Friday, November 25, 2011

Appeal of _Lord of the Rings_

Why is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien so popular even among people who do not read Fantasy? This is a hard question to answer. When the new century rolled around Tolkien was named the author of the Twentieth century by many groups. Two movies based on the first two parts of the book have been huge box office successes. Tolkien’s books have been responsible for exploding Fantasy into a huge genre, bringing it into great demand. Numerous books try to emulate the book but few succeed. Lord of the Rings is popular because of its characters, story, setting and themes.

Characters must be memorable, likable and sympathetic for readers to identify with to follow them through a book. Tolkien’s characters are a powerful draw to readers. The characters have many admirable traits that make them realistic. Frodo is an innocent thrust out into a dangerous world beyond the Shire. He becomes a noble, self-sacrificing person to save his world. Sam Gamgee is the loyal friend any person would want, sticking ;with you through all problems. Aragorn is a reluctant warrior who believes he will never rule. He grows throughout the story into a wise leader of his people. Faramir is a young warrior that must take on a great responsibility. Women characters were not completely absent from the book. Eowyn proves her worth as a warrior and interesting love interest for one of the characters. Members of the elves and dwarves play important roles. Legolas and Gimli discover friendship where distrust once ruled. Galadriel and Elrond of the elves play vital roles of wisdom. The wizard Gandalf provides a fatherly figure of great virtue and courage. Gollum is a complex character wavering between two extremes of personality, but obsessed with possession of the ring. A reader can find many characters to love or identify within the book.

Another element of the book that appeals to readers is the setting. Middle Earth is a vividly realized world with a vast history and many cultures. Tolkien spent hours in researching mythology and creating languages for his book. The setting has a large array of landscapes from tall mountains, deep forests and underground living places of the dwarves. A strong presence of nature is depicted throughout the book with the different creatures. Ancient ruins from previous cultures permeate the land giving it a sense of history along with different races and strange creatures like the Ents. Tolkien describes Middle Earth in great detail bringing the world to life. This provides readers with the illusion that Middle Earth could have been real somewhere, which helps keep the reader’s sense of wonder alive.

In addition to characters and setting, Lord of the Rings is popular because of the plot. Tolkien fashioned a plot on a grand scale. He drew from the area of the ancient epics like “Beowulf.” The story revolved around a magic ring that corrupted anyone it touched. This set off events in the quest to destroy the ring. Armies clashed to defeat the growing evil in the land while two innocent hobbits underwent a grueling journey into the heart of evil. Readers find such epic stories of great interest, perhaps touching something deep inside their psyches. Tolkien was a master of appealing to this interest.

Finally, the last element that makes this book popular are the themes. The many different themes provide readers with timeless ideals that people hope exist in the real world. One of the main themes is the quest to destroy the ring, symbol of evil in Middle Earth. It is a dangerous, but noble endeavor. This leads to the themes of friendship and loyalty demonstrated by characters like Frodo, Sam, Legolas and Gimli. Honor is a theme shown by Aragon’s growth into leadership and being an accomplished warrior that inspires people. The themes of Lord of the Rings are universal, appealing to the higher nature of people.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is popular because it speaks to everyone through its characters, setting, plot and themes. Tolkien created a book that resonates with people from all walks of life. When I read the book for the first time, I kept reading it until the end without stopping. The book impressed me and embarked me on a lifelong love of Fantasy. People cannot be wrong when various groups name Lord the of Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien the greatest book of the last century.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: _The Ivory and the Horn_ by Charles de Lint

A winter wind blows down a city street. Out of the corner of an eye, one sees a strange being slip into the shadows. A fairy? Something else? Events like this happen to the people living in the Fantasy city of Newford. This city is the creation of the master of Urban Fantasy, Charles de Lint. In his second collection of stories about Newford, The Ivory and the Horn, Mr. de Lint tells more intriguing stories of the inhabitants of the city.

Sophie Etoile is a woman with a remarkable talent. She dreams of other places that are as real as our world. Most of the time her dreams take her to Mabon, but in “Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night,” she finds herself trapped in a desert filled with spirits from Native American myth. The trickster god Coyote follows her through the dream until she resolves a problem. This story contains vivid descriptions of the desert dream world. Sophie a ├Čnd the other characters are realistic. Readers will find this a poignant, entertaining story.

“Bird Bones and Wood Ash” is a story about the subject of child abuse. Jaime encounters strange spirit women with animal heads. They give her magical gifts which she uses to stop those who physically or sexually abuse children by turning them off. Christopher, a jaded social worker, makes a deal with Jaime to tell her where abusers can be found. Even though Jaime acts like a superhero, her acts come with a price. This is a moving story of the darker side of humanity.

Mr. de Lint writes about those living in poverty in “Waifs and Strays.” Maisie is a street kid, homeless until she gets help from Angel and a homeless woman called Shirley. She has adopted a special needs young man named Tommy and several dogs. Trying to provide a home, work and going to school takes its toll on Maisie. Eventually she gets help from a ghost. This is a powerful story with the themes of caring for people, self reliance and courage. The author gives us memorable characters that readers can sympathize with throughout the story.

“The Forest Is Crying” introduces readers to social worker Christopher Dennison. After another child he tried to help is found dead, he resolves to quit his job. He gets drunk and ends up sick in an alley. A young woman helps him, taking him home and staying with him through the night. She says some weird things to him. When she disappears, he finds himself on a last case, which changes his jaded outlook on life. The strength of Mr. de Lint’s characters creates a potent story of the human spirit overcoming terrible situations.

Friendship and loss are the themes of the mournful story “Pal O’Mine.” Sue was a lonely child until she met Gina. They became best friends as children. As they grew up, their lives took different paths. A call from Gina’s mother brings Sue back into the life her depressed friend. Sue learns about the magic in the world on Christmas Eve as she remembers Gina. This story has a bittersweet ending provided by the author’s masterful talent for creating memorable characters and plots.

The Ivory and the Horn by Charles de Lint is a collection of more stories set in the fictional city of Newford. The stories range through different themes and are entertaining. A main theme of all the stories is that magic is not the solution to problems, but strength of character is. Readers will enjoy the stories of people as they encounter the magic of Newford.