silentYak


...musings on life, the universe and everything else...

The Lord of the Rings

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I have always liked J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This morning, I was pondering why, and felt compelled to explain to the interested reader why this fantasy novel is worth reading and re-reading. Naturally, there are plenty of detractors who are not sold on the book - it is slow-moving for some, juvenile for others and even racist according to some critics. Be as it may, there is something magical about the book that is worth delving into and ruminating on.

The fantasy world of Tolkien is a dry reflection of reality as we know it. Yes, there is magic - but where is it really? Is it in Gandalf’s fireworks, or in Sauron’s dreaded “one Ring”? Does magic manifest in the way the individuals are bent to the will of the Maiar? Then again, our heroes - even poor Gollum - distinguished themselves by occasionally breaking free of their captors, both physically and metaphysically. We are inexorably led to the question of whether this magic is real, or simply a figment of the characters’ collective imagination. The Lord of the Rings is the story of conquest of will - and if Sam Gamgee can do it, so can you.

This inherent relatability of the fictional world to the real is what is truly mesmerising. In the real world, there are no permanent heroes, but everyone can be a hero on occasion by making the right choices, and these choices have far-reaching repercussions. The most poignant example of this is when Gandalf chastises Frodo for wishing that his uncle Bilbo had killed Smeagol when he had had the chance.

Pity? It was pity that stayed Bil­bo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Fro­do? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judg­ment. Even the very wise can­not see all ends.

Gan­dalf words come back to Frodo eons later when he is faced with a simi­lar choice, to strike Smea­gol or let him be - Frodo takes the path of kind­ness and lets Smea­gol live. In the end, it was only because of Smea­gol’s inter­ven­tion that Sau­ron’s power could be destro­yed. The story unfolds as a series of small acts that build up into the crescendo of major events; it would be disin­ge­nuous for the rea­der to assume a grand plan being orc­he­stra­ted by some power­ful forces.

Even the best amongst us are fallible. The Istari are sent to Middle Earth to help defend it against Sauron, but only one of them, Olórin - better known as Gandalf, actually succeeds. Saruman gets enmeshed in his own greed, Radagast is helpful but perhaps off to satisfy his hobbies, while the rest are never heard from again. The Dwarfes and Elves are busy quarrelling amongst themselves, and the Men are easily tempted. The Hobbits are hardy in their own way, but otherwise rather weak. In this chaos, however, each character represents an innate human quality that you, the reader, can bring to life. The Hobbits represent perseverance, the Dwarves represent hard work, the Elves represent goodness and care in times of need. Gandalf represents kindness, wisdom and intelligence, always bringing hope and stability to those around him. Of Men (and Women), Boromir, Faramir, Éowyn and Aragorn each represent facets of the human condition. Boromir demonstrates the perils of power and greed (but conquers in the end, even in death), whereas Faramir shows us that this failing can be avoided. Éowyn and Aragorn both overcome difficulties in their own lives to grow strong and express true courage in unique ways. Aragorn represents balance and he, more than any other character, is the true protagonist, especially when you consider that the War of the Ring is in part a battle of wills between Sauron and Aragorn.

The jour­ney to Mount Doom is a dif­fe­rent expe­rience for each of these cha­rac­ters, and not all live to see the end. But there is a cou­rage and mirth to be found even in the midst of grief and fear - one only has to know where to look for it. Tol­kien paints this vivid cont­rast by stitc­hing toget­her many dif­fe­rent pers­pec­ti­ves into one long, enc­han­ting tale.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.


Dream Journal

I have always been fasci­na­ted by the idea of having a dream jour­nal recor­ding all of my dreams. Part­ly, I sus­pect that is because I expect my dreams to have some kind of deep sig­ni­ficance (as do all - why else would you be wal­king down the street naked?), but it is also because I think they are a great way to unlock your crea­tive juices and express your­self to the world. I have always main­tai­ned that self-expres­sion is the pri­mary need for the human mind, and to have an out­let for one’s emo­tio­nal sta­te, real or ima­gi­ned, is a great relief.

Of course, the problem with a dream journal is the inherent lack of fidelity that it entails. Have you ever had the experience of realizing midway through the re-telling of a dream that you are making up the details on the spot, filling in the blanks where you no longer recall what actually happened in your dream (“I must have been heading to Canada, of course - I felt that, I’m sure.”)?

Spea­king of Cana­da, did you rea­lize that car­rying a hoc­key stick in your car through the US-Ca­nada bor­der cros­sing is a big no-­no? That is what I lear­ned from my dream last night…alt­hough I can­not say for sure whet­her I was ente­ring Canada or the Uni­ted Sta­tes. But don’t wor­ry, I ran into an old class­mate of mine who hap­pe­ned to be han­ging around, and I figu­red he would help me out, no problem.