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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Whither the Reading Room?
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Oct 4 2018, 4:01pm

Post #1 of 30 (7945 views)
Whither the Reading Room? Can't Post

"Whither the Reading Room?" is the traditional question at the end of a read-through*. The read-through of TH will presumably wind down over the next few days, so what do you want to do next? It seems like a good idea to discuss this as the last part of TH read-through, while folks are still about.

People can post things about any Tolkien book-related matter at any time, of course, but we've often also had something more organised going on.

Recent organised events have tended to be chapter-by-chapter read-through, and we could continue to work around Tolkien's works in this way. But of course that isn't the only way to discuss things. It would surely be possible to have discussions about Middle-earth countries, races, characters, themes and concepts (e.g. good versus evil; or fate); settings (e.g. woods; underground; fortresses); or to do many other things.

I think the first thing to establish is how much enthusiasm there is, and for what.


*Just checking I got that 'h' in, so as not to accidentally curse you all! Yep, looks OK - may the Reading Room never wither..

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Oct 4 2018, 4:02pm)


Oct 6 2018, 12:58pm

Post #2 of 30 (7766 views)
I keep waiting for someone to pipe up [In reply to] Can't Post

Usually this question generates all sorts of discussion.

We might try themes/topics. Chen's post on the similarity between Jews and Dwarves, and the specific point on the diaspora, made me think how the Dunedain have their diaspora from Numenor, and the Elves have a 2-3 diasporas (first from Cuivienien, then from Valinor, and then if you want to count it, the point where they all feel doomed to depart from Middle-earth). The hobbits' history is hazy (ha!), but they seem to have had a diaspora, except that the Shire seems to fit them better than any original homeland they ever had.

So then I'm not sure if I'm making every migration into a diaspora. Anyway, probably worth a separate topic and falls way outside The Hobbit.


Oct 6 2018, 1:54pm

Post #3 of 30 (7759 views)
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil? [In reply to] Can't Post

Or would that be too obscure?

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Oct 6 2018, 10:21pm

Post #4 of 30 (7753 views)
We did a 'Thematic' discussion one year [In reply to] Can't Post

A relatively large number of long-term regulars were on this board in the later 2000s who had read through the Big Three Tolkien Books in the chapter-leader format several times. The resulting "Thematic" discussion (click to see the index; all the discussion links are dead now, sorry) was intended to mix things up a bit. It had some wonderful ideas and presentations. However, if I remember, there was not a fabulous response in terms of discussion volume. Some objected that things were getting a little too 'academic'.

Now we're at the other end of the stick, with not enough of a core population to get even 18 chapter volunteers to help you lead this last Hobbit discussion. I think we could go two ways here, given the low volume of posts and posters.

One would be to do the shorter books, such as Farmer Giles, Adventures of Tom B, Smith of Wooton Major, Leaf by Niggle, etc. Fewer chapters, so fewer leaders needed.

Another would be to put out a framework, and let folks volunteer to fill just the openings they want to, without any expectation that the entire work will be covered. For instance, people could sign up to discuss their favorite chapters from The Sil, Unfinished Tales, JRRT's Letters, or even a favorite argument or point found in books of Tolkien criticism, such as those by Shippey, Garth, Flieger, not to mention Christopher Tolkien and his HoME. To repeat, full coverage would not be expected - just highlights according to each poster's preference.

The obvious problem with approaches like this is the old one of over-specialization: relatively few Tolkien fans, even Reading Room Tolkien fans, have easy access to these more rarefied Tolkien or Tolkieniana books.

On the other hand, the posters could give short quotes from the texts, in line with TORn's terms of service, buttressed with summaries of the rest to give context. That would probably be enough to let anyone pitch in on specific interesting questions or connections between the less-known works and the Prof's better known books, starting (naturally) with LotR.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.

Grey Havens

Oct 7 2018, 12:03pm

Post #5 of 30 (7682 views)
I like the idea of the shorter books [In reply to] Can't Post

Are The Tolkien Reader and Farmer Giles/Smith of Wooten Major out of print? If they are, Ballentine might not mind generous quoting so much.

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Oct 7 2018, 12:09pm

Post #6 of 30 (7689 views)
Handling the problem of few posters [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To

Now we're at the other end of the stick, with not enough of a core population to get even 18 chapter volunteers to help you lead this last Hobbit discussion. I think we could go two ways here, given the low volume of posts and posters.

That also seems to be the core problem to me. I notice that read-through posts often attract plenty of 'views', even if they get few 'replies' (and mostly replies from the same few contributors). But it is hard to say what that means*. The most flattering interpretation - that a large number of people are greatly enjoying reading a sort of panel discussion, but do not feel able/willing/interested to post themselves - won't keep the forum going, if 'panellists' can't be found, get tired, or have just discussed all this too many times before with the same few people.

In any case, for me personally the number and quality of replies to a post is important in itself (regardless of how often the discussion might be being viewed). It's what makes the difference between contributing to a discussion forum and doing some other form of Internet publishing (such as running a blog, podcast or YouTube channel), which has never seemed all that motivating to me. While I'm (evidently) willing sometimes to evolve long and complicated thoughts and theories about the books, what I like best is access to the opinions, thoughts and perspectives from others. If I have written about something, I want to know what other people think about the ideas in it, probably rather more than I want to catch the bouquets (or brickbats, more likely!) in reaction to what I've written. So for me personally, being 'viewed' is quite nice, but not really what I contribute for. (It wouldn't be much better to be 'liked' or 'upvoted' etc. if the TORN forum software did that, thus enabling people to react in a way that was a generic opinion, rather than just leaving ambiguous evidence of their presence.) Anyway, some of my favourite discussions are those in which I've gone in with one opinion, and been persuaded of something quite different.
Of course this is just to explain what I like about the Forum - others might like different things, and the forum isn't beholden to please me!

So: what to do? To be honest I don't particularly know, and maybe it's time for some fresh ideas from 'someone else'. The question remains 'to what will enough people contribute?', and perhaps those who don't currently contribute know the answer better than those of us who currently do. But of the suggestions so far:

Stepping away from a chapter-by-chapter discussion might be a good option under those circumstances, if the Room wants to do something organised at all. Chapter-by-chapter requires things to be done in a set order and on a set schedule. It's gone wrong if a chapter is missed out, and people who have kindly offered to introduce a later chapter may be unable to reschedule if the process gets behind. So Chapter-by-chapter requires one or more organizers to do some hunting around for posters, and arrange emergency replacement of folks who wanted to do a chapter but now can't. My zero-arm-twisting approach to TH (in which I did the chapters, unless someone else actively volunteered without dragooning) worked out I think and avoided such admin, but I was willing to do it because I wanted to do the TH read-through for my own purposes. (I wanted to re-read the Hobbit here after a long time of not reading it, to see whether my perspectives had changed.) There isn't another work for which I currently feel the enthusiasm to undertake a similar project. Naturally if someone else wants to lead such a thing then that's great; but I don't. Assuming that nobody wants to organise a chapter-by-chapter process, it may be much better to have some framework where things can be picked off in any order, by anyone who wants to, and where things can be posted at an uneven rate, if that's how it works out.

Lack of participants (as in posters rather than viewers) is of course a wider problem for keeping any kind of scheme going. But then again, so is gloom - the self-fulfilling idea that there's not much point in contributing, since it is (the gloomy one thinks) bound to get little feedback, or not result in a rewarding discussion.

If the goal is to have a discussion about which many can post, then I like the idea of asking people to write about their favourite chapter/section/letter etc. Or it might work for folks to write about 'why I don't get____' and ask for people who enjoy that section to explain what they think the OP might be missing. I suppose that most folks who read Tolkien works all that much DO have favourite and not-so-liked (or disliked) bits. And while it isn't necessarily easy to process why one reacts in a certain way to a work, and to write coherently about that impression, at least it requires only the text and some thought. That's in contrast to asking people to write about something that requires 'Tolkien studies' kind of work, and makes it difficult for people to contribute unless that have that kind of knowledge, or references and time to study them.

*Numbers of views and posts can be seen on this forum's home page. At the time of writing, the stats for "***The Hobbit read-through -General discussion, summing up" are 1623 views and 48 posts (a ratio of approximately 34:1), though those numbers will probably continue to change. On the whole I'd expect older posts to stop acquiring replies, but to continue to get views, as people occasionally find and reference a discussion, but don't contribute to it as it seems too old. Many of the posts in the TH read-through got several hundred views, some got into the thousands. But it is unclear what all these views mean - far from representing a lot of enthusiasm to read but not write, it could, for example, represent a very large number of people coming to posts, quickly discovering they are not interesting, and going elsewhere. And of course, some of the activity may not be particularly to do with the discussion as such - for example Admins checking that all is well, or humans and robots looking for places to put spam and other internet detritus.

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Oct 7 2018, 12:19pm)

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Oct 7 2018, 9:00pm

Post #7 of 30 (7664 views)
What about a read-through [In reply to] Can't Post

Going backwards! Start at the last chapter then work our way backwards! Actually, if we do that with the Silmarillion it will start of in darkness and get lighter as it goes on! Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be!

Grey Havens

Oct 8 2018, 3:02am

Post #8 of 30 (7658 views)
Emerging from the shadows [In reply to] Can't Post

I confess I am a lurker a significant portion of the time. My reasons range from lack of time to create really thoughtful answers, to frankly being rather intimidated by the occasional attitude of some posters. I know that by its nature this form of communication leaves itself open to misinterpretation but sometimes there’s a subtle air of “I’ve been reading Tolkien for umpteen years and my interpretation is the one truth and I’ll quote chapter and verse at you until you align your thoughts with mine.” After over forty years of reading and watching and writing about Tolkien I might be able to hold my own if I chose. But I don’t choose to—- mostly due to the time that would take and also because it would sap the pleasure from reading the extremely well thought out responses that even if I don’t respond to them I am reading and thinking about.
Slipping back into the shadows.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

(Found in Mathoms, LOTR Tales Untold)


Oct 8 2018, 12:37pm

Post #9 of 30 (7618 views)
Backwards? [In reply to] Can't Post

Starts with Beleriand rising majestically from the sea, ends with a jam session that destroys the Universe. That's quite a stage show.

Of course Lord Of The Rings backwards would be Drol(l)...

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Oct 8 2018, 1:58pm

Post #10 of 30 (7605 views)
Tone and format [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a shame if people are inhibited from contributing for fear that the replies will be dogmatic (or pedantic, or other kinds of tedious or disagreeable).
If this is perceived as a widespread problem, then our community should look at its conventions of courtesy - something that has to involve the Admins I think, since they get to police this stuff (lucky them). Personally I think there is a lot to be said for using 'diplomatic language', by which I mean a style that is required for critiques on the longstanding online writers' workshop, critters.org (it's described here http://www.critters.org/whathow.ht ). But that's just what I like to do (he said, diplomatically).

The other point you raised comes down I think to the format of the next read-through (or other activity) - you don't contribute for reasons that include it being too time-consuming.
Perhaps future Reading Room projects should look for formats that are less time-consuming. Suggestions for easier-to-engage-with formats would be welcome: I don't feel that I'm the right person to know what might be required here. For example, perhaps there could be read-through where posts have a word-limit; or cannot refer to any text other than the one under discussion; or are subject to better rules for preventing excessive length or depth? Perhaps the chapter-a-week format gives us too many things to discuss to maintain brevity, and a new format should be proposed?
I think it's also worth noting that a different bunch of folks might stay away from a discussion which they felt was frustratingly shallow, and it would not be a success to drive away the only active contributors we currently have, without successfully recruiting those who a new format was supposed to encourage.

As I say, I don't think I can guess what would work. I can, however, share the results of an experiment. As folks might have noticed, I varied the format of my TH introductions posts quite a lot. One of my reasons for so doing was that I understood that very long or complex introductions could be too much to read for some folks. So I tried to balance a wish to provide easy ways into the discussion (on the one hand) against a feeling that each chapter should offer a lot to discuss (on the other). Some of my introductions were short, with only a few questions. Some were longer. Some weeks I provided my introduction all at once, other weeks I broke it up - either over the week (read as you go), or into a post with a series of replies to create sub-threads (read the ones that interest you). For some posts (where I found I had quite a lot to say myself) I went to the trouble to create a short-form and a longer form version of the introductions. In just about every case I invited folks to ignore my prompts and questions if they wished, and ask or raise anything else they wanted to discuss. That seldom happened, with the discussion almost always being on the points I'd raised. Nor did I think my different experimental formats made any significant difference to who contributed or how the week worked out. So, insofar as I hoped to broaden participation, my well-meant efforts were a complete bust, as far as I can tell.
I'm quite happy to accept that these experiments failed because I didn't understand what our lurkers wanted before they could join in (I suppose that's the conversation we're having now). Or perhaps no format would have worked for folks who feared that any contribution they made would be savaged by a Nerdasorus rex. Or maybe the problem was something else entirely.

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Oct 8 2018, 6:31pm

Post #11 of 30 (7561 views)
Another thing to consider is that timing may not work for some... [In reply to] Can't Post

I just had too many other books to read and limited time to do so. For this last read through I just did not want to read The Hobbit again (I had read it the previous year). On occasion I would skim some chapter readings of interest but did not want to get too deep into something I was not active in.

Some people are more sensitive to Tone of Reply than others. There were several episodes on the last LOTR read through. That is expected to a large degree as we are all Tolkien egg-heads to one degree or another. It is something we all need to work on.

(This post was edited by Eruonen on Oct 8 2018, 6:32pm)


Oct 12 2018, 6:48pm

Post #12 of 30 (7407 views)
Newer books? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been woefully absent, and have not kept abreast of any of the recent discussions (and would have enjoyed TH read-thru immensely, bummed I have re-appeared right at the end!).

So I'll ask if there's been any discussions, or interest in discussions, of either Beren and Lúthien, or The Fall of Gondolin? I know that with not everyone having access to the books there might not be as much participation, which is a huge consideration of this thread. But perhaps if an organized discussion was targeted for early next year, giving people time to buy themselves the book for Christmas, it might work?

It could be a discussion of the actual tale itself, or of how the story came together, or a thematic discussion of the tale, or even of how Christopher's impact is felt in the presentation of the tale (he seems to have evolved from earlier attitudes, to how he decides to present TFOG).

Again, if this has already been bandied about and isn't likely to be successful, no problem (I believe something similar was posted back when B&L came out). But you did ask for ideas... Wink


Oct 16 2018, 4:06am

Post #13 of 30 (7086 views)
some thoughts re whither next the reading room.... [In reply to] Can't Post

book.... fall of gondolin or beren and luthien

person comparisons discussions....
elrond vs. elros
aredhel vs. eowyn

thematic discussions
immortality in arda

cheers --


aka. fili orc-enshield
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Oct 17 2018, 3:03am

Post #14 of 30 (6920 views)
Tolkien put the cherry in the jam too... [In reply to] Can't Post

Backwardly speaking the Silmarillion ends with "Eru was There"


Oct 17 2018, 1:52pm

Post #15 of 30 (6829 views)
"But we have not yet come any nearer to our purpose. What shall we do ...?’" [In reply to] Can't Post

"But we have not yet come any nearer to our purpose. What shall we do with it?’"

Gandalf speaking at The Council of Elrond (LOTR BK II, Ch2)

Well, I suppose this thread is a little like Elrond's Council in that the agenda of both is approximately:


1) What the situation is;
2) What should be done next, and;
3) Who will do it."

It's harder to read the mood of an online correspondence than a physical meeting (or so I think), but my sense of our discussion so far is as follows:

Any organised venture now will probably have to work in a time when there are few regular writing contributors.

It doesn't seem that the problem is with the format having become unpopular- at least there doesn't seem to be something different which the majority of visitors would rather be doing here, if only they were given the chance to say so. Rather, the various suggestions have been made for new projects don't look like a big departure from the kind of things the Room has previously done (as far as I can see).

I sense that our main sticking point is lack of someone to lead any new venture right now. Perhaps many of us are in the situation I now am in -- I'd wish any new organised venture well and might sometimes participate, but I don't want to commit to doing a lot of organising or writing for a bit.

Luckily, there's at least one key difference between us and the Council. For reasons of drama, Tolkien makes the Council address a great crisis, in which there is no choice but urgently to do something desperate, heroic, and probably self-sacrificing. I don't see the need for drama, crisis, desperation or anyone being heroically self-sacrificing here, happily. Perhaps we just need to let the Room tick over for a while, and see how things are later?

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.

The Shire

Oct 17 2018, 8:57pm

Post #16 of 30 (6790 views)
Tackling Both Questions [In reply to] Can't Post

The original post asked whither. To answer that question, maybe it would help to break down the purpose of a (specifically this) Reading Room. I was attracted to this forum primarily due to my perception of it as a sort of on-line book club, albeit devoted to a single author, but one whose most famous works I read and re-read with regularity. I enjoyed watching you all discuss the plots, characters, writing style, etc. of J.R.R, Tolkien, and eventually I got up the nerve to put in my own two cents. The prospect of examining The Hobbit in the company of others is what clinched the deal for me. In-depth readings like the one we just finished seem like the normal business of a book club, so I would advocate for maintaining that direction, not to anyone's exhaustion, but with at least some degree of regularity. I'm not sure that I would have joined up without the prospect of the formal read-through format. While I prefer TH and LotR for both recreational and studious reading, I wouldn't mind going back to The Silmarillion after quite a long time away. I also think that discussions of works like The Sil, Roverandom (no surprise, there, I know!), Leaf by Niggle, or The Adventures of Tom Bombadil could be fun, especially with an eye towards how some of these stories might have trickled into the Big Two. In addition, I found our "Summing Up" thread to be fun. Between formal read-throughs, I would enjoy the idea of regularly exploring a single topic, similar to Curious G's Good vs. Evil discussion in which some of us are currently engaged or my own toss-out of the protagonist/antagonist question. That could happen spontaneously or with a loose structure. Perhaps we could all take turns, similar to the chapter sign-ups on the read-throughs, with one posted topic each week?

With regards to the second question, the one that "grew in the telling" from the first, that of attempting to encourage greater participation in the forum, I'll ask a couple of my own. Is the general perception that this is a problem of not enough registered users joining the discussions? Or is it that there are too few registered users in general? The latter could only reasonably be addressed by those of us already in the fold, by word of mouth or perhaps by posting a cheerful standing invitation on a sticky for long-time lurkers like me to join up. The former might be solved by changes to structure, more (or less) structure, or a re-examination of what I earlier mentioned as the purpose of the Reading Room. I hesitate to use the phrase "mission statement", but even that may help get us on the right track. For myself, I know that time constraints were a huge issue. I promised myself that I would be all-in on the read-through of TH, but I still ended up failing to comment on several chapters. My apologies to all of you who did such a nice job of staging each discussion. I read with interest every word of what you all wrote, but the real world often got in the way. Maybe two weeks instead of one for each chapter would help those of us with too much else going on in our lives?

For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the sill of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.

Grey Havens

Oct 19 2018, 8:08am

Post #17 of 30 (6564 views)
discussing shorter works [In reply to] Can't Post

Squire and Roverandom have each mentioned this possibility. Some facts that might help:
Searching Amazon (US) shows that the following mass market paperbacks were republished in 1986 and are available for under $10 USD
Smith of Wooten Major/Farmer Giles of Ham used 68 copies, new 40 copiesThe Tolkien Reader used 82 copies, new 40 copiesWhen you add these copies to other versions and sources, as well as some of us already owning them, I think we can reach critical mass for access. Besides being brief, the tone is lighter and the contents are pure JRRT, whereas the excellent more recent publications under Christopher's editorship are drawn from the melancholy First Age.

Because these stories are shorter, they are usually not divided into chapters. I would be willing to suggest tentative weekly page breaks, subject to revision. I'm not erudite enough to take leadership on the discussion questions. Besides, I'm generally a lurker. But I feel so strongly that the RR should continue that I'm willing to do what I can.
If we go the thematic route, that would be fine as well.


"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Oct 19 2018, 10:30am

Post #18 of 30 (6551 views)
Some thoughts about how erudition must be optional [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To

I'm not erudite enough to take leadership on the discussion questions.

I feel rather strongly that it would be a great shame indeed if the forum seemed to be only for those who have read widely or deeply, or have cultivated to a great degree the skill of analysing their own reactions to a text. Or if it seemed to be a sort of competition to determine who is the alpha-nerd.

At one point, we used to head introductory posts with an encouraging text including 'all you need is a book and opinion' (those were maciliel's words, if I remember, and it's a very important point).

Certainly some folks who post here are very erudite - could write books or give courses about Tolkien (or, in at least one case, have done so). Personally I'm glad they turn up - for one thing, so I can learn from them. But, when I'd just started contributing here I got roped (mostly willingly!) into the read-through of the Silmarillion that was just starting (that was back in January 2013!). Many of my introductory posts then were about how I didn't understand this or that, or what I was thinking about the other. My lack of erudition worked very well, in fact - people are delighted to provide answers and opinions (usually several differing opinions, because Middle-earth has few solid 'facts' and a much bigger body of Tolkien's shifting thought, and reader reactions to it).

These days I have (to paraphrase maciliel) more books and more opinions - I'd like to find out what others think about my thoughts, but maybe it makes my introductory posts less accessible. Anyway, these days I often know what I think at present, and would like much more to know what others think.

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Oct 19 2018, 11:24am

Post #19 of 30 (6543 views)
Some thoughts about doing shorter works [In reply to] Can't Post

It does seem like what we need now is for some folks to be willing to organise something, so many thanks for hinting that you might be willing to try. In the past, several projects have been organised by a small group rather than one person. So it certainly doesn't have to be that the first person to say anything is left to do all the work!

I'll excuse (recuse? accuse? ) myself as I was determined, come the end of TH read-through, to give more time to other projects. I doubt I'll be able to shut up for long, but I've had a stern word to myself about the temptations of doing more organising or OPs just now.... ("don't tempt me, Frodo!")

Perhaps it's worth noting here that, right up to the level of our noble Admins, everyone here is a volunteer. I feel that nobody should feel arm-twisted into doing more than they can manage. That applies to me standing down for a while of course - I'm trying not to feel bad about it - as well as to anyone finding it difficult to volunteer right now. But maybe the Room needs just a couple more volunteers now - you know the drill: somebody's sword, someone else's axe, someone's bow - and we're off again?

I agree there shouldn't be much difficulty for folks to get hold of the shorter works (and if there is a little notice, people can also order up library copies where that's an option). Nor should there be much difficulty in finding a way to divide up a story that doesn't have chapters, but is too long to do all in one go- it ought to be easy enough to specify a passage at which to stop for a given session (I would suggest agreeing that this week's discussion stops at a certain passage rather than quoting a page number, since that won't be the same for everyone).

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Oct 22 2018, 8:13pm

Post #20 of 30 (6074 views)
Mission statements, lurkers, etc [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it’s fair to say the mission and culture of the Reading Room has changed over time. Originally it seemed much more academic, and even when I joined years ago, there were people pouncing on what I said and telling me I had to prove it by citing chapter and verse. Those days faded away as the membership changed, and I doubt they’ll come back.

But I would also say the Rdg Room only exists because of the movies. It was movie interest that started this site, if I understand history correctly, and the movie forums always had more members and more posts than the RR (though of course people posted both places). With the movies fading from popular memory and with future projects still at the speculative stage, I’m not sure we’ll attract many new members, at least not until the new TV series is closer to reality and people come looking for a site to discuss it, stumbling across the Rdg Room while they’re here.

That’s does not equal “abandon all hope,” just my attempt to put things in perspective. My hope is that more lurkers will de-lurk and find most of us welcoming as they join discussions on themes and/or smaller works.


Oct 22 2018, 8:41pm

Post #21 of 30 (6084 views)
Praise Wiz with great praise! [In reply to] Can't Post

Many thanks and Rings of Power to you, Wiz, for boldly leading The Hobbit discussion and covering so many chapters yourself. It was a great discussion, and I’m sure all readers & participants appreciate your efforts as much as me.

I have personally always thought that the Rdg Room belongs to everyone and that it’s at its best when everyone feels a stake in keeping it going, rather than expecting a small handful of members to lead and participate in all the discussions. Better to be decentralized like the Shire than ruled by an elite White council.

So if you want to put up your feet, smoke some pipe weed, do some translations from the Elvish, and enjoy the singing in Rivendell, you have not only earned it, you are encouraging someone else to step up. As Weaver said to me years ago, the magical thing about the Rdg Room is there’s always someone who’ll help steer the ship when needed.

And it’s certainly worth reminding people that all they need is a book and an opinion. I think we need to remind people of that more often, and also that they can join a discussion mid-stream. I still recall Maciliel politely asking if she could join The Silmarillion discussion after it started, whereas my attitude was, “Look! A Tolkien discussion online! I’m going to plunge right in.”


Oct 24 2018, 12:24am

Post #22 of 30 (5849 views)
I don't think an organized read through is a must. The last LOTR read through came [In reply to] Can't Post

about because I just started it and invited those to contribute as they saw fit. I wanted to read the books over again for a fresh respective as not having read them cover to cover for many years. It worked out ok to my mind. I say, if you want to start a book discussion just do it. Post chapter by chapter and people will chime in if interested. It is still a nice exercise if only a handful participate.

Grey Havens

Oct 26 2018, 6:38am

Post #23 of 30 (5502 views)
Two months till Christmas and other holidays [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll go out on a limb and propose that prospective readers borrow or purchase *both*
Farmer Giles of Ham/Smith of Wooten Major, and
The Tolkien Reader
by New Year's. Less than $USD 20 will get you both.

That will give me and other interested parties time to structure reading passages while keeping the guideline in mind* Discussion leaders: Try to not replicate wholesale a book’s structure (so that it feels like a step-by-step condensed version of the book).
I also think thematic discussions would be appropriate at any time whether or not shorter works are under review.

Comments, please?


"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."

(This post was edited by ElanorTX on Oct 26 2018, 6:43am)


Oct 26 2018, 9:28am

Post #24 of 30 (5479 views)
That's great! [In reply to] Can't Post

I suggest that, when you are ready, you post an announcement about what you want to do and ask for the help you want. That should be seen by folks who are not following this discussion.

"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Oct 26 2018, 11:00am

Post #25 of 30 (5462 views)
Looking forward to it, Elanor! // [In reply to] Can't Post


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