Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Unlikely Baggins

If you were some nearly supremely evil being and you lost your Ring Of Power don’t you think you’d start looking for it the last place it was seen? I mean, if it was that damn important you’d think you would have a few legions of critters designed to find rings, lost eyeglasses, and unmatched socks out by the tens of thousands and not be stumbling about sending out nine dead dudes that have an aversion to fire out on horseback. You wait until they’ve gotten their butts kicked and then you decide to give them wings? Yeah, I bet they were happy about that. They drag in all soaking wet and tried and all the horses are dead and they had to walk all the way back home and then you tell them you’ve got them some flying gear. I mean, what the hell? You didn’t have  the Pterosauria fueled up and ready to go, or were you just trying to save a few bucks or what?
            Okay, I will concede The Lord Of The Rings was so majestic, so incredible, so exquisitely written, that nearly any flaw that can be dreamed up can also be covered up by the mastery of the craft. You are surrendering some reality right off the bat when you open up a book entitled “The Hobbit” and if you start a trilogy that is as thick as most of rap sheets of rap artists ( Rap sheets? Rap artists? Wow!) you know two things from the beginning; One, the book is big and two, oh my dog is it well worth the reading.
            As a writer who is trying to write a novel I find myself written into corners where A has happened, and now B needs to happen, so C can occur. I’m not Tolkien. I’m nowhere near the writer than man was. I have to cover all my bases and everything has to be just right or someone out there is going to review my book and the words “smoked too much crack” are going to appear in the same sentence as the title of my book. I cannot put nine dead dudes on horseback and make it work. I sure as hell can’t put anyone on the back of a stinking flying reptile and hope to carry the day. Incredibly, I find myself in the shoes of Tolkien in that I have to invent something that works without knowing beforehand what that thing might actually be. When you are a reader you have a vast respect of the man, Tolkien, for what he was able to do, but as a writer, you get to thinking the man was a damn god. Oh that was sweet how he pulled all that stuff together and damn he was good.
            I’ve read, and reread sections of that book just to see how he did it, how he played everything out and back together again, and made a new world from Middle Earth. New races were born that had never been thought of before; Hobbits, Orcs, half-Ocrs, and then, as if things weren’t complex and interesting enough, he tosses Tom Bombadil into the tale as if we might need the break. Even the swords had lineage. Man, there wasn’t a loose thread to be found and if if there were no one was going to pull it. Tolkien walked up and threw down, and walked off again, knowing there wasn’t going to be anyone one upping him for a century or longer. He didn’t break the mold the man created it. In his image you’ll write about elves and swords and magic. That’s the standard by which everything else is measured. Tolkien left the bar high.
           
Yeah, I liked the book; I would say that, yes.


            So here’s the thing; we know we are not Tolkien, but when is good enough good enough? When do you just decide that a Hobbit finding the ONE DAMN RING in a dark cave by accident is the way you get it back into play? I think if you write well enough, and you’ve done right by the craft, that is a decent way to get the ONE DAMN RING where you need it to be. Let’s face it; who among us saw that one coming, when Bilbo Baggins found the ONE DAMN RING?
            But as I have already pointed out none of us are Tolkien, and so we have to find some other way to do it. We have to write as well as we can and we cannot take the risks he took because we haven’t got the depth the man had. Or maybe we do. Maybe, like Bilbo Baggins lost in a dark cave with no hope and just a little luck, we can draw out tiny swords, and stride forward, feeling our way along the path, and staring ahead at nothing and everything, with nothing but the shouts of a crazed creature edging us forever forward towards the end, or toward being tore apart and eaten. There are times the end of the first novel seems as likely as being eaten by a weird little creature, really.
            There you are, staring at the name; Bilbo Baggins. This is the best Tolkien could do? Why it sounds like a name taken from a children’s book about a talking sock missing its mate. Yet there he is, all furry footed and fat, and he’s a light year beyond what you can write, and you have no idea what to call your latest character, except you’re pretty sure the name “Bilbo” has been used as much as it is going to be in English Literature. The man invented an unlikely character in many ways, and in all ways he made it work. He really was that good, and you, and I, have to concede neither of us, nor both of us, can equal what he did.
            I don’t know about you, but I’m swinging for the fence on this one. Screw it. There is great writing out there, and if I am going to do anything at all, I’m going to write as if I can do it, too!  I’m going to try. I want to raise the bar higher. I want to write better. I will. I might not ever have nine dead dudes on horseback getting their own flying lizards but you know what? Even that can be done damn well.

Take Care,
Mike

1 comment:

  1. A god is correct! To us mere mortal writers, he is what we can only dream to be :)

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