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Thread: On re-reading Tolkien -- spoilers for anybody on the web who hasn't read LOTR

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Default On re-reading Tolkien -- spoilers for anybody on the web who hasn't read LOTR

    After many years away from LOTR, I'm reading it to my ten year old, who's liking it a lot. I'm enjoying it too, but I'm starting to pick up on things I never noticed as a kid or young man.

    Something that hit me like a ton of bricks recently reading The Two Towers:

    Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli find Boromir, slain by orcs. They don't know quite what happened, but do know from his last words that the orcs kidnapped at least some of the hobbits. Do they immediately set off in hot pursuit to rescue their furry-footed buddies, who at this point can't be more than a few miles away?

    No, they decide that they cannot leave Boromir's body to be despoiled by his enemies. They gather up trophies from his last battle and give him a Viking funeral, complete with songs.

    As I'm reading to my kid, I'm thinking: Hey guys, it's nice that you aren't allowing your dead friend to be eaten by goblins, but aren't you concerned that the live ones are being sized up against the wine list at the moment?

    Now, I understand that it's A BOOK, and that Tolkien did this deliberately to give the orcs a huge headstart, and set up the attack by the Rohirrim, and the Ents, and all that stuff that's incredibly important for the overall story. And i also understand that he does it so skillfully that it's take me 40 years to go .

    But still, now it's bugging me.

    Thoughts, or other LOTR comments?

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Well the main reason they delayed was Aragorn needed to determine where the Ring was. Sad for Merry and Pippin but his immediate concern was trying to rescue the ring and if Frodo was not among those taken he needed to know. Remember, Boromir followed the young Hobbits and not Frodo. So Aragorn's #1 concern was determining where Frodo and the Ring were.

    They took the fastest method to attend to Boromir by using the boat and they needed to return to camp for supplies and of course see if any Hobbits had returned. Also a quick search among the orcs seem to indicate only two Hobbits were taken and not Frodo. Remember, they found the two knives Merry & pippin used as swords. Also the sheaths for said knives.

    The bore Boromir back on a makeshift bier to the water and set him in one of the two remaining boats with his gear and some orc trophies. By now Aragorn must be guessing Frodo set off in a boat. They then spent maybe 6 minutes singing. Aragorn verified it was Sam & Frodo that fled by boat via the missing packs and other signs.

    At this point they made the decision. Let the Ring tempt them not, the Ring Bearer had made his decision. Pursue the orcs and try to rescue the Hobbits.

    Now in taking the time to haul Boromir back to the river, they probably wasted an hour tops. If they immediately set off after the orcs, they would have had no supplies to speak of and no knowledge of what befell Frodo & Sam and if the pair were waiting for the rest of the party near the boats or if perhaps other orcs had seized or killed them. I would guess in the end, Aragorn made the right decision and surrendered at most an hour extra to the orcs. He surely never in his decades of experience expected the orcs to race off at such a fast and steady pace. After all, orcs are in general fairly easy to track. Even Dwarves tend to be stealthy in comparison.

    The biggest worry I believe Aragorn had was what three could do against a hundred when they did catch up. He knew doing hit and runs with his bow and the extra arrows Legolas could probably drop 20-40 and cause confusion while he tried to sneak in and rescue the Hobbits with Gimli ready to fall with him if needed. Not a good plan and I suspect Aragorn was hoping something would happen to assist them. Orcs of different clans or tribes will often fight among themselves over prizes. Aragorn would be well aware of this.


    OK, that is as much detail as I can go into right now. Does that make sense? Did I miss a hole or two?

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    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    That's about as I remember it, too. The movie maybe makes Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas seem like they're lollygagging a bit more before setting off to rescue Merry and Pippin.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Never saw the movie, so I'm not contaminated by that.

    And I take your points, jim, but I still dunno. Remember, Aragorn doesn't know if the Orcs have the Ring bearer. Keeping the Ring from Sauron is Job 1. Shouldn't he immediately head out and see if it isn't being extracted from Frodo with the aid of pointy objects?

    And sure, he doesn't know how many Orcs there are, but he could find out by following them. And he's with Legolas and Gimli. He's got to figure he's got the edge unless there's a big mess of Orcs. Boromir himself killed something like twenty, and he's basically Aragorn's retarded kid brother.

    You know what I'm thinking? Elbereth did it. Anytime anything happens in Middle Earth that doesn't add up, Elbereth did it.

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    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    Well they do keep taking her name in vain.

    It did always surprise me slightly that they didn't go after Sam and Frodo and chase them down the river, especially with Gollum around. I believe they worked out fairly quickly that Frodo and Sam had sailed off, but they still go after Pippin and Merry.
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    Indeed they did, and Aragorn was a little wracked with guilt over his choice, but he concluded that Frodo had gone with the Ring, probably for the good of the Fellowship, and that Sam had gone with him, and that the Ringbearer knew best after all. He had Boromir's dying confession to take into consideration, even though he didn't tell anyone else that Boromir had tried to grab the Ring. Meanwhile, there was no other help for Pippin and Merry, but they could spare a few minutes attending to Boromir; there were standards to keep up, and they could not bear to leave his body lying around to be ill-used. At that, they quickly settled on the most suitable funeral they could manage, given that they had no tools to dig a grave nor any rocks nearer than the waterside to raise a cairn over him.

    And as Jim says, it was anyone's guess what they could do when they caught up with a whole battalion of Orcs. It was just that knowing the chase was probably hopeless didn't let them off at least making the attempt. When you need a miracle to happen, you have to do all you can to give it a chance to happen; it's no use sitting around hoping Orome or Tulkas might wander by hoping to ask them what the long faces were all about.
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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    Never saw the movie, so I'm not contaminated by that.

    And I take your points, jim, but I still dunno. Remember, Aragorn doesn't know if the Orcs have the Ring bearer. Keeping the Ring from Sauron is Job 1. Shouldn't he immediately head out and see if it isn't being extracted from Frodo with the aid of pointy objects?

    And sure, he doesn't know how many Orcs there are, but he could find out by following them. And he's with Legolas and Gimli. He's got to figure he's got the edge unless there's a big mess of Orcs. Boromir himself killed something like twenty, and he's basically Aragorn's retarded kid brother.

    You know what I'm thinking? Elbereth did it. Anytime anything happens in Middle Earth that doesn't add up, Elbereth did it.
    Aragorn is pretty sure it was not Frodo taken, that is the reason for the delays. I mentioned that above. I believe he had reason to believe it was over 100 orcs and that is a big mess to take on for just the 3 of them. As to battle Boromir was not much below Aragorn, he was if anything even stronger and a brilliant fighter and brave to a fault. What he lacked was wisdom, knowledge, herblore, tracking skills and to be honest he was indeed a bit lacking in Intelligence. But he was probably nearly as good a fighter.

    As to Elbereth, close, very close. It is safer to assume Eru did it. It was Eru that sent Gandalf back as Gandalf the White to finish the job. Eru is God and Elbereth is basically the Queen of the Angels belonging to the higher order known as the Valar. Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast and Sauron were all of the lesser order of Angels known as the Maiar.


    Quote Originally posted by CatInASuit View post
    Well they do keep taking her name in vain.

    It did always surprise me slightly that they didn't go after Sam and Frodo and chase them down the river, especially with Gollum around. I believe they worked out fairly quickly that Frodo and Sam had sailed off, but they still go after Pippin and Merry.
    I agree they could have followed Frodo & Sam but there were several overriding concerns. Frodo made the decision to go off on his own. Aragorn respected that by his own choice. The younger Hobbits needed rescue. Aragorn was planning to go to the aid of Gondor more then to follow Frodo and Gandalf into Mordor from the start. He was not sure and after Gandalf fell he had changed his mind but Frodo made the choice for him.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Ok, still reading, and reached the point where Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn finally catch up with Merry and Pippin, who are idling around the gates of Isengard. Smoking.

    My kid thought they were smoking marijuana.

    And, although I pointed out that I thought it was tobacco, I couldn't say for sure what pipe weed was.

    And hobbits do always seem to have the munchies....

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    You know, that scene happens to be one of my favorites. It's difficult to put my finger on why exactly, but everything just comes together so nicely there.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    I've always loved it too, and I also have trouble explaining why. Maybe it's because after all the stress of the past few chapters, war, fire, death, betrayal, the whole nine yards, everything just kinda stops, and for a few pages you get a bunch of friends goofin' on each other, takin' it easy.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    Ok, still reading, and reached the point where Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn finally catch up with Merry and Pippin, who are idling around the gates of Isengard. Smoking.

    My kid thought they were smoking marijuana.

    And, although I pointed out that I thought it was tobacco, I couldn't say for sure what pipe weed was.

    And hobbits do always seem to have the munchies....
    Well Tobacco is not native to Europe but then neither are taters so one thought is the plants came back from Numenor and then died out before modern times. Of course the 60s crowd that really first made the books popular were fairly sure it was Mary Jane indeed.
    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    You know, that scene happens to be one of my favorites. It's difficult to put my finger on why exactly, but everything just comes together so nicely there.
    It is a great scene and says much. It shows wreck and ruins, plans destroyed, mother nature's force (The Ents and the River) and the nearly impossible to kill humor of the Hobbits. I love the interaction of the characters, it is a quiet moment amid the destruction and the war. Something precious and rare and I suspect Tolkien drew upon some personal memory of his from WWI for the inspiration.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    I've always loved it too, and I also have trouble explaining why. Maybe it's because after all the stress of the past few chapters, war, fire, death, betrayal, the whole nine yards, everything just kinda stops, and for a few pages you get a bunch of friends goofin' on each other, takin' it easy.
    That's exactly it. Also because Pippin's and Merry's natural good humor and hedonism reasserts itself after all of their recent deprivations, and their friends are just bemused because, y'know, Hobbits will be Hobbits.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    So we continue on, and last night my kid got thinking about what Hogwarts Houses various LOTR characters would fit into. Aragorn, Eowyn, the Rohirrim in general -- Gryffindor.
    Hobbits in general, Hufflepuff. Gandalf, Elrond -- Ravenclaw. In Slitherin -- Sauron, obviously, but also the Lady Galadriel. He really glommed on to how dangerous she is, without having to be evil.

    Anybody have any thoughts on this riff?

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    That is interesting but Elrond would have been Gryffindor I think, he was there after all when Gil-Galad, Elendil and Sauron all fell. He was very wise but also very brave. More like Hermione if you will.

    Galadriel could have been in any house but Hufflepuff. But Slitherin could have worked.

    The only Hobbits that would have been anything but Hufflepuff would have been Bullroarer Took himself who was clearly Gryffindor and Frodo would probably have gone to Ravenclaw.

    Denethor was a good candidate for Slitherin. He was Aragorn's rival before he even knew who Aragorn was.

    Theoden was a rather Hufflepuffy Rohirrim.

    Faramir would have wanted Ravenclaw but probably have been forced to Gryffindor.

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    Saruman is another Slytherin, I think.

    I can't really place Legolas or Gimli.

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    We know the least about Legolas I think of any of the major characters.

    Gimli could be a Gryffindor or Hufflepuff I suppose. Far too honest and frank to be a Slitherin and just not at all like a Ravenclaw. The Dwarves just don't fit well into the 4 houses though. Hufflepuff is probably the closest to them though.

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    Elves in general tend towards Ravenclaw or Slytherin Beren and Luthien are a definite pair of Gryffindors.

    This is the nerdiest I've felt in some time.
    Last edited by Orual; 08 Dec 2011 at 08:05 PM.

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    Dunno. I've never really felt the Hogwarts houses made much sense - several people ended up in Gryffindor who seemed better suited elsewhere. For instance, I would've thought Hermione was more Ravenclaw, and Neville was more Hufflepuff somehow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gryffindor#Gryffindor

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    Quote Originally posted by Elendil's Heir View post
    Dunno. I've never really felt the Hogwarts houses made much sense - several people ended up in Gryffindor who seemed better suited elsewhere. For instance, I would've thought Hermione was more Ravenclaw, and Neville was more Hufflepuff somehow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gryffindor#Gryffindor
    You're right on both but Hermione met the bravery part and I thought like Harry wanted Gryffindor more.

    As was seen later Neville had a deep reserve of bravery and he was a legacy of course, you know, like Flounder.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    I wonder what the Easterlings and the Southrons do when they not slaughtering or being slaughtered in Gondor and thereabouts.

    And my childhood longing to know more about the Variags of Khand has been re-awakened.

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    The Easterlings were roughly equivalent to waves of warlike folk that swept west in Europe in the Dark and Middle-ages. But very few details on any of them.

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    Read up on the Huns or the Mongols and you'll probably see pretty much what Tolkien had in mind.

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    Yeah, but they had China to plunder when they weren't going west. I wonder if there's any equivalent far, far away in Middle-Earth.

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    Could be. There's plenty to the east of Gondor, Ithilien and Mordor that we know nothing about. The Blue Wizards might've gotten into all kinds of mischief... or not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Wizards

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    So we're almost through --we're up to the Scouring of the Shire. The kid has felt some time that Frodo et al were dawdling too much about getting back to the Shire, and his fears have been confirmed.

    Place really went to hell in a bit over a year, I've got to say.

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    Well, yes. The Rangers went away - they were keeping a lot of the riff-raff out of the Shire, as Butterbur belatedly realized - and someone with an agenda, a few months' head start, and a lot of expertise in plotting mischief against warier foes than these gullible, simple hobbits has had the run of the place for several months. But this chapter shows clearly just how much Pippin and Merry, in particular, have grown up while they've been away. A 48-hour rebellion, and the mischief-maker has been dealt with; then it's just some hard work to put things right again.
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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    An of course Samwise too, along with Merry and Pippin. Additionally we have it driven home that Frodo is weary, wise and wounded.

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    It's fun to see how Pippin and Merry have grown in maturity and stature, literally as well as figuratively, during the Scouring chapters. You get the sense that the other Hobbits, seeing their clothes, weaponry and kickass attitudes, are more than a little impressed by these young fellows.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    So we're done. (Decided not to read the Appendixes together.)

    It's been a long, great trip, I'm glad we did it.

    Next: The Color of Magic.

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    Hey, don't neglect the appendices! Some great historical stuff in there, to say nothing of Aragorn's later reign and death.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    So we're done. (Decided not to read the Appendixes together.)

    It's been a long, great trip, I'm glad we did it.

    Next: The Color of Magic.
    Are you sure? I read that when it was new and thusly did not read Pratchett again until around 5 years ago when the Dope convinced me I was missing out. I would start with either one of Witches books or Night Watch. Much better writing and characters.

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    Quote Originally posted by Elendil's Heir View post
    Hey, don't neglect the appendices! Some great historical stuff in there, to say nothing of Aragorn's later reign and death.
    Yeah, but I didn't really find them to be enjoyable reading until I was quite a few years older than Rube's kid.

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    Jim, we're sure enough. We read the first few pages last night (great thing about iBooks, being able to sample before you buy), and decided it was worth continuing.
    Last edited by Rube E. Tewesday; 24 Apr 2012 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    Jim, we're sure enough. We read the first few pages last night (great thing about iBooks, being able to sample before you buy), and decided it was worth continuing.
    OK cool. I still don't like Rincewind books oddly enough. I found with Rincewind he was more of a poor man's Piers Anthony but with almost everything else he was brilliant.

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    Poor man's Piers Anthony? I'm not sure how much lower than ol' Piers you could really get. Yikes.

    I'd stumbled into Monstrous Regiment without reading any other books from Discworld and fell completely in love, then I felt that I should go back to the beginning and read them properly. I was disappointed, but it was still leaps and bounds beyond the best Xanth novel.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    Poor man's Piers Anthony? I'm not sure how much lower than ol' Piers you could really get. Yikes.

    I'd stumbled into Monstrous Regiment without reading any other books from Discworld and fell completely in love, then I felt that I should go back to the beginning and read them properly. I was disappointed, but it was still leaps and bounds beyond the best Xanth novel.
    Oddly I disagree. Anthony started strong with the first 3 Xanth books and a few others and then became a complete hack. Pratchett started as weak parody and grew into a powerful satirist. Now I read those first 3 Xanth books when they were new and it helped I was only in the 8th grade when I read them, I'm sure but they were fairly good.

    The Colour of Magic was pretty crappy and the characters terrible. Rincewind is a horrible main character and it really hurts the books. The chest with the feet is goofier and less funny then anything Piers did early though way better than probably everything Piers did after 1980. So Pratchett had a few books worse then Piers' best books in my opinion. Also the Incarnations of Immortality series started strong though went to crap quick. I enjoyed Battle Circle bit again read it as a kid. I know it would be not worth reading again now.

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    I think the thing that irritates me the most about Anthony--and this was evident from his earliest books--is that all of his characters speak in the exact same way, regardless of gender, age, background, or universe. "For sure" is a verbal tic that showed up so often my red pen was itching to attack even as a kid, and I've seen that exact damn phrase used ad nauseum in every Piers Anthony novel I've ever read. I'll agree that the actual stories in the early Xanth books weren't bad.

    Pratchett was pretty weak in storytelling early on and prone to some absurdities that went too far without much point to them, but his use of language has always been superb. The fact that even as goofy as the story was, each character still had a distinct voice and there were no obvious, lazy verbal tics of the author's sneaking into the dialogue just automatically made him stand out. Anthony got lazy, but he was never good with the actual mechanics of writing. Pratchett had talent from the start and learned how to build a story as he went along.

    I guess in the comparison between Anthony and early Pratchett it depends on where your emphasis is. Are you more concerned with the story that's being told or how it's being told? I came down on the latter side.

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    That makes sense, especially from a writer's and editor's viewpoint. I first read them with a pretty uncrtical eye as I think I was only a HS Freshman for Colour and younger for early Xanth. Heck in 1979 or so the fantasy catalog was pretty slim anyway. So Xanth was something fairly new then.

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    I gotta say, I've read practically no fantasy since I was quite young. I've just gotten back into it with the kid, and am starting with the first Discworld book pretty much because it's the first. (It is the first, right?)

    We'll see how it goes.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    I gotta say, I've read practically no fantasy since I was quite young. I've just gotten back into it with the kid, and am starting with the first Discworld book pretty much because it's the first. (It is the first, right?)

    We'll see how it goes.
    It is the first but the books read in strange order. There are basically lines of books all within Discworld. Many characters overlap but Rincewind in only in a handful thankfully.

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    All I'll say is I started with The Colour of Magic just after The Light Fantastic came out, and I took care not to miss a single one for ever after. True, some that came after were better - in many cases, much better - but for me the magic started with the very first one, amusing parody of other fantasy or not.
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    Malacandra is, of course, a gentleman of taste.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Continuing with The Colour of Magic. I think the kid may be more into it than me. Satire and parody are fairly new to him, and I think he's intrigued by the idea of a fantasy world full of idiots, cut-purses and hookers, after our long sojourn in Middle-Earth.

    Me, I'm starting to find Rincewind almost as annoying as jim does.

  44. #44
    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Don't worry if you can't stand him, Rube. Rincewind isn't in all that many books. I think you both would get a kick out of the Watch books, if you decide to skip ahead after this.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

  45. #45
    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    OK, finished The Colour of Magic. Kid enjoyed the wackiness, I was left pretty cold. (Although Hrun's description of a typical day in the life of a hero was pretty dead on, after all the Robert E. Howard I've read lately.)

    Next up: Baseball Joe and the School Nine. God bless the public domain.

  46. #46
    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    My boys have enjoyed the Percy Jackson books - good adventures and a modern updating of Greek mythos. Start with The Lightning Thief.

  47. #47
    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Elendil's Heir View post
    My boys have enjoyed the Percy Jackson books - good adventures and a modern updating of Greek mythos. Start with The Lightning Thief.
    Kid's read several of those on his own. Even liked the movie.

  48. #48
    Oliphaunt
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    Not that the movie has all that much to do with the book (a closer fit that How To Train Your Dragon though, AIUI).
    Librarians rule, Oook

  49. #49
    Administrator CatInASuit's avatar
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    I have often wondered if an appreciation of Rincewind requires an appreciation of the peculiar English sense of humour. see Arthur Dent.
    In the land of the blind, the one-arm man is king.

  50. #50
    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CatInASuit View post
    I have often wondered if an appreciation of Rincewind requires an appreciation of the peculiar English sense of humour. see Arthur Dent.
    Well, I dunno. I find (or found, it's a long time), Arthur Dent quite amusing, and don't find any particular humour in Rincewind.

    Interesting comparison, though. Dent basically doesn't understand the crazy galaxy he falls into, Rincewind doesn't seem to understand the crazy planet he's been born on.

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