Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Warbler's bane

A few days ago Drek sent me an email with only the words “just trust me” and a link. I was confused. I trust Drek implicitly, but I’ve learned over many years of life not to trust anyone who says “just trust me”. I followed the link. DAMN him.

Now you have to understand. I’m a Tolkien fan. I mean, a huge one. My parents read me the Hobbit when I was little, and I was enchanted. Then we all read The Lord of the Rings together, and I was astounded. Awed. Invigorated. Hooked. I read it over and over. I memorized lines. I got into trivia contests with my friends. I know things I probably shouldn’t know. I consumed it.

It was the depth of the depiction of Middle Earth that got to me. I mean, I loved the story and the characters, but what made me read LotR over and over again was the amazing richness incorporated into its inception.

You see, the Lord of the Rings didn’t start as a story: it started as a language. JRRT was a philologist, and a contributor to the Oxford English dictionary as well as a professor of Anglo-Saxon languages and works--such as Beowulf, upon which he was a recognized expert. He had playfully written his own “faerie” language as a young man, and had created a lost race of what we now recognize as elves to speak it. He sketched out some history, and some topography, and elven myths and songs and gods and emblems, and the lineages of elven lords, all in a very high and epic style…but he left it at that. It was just an amusement of his own. Nobody would want to read such a thing, he thought. (By the way, these stories were published as The Silmarillion, after his death.)

Anyhow, quite independently of this pursuit, he’d written a cute little story for his own children, about a little “hobbit” named Bilbo Baggins (which had since been published to great acclaim and success), and he had been asked by his publisher to write a sequel. That’s what he set out to do: The Hobbit II; but somehow, along their way, his little hobbits strayed into his elvish land.*

A land with a past and a life. One that did not exist simply for the characters in the story -- one that existed independently, just as our own world does for us. The characters in LotR pass ruins and graves with unremembered origins; they meet ancient creatures, foe and friend; they hear graceful, melancholy elves speaking their own delicate language; they hear stories and songs about a sad and glorious past that they only barely understand; they walk roads that have been walked by unknown others before.

That, in my opinion, is the coup of LotR. Because it ends up making Middle Earth feel real in a way no other fantasy world ever has. A place you might be able to go and live, if you could figure out how. Escapism like nothing ever. If you get to pick your Heaven, then that’s where I’ll be.

Like every great Tolkien fan, I just always wanted more. I wanted to know what was over the next hill. There are places on Tolkien’s map of the area that his tale never visits: who lives there?

So, as you can see, I’ve long been passionate about this. Hell, I’ve written LotR POEMS (If I can find one, I’ll attach it below later…maybe you’ll enjoy it) . For most of my life this passion designated me as a geek, class 1. It got me into Dungeons and Dragons (=geek class 1A) as a teen to try to expand on the experience, and it sent me to read every Tolkien wannabe writer to publish in the 80s and 90s (always with disappointment in comparison). Nobody could ever match the richness of language, history, and geography of Middle Earth.

In the simplest terms, I’ve for been trying to get to Middle Earth for 30 years. I own a Middle Earth Atlas. I play Rivendell, by Rush, on my guitar. I get a Tolkien calendar every year and have 15 years worth of its pictures saved in a scrapbook. And, up until 2000, I dreamed of a live-action movie that would show me more of this place. Peter Jackson, of course, gave me a dream come true that year.

He also elevated my status from geek to enthusiast/expert. No longer do people look at me askance if I mention Gollum, Galadriel, or the Nazgul. I’ve never felt so vindicated. Everybody loves Tolkien. There are action figures, t-shirts, video games, jokes on Jay Leno, and of course the Academy award. And a vast multiplication of fans.

Which leads me to my doom. The doom that Drek sent me to. There it is, over the event horizon…It’s *beautiful*.

Yes, Middle Earth is about to appear online… in just a few months I can go. I don’t care about “playing” it, really, I just want to explore it. See the Misty Mountains and the Bay of Belfalas,…to take a left turn once or twice where Frodo took a right. But it occurs to me…it could take…months…. And after all…it’s frivolous, right? I’m a professional, with more important things to do. I know, I know. But it’s THERE. How can I save myself from this doom? “Warbler’s Bane,” they’ll call it when I’m gone over the hills and far away. If I stop blogging and disappear from this world, look for me at the Sign of the Prancing Pony in Bree or in the Halls of Mandos. Anyone want to join me?

* You can feel it happen as you read. The first book’s advertures are very episodic, just like The Hobbit was. (Tom Bombadil’s chapter, e.g., always seemed to me a lot like Beorn’s). But as the hobbits of LotR continue their adventure, their story takes a more serious, more worldy tone: one that Tolkien himself had no idea it would when he started (we know this because his early drafts and notes have, too, been published, and one can follow the creation of the story now from beginning to end in successive draft attempts). They characters meet some of the same people, but they seem more fully drawn, more serious, and more adult in this new perspective.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a recovering addict Warbler, I have only one comment--Don't do it! MMOs are bad enough for people without some connection to the gameworld--for those with a connection it's only that much worse. I refer you to the numerous people that have spent 1,000s of hours on Evercrack and WoW.

-Another Sociologist

Monday, December 11, 2006 10:50:00 AM  

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