Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Another LOTR Read-Along: At the Sign of the Prancing Pony (FOTR 1, 9)


Hooray! Back to the parts of the book that I love. And I do love this part -- doesn't Bree sound like a fun place to visit? Especially the Prancing Pony. With Strider lurking in a dark corner. I love him when he's mysterious and shadowy, with his "travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth" and his "high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud" (p. 153). I wish he would just stay all Ranger-y and cryptic, and we could go about having adventures with him. If I had the time, I'd totally read good fanfic about Strider on his pre-LOTR journeys.

(SPOILERS in the next THREE paragraphs)

If you've read this before, or seen the movie, you know who Strider turns out to be: Aragorn, heir to the throne of all Middle-earth. One more instance of Tolkien taking expectations and turning them on their head. Just a dirty, unkempt, dangerous wanderer? Nope, the rightful king. Like Jesus, in a way -- just a poor baby born in a stable? Just a carpenter from Nazareth? Nope. (And yes, Aragorn can be read as Christ-like character, though once again, we need to be careful not to see symbolism where there are only parallels.) Of course, the hobbits don't know this yet.

And here's something fun: do you know what the terms "pantser" and "plotter" mean? A "pantser" is a writer who writes "by the seat of their pants." Only the vaguest of plans for their story, just writing wherever things take them. "Plotters" are writers who plot everything out before they write, do outlines for each story (or each chapter), and know ahead of time where their story is going.

Well, Tolkien was a pantser. Reportedly, when he wrote the first draft, he found this dangerous, mysterious stranger sitting in the corner of the Prancing Pony and tossed him in the story, not realizing he was going to turn out to be Aragorn. I find this hilarious and awesome. And mind-boggling at how much re-writing he must have had to do to have everything weave together so beautifully through a thousand pages, if he pantsed the first draft.

(END OF SPOILERS)

Here we get some longer poetry, too. I like this poem, though, because it's amusing to me to think that the Mother Goose rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon comes from Middle-earth. (Obviously, the Mother Goose rhyme existed long before Tolkien wrote LOTR, but it's fun to pretend.)

Favorite Lines:

"If you want anything, ring the hand-bell, and Nob will come. If he don't come, ring and shout!" (p. 150)

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think the ring meant to slip onto Frodo's finger, or was it an accident?

2. If you're a writer, are you more of a pantser or a plotter?

12 comments:

  1. Strider!! Who doesn't love the mysterious of Strider before we get to know he's Aragorn (though I love all sides of him).
    Good question about the ring - not sure, but I wouldn't put it past the ring to do that. The ring definitely has a mind of its own and likes to shake things up.
    I'm usually more of a plotter. Sometimes I do the pantser side of it but it's hard for me to see the story through if I can't see what lies at the end already. ;)

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    1. Faith, I know, right? He's just so delicious. I really love Strider :-) And his Aragorn side is good too, but I kind of prefer him as Strider.

      The ring is definitely tricksy.

      I'm kind of between plotter and pantser. Like you, I want to know how it ends so I have something to write toward, but I like some surprises along the way too.

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  2. Tolkien was a pantser??? I KNEW IT. That makes so much more sense, now . . .

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    1. Jessica, yup. Really does make a lot of things make sense, esp how meandering The Hobbit is.

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  3. Given the Ring's history, I think it might have intended to slip onto Frodo's finger. It's more or less hinted at that it played a role in Isildur's death, as well as in abandoning Gollum/finding Bilbo. Perhaps it sensed the nearness of the Nine and decided to reveal itself? I would love to pick Tolkien's brain on the extent of the Ring's powers.

    I've wavered back and forth between being a plotter and being a pantster. I absolutely abhor editing the stories I've pantsted, but plotting takes out a bit of the fun for me.

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    1. RM, I think so too.

      I'm a planster -- I have to know the major pieces of the puzzle, and the ending, but I can't know everything. I've tried outlining a whole book, and I never got past writing the first couple chapters because there were no surprised left, so I lost interest.

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  4. Strider!!! I didn't really like his character until recently. Now, he's my second favorite. XD I'm a definite panster. I do not like plotting out my stories. Which is strange, since I like to plot out everything else I do. :-Z I think the Ring definitely meant to slip on Frodo's finger. That poem is awesome! Have you ever listened to Peter Hollen's LotR drinking medley? They sing that song at the end and it is super cool. XD

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    1. MEM, interesting! What's made you like Strider better?

      I have Peter Hollens' LOTR-song album, and I enjoy it so, so much. Including that drinking medley!

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    2. I have that album too! All the songs in it are so cool. XD
      I think it was because when I was younger I liked the character because of their looks; now I like them based their personality, character depth, and morality. :-D Does that make any sense? :-Z

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    3. MEM, definitely makes sense :-) I find I often understand some characters better as I age, too. And looks become less important sometimes.

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  5. I really liked Strider and while I was reading this I was kind of wishing that I hadn't seen the films so that I wasn't 99% sure that he was Aragorn. Wistful thinking, I know, but I really wished I had been totally surprised by this nice turn in the story. I still enjoyed this chapter (and the next three) a lot. So far, they're my favourite part of the story.

    Ah, the Ring. I think it was just an accident but but but, it is also truth that Tolkien delved too much into Frodo's mind to tell us how it all happened for it to be just an accident.

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    1. Irene, I saw the movies before reading the books, and that was so long ago that I no longer remember what my reaction was to the reveal of Strider being more than one stray wanderer. Possibly a tinge of annoyance because I really like him when he's just Strider, shrouded in enigmaticness.

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