There are several different places in this book where I wrote "mind = blown" because the nuances Jane Chance teased out of Tolkien's storytelling were so amazing.
I'm serious. She brought up things I never, ever thought of, and I'm on my seventh reading of The Lord of the Rings.
I'm trying to find words to explain all the wonderful things I learned from this book, and I'm falling so short. I'm going to have to re-read it again and again to really internalize and remember a lot of what I learned, but I'll share a couple of the things I found most interesting.
How about the fact that Denethor and Theoden's names are basically mirror images of each other? Den-e-thor. The-o-den. And that their "leadership styles" are also mirrors -- one is a kind and loving leader who "commands through respect and love," and the other is a "tyrant [who] commands his followers by edict, rule, law" (p. 90). HOW did I never notice this?
Or how about the fact that, while Gollum calls the Ring his "birthday present," it literally is Frodo's birthday present because Bilbo left it to him (along with Bag-End) on their shared birthday? I mean, dude. So amazing. And again, now that I see it, that's so totally obvious, but it's not anything I ever thought of.
My favorite chapter was probably the one at the end, "Heroic Narrative and the Power of Structure." I love studying the structure of myths and epics, also called the "hero's quest," and how they get used over and over in new and interesting ways. I'd previously identified a lot of things in LOTR that draw from the classic myth structure, but I had never before noticed that "[i]n each of the three volumes, Tolkien matches the heroic structure of the initial book to that of the second book" (P. 19). Which means for instance, that in book 1, everyone's at a great gathering at the beginning, Bilbo's party. At the beginning of book 2, they're at the Council of Elrond. In book 1, Frodo and friends go down into the valleys and encounter an ancient being who consumes some of them, Old Man Willow. In book 2, they go down into Moria and encounter an ancient being who drags Gandalf away, the Balrog. And on and on it goes.
Just fascinating stuff that I not only never noticed myself, but that I, as a writer, would never have come up with! My appreciation for Tolkien as a writer and storyteller have grown so much while reading this book.
But this book is probably not for everyone. If you don't enjoy analyzing texts, looking for deeper meanings, and somewhat scholarly pursuits like that, you probably wouldn't enjoy this book. Certainly you can understand The Lord of the Rings without it. But if you're like me and have read the trilogy quite a few times and enjoy peeling away layers to see the wordcraft and deeper meanings below a book's surface, I definitely recommend you try this book.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some discussions of things like violence. No bad language or anything like that.
I wrote this review as part of this year's Tolkien Blog Party. If you haven't yet, check out the blog tag and giveaway and other posts for the party!
This is my eighth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.