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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Whither the Reading Room?
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Jan 24 2017, 4:54am

Post #1 of 45 (2018 views)
Whither the Reading Room? Can't Post

I've been waiting for Elizabeth to post this question, because she's done so in the past, but decided to bring it up now.

We've read through the LOTR (thanks to all who led chapters and to all who participated with comments--praise you with great praise!). Prior to that we did the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Children of Hurin. And of course before that we did The Hobbit since the movies were coming out. And before that--LOTR.

What would people like to do next? I have a few ideas of recurring features we could have (meaning not read-throughs, but activities related to the books), but I'd like to first ask what others would like to see and do and participate in without prejudicing you with my ideas. Please let us know your thoughts, as now is the time to brain storm. (I would have mimicked Denethor and said, "Speak and be not silent!" but it's hard to quote him without seeming rude.)

Superuser / Moderator

Jan 24 2017, 4:57am

Post #2 of 45 (1910 views)
Have we ever had a good look at the poems/songs in LOTR? [In reply to] Can't Post

Would that interest anyone?

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories


Jan 24 2017, 7:32pm

Post #3 of 45 (1877 views)
Favorite "subject-we-decide" [In reply to] Can't Post

We might choose a theme, something like:

  • Favorite poem/song (per Ataahua)

  • Favorite battle

  • Favorite character

  • Favorite location

  • Favorite relationship

  • other way-better-ideas

  • This would be different from a lot of common posts, like "Who's your favorite Elf?", where we get different opinions from different people, with possible follow-up comments but no real structure.

    I'm thinking first we'd get consensus on what theme we want to discuss. Then from all of Tolkien's works (Hobbit/LOTR/COH/Sil/etc), people volunteer to lead a conversation regarding the "instance" they want to discuss in detail. We then organize a timeline so before starting any discussions, we have roadmap of what will be discussed when (each taking a week, or some a week and others two weeks, or whatever).

    So if we chose a "battles" theme, somebody might like the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, another preferring Helm's Deep, while another selecting the Kinslayings. We could discuss each in turn, in depth and without the context of a "Read-Through".

    A "relationships" theme might vary from meta-ideas like the issues between the Valar and the Eldar, to something more familial like Boromir/Faramir, or bff's Túrin and Beleg.

    For poems/songs, one week we could talk in depth about Aragorn not glittering but golden, another week might include any of Bombadil's ditties, or an epic like Beren and Lúthien.

    If we did something like this, hopefully we could identify upfront a "theme" that would garner interest and enthusiasm. I expect we've been a bit spoiled the last 2 years by having the structure of a sequential LOTR read-thru, and we likely need a bit of thought to get something that will be interesting enough to maintain momentum. Even the last COH read-thru seemed to peter out a bit.

    Once we've got a theme, then we get input on specific "instances" that could be separate discussions. And then a different leader volunteers for each different "instance" discussion, along with a timeline of when each "instance" will be discussed. And once the timeline is fixed, we then are ready to launch.

    I'm curious to see what Curious has in mind!

    (This post was edited by enanito on Jan 24 2017, 7:37pm)


    Jan 24 2017, 7:49pm

    Post #4 of 45 (1859 views)
    Discussion on Tolkiens pictures, from pictures by Tolkien book? [In reply to] Can't Post


    Don't know if a readthrough would be the way, but as a non-english, there's probably a lot of new interesting stuff I could learn from a look at the Adventures of Tom Bombadill material.

    Another thought is a look at select letters from the book of Tolkiens letters.

    Problem with all three suggestion beeing, not that many might have access to the books.

    Superuser / Moderator

    Jan 25 2017, 2:14am

    Post #5 of 45 (1832 views)
    I second this proposal. [In reply to] Can't Post

    It's much more comprehensive than mine. :)

    Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
    Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
    Men: "Pretty rings..."
    Sauron: "Mine's better."

    "Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

    Ataahua's stories

    (This post was edited by Ataahua on Jan 25 2017, 2:15am)

    The Shire

    Jan 25 2017, 5:38pm

    Post #6 of 45 (1790 views)
    Perhaps a critique of criticism? [In reply to] Can't Post

    I'm ashamed to admit I tend to just lurk in the reading room, when I need a whiff of wit or wisdom to dispel the funk exuded by trolls who frequent the greater part of the Tubular Interwebs. Feel free to ignore my intrusion into this discussion.

    When like a young ent I was quick and curious I read A LOT of literary criticism, especially books and articles concerning JRRT. I worked and studied in an academic library where such things were literally left lying around. Now I've gone a bit treeish and am content to sit and do nothing but stare quietly at my collection of scholarly tomes.

    Perhaps the Reading Room could select a book or essay by Flieger or Shippey, etc. and assess its merits or shortcomings.

    Access to the material may be tricky, but perhaps something freely available on the Web would make it easy for everyone to participate. I have found the works of Tolkien scholars both entertaining and enlightening. There's my two cents.

    p.s. For those keeping score my avatar is actually me, although right now my beard is much shorter, but my hair has grown very long indeed. I have morphed from a fair looking dwarf to the ugliest elf ever to blight midgard.

    I am Khim akin to Mim.

    (This post was edited by Khim on Jan 25 2017, 5:52pm)


    Jan 25 2017, 6:09pm

    Post #7 of 45 (1782 views)
    Lurking is just fine [In reply to] Can't Post

    And it's fine to de-lurk and then lurk again. The RR is like The Shire that way--we don't have too many rules, just want to enjoy each other like we're in The Green Dragon, and people have different amounts they want to contribute.

    My only counter to that is that people shouldn't feel intimidated to post in the RR--that has come up over the years, where English isn't someone's first language, or they haven't read all the HOME books and don't feel like they know enough, etc. So what! Post your thoughts and questions, and 99% of us won't make you feel stupid, we're happy to engage, and you won't find better odds anywhere else. As Maciliel used to say, "All you need is a book and an opinion."

    RE: literary criticism per se (and also Tolkien's Letters): all these ideas are fair game. We actually have done both in the past, with an in-depth look at one of Tolkien's letters to his publisher which was really a mini-essay about his works, and which also appears in some versions of The Sil. And we discussed a book about Tolkien, which I now forget, mainly because I wasn't able to participate that much due to work pressures and also it wasn't my cup of tea, but others had a lively discussion, so I'm all for it.


    Jan 25 2017, 6:12pm

    Post #8 of 45 (1780 views)
    I miss the amateur symposiums! [In reply to] Can't Post

    but they were a lot of work.

    Not all those who wander are lost


    Jan 25 2017, 6:25pm

    Post #9 of 45 (1778 views)
    Well [In reply to] Can't Post

    I'd like to discuss all his poems, not just the ones in The Hobbit/LOTR. I really think Tolkien is a much better poet than most give him credit for and I'd like to delve into that. Access to the poems (For example The Lonely Island, The Sea-Bell, Shadow-Bride, The Hoard, Mythopoeia, and, my favorite, The Cat) could be problematic.

    “Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
    "Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
    "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
    "Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
    "But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!”
    "Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
    "No way!"
    "Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"

    -Zack Snyder's The Return of the King


    Jan 25 2017, 6:27pm

    Post #10 of 45 (1771 views)
    I miss them too, but the organizers aren't as active here as they used to be. And they were a lot of work. :( // [In reply to] Can't Post



    Jan 25 2017, 6:32pm

    Post #11 of 45 (1766 views)
    I think these are good ideas, and if people needed access to the books, they could find them somehow. [In reply to] Can't Post

    Though both TORN and I are sticklers about copyright, so we wouldn't have posts to pirated copies. However, excerpts are legal, and they abound on the Internet.


    Jan 25 2017, 6:43pm

    Post #12 of 45 (1772 views)
    "All of them at once!" [In reply to] Can't Post

    I love that line from Bilbo in The Hobbit.

    Since Enanito has laid down the gauntlet on my thoughts, I must of course answer. Wiz and I did some brainstorming last fall on this topic. I'll break it up into a couple of posts to avoid the TL;DNR syndrome:

    1. Games--The LOTR movie forum has kept busy with a game invented by Blackfox on captioning screen stills. Interestingly, before it was a game, it was "Screenshot of the Day" with a few questions, but participation was low. When it became a game, more people joined in--the only prize is to pick the next still, but everyone likes games.

    I'm bad at thinking up games, but I thought of: "Who said it?" Such as "Comfort me not with wizards." --Answer: Denethor. I think that could be a game where one person starts it, another answers and then supplies a quote of their own, etc. We would need some rules to rule out silly things, like "Who said "hello"?", but we could make it more challenging with less known quotes, and a plea to NOT google it, or what's the point. Or maybe we allow googling, but someone adds another wrinkle.

    2. We currently have a semi-game which Wiz started a couple years ago, "What's your favorite Tolkien quote, and why do you like it?" We do that every month or so, but haven't done it during the LOTR read-through since it seemed like duplication. No one has just one!

    Then another thought was "People, Places, and Things," where one week per month we'd discuss a person, the next week a place, and then a "thing" like a palantir or Sting or Ring or whatever.


    Jan 25 2017, 6:49pm

    Post #13 of 45 (1769 views)
    Character studies/comparisons, and what-if scenarios [In reply to] Can't Post

    1. Thoughts on characters were these:

    I was thinking of a loose set of questions that could go with each character, adapted as needed. For example:
    1. What was his role in and contribution to the story? Could someone else have played those roles? More specifically, could Merry or Pippin have gotten him to Mt Doom? Would they have been better at it? Could Frodo have gone solo?
    2. How does Tolkien use Sam to tell us about Middle-earth and hobbits? (I need better wording for this question, but the answer I'm aiming for is Sam's quotes of the Gaffer and his own love of cooking tell us a lot about hobbits, and his view of the dead Southron soldier and oliphaunt tells us more about ME.)
    3. Sam is a servant who never seems to question his lower social status that is his by inheritance. Compare him to other people of lower status in LOTR (Beregond, Ioreth, Hama, Haldir): do they have the same obedient, deferential, willing-to-serve outlook as Sam? Doesn't anyone in Middle-earth (besides Aragorn) want to rise up through the ranks? (This would be a non-standard question. I'm thinking of these as being like chapter discussions, just picking people instead.)

    To which Wiz added:
    (from a web page of suggestions for book groups):

    Describe the main characters—personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities.
    • Why do characters do what they do?
    • Are their actions justified?
    • Describe the dynamics between characters (in a marriage, family, or friendship).
    • How has the past shaped their lives?
    • Do you admire or disapprove of them?
    • Do they remind you of people you know?

    I think that list misses some important ones for me:
    - what is the character like? Why do we think they are like that (what incidents, dialogue or description are used to draw them for us?)
    - does this character change during the story? If so what causes this?
    - what key decisions does this character make? What do those decisions show us about the character?
    - "this character is the real hero of the story because..." (can be done straightforwardly for some characters, such as Sam; could be done a bit tongue-in-cheek for character such as Saruman, whose contributions to Sauron's downfall are significant but accidental).

    2. What-ifs: (Wiz:) The other thing I noticed worked quite well recently was what happened when I mused about the results of Frodo deciding to head West rather than East (would there have been a Council of Cirdan, and then a boat trip to Gondor?). Such questions can only be answered so far by analysis, of course, because had Tolkien decided upon an alternative plot he'd probably have invented new characters, places and situations - something we can't examine by text analysis. Beyond a certain extent, the only approach is fan fiction! But we could discuss whether a particular incident or decision was important: does a lot of the action later rely upon it happening? Did the characters have a viable alternative that was not considered? Do Tolkien's choices have an interesting meaning (e.g. squire's idea that a nautical tale would tend to be hero versus the sea, rather than hero versus himself and/or others).

    The Shire

    Jan 25 2017, 11:14pm

    Post #14 of 45 (1752 views)
    Tolkien Studies [In reply to] Can't Post

    I've heard it said that the best beer is free beer, of course like beauty that is in the eye of the beer holder. Alas, I don't have the entirety of the Tolkien Studies series, but Vol.1 is free: http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/9448, so it is perhaps best to start there.

    Although not my first choice for a topic the essay on "Frodo's Batman" might provide food for thought to the Reading Room, and I encourage everyone to investigate the other essays as examples of Tolkien exotica.

    If this is too esoteric, I embrace Tolkien's poetry as another focus for informed discussion. I just read "The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun," and I've been considering rereading "The Lays of Beleriand" for a while. All I need is time and/or an excuse.

    I am Khim akin to Mim.


    Jan 25 2017, 11:28pm

    Post #15 of 45 (1744 views)
    I love the Lays of Beleriand. [In reply to] Can't Post

    There's your excuse. Wink

    They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107

    The Shire

    Jan 26 2017, 12:11am

    Post #16 of 45 (1740 views)
    Mom Logic! [In reply to] Can't Post

    That sounds like mom logic, "I'm cold, so put on your sweater." I love the Lays so get on it. But it works for me. I'm currently reading three things, when I finish The Lays it is.

    I am Khim akin to Mim.


    Jan 26 2017, 6:23pm

    Post #17 of 45 (1688 views)
    Another vote for the poems [In reply to] Can't Post

    I would enjoy that. Take one poem/song at a time and give it the detailed discussion we've done for chapters.


    Jan 26 2017, 6:25pm

    Post #18 of 45 (1686 views)
    Locations could work well [In reply to] Can't Post

    I like the locations idea, that sounds like a fun approach! Could see us looking at art, finding real-life inspirations, and we're almost certain to start discussing landscape as a character in the story, which just seems right for Tolkien. Concerned battles would all be too similar since they just advance the plot from A to B but then I'm not a battle person at all.Crazy


    Jan 26 2017, 6:27pm

    Post #19 of 45 (1686 views)
    Oooh like! [In reply to] Can't Post

    The character study idea sounds great! Lots of fodder for interesting discussions there. I think this would be very enjoyable and could keep us going for ages.

    One thing is, it would take (or could take, I suppose it doesn't have to) lots more research on the part of the discussion leader to set up the first post, because of going through more of the book each time. Though again, that depends on which character. There's a lot more material for Gandalf than for Radagast. Maybe I will work up my nerve to volunteer by picking the puzzled fox, one simple mention :)


    Jan 26 2017, 6:38pm

    Post #20 of 45 (1680 views)
    Games - could What If become a humourous game? [In reply to] Can't Post

    First poster poses the What If and the others spin out a shaggy-dog story, one line at a time. Example:

    What if Sauron drafted the neekerbreekers into his fell army? //
    They would refuse to work with nasty-tasting orcs. /
    Sauron would be forced to change the orc diet to strawberries and honey.//
    Overcome with sweetness, orcs would start collapsing from sugar shock.
    Orcs littered Shelob's tunnel and she was forced to go roaming for a new home.//
    Great Smials! /
    Tooks feed Shelob honey-fed neekerbreekers until *she* collapses in shock/
    Even the smallest can change the course of the world!//

    What if Sam's apple didn't miss Bill Ferney? /
    It went up his nose and grew into a tree//
    Treebeard mistakes Bill for his missing Entwife...//

    I'm being silly, but your quote identification game sounds like fun too.


    Jan 26 2017, 7:02pm

    Post #21 of 45 (1704 views)
    A thematic discussion [In reply to] Can't Post

    could go two ways: everyone brings their own theme to the party by volunteering for a given week; or as proposed above, the group picks a more general theme and everyone picks an example within that theme.

    I think either would work well in terms of giving each poster the freedom to lead a discussion that most appeals to him or her.

    Our last "My favorite theme" discussion was in 2006-07 and has been lost to the sands of server time. Looking over the list, any number of them could become a group-picked theme (see below) as well. Then the Amateur Symposia were really quite similar, in that everyone volunteered a topic they wanted to present for discussion. They of course could be revived under their own name (Number 4 is next), though perhaps without the elegant formalities in order to ease the work of organizing the discussion schedule.

    For the Group Theme idea, Enanito has already thrown out some really promising ones:
    Favorite poem/song
    Favorite battle
    Favorite character
    Favorite location
    Favorite relationship
    Other possible group themes that come quickly to mind:
    llustrations, or scenes that have been illustrated by multiple artists
    Descriptive passages
    Dialogue passages
    Uses of a particular vocabulary word or word group
    Uses of metaphor or other literary devices
    Parallels to real life history
    Parallels to other works of literature
    Magic and enchantment
    Uses of humor
    Speaking of which, I love games on this site, but I would not want to see a running game or game scheme replace the concept of congenial discussion of Tolkien's works as the primary organized posting activity in the Reading Room. With all respect, the LotR Movie board is lacking in interest for me these days exactly because it is 99% the funny caption game.

    squire online:
    RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
    Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
    Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
    Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

    = Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


    Jan 27 2017, 7:49pm

    Post #22 of 45 (1633 views)
    Possible review of The Road to Middle Earth and/or Splintered Light [In reply to] Can't Post



    Jan 28 2017, 12:32am

    Post #23 of 45 (1607 views)
    Where? [In reply to] Can't Post

    In Reply To
    Possible review of The Road to Middle Earth and/or Splintered Light

    I think you forgot something--like text and maybe a link? Wink

    "He who lies artistically, treads closer to the truth than ever he knows." -- Favorite proverb of the wizard Ningauble of the Seven Eyes


    Jan 28 2017, 2:17am

    Post #24 of 45 (1602 views)
    Not sure what you mean "where"....I simply suggested a possible [In reply to] Can't Post

    read through of those books, though, they can be technical.

    Has there been a Children of Hurin read through?

    (This post was edited by Eruonen on Jan 28 2017, 2:18am)


    Jan 28 2017, 2:39am

    Post #25 of 45 (1593 views)
    Sorry! [In reply to] Can't Post

    I'm afraid I misunderstood the intent of your post and thought that your text was missing. That's why it's become common practice here to end a subject line with / or // if there is no text to follow.

    "He who lies artistically, treads closer to the truth than ever he knows." -- Favorite proverb of the wizard Ningauble of the Seven Eyes

    (This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jan 28 2017, 2:40am)

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