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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Back to Middle-earth Month!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Back to Middle-earth Month!

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bread and puppet
I'm choosing Fridays as my day for Back to Middle-earth Month, although I will not be observed "B2MEM" in the usual fashion. I'm really not that into the LotR fandom; I love LotR--don't get me wrong--both the books and the movies, but LotR has never inspired me the way The Silmarillion did. So a lot of my stuff will be First Age. Hey, it's still Middle-earth more or less, right? Maybe I'll even forbid myself from doing Valinor-related stuff, although that's usually my gig.

This week, though, my contribution is LotR-related. I am going to ramble about how someone who turned up her nose at the name "Tolkien" and spat (on more than one occasion), "I hate that book!" ever got into this fandom....


The year was 2001, and three important things happened in my life that year.

The first two things were not of the good variety: First, I foolishly, stupidly, idiotically decided that I was no longer content with my then-fiance, and so I left him for seven months and dated someone else. An emotionally abusive someone else. And right in the middle of that, 9/11 happened, and the only person I ever had to talk about those sorts of things wasn't there anymore because of my aforementioned foolish, stupid, and idiotic behavior.

So I fell into depression. Not just dysthymia: depression. I stopped caring about my studies and my writing. I stopped eating, so I lost twenty-five pounds. And lots of other horrible things that I do not wish to mention now because that is not the point of this post; I am merely trying to set up a context. It was autumn of 2001 and I was depressed.

Of course, you all know the outcome of the first part of the story: The emotionally-abusive "someone else" went away, and I started talking to Bobby again. I eventually married Bobby, so it worked out, and I began the slow climb out of depression.

This was mid-November of 2001. I remember reconciling with Bobby on Thanksgiving weekend: We were both at The Piece to decorate for Christmas. My dad was hanging the swags over the door, and we were standing in the mall, watching him. We were talking about some of our mutual friends with whom I'd lost touch, as they'd been his friends first. That was the moment when I held my hand out to someone else and admitted that I needed help. And he gave it.

Bobby and I have always been avid moviegoers, and so it made sense that our first tentative dates were to the movies. I'd been seeing previews for the first The Lord of the Rings movie for some time and secretly wanting to see it. I was in awe of the imagery, the landscapes, and it just looked like a damned good movie. However, I'd tried to read the book many years before--as an eleven-year-old, as part of the sixth-grade "gifted and talented" curriculum--and hadn't liked it. And I'd always made of big deal of not liking it, so I was loathe to admit that I wanted to see the movie of the book I'd always believed I'd hated.

It was Bobby who breached the subject: "That new Lord of the Rings movie looks pretty good." And, shyly, full of hope, I agreed. Well, Bobby knew by now that I could be a fool and I was certainly susceptible to being wrong on occasion, so why not? I took my chances. Maybe I'd get to see my movie after all, without having to wound my pride too much.

I think we both wanted to see it more than we wanted to admit...because we made a point of going on opening weekend. I went in without a clue as to what the movie was about. I didn't know about the One Ring or the Fellowship. I knew what hobbits were because I'd read (and hated) The Hobbit in fifth grade, but I thought that Elves were the people who made kids' toys at Christmas and Dwarves were a not-so-nice term for little people. Yet I wanted--inexplicably--to see this movie. Maybe because, in the grim reality of the past few months, I needed fantasy, I needed escape.

In the opening scenes, I made a point to take it all in. I was convinced that the movie would confuse me because I'd been confused by the book as a child, so I wanted to make sure that I missed nothing. So Galadriel's opening words; the Last Alliance...that all stands out very clearly in my mind, even now, when I spend most of my effort during that scene trying to spot Gil-Galad and the rest griping to Bobby about how Galadriel is overrated and we all know that Fëanor is the greatest of the Noldor.

But it didn't take long to become immersed in the story, and soon I forgot to expend effort to pay attention and got lost in the story, in the characters and scenery. I wanted to go to Rivendell. I wanted to speak Elvish. The nazgûl terrified me in a way that--a connoisseur of horror movies--I hadn't been frightened in a long while. To hear the music from FotR, I still shiver: "A Knife in the Dark," "The Council of Elrond," "Lothlorien," and "The Great River." I play those songs constantly to tickle that place in my memory that first grasped the sadness that is a mortal-Elven marriage, that was first in awe of the Argonath statues looming over the Anduin.

I felt, at the end of the movie, that I sat for a good five minutes with my mouth hanging open, in awe of the story, of the movie. Now, of course, I am prone to seeing the subtleties: I know the parts that Jackson left out or changed, and I see the movie in the context of the larger mythology. For example, I always squee when they arrive at the Gates of Moria and there is the Star of Fëanor. "Celebrimbor made that," I think, "and before that, there is Nargothrond and rebellion, Curufin, Fëanor...." I shiver as one might upon encountering a real artifact, at the inescapable knowledge of the depth of time and the way a mark upon stone watches the passing ages.

But then, my feelings about the movie were more visceral: I couldn't name the characters, no, and I didn't know who the hell Galadriel and Celeborn and Elrond were, but that movie was like a pinch that awakened so much of me that I'd been content to leave sleeping. I went home that night and worked on a fantasy/horror story that had been languishing for ages. (It is still unfinished to this day, abandoned for good, in lieu of other stories.) Until then, my love for the fantastic and horrifying had been a guilty pleasure--as waste of time--for one so obviously talented (or so I was told) as a "literary" writer.

And I was left hungry for more. School meant that I couldn't read the book right away, but I did shortly after graduation, before Return of the King was released. My father-in-law got me a copy of the book for my birthday. That remains one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Following that, I devoured The Hobbit in two days--liking it better this time but not quite finding the same magic as LotR--and acquired my now-infamous battered and scribbled-upon Silmarillion, the one with blue-haired, leopard-wearing Fëanor that looks like his head is being eaten by an owl on the cover (see icon). The one with pencil marks and underlines marking the text. The one with a note from my husband tucked inside that I want never to lose or throw away: "I love you, sweetie!" The book that now travels everywhere with me and sits on the desk in front of me now.

Sometimes, in the midst of debating trivialities--the interpretation of LaCE; the hair color of Celegorm, Legolas, or whatever Elf du jour; the nature of the Ainur and their "obligation" to the Elves--pondering words that--some of which--I've read a hundred times now, I wonder what I would have thought if, when reading them for the first time, someone had tugged my sleeve and said, "Dawn, this book will change your life. This book will make you love writing again. You will meet new friends and learn new skills because you are reading this book."

I would have laughed. In that awe-filled movie theater, in my sixth-grade classroom with the despicable book clenched in my hands, to read my words now, I would have laughed and never dared to hope.
  • Thank you for sharing your LOTR story. I think it's amazing how many people are so deeply and personally affected by Tolkien's books (no matter if Hobbit, LotR or Silm) and by PJ's movies.

    That's *magic* if ever I saw it!

    B2MEM: As I understand it, the project is called "Back to Middle-earth month" and not "Back to LOTR" month. I think it's a bit silly to emphasize all the time that one does not belong to this or to that part of what is essentially one fandom (it's also a bit arrogant, depending on who is speaking - too often that is done with the attitude of "my part of the fandom is better than yours" *rolls eyes*). I think oloriel is doing Silm illustrations as her B2MEM project. My personal project is mainly taking place in Berlin 2004 at the moment. And if you consider the origin of the Elves and Aman... Aman once was a part of Middle-earth, too. And most of its inhabitants were at one point or another deeply concerned with Middle-earth. Not least of all because *all* elves come from Middle-earth originally. ;-)

    Have a wonderful weekend and I'd love to chat with you again once in a while.
    • That's *magic* if ever I saw it!

      Yes, it is! I dig my nails into my palms when I hear snooty literary-types start blathering about how Tolkien isn't "literature" as though--because his work doesn't fit their narrow, boring definition of "literature" (which is arguable too, I think)--that means that it deserves less consideration or is of lesser value. I wonder what will still be studied and discussed and what will still be part of our "mythology" a millenium from now? Lord of the Rings (and related works) or their "literary" books that had a whole 300 readers?

      Sorry for the rant. Guess you can tell this is a hot-button topic for me. :^P

      As I understand it, the project is called "Back to Middle-earth month" and not "Back to LOTR" month.

      I know this. :) But the prompt specifies "Lord of the Rings" without mention of any of the other works. Still, I think that the intent is back to Middle-earth regardless of the timeline; it's probably just hasty wording. No biggie. :) I decided to be "rebellious" and do First Age stuff from the moment I saw it in your LJ, as I doubt there's a B2MEM Police coming to arrest me for it! ;)

      Have a wonderful weekend and I'd love to chat with you again once in a while.

      Thank you! You too! :) Maybe I'll be around this weekend. I have a startling lack of obligations at the moment, but there's always hockey to occupy the husband, leaving the wife with nothing to do.... ;)
  • (no subject) - callirhoe
    • The good thing about that picture is his hands. He does have very nice hands. In fact, if I block out the leopard-print cloak and the bad dye-job, I could write smut about those hands. ;)

      Unfortunately, the bit about the owl eating his head is shamelessly gakked from arandil13.... :^))
  • (Anonymous)
    I can only second Vana's Awww... :)

    My experience was similar, actually. Somehow the LotR movies opened up the whole fantasy genre for me. Before that I was a pretty down-to-earth girl who watched realistic movies and read realistic books. Now I write Silmarillion fan fiction and it's all because of Peter Jackson. I never would have picked up those books without his movies, not because I didn't like them, but because I was simply not interested in stuff like that. December 2001 I went to the movie theatre for a nice evening, two years later I decided that - with the trilogy finished and all - it was time to read the book, and about two or three weeks after that I was blessed with a shiny new obsession, which became only worse when someone gave me the Silmarillion for my birthday.

    even now, when I spend most of my effort during that scene trying to spot Gil-Galad

    *giggles* You know, that's exactly what I do. :)

    For example, I always squee when they arrive at the Gates of Moria and there is the Star of Fëanor. "Celebrimbor made that," I think, "and before that, there is Nargothrond and rebellion, Curufin, Fëanor...." I shiver as one might upon encountering a real artifact, at the inescapable knowledge of the depth of time and the way a mark upon stone watches the passing ages.

    I know what you mean. For me, it's the Ring of Barahir though (when I think of it I strangely never paid so much attention to the Star of Feanor on the Gates of Moria); I see it and think OMG! This was Finrod's! And it's over 7000 years old!

    By the way, blue-haired, leopard-wearing Fëanor that looks like his head is being eaten by an owl??? LOL! I have a shiny copy of Harper Collins, the prettiest paperback I've ever seen. *feels so fortunate now*
    • I never would have picked up those books without his movies, not because I didn't like them, but because I was simply not interested in stuff like that.

      Me too. :) I maintained that I didn't like that fantasy crap. *scoff scoff nose in the air and more scoffing* It's "genre" after all and "formulaic." However, my writing tended towards the fantastic, which was weird, considering my "beliefs" about the genre.

      No matter what people's personal gripes about how PJ handled the movies or about Glorfindel being usurped at Bruinen or how Faramir was characterized in TTT...I give him credit for bringing a world alive to people who otherwise would have never given it a chance. A lot of my favorite writers and online friends--you are an example of this, apparently ;) --would have never discovered the Tolkien fandom without the movies.

      Personally, I find fanfic writers who relentlessly criticize PJ to be a little funny. After all, what was PJ but a fanficcer with a budget?

      For me, it's the Ring of Barahir

      Me too! Of course! I have a little Felagund complex. *ahem* ;)

      I think that about Galadriel too. "She knew Finrod and Feanor and Maedhros and..." *swoons* But it nonetheless annoys me that it is called the Ring of Barahir. I think it should be called the Ring of Felagund. My boy needs props too. :^P

      I have a shiny copy of Harper Collins, the prettiest paperback I've ever seen. *feels so fortunate now*

      Oh, but the owl-eating-the-head illustration is priceless! And--as I told Vana above--he does have nice hands. Yummy hands, in fact. *fangurls Feanor's hands*
      • A lot of my favorite writers and online friends--you are an example of this, apparently ;) --would have never discovered the Tolkien fandom without the movies.

        Oh, I'm a prime example! Some years ago I still made fun of my sister for her love of "dirty men with swords"-novel, as I used to call it. Now I'm worse, hehe. :-P

        After all, what was PJ but a fanficcer with a budget?

        I'm totally of your opinion. And even now that I know the books I still think he did a damned good job. Of course I can't say how I would have reacted to it if I had read them first, but the end product in itself is so coherent (can't think of another word right now) to me, that I think I'd hardly belong to those people complaning about the stuff you mentioned, because in the end that wasn't done at will, but for a dramaturgical purpose (at least, that's what I like to think).

        But it nonetheless annoys me that it is called the Ring of Barahir.

        You're right in that. I've been wondering about it, too. Among us, I think it was simply some Edain inferiority complex - but don't tell Haleth

        Oh, but the owl-eating-the-head illustration is priceless!
        Is it possible to see that


        Oh, is it possible to see the owl-eating-the-head illustration somewhere completely?? *is incurably curious, hehe*
        • But of course! It is my duty to share the owl-eating-head love. :^P This is the exact cover of my Silmarillion. If you look at the blue headpiece, arandil13 once pointed out that it looks like an owl or a gremlin is chomping down on poor Fean's head.

          Feanaro also, apparently, has leprosy because half of his face looks like it melted away. And he has a penchant for leopard-print and gaudy jewelry. Actually, change the blue hair to dark blond, and he's kinda like me! :^P

          (I should also add that I do not have leprosy.)

          Some years ago I still made fun of my sister for her love of "dirty men with swords"-novel, as I used to call it. Now I'm worse, hehe.

          Lol! Yes, you've got a dirty-Elves-with-swords novel! :^))
          • Eh, that's certianly an interesting portrayal of Feanor. And it definitely looks as if an owl was eating his head... and as if half of his face is melted away. But the hands... the hands are definitely major niceness! :)

            Yes, you've got a dirty-Elves-with-swords novel! :^))

            Hehe. :-D

            (Caranthir would like to tell you that he's not dirty, but you may choose to ignore him - as do I)
            • Maitimo just snorted and said that Caranthir never had to bathe himself at the tender age of four, slathered in blue paint.

              I don't want to know.... ;)
  • That was me. Forgot to log in. Argh.
  • What a great story!

    For example, I always squee when they arrive at the Gates of Moria and there is the Star of Fëanor. "Celebrimbor made that," I think, "and before that, there is Nargothrond and rebellion, Curufin, Fëanor...." I shiver as one might upon encountering a real artifact, at the inescapable knowledge of the depth of time and the way a mark upon stone watches the passing ages.

    I have several of those. The first is knowing Gandalf carries Glamdring. Glamdring-->Turgon-->Fingon-->Fingon and Maedhros. The second is the Phial of Galadriel at which point I can usually be seen vibrating slightly and muttering, 'Silmaril, silmaril, simaril.' Galadriel sparks a reaction too a bit because although I can take or leave her, I look at her and think, FINROD must have pulled your hair as a kid! The gates of Moria do it too, of course. And also, I sometimes sit there and think that while it's all happening, Maglor is still around somewhere, particularly when I look at Elrond, then I think of Maglor and...and so on and so on *grin*

    Ai, nice thoughts.

    My own story is not so interesting as yours. I have loved LOTR since I was a kid, and have the copy I got for my 18th birthday, with my now
    gone grandfather's brthday wish inside it. But I too avoided the Silm for years, wondering how anybody ever read the thing. Tsk, such youth!

    Oh and I have *thinks* at least 3 copies of the Silm at the last count. I have this odd little thing that I can't go any long distance without it, it's sort of my talisman. *blush*

    Oh and a whole shelf of Tolkien reference books.

    *shutting up now*
    • FINROD must have pulled your hair as a kid!

      Mwahaha. That's priceless! :-D
      • *grin* I bet he did though. Nobody can be that perfect. And anyway, Maglor told me he saw him.
    • I have several of those.

      Yes! All of those things too! I was so squeefully excited reading this, thinking, "Maybe I'm not so crazy after all!" :^P

      My poor husband has to endure lectures on all of this whenever we watch the movies. We're supposed to have an EE-watching marathon, and I've promised to be quiet. Hmmm. Wonder if that'll work!

      Maglor is still around somewhere, particularly when I look at Elrond, then I think of Maglor and...and so on and so on *grin*

      Yes! Again! I always think, "Do you still think of him?" or "Did you tell your children about him?" The thought of Elladan and Elrohir listening to stories about Maglor and Maedhros.... *swoons*

      Oh and I have *thinks* at least 3 copies of the Silm at the last count. I have this odd little thing that I can't go any long distance without it, it's sort of my talisman. *blush*

      I also have three copies. There's the owl-eating-head paperback (with me now), Nasmith's illustrated version, and some old hardcover that my husband got from a book club really cheap. I take my paperback with me just about everywhere. In fact, I will only buy purses big enough to hold it. (My turn to *blush*) ;)

      *shutting up now*

      Nooo! Don't you go doing that! I love hearing these sort of stories. Don't make me send Maedhros and Fingon to make you talk, using whatever nefarious means necessary.... >:^]]
      • *hops* Ring of Barahir! Ring of Barahir! Forgot that one.

        Yes! Again! I always think, "Do you still think of him?" or "Did you tell your children about him?" The thought of Elladan and Elrohir listening to stories about Maglor and Maedhros.... *swoons*

        Oh that is SO me!

        I also have three copies. There's the owl-eating-head paperback (with me now)

        I love that illustration of leper, owl food Feanor with the nice jewellers hands. I must find out how he manages to keep them not cut to bits and clean. I wonder if I could get a copy of it. What?! It's the Silm! The illustrated one is gorgeous isn't it? I once had just enough money to get a nice book from my favourite bookstore on a visit to London. Guess what I came back with? Hopeless I tell you, hopeless.


        Don't make me send Maedhros and Fingon to make you talk, using whatever nefarious means necessary

        Oh no, send them, and the more nefarious the better *checks hair and gets out chocolate*

        • I love that illustration of leper, owl food Feanor with the nice jewellers hands. I must find out how he manages to keep them not cut to bits and clean.

          Yeah, that's a good point. Hmm. Maybe that's what sets him so far above all the other craftsmen!

          (I wish someone would tell AMC!Feanaro that. He's always sweaty and dirty and tracking soot about the apartment.)

          I wonder if I could get a copy of it.

          In the U.S., when I got my Sil, it was the cheapest, smallest paperback available. I've since seen a similar version with a silver cover and a slightly smaller version of owl-head Feanor. But no hands, as far as I know. :(

          The illustrated one is gorgeous isn't it?

          Yes! I don't like all of Nasmith's work--I still think that his Eol is too creepy-looking to approximate anything close to charming--but some of it is quite nice, particularly the landscapes. Of course, I pick the Thangorodrim picture to pieces, but I'll spare you. ;)

          Oh no, send them, and the more nefarious the better *checks hair and gets out chocolate*

          Did they arrive safely? I sent them last night, after thoroughly disinfecting them both so that I don't spread my cold overseas. ;)
  • I'm always happy when I hear about a person coming to love Tolkien via the movies. That's reason enough for Peter Jackson to have filmed them!
    • If not for PJ and his movies, I would probably still be turning my nose up at fantasy and insisting that I could never like a thing like that.

      That makes me very sad to ponder...so I'll gladly admit I was wrong on this count! :)
  • Wanna do me a favor hon?:)
    • Depends what it is, of course. ;)

      It's probably best to email me, although I can try to ring you tomorrow from work. I haven't been home and/or not engaged for most of the weekend!

      Cute icon, by the way. :)
  • What wonderful memories! It quite brought back all the magic of seeing LOTR for the first time for me! I was a fool and thought that they would ruin the story for the movie and so never went to see FOTR. I had read the book when I was 19 and loved it. But after all the accolades, my sister and I bought the DVD when it came out the next summer and fell in love with the movie. Then we went to see Two Towers three times and bought the extended FOTR DVD, the Silmarillion, and almost all of the HoME series! And now I'm sure I've seen all of the movies at least 50 times each! But your memories are so incrediblly vivid and wonderful that I relived the whole experience!
    • They're very vivid memories for me. :) I can close my eyes and still see almost exactly where I sat in the theater; I remember trying so hard to follow along, thinking that the movies might have been made for "nerds who knew the story already" and a poor plebe like me could never follow along!

      FotR is probably my favorite of the movies because of the emotional response it evoked...and it was my "gateway drug" into reading LotR and later--of course--the Sil.

      *is thankful to PJ even if she misses seeing Glorfindel at Bruinen and the twins* :)
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