matt_doyle: (Default)
[personal profile] matt_doyle
 I'm going to start my discussion of 4th Street with the tale of how I sassed a bunch of panelists.

First of all I want to emphasize that the panel discussions were good at Fourth Street.  I think someone described the experience as a postgraduate seminar for literary fantasy nerds, and that's not wrong.  They were enthusiastic, opinionated, well-informed, receptive to the audience, never once bent on self-promotion and in fact very shy to draw on their own works by way of example... they guided discussion and questions by the audience rather than dictating to us or lecturing us.

It was f***ing brilliant.

And as I also noted, they were exceptionally gracious and did not mind being corrected.  For which I am thankful, because if it were otherwise, I would never have had the nerve to sass the august assembly.

The particular panel was a discussion of the journey in fantasy, with an emphasis on the aftermath, and what the heroes bring home with them, and how that is significant to the worldbuilding and development.

In passing, Lord of the Rings was mentioned, and dismissed as a series in which 'what you bring home with you' was not significant.

At which point my hand shot up and I began compiling notes.  The audience was very active, so waiting my turn took the better part of half an hour.  The discussion had moved on, and I almost let it go.

But, dammit, they were wrong.  I have poked numerous holes in Tolkien's masterwork on this blog before, but the man worked with deliberation and finesse and this was something he knew about, and something he illustrated beautifully.  So, by the time I was called on, what i had was less a correction and more of a manifesto.

Bilbo brought home the Ring, for starters.  I mean, seriously.  He brought home enough gold and silver to have a measurable effect on the economy of Hobbiton, but he was a parsimonious investor (it lasted him more than sixty years) and he was rich already, so let's pass by that.  He brought home a mithril coat, a significant enough cultural artifact that it was put in a museum.

Gandalf, world traveler, brought fireworks to the Shire.  He seemed to be their only source.  He was also a primary factor in the export of pipe-weed to other nations.  He reportedly took with him many young and adventurous hobbits, and while we do not see their impact on the world outside of the monumental developments they're instrumental in in Lord of the Rings, well, it's still something.  But Gandalf's return journeys aren't primarily what we're concerned with, but rather, the return of others from journeys he instigated or facilitated.  It is worth noting, however, that he brought Saruman's attention to the Shire, so Saruman being "brought home" is the result of a journey's aftermath, and critically shaped the society and economy of the place.

Frodo brought home a severe case of PTSD, resulting in his inability to remain in the Shire, ending a dynasty of Bagginses.  

Sam brought home a number of invasive elven species of flora which, we are told, flourished in the area.

Merry and Pippin brought home a new respect for militarization from Gondor and Rohan, which was instrumental in ousting Saruman's regime, and whose effects clearly lasted, as we're told in the appendices.  Hobbits becoming invested in their own border defense is a big deal.  I believe we're also told that their heirs kept the Ent-draught tallness their parents acquired?  So that's a legacy of sorts too, a congenital conditions whose effects would be visible through generations.

Aragorn brought home to Gondor a lasting elven alliance & intermarriage, restored Numenorean traditions and knowledge and style of rule, replanted the Tree... he revolutionized the nation because of the things he brought from his lifetime of journeying.

Legolas & Gimli brought home a renewed interest in peace, understanding, and cultural exchange between their peoples.  Aglarond & Lorien, friendly nations in proximity to one another, were surely greatly affected by this one friendship that resulted from the aftermath of a journey.

In short, everything we see after the fall of Mordor falls under the heading of "what they bring home with them," and the cavalier dismissal of Lord of the Rings as a source of material for discussion was a grave oversight.

... I got a lot of laughs with the "invasive elven species of flora" line especially, although really, I wasn't joking. This provoked a later discussion, post-panel, of whether or not magical beneficial plants could be considered invasive species, but I don't recall the details, although Megan might.

Your thoughts, my friends? 


Date: 2013-09-18 01:18 am (UTC)
stoneself: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stoneself
Weren't they mutagenic invasive species?

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