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Apr 24, 2013

JRR Tolkien and Beyond Middle Earth

I'll be taking the Tolkien Beyond Middle Earth course through Mythgard Institute starting May 13 and going on till August 1, this summer. I took the Tolkien's World of Middle Earth course this spring from January through April. I really enjoyed learning about Tolkien and his World. I had never studied, or even read, any of his works before.

Some of you may remember my post, Books I've Been Afraid to Read, where I shared my initial fear of Tolkien as being too high for a working class gal like me. I had believed this for so long, despite knowing I liked the movies for Lord of the Rings. Now, I have my mind opened and understand better that my prejudice against Tolkien as being too fancy for me was just my fear of not understanding showing itself.

I'm looking forward to this new course as we are going to read more of Tolkien's writings on other subjects than just fantasy. Some of the stories we are going to be reading are Leaf by Niggle, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, Sir Gawain, Pearl and Sir Orfeo, and The Letters of Father Christmas. We'll also be revisiting Beowulf. I've looked at the books for this course and am enchanted by the pictures, many drawn by Tolkien himself. The Father Christmas pictures are drawn by Tolkien and remind me of the colors and style used in 1960s to 1980s Christmas drawings and cartoons of my youth even though they were drawn in the 1920s and 1930s. Isn't that really exciting?!

Leaf by Niggle is a story within a story within a story. On the surface, Niggle is painting a huge canvas of trees and leaves and nature scenes that he never thinks is finished enough. His neighbor Parish, asks him for various favors such as going to town for supplies as he has a bum leg and his wife is sickly. Niggle agrees to these interruptions, as he calls them. There's a horrid storm and Parish's roof needs repairing. In their society it is criminal not to help and be neighborly. The security folks come and notice that the roof has blown away and Niggle is holed up in his shed painting on a huge canvas that can be used to cover the roof and protect Parish, his wife and their items, but Niggle has not only done nothing, but has continued to paint and ignore the woes of his neighbor. The security folks send Niggle to the Training Center, use his canvas to patch Parish's roof, and use the paints to repaint the outside of Parish's house. One of the security folks keep a corner of the canvas that has a bit of a beautiful leaf. At the Training Center, Niggle is found to be untrainable and is sent away to the train. There's the First and Second Voices who decide Niggle's fate. Parish decides to help his friend Niggle. So the Voices allow him to come to where Niggle is. The First and Second Voices talk about Niggle and Parish and how they are now that they are out of the town. The two security folks talk about how sad it was that Niggle had to go, and how silly that Parish followed him. Then, there is Niggle's story about how he experiences all that is happening to him. So there's his story, the security folks story that sheds light on his story, and the voices story that sheds light on their story. This is science fiction before the genre even existed. Awesome!