Monday, June 11, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #17

I’m concluding my series on the “beginnings” of vintage fantasy fiction with Tolkien—after all, where would the genre be without him? I’ve already written on the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, which I thought was quite good. But does the opening of The Two Towers hold up as well?

Aragorn sped on up the hill. Every now and again he bent to the ground. Hobbits go light, and their footprints are not easy even for a Ranger to read, but not far from the top a spring crossed the path, and in the wet earth he saw what he was seeking. 
“I read the signs aright,” he said to himself. “Frodo ran to the hill-top. I wonder what he saw there? But he returned by the same way, and went down the hill again.” 
Aragorn hesitated. He desired to go to the high seat himself, hoping to see there something that would guide him in his perplexities; but time was pressing. Suddenly he leaped forward, and ran to the summit, across the great flag-stones, and up the steps. Then sitting in the high seat he looked out. But the sun seemed darkened, and the world dim and remote. He turned from the North back again to North, and saw nothing save the distant hills, unless it were that far away he could see again a great bird like an eagle high in the air, descending slowly in wide circles down toward the earth. 
Even as he gazed his quick ears caught sounds in the woodlands below, on the west side of the River. He stiffened. There were cries, and among them, to his horror, he could distinguish the harsh voices of Orcs. Then suddenly with a deep-throated call a great horn blew, and the blasts of it smote the hills and echoed in the hollows, rising in a mighty shout above the roaring of the falls.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers 
This passage reminded me that Boromir doesn’t actually meet his end until the beginning of The Two Towers, though I agree with Peter Jackson’s decision to do it differently in the movies. Regardless, does the way Tolkien opened this book make for a great beginning?


Lauren's Loquacious Lit said...

Confession: I'm not actually a huge fan of the books. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the movies, but I really struggled with the books.

I struggled sometimes with how wordy he was, and I wasn't at all keen on the poetry.

I will, however, credit him with a fantastic imagination and brilliant story creations. LOTR is one of the epicest series of epic and it seems like one of those series that will live on for a very long time.

Joseph Finley said...

Lauren, I agree that the movies were fantastic and that the books can be a bit wordy. But I really agree with your last point about his brilliant story creations. They shaped the genre.