of kindness and peace. Thank you for reminding me.
Have to confess I have never read it. I did read (or flick through) Hobbit under some kind of compulsion which I can’t remember, and didn’t like it much. So never made the plunge. But your enthusiasm is infectious and I might just have a little go at it.
I didn’t fall in love with it when I first started it, Liz. A really great English teacher gave it to me at just the wrong time. 6 months later I devoured it. (And have been writing fanfic around its edges ever since, in my head, I admit.) Though some bits, like poetry, are just so marvellous, they are little jewels, illuminating and perfect.
And it’s terrifically exciting. Real edge of the seat stuff. I was so pleased to find Tolkien enjoyed Rider Haggard. It shows in all the right places.
The trilogy was immensely popular when I was in the sixth form, but I refused to read it because of that very fact. I didn’t get to read it until after I’d seeing the first film and wished I’d done so earlier. I even found a fan website to talk to others about it. One of my regrets with the films is that they made Frodo’s character a bit of a whining wimp when he was a truly tortured hero in the book.
I’ve seen a couple of the films and I suppose I agree with you about Frodo, Francesca. On the other hand, Ian Holm as Bilbo was so exactly right as was Sean Bean as Boromir, that I kind of nodded it through, I suppose.