Imagining Middle-earth

I referred to this book in my post on World Made by Hand, but I feel that it deserves its own marginal commentary.

The book of which I write is Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, written by English literary critic Brian Rosebury. The book is the second edition (published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2003), much revised, of a version which Rosebury published in 1992. The title of this post refers to that of the first chapter of Tolkien.

My focus will be on the first two chapters of the work, which themselves focus on The Lord of the Rings. As Rosebury (rightly, in my view) says, 'I will say straight away that [Tolkien's] reputation must... very largely rest on The Lord of the Rings [p. 8]'. As I wrote in my post on World Made by Hand about Rosebury's discussion of Tolkien:
One major thrust of Rosebury's work was to argue that, in many respects, Middle-earth is itself a 'character' in The Lord of the Rings, and that one strength of Tolkien's writing is his deft use of the landscape to elucidate the 'character' of the land and to bring to life, as it were, the vision of life which he communicates in the work.
So my plan here is to comment in greater depth on Rosebury's accomplishment, for I believe that, in many respects, Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon achieves the kind of breakthrough with The Lord of the Rings with respect to literary criticism, that Planet Narnia (by Michael Ward) does with C. S. Lewis's Narniad. (Although, with regard to Planet Narnia, see here.)

A final note: the formatting of this post seems to have been messed up ever since there was a problem that caused blogger to have been inaccessible for a couple of days, so pardon the look.

Rosebury first sets out, in his introduction, what he believes to be the source of the problem with literary criticism of Tolkien:
[T]here is something about Tolkien's art which eludes the conventional strategies of contemporary criticism, even when these are deployed with sympathy and patience. It is precisely this elusiveness, in fact, which proves the freshness of Tolkien's invention. His most important work, The Lord of the Rings, diverges in certain crucial respects from the various models against which it has seemed plausible to judge it: from medieval romance, notwithstanding Tolkien's professional interest in that genre; from the mainstream tradition of the English novel, though it owes more to this tradition than is often believed; from most fantasy and science fiction, especially the superficial imitations which its commercial succes has encouraged; even from Tolkien's lesser works - which have, moreover, peculiarities of their own. The descriptive and analytical assumptions appropriate to most modern literature do, as [Tom] Shippey suggests [in The Road to Middle-earth], need to be augmented if it is to be adequately explained. But this augmentations must be harmonised with a coherent overall view of literature and of literary history, which holds good for Tolkien's contemporaries as well as himself. Tolkien belongs to the same century as Proust, Joyce and Eliot, and is read with pleasure by many of the same readers. Criticism needs to confront this fact and make sense of it.
Even Tolkien's ablest critics have had imperfect sense in formulating a satisfactory critical language for discussing his work. ... What I hope to do in this book is to arrive at a view of Tolkien which places him in the same frame as other twentieth-century writers, explores his originality and his modernity, and evaluates each of his individual works... . ... I hope through that analysis to establish... [an] assessment of the work and explanation of its aesthetic basis. [pp. 6-8] Put another way, Rosebury wishes to establish what are the particular excellences of The Lord of the Rings, how it succeeds (or fails) as an aesthetic work, and how it is connected to the literature of Tolkien's contemporaries, for it is Rosebury's view that The Lord of the Rings has more in common with them than is usually granted. What Rosebury leaves unsaid is, of course, that he has (he hopes) developed the critical vocabulary needed to discuss Tolkien's work, that he has devised strategies of literary criticism which Tolkien's art cannot elude.
On, then, to looking at the first chapter of Rosebury's analysis of The Lord of the Rings, entitled 'Imagining Middle-earth'.

Rosebury introduces The Lord of the Rings:
In The Lord of the Rings... Tolkien realised for the first and only time the full potential of his creative imagination. The realisation was possible for two reasons: firstly because he constructed here a uniquely expansive form, which allowed the fullest embodiment to imaginative conceptions of (as it proved) great aesthetic and emotional potency; and secondly because he arrived in this work, after a twenty-year apprenticeship with many false starts, at a style, or range of styles, and an expertise in narrative, sufficient for those conceptions to be made transparent. [p.11] Rosebury goes on to write that the first chapter will focus on the imaginative conceptions and form of the work.
The Lord of the Rings... is set in a world called Middle-earth, of which the regions we encounter are broadly similar, in climate, geography, geology, and vegetation, as well as in scale, to Europe. It is, for the most part, a pre-industrial world, sparsely populated, and highly localised; trade is limitaed, and travellers are few. Men, gathered in communities of varying sizes, share Middle-earth with a variety of other 'speaking peoples' (RK, 405), of whom Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and (half-Man-sized) Hobbits are the most common. Interaction among these peoples is rare... and often characterised by mutual suspicion. Nevertheless, Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits are actual or potential allies... . Orcs are the barbarous militia of the malign spirit... Sauron, the Dark Lord, who has re-arisen in Middle-earth after a long age of oblivion. Sauron never appears in visible and speaking form, but his malevolent will, acting at a distance, is felt increasingly throughout the narrative, as he attempts to conquer or devastate the western regions of Middle-earth from his stronghold in the south-east, Mordor. He will succeed in doing so if he can recover the One Ring of Power... . The Ring has come into the possession of the Hobbit, Frodo Baggins, and Sauron's servants are pursuing him. Salvation for Middle-earth depends on Frodo destroying the Ring... by throwing it into the fire of... Mount Doom in the heart of Mordor itself, where it was forged. Eventually this quest is accomplished and Middle-earth is duly saved.
Anyone who knows the work will recognise that this brief account omits innumerable complexities... . Nevertheless, something of the appeal of The Lord of the Rings is, I hope, apparent from this bare synopsis. In part it is the appeal of an essentially simple, and exciting, plot; to that extent the work has affinities, as has often been noted, with a variety of story-telling traditions: with fairy-tales, quest narratives, and novels of adventure. But in part the appeal is attributable to the features described in the first half of the above account (without which, indeed, the narrative sketched in the second half would scarcely be intelligible). The circumstantial expansiveness of Middle-earth itself is central to the work's aesthetic power: [italics added for emphasis] once this is grasped, many other aspects of the work fall into place. [pp. 11-3] This, then, is Rosebury's thesis, as I have claimed (and as, I will demonstrate, he goes on to demonstrate). The character, as it were, of Middle-earth itself is one of the sources of the work's aesthetic, motive, and even moral power. Rosebury straightaway cites a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring which is worth quoting in full:

They hastened up the last slope ... and looked out from the hill-top over lands under the morning. It was now as clear and far-seen as it had been veiled and misty when they stood upon the knoll in the Forest, which could now be seen rising pale and green out of the dark trees in the West. In that direction, the land rose in wooded ridges, green, yellow, russet under the sun, beyong which lay hidden the valley of the Brandywine. To the South, over the line of the Withywindle, there was a distant glint like pale glass where the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands and flowed away out of the knowledge of the hobbits. Northward beyond the dwindling downs the land ran away in flats and swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colours, until it faded into a featureless and shadowy distance. Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains. (FR, 146-7)

'We shall return again and again', Rosebury writes (p. 13), 'to this quality of meticulously depicted expansiveness'. Indeed, in no other work I have read do I think I have encountered such meticulous care taken to bring the landscape to the fore: in other books (particularly in Tolkien's various imitators) it is simply something to be trudged through and otherwise ignored (even, for the most part, in World Made by Hand); in The Lord of the Rings, descriptions of the landscape often feature some of Tolkien's best writing, are usually intrinsic to the plot at the moment (in the passage quoted, Frodo & co. have just left the house of Tom Bombadil & Goldberry and are about to head north for the Road), and provide the reader both with enough detail to form a clear picture in his or her mind of what the scene looks like, without over-cluttering it. And Rosebury will describe some particular excellences of this kind of narrative description as we go along.
Rosebury then turns his attention to what distinguishes The Lord of the Rings from the novel, and what it has in common with that genre; his point is to show that The Lord of the Rings has far more in common with the novel than with other, pre-modern genres with which it has usually been compared. The Lord of the Rings remains quite distinct from novels as a genre; however (see pp. 13-34.) To give you the full effect of Rosebury's analysis, it would be necessary for me to quote the chapter in full, which is impossible. But perhaps these select few quotations will give you an idea of what he is getting at:
It has become conventional to insist... that The Lord of the Rings stands apart from the mainstream traditions of the novel, and this apartness has been taken by some as establishing the work's essential anachronism[.] ... Tolkien himself... avoids 'novel' and sometimes uses 'romance' - though he markedly prefers 'tale' and 'story', and, occasionally but revealingly, the more expansive 'history'. If, however, we try to identify the features of The Lord of the Rings that categorically exclude it from the canon of novels ... we meet with difficulties which reveal to us more about the nature of the work ... than we would learn by summarily assigning it to a different genre.  
The attempt may begin with a point which will have been obvious even from our brief summary. The Lord of the Rings deals not with imaginary events in the real world, but with imaginary events in an imaginary world. ... on the face of it The Lord of the Rings is clearly a romance, at least if we assume that credible representation of 'real' life is impossible within an imaginary world. ... the representation of an alternative world is widely assumed to involve a greater remoteness from actual human experience than the representation of a version of the historical world. ... An immediate problem with this classificatory strategy [of classifying The Lord of the Rings as romance, 'implicitly conceding that if we categorise [it] as a novel we are bound to find it deficient on the essential novelistic criterion of realism.'] is that a number of works which are non-realistic in this sense are in fact usually counted as novels[.] [E.g., The Time Machine, et al.] ... The extra-chronological past of The Lord of the Rings is no more imaginatively remote from us than the pseudo-chronological future of Wells's Eloi and Morlocks... . ... The significant feature of the imaginative displacement from reality in The Lord of the Rings is not so much its distance as its systematic realisation... But the temporal and spatial order, the historico-geographical extension and density, of the alternative universe represented in The Lord of the Rings are attributes of the real universe too: indeed, in so far as these structural aspects of reality are concerned, The Lord of the Rings might actually be called unusually mimetic. [pp. 13-5; Rosebury goes on to show, by quoting the passage from The Fellowship of the Ring where the hobbits reach Bree and come to The Prancing Pony, how the 'structural relation of imaginary universe to real one is not... the kind of symbolic or allegorical relation in which the invented world is texturally quite alien to the actual'; see pp. 15-7]
[C]ountless details of the episode at the Prancing Pony implicitly direct our attention to the rest of the huge world on which it is a tiny speck. If we are continually aware (as we are when visiting a real inn) of its geographical location, this is not simply a question of its appearing on a map in the end-papers. ... Butterbur... has been charged with sending a letter to Frodo in the Shire, but 'I put it by safe. Then I couldn't find nobody willing to go to the Shire next day, nor the day after, and none of my own folk were to spare; and then one thing after another drove it out of my mind' (FR, 179).
The rudimentary methods of communication this implies are in contrast to the efficient postal system which, we have earlier been told, operates in the Shire (FR, 19). It reinforces also the 'realistic' feel of the episode: the Prancing Pony 'remains', as Rosebury puts it on p. 17, 'resolutely unallegorical, a place where certain things happen to happen. The delay in Frodo's receipt of the letter - an entirely mundane event - has combined with a number of less mundane contingencies to bring the plot to its present juncture, and will contribute to its subsequent development.
All this [much of which I have had to omit] should begin both to suggest Tolkien's skill in planning and executing 'novelistic' complexities of narrative, and to confirm at least one sense in which The Lord of the Rings is exceptionally realistic: its Middle-earth, like our world, is a complicated place, full of banal mischances, full of surprises which bring home the limits of our knowledge, full of space and multiplicity. ... One would have to turn to the great Victorian novelists... to find a canonical novel which realises the amplitude of life in space and time as thoroughly as The Lord of the Rings. [pp. 17-9]
I wish now to turn to a second point of difference between The Lord of the Rings and the mainstream novel, a difference in the use of language. The supposed anachronism of The Lord of the Rings, its alleged remoteness from modern narrative practices, evidently has something to do with a particular perception of its style. ... The suggestion is of a clumsy pastiche, marked by lexical and syntactical outrages upon 'ordinary' language.
The passages [in this case, passage] already quoted from the work are enough to demonstrate the falsity of this... as a generalisation. They are written in a transparent, even plain, prose which avoids primness or formality: 'he had a white apron on', for example, is preferred to 'he was wearing a white apron', and 'they... got off their ponies' to 'they ... dismounted from their ponies'. These would be from the passage cited in Rosebury (pp. 15-17) which I did not quote here. Far from sporting stylistic doublet and hose, the style is distinguished by an unobtrusive economy and precision in the use of 'ordinary diction', especially though not exclusively in verbs and verb phrases: 'the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands'; 'the land ran away in flats and swellings'... . And so on. Amid the stylistic diversity of the twentieth-century novel... the stylistic scope of The Lord of the Rings is neither unusual nor intimidating.
Considerations of style, then, are hardly sufficient in themselves to exclude The Lord of the Rings from the category 'novel'. Yet there is something absolutely distinctive in the linguistic texture of The Lord of the Rings... It is the linguistic counterpart of the expansive conception of the invented world: a diversity and multiplicity of disocurses, each of which has its place in a complex cultural-historical microcosm. ... It is this deployment of linguistic variety as an integral part of the narrative content, a deployment in which the styles available within contemporary English assume the guise of an intermediate resource... that sets The Lord of the Rings apart, at the level of verbal texture, from other fictions. [pp. 21-25] We are beginning to see just what is the distinguishing characteristic of The Lord of the Rings; it has something to do with the 'expansiveness', as Rosebury likes to call it, of both the world and the languages which Tolkien has invented. Its uniqueness does not seem to lie in its resemblance to pre-modern literary genres, and, while it has more in common with novels than has been assumed, Rosebury has shown how much it has in common with the mainstream novelistic tradition. As we can see, a lot of the depreciation of Tolkien's work; that it is mere 'fantasy' or 'escapism'; that it has poor and inflexible style; and so on; does not hold water.
After a great deal of work establishing how The Lord of the Rings both differs from and resembles novels, Rosebury analyses the feature of the work that is its most distinctive and is the source of its greatness:
The 'journey', then, rather than the more narrowly defined 'quest', is the appropriate name for the image which unifies the heterogenous narrative of The Lord of the Rings; the specific quest, Frodo's 'errand' as it is sometimes called, is merely the axis of the main action. The 'errand' pertains to the plot, the journey to the story, or 'history'. The difference is important. Whereas the quest as a unifying device is integrative, and relegates the locales to a subordinate status (every episode must represent a significant obstacle overcome, or a significant gain in enlightenment), the journey is expansive and exalts the locales; it permits diversions, loose ends, and celebrates the contingency and variety of the world. Certainly many - indeed, to varying extents, all - of the episodes of the hobbits' journeys are integrated into subsequent narrative developments; but these connections are contingent, and, as it were, life-like, not systematic or necessarily thematically significant. ... The maps of Middle-earth show countless lands, rivers, mountains, villages that do not feature in the narrative; and again and again the characters gaze in passing over landscapes that they will never, in fact, traverse. If, as I have suggested, the energetic elaboration of an imaginary world is the essence of the distinctiveness of The Lord of the Rings from the novel tradition, this structural use of the journey is a crucial part of that distinctiveness.
It might be protested at this point that expansiveness and contingency hardly make for coherence - that an emphasis on journeying looks like an excuse for rambling and superfluous invention, rather than a unifying device. On this view The Lord of the Rings offends not merely against widely accepted principles of novelistic unity, but against classical principles of proportion between the parts and the whole, of sufficiency of means to ends, which transcend distinctions of genre. The multiplication of places, peoples and personages, it might be said, goes far beyond what is necessary to secure the excitement of the climax and dénouement. ... A slimmed-down version of the work, retaining the essentials of the plot but without the leisurely proliferation of detail, would have been more fully effective.
But no one who knows the book well will feel that this makes sense. It is not merely that some episodes are too good to miss. The proposition that slimming-down would make the book as a whole more effective rings false. On the contrary, most readers are likely to agree with Tolkien himself (FR, 6) that the book is defective in being too short. The reason is that the amplitude of the world described in The Lord of the Rings is itself both structurally and thematically significant. What looks like excess from the point of view of a plot-based structure is wholly necessary for a different kind of structure: and the two types of structure are here ultimately integrated into a single aesthetic complex.
... The aesthetic dynamic of a plot-based structure is... the creation in the reader's mind of certain hopes and fears, the resolution of which, in one way or another, forms the terminal objective of the plot. ... Whether the reader's engaged desires are, broadly speaking, gratified... or... denied... the structure of the narrative or drama is correlated to the process of their arousal, quickening, gratification, or denial. Individual scenese serve not only to display events, engendering and resolving suspense, but to arouse those attractions and aversions towards particular conceptions (often, but not exclusively, characters) which motivate the reader to take an interest in the sequence of events. ... The Lord of the Rings has a plot-based structure, simple in outline but complex in detail. ... But the work also has an overarching, indeed all-inclusive, structure. ... [T]he work is unified by the imaginative authenticity of the invented world itself: by the internal coherence of its history, geography, philology. The complexities of the plot, the interlacing journeys, the multitudinous discourses, all conduce to this end. This expansiveness, which might be supposed to threaten incoherence, paradoxically has the opposite effect, since every additional detail, providing it is consistent with the rest, reinforces the impression of a world which has the interior consistency of the real world, as well as its capacity for newness, for surprise, its inexhaustibility.  
The work's least novelistic sections of all - the six antiquarian Appendices... further authenticate this unifying expansiveness: one feels that they could go on for ever, and that an essential feature of the invented world (as of the real one) is this exhilirating illimitableness.

This comprehensive structure is effective aesthetically because the imaginary world and its contents are affectively highly charged. The point may be expressed aphoristicaly by saying that Middle-earth, rather than any of the characters, is the hero of The Lord of the Rings; and Middle-earth, as an imaginative conception, is coterminous with the entire work. ... [T]he emotional power of The Lord of the Rings is at least as much a matter of the fascination and beauty of Middle-earth (including its peoples and their cultures) as of the excitement of the plot. But the crux of the plot is, precisely, the threatened destruction of Middle-earth: its conversion by Sauron, if he obtains the Ring, to the likeness of Mordor, a sterile, undifferentiated waste-land in which, we may presume, all cultures will have been obliterated and all peoples slaughtered or enslaved. ('He'll eat us all if He gets it, eat all the world', as Gollum warns Frodo (TT, 245).) In this way the two aesthetic structures - the dynamic structure of the plot, and the comprehensive structure of the invented world - are integrally related: our desire for Middle-earth is the keynote, so to speak, of our desire for the fulfilment of Frodo's errand. The Lord of the Rings is a consummate work of art because it co-ordinates these desires (each of which is itself a complex of many desires) into a compelling unity. [pp. 31-4] We are but halfway through the first chapter, and it is here that Rosebury makes his claim for the distinctive excellence of The Lord of the Rings. My take on it is that Rosebury really has his finger on the pulse of the book. I have read a number of works of literary criticism on The Lord of the Rings (even Edmund Wilson's essay, 'Ooo, Those Awful Orcs!'), and none, not even the books Master of Middle-earth by Paul Kocher or Tom Shippey's two works (The Road to Middle-earth and J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century; the former of which book Rosebury calls the best work of literary criticism on Tolkien) quite get at the distinctive excellence of The Lord of the Rings. Rosebury's work seems to me to really get at the nub of what makes The Lord of the Rings so good a book - so good, as Rosebury might say, a work of art. With this critique I believe that Rosebury helps establish that Tolkien is indeed one of the literary greats of the twentieth century, as was argued by Shippey in Author of the Century. Most importantly, he does so with reference to the work itself; unlike many of Tolkien's detractors (and even admirers), who read into the book their own assumptions about what Tolkien or the book is 'really' about, Rosebury's analysis is based, primarily, on looking at the features of the work itself.

Two final passages should serve to illustrate this point:

The positive values to which [The Lord of the Rings] appeals are those of a life which is civilised (in the widest sense) as well as altruistic. It celebrates not only the arts (especially poetry and song, and architecture) but friendship, love and marriage, work (especially craftsmanship), domesticity, the pleasures of food and drink, and the exploratory enjoyment of landscape and of the multitudinous kinds of nature – of plants and flowers for their fragrance and beauty, birds for their song, horses for their grace and swiftness, ‘oliphaunts’ for their terror and splendour. Contrast this approach with the ‘Imperial walker’-style depiction of oliphaunts in Peter Jackson’s film. The proportion of the text devoted in The Lord of the Rings to conceiving these aspects of Middle-earth – a high proportion, as may already be apparent – provides a crucial index of a reader’s understanding: anyone who regards these elements as ‘padding’, or as essentially subordinate to the development of the plot, has simply not grasped the nature of the work. Many examples could be given, but one which will serve as a test case is the early episode in which Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin awaken in the house of Tom Bombadil, the morning after their rescue from the Old Forest. ... The passage itself, which Rosebury quotes at length, is too long to quote here; in Tolkien it is on pp. 53-5.

By any conventional criterion of narrative urgency, this section (a small part of the leisurely Bombadil episode) is uncalled for. Its importance lies in the finely observed skyscape and landscape, with their sharp effects of light and colour... and in the quietly blissful evocation of the cycle of mist, cloud, rain, river, Sea. ... Underlying this quickening of the senses is the impression of a calm domestic sanctuary... which screens off the dangers of the Forest. That Frodo’s eastward journey is delayed is no blunder in narrative construction, for it is just the kind of happiness encapsulated in this episode, the happiness of grateful contemplation of beauty, and of unforced, unhurried activity, practical and creative, which the work opposes to the nihilistic spirit of Mordor. We need to feel its allure, not only in order to sustain our interest in the fulfilment of Frodo’s mission, but also because the imagining of such happiness (which like any object of desire is most compelling when transient or imperilled) is central to the purposes of The Lord of the Rings. [pp. 53-5] Passages like the one Rosebury here discusses, which occurs during the hobbits' stay at the house of Tom Bombadil, are necessary, so Rosebury argues, to the emotional investment of the reader in the plot (better, in the 'aesthetic complex' of which the work in part comprises). I suspect that when we get right down to it, it is not Sauron's brooding and menacing presence, or even the devastatingly real psychological portrait of the perversion of the will caused by the acquisition of power, from which the Dark Lord and the Ring of Power derive their potency, but the knowledge of just what it is that will be lost if Sauron triumphs: the hellish landscape of Mordor, described in as intricate detail as any other in the book, tell us what Sauron will make of the Shire, the Old Forest, Rivendell.

A final example may serve to represent the style of The Lord of the Rings at its distinctive best – not in moments of instantaneous action, or in dialogue, but in narrative that is at once dynamic and sensuously alert.

Light was fading fast when they came to the forest-end. There they sat under an old gnarled oak that sent its roots twisting like snakes down a steep crumbling bank. A deep dim valley lay before them. On its further side the woods gathered again, blue and grey under the sullen evening, and marched on southwards. To the right the mountains of Gondor glowed, remote in the West, under a fire-flecked sky. To the left lay darkness: the towering walls of Mordor; and out of that darkness the long valley came, falling steeply in an ever-widening trough towards the Anduin. At its bottom ran a hurrying stream: Frodo could hear its stony voice coming up through the silence; and beside it on the hither side a road went winding down like a pale ribbon, down into the chill grey mists that no gleam of sunset touched. There it seemed to Frodo that he descried far off, floating as it were on a shadowy sea, the high dim tops and broken pinnacles of old towers forlorn and dark. (TT, 306)

The visual imagination is at its sharpest here. Characteristically, the passage takes up a vantage-point and constructs a panorama around it. The scene is appropriately gloomy: Frodo and Sam are about to attempt to enter Mordor; and it is no surprise when the following morning reveals only a ‘dead brown twilight’ (TT, 308), as Sauron’s pall of black cloud rolls westward. But there is no anthropomorphism in the prose: even the ‘stony voice’ is, first and foremost, literally the sound of water flowing over rocks. It is instructive to compare the passage with part of Hardy’s famous description of Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native.

It was at present a place perfectly accordant with man’s nature – neither ghastly, hateful, nor ugly; neither commonplace, unmeaning, nor tame; but, like man, slighted and enduring; and withal singularly colossal and mysterious in its swarthy monotony. As with some persons who have long lived apart, solitude seemed to look out of its countenance. It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities.

Where Hardy, one is tempted to say, describes like a poet or a philosopher, Tolkien describes like a painter: his descriptions appeal to the emotions through the sense, not the other way round. Hardy projects human significances at the landscape; Tolkien evokes the human experience of perceiving a landscape. (For some readers this difference will suggest the greater seriousness of Hardy’s concerns: I have tried to show... that Tolkien’s interest in ‘Middle-earth’ itself is part of an entirely serious system of values.) But the analogy of a painter is imperfect, not merely because sound and silence are heard but because the visual scene is not experienced statically. Frodo arrives at this vantage point, after long journeying, at the beginning of the paragraph; and his (and our) perception of the land ahead is suffused with an awareness of the continuing journey. The long valley comes out of the darkness, but Frodo must go into it. [pp. 83-4] That the portrait Tolkien paints, as it were, is dynamic is, as Rosebury (and I following him) would suggest, is characteristic: the oak beneath which the hobbits sit 'sends' its roots 'twisting' down the bank; the woods across the valley 'gather' themselves and 'march' southward; the valley itself is 'falling'; the stream within it 'hurrying'; the road 'winding'. How similar these suggestions of motion are to those in the passage Rosebury quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring! What is more, as Rosebury points out, the emotional and thematic content of this passage is 'suffused with an awareness of the continuing journey.' Little wonder that it is this kind of writing which Rosebury calls Tolkien's 'distinctive best.'
 This ends my marginal commentary on Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. I recommend the book to one and all; if you love The Lord of the Rings, I think you will enjoy this work of literary criticism - and of how many works of literary criticism (whatever their subject) can that be said?

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