Friday, May 28, 2021

Tolkien in time

A couple years ago there was a Newsweek special edition issue about Tolkien. Now there's one from Time. Call out the collectors again, because they (well, we, because I need a copy for the Year's Work) are undoubtedly the biggest potential audience for this.

Next to the Newsweek one, it's a little thin. It's focused on The Lord of the Rings, and that indeed is its title. There's a brief bio of Tolkien, reasonably accurate, a separate piece outlining the factual events behind the bio-film (it doesn't criticize or correct the movie), a collection of quotes from Tolkien's letters and interviews, and a couple more articles on Tolkien near the end, which I'll get back to, but the rest is on media: the Jackson movies (just of LR, not The Hobbit), the abortive Beatles film (which paints Lennon as the driving force), a piece on Stephen Colbert as fan, a piece on the post-Jackson legal wrangling, and a piece on the Amazon series (summary: we don't know any more about it than you do).

What's at the end are: a 30-question quiz, 25 of which are dead easy, 2 of which state they're from the movie so I skipped them, 2 of which are too trivial for me to care about, and 1 of which they get the answer wrong;

And a list of the order to read the books beginning with The Hobbit, which may seem obvious but can be problematic for some readers who find it too lightweight, then LR, then The Adventures of Tom Bombadil - well, maybe - then The Silmarillion, which conversely can be a doorstop preventing some readers from getting further, then the new editions of the three Great Tales - why not those first, and The Silmarillion after? - then Unfinished Tales - which is the book anyone stopped by The Silmarillion is most likely to prefer instead - and then, if you're up for it, the History of Middle-earth series;

And lastly there is a brief but toxic article by Ruth Davis Konigsberg titled "Why Are There No Women in Tolkien's World?", helpfully illustrated with photos from the movies of Galadriel and Arwen to prove the assumed premise false, plus Tauriel who isn't from Tolkien but we'll let her in just this once. Konigsberg repeats a bunch of inadequate rebuttals to her premise so that she can brush them off, but clearly she knows absolutely nothing of the Silmarillion which has more than a few significant female characters, and a comment that LR has few women because it's "a story in which the primary activity seems to be chopping off each other's body parts for no particular reason" is more than adequate proof that she hasn't read that either: you could hardly come up with a less accurate summary of the book. I suspect she just saw the movie and slept through half of it, waking up only when there was a lot of noise. On top of which her complaint that the male characters are not even known to have any female relatives is just stupid as well as inaccurate.

If Newsweek gets an A in the category of fluff magazine tie-ins, this one gets a C.

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