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Studying what I Love


We started off talking about Bilbo Baggins today and the Lord of the Rings. It was something that I think has been one of my favorite classes. I’ve taken several classes in linguistics and pedagogy, but never a class on a Fantasy book. Well, I’ve done several of the online Brandon Sanderson classes, which have all been fantastic. But I’ve never been able to be in class reading one of my favorite books.
There are those out there who say that if you haven’t read the entire LoR trilogy, you’re not really a fan. Well, bah humbug to them, because dammit I am a fan, and I’m not a fan because of the movies. I’m a fan because I love the lore of it all, I love the adventure, the journey, the quest, the magic, the frilly banter and eloquence of Gandalf the Grey and all of the other beautiful bits that come along from existing within Middle Earth (Today I saw it written ‘Middle earth’, with the lowercase ‘e.’ Is that right?).
The day was great. There are only six students in all taking this lovely three-week course (can you believe that?), and they were all very much into it, asking questions, presenting opinions, contributing. What a lovely bunch of kids we had – I love when they group aren’t forced that they have to be there. It’s not like some of the language courses (my gosh, to put someone through a language course who does not want to be there – what cruel dealings we give one another) where the students are forced to take a language. It’s basically a very long and focused elective – you elect to take the class. What a concept!
But that was that. Anyway, the schedule is just as simple as ever, and it starts off with something called ‘no homework.’ Does it get any better? We get to class, read a few hours, take a two-hour lunch, read The Hobbit a few more hours and then go home – with no homework.
It’s exquisite; there’s just no other term.
We just started the whole thing today and it was, as I’ve elucidated in the above, very nice.
We started off the day today discussing all of the ins and outs of the Hero and his/her journey, as described by Joseph Conrad, most succinctly in his opus, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s not something I’ve ever personally read, but I do get some of the references. Conrad, as one of our team paraphrased today, says that if one were to amass all of the stories of mankind up to this point, one would find that they all follow a very similar pattern. They include things like a hero/protagonist, villain/antagonist, an ordinary world, a mentor, an ally, etc. Now, those are all their own words, of course, and each of them has specific meanings which separate them from the others, and again, I’m not quoting anything here. I’m just paraphrasing…paraphrasing what Rick paraphrased. An interesting concept, all the same.          Perhaps I should bring in a copy or two of the Conrad book and we can look at some different quotations or segments from it.
Fantasy literature has changed. We were able to discuss that briefly. I was actually talking about this with my brother several nights ago. He was saying how back in Tolkien’s day, fantasy (as he created and mastered it – the LoR is a pillar of almost all of modern fantasy today, one could argue) was more black and white. There was a good guy and a bad guy, and it was a very simple visual from the starting point to the finishing point. Today, with wondrous stories like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, it’s not all that clear cut. There are people backstabbing others, there’s betrayal, there’s schemes and machinations for one party to dominate over another. It’s much more in-your-face, much more cutthroat than it was back in Tolkien’s LoR days. Not to say that the older ones are outdated and, by today’s standards, of poor quality – good heavens, no. It’s just more that taste, rhythm, and the arc of modern-day entertainment has changed.
What else is there?
Not much.
The point is that this is me getting out the fact that today was superb. I spent my working day talking about something that I adore and have adored since I was quite young. I personally didn’t get into the reading game of fantasy until I was in my early twenties, but I was always into the lore, the world, the, well, for lack of a better word, the fantasy of it all.
Back to work tomorrow, starting from page 8. Let’s see how good it does to turn Gandalf away. Just as I remember. Ohh, this is getting good.

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