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One Paragraph Could Inspire a Career

bombadilA handful of books in my bookshelf are in my "reread rotation."  It's a short list: The Martian Chronicles, Mythago Wood, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Lord of the Rings.  Rereading a book is like listening to a piece of music multiple times: unperceived levels reveal themselves.  So, while rereading The Fellowship of the Ring today, I noticed this paragraph: Frodo and the hobbits have found refuge with Tom Bombadil.  He's telling them stories about Old Man Willow, when he switches gears:
  • Suddenly Tom’s talk left the woods and went leaping up the young stream, over bubbling waterfalls, over pebbles and worn rocks, and among small flowers in close grass and wet crannies, wandering at last up on to the Downs. They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting grass, but soon the hills were empty again. A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind. Stone rings grinned out of the ground like broken teeth in the moonlight.
This is a beautiful paragraph!  I hear a brief resonance with Carl Sandburg's "Grass."  But I also realized that there are a gazillion stories encompassed in this paragraph.  You could spend an entire career as a fantasy writer fulfilling the implications of this paragraph, writing the stories Tolkien suggests.

A while ago someone put together an anthology of "mini-epics."  The idea was to write a short story that had the feel of a three-book, fat-fantasy epic, but stayed in the short story range.  I liked the idea of the book quite a bit.  Tolkien wrote the template for the mini-epic in this paragraph.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
November 26, 2012 Writing, Publishing, and Speculative Fiction Links and Plugs
User charlesatan referenced to your post from November 26, 2012 Writing, Publishing, and Speculative Fiction Links and Plugs saying: [...] Van Pelt on One Paragraph Could Inspire a Career [...]
Nov. 25th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
I've heard a lot of folk say that the whole 'section' of Tom Bombardill, is a waster of space within LOTRs, and then you read something like this and wonder why they said such things. For me, it is part of the whole, which always stuck in my mind.
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