How Tolkien keeps the magic practical

Listen to the lesson:
  • I like the slow reveal about the Riders, how 1 shows up and then possibly 2, their hissing speech, dogs frightened, and the snuffling. As with every bit we learn about the Ring, stakes are raised around the Riders, building tension. Frodo still thinks that nothing bad can happen in the Shire, and the hobbits are still not being very cautious or in a hurry. We are seeing the protagonist’s current world slowly changing into the new world that’s coming.

    And where is Gandalf?

  • Felicitas says:

    Thanks so much, Daniel. This seems to be exactly what I am struggling with in my current Fantasy-Adventure Epos. What I find difficult, is, to decide what to hold back and what to mention or when to mention.

    Tolkien’s choice is very interesting here: Whereas he provides quite a bit of background information on all kinds of things in the early chapters, he seems to treat just the most important things very differently: holding back information and building it up very slowly, building momentum, helping the reader to truly grasp with his own senses what is going on. This is genius. I will try and see how to apply this to my own story.

  • webb.cynthia says:

    I like this a lot. The writer keeps back what the reader hasn’t been prepared for. Thanks for this explanation.

  • Luke Kendall says:

    I hesitate to say I’m not convinced! For example, if I try to enumerate the powers of the One Ring, that we know by the end, they’re really quite short, and the positive and useful powers (invisibility, long life), come with great costs. It’s stated that Sauron put most of his power into the One Ring, and I suppose the implication is that its purpose was to influence and corrupt the wearers of all the other rings – but it’s never really explained what Sauron could do if he regains it. It’s just stated that he would become invincible.
    Overall, the magic of TLOTR is pretty low key and subtle for the most part. And a part of me wonders whether Tolkien didn’t imagine the full consequences of the magic and how it could be exploited by really cunning characters; or how it could be countered by some cunning non-magical tactics. On this reading I’m getting the feeling that the plot is in control of the characters, not the other way around.

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