Friday, April 5, 2013

Longing

"A swoon of longing smote me there." -Pearl, 167

I know we talked about this some in class on Thursday, but I wanted to return to the theme of longing. For me, the longing that Tolkien's stories make me feel is one of the most powerful things about reading his work. I'd love to hear which stories, descriptions, passages of Tolkien's make you feel this way, and why - and whether it's longing to go to Middle-earth, or something else.

For me, it's the song that Sam and Frodo sing near the very end of LOTR; it alludes to Frodo's desire for Valinor. This is one of my favorite things Tolkien has ever written. Simply put, it makes me want to go on a journey.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

4 comments:

Ashley Cauley said...

When I read "The Return of the King" I feel that the longing of the rest of the book (after the destruction of the Ring) is to wrap up all the loose ends. There's six whole chapters of resolution.

One of the most poignant "wrapping-ups" for me is the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen. The hobbits are longing to leave Minas Tirith to go back home, but Aragorn mysteriously asks them to stay a bit longer because he is waiting for a sign, but he doesn't say what. Then he and Gandalf find a sapling of the White Tree and this is the sign. Finally, Arwen comes to Minias Tirith and they are married. Tolkien says "And Aragorn the King Elessar wedded Arwen Undómiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of theur long waiting and labours was come to fulfilment," (Return p. 951).

This moment is very moving for me because Tolkien knew what it was like to have to wait to be with the person you love. He had to wait until he was 21 before he could write to Edith and propose. That kind of longing would be extremely powerful, and I think that is why the reader (or at least I) feel so much joy and relief at the wedding. The same could be said of Sam's wedding to Rosie. Tolkien takes the time to wrap up the multitude of loose ends that the story just wouldn't be the same without.

Anna Adams said...

I read "Roverandom" for my research paper, and there's this part in the story where Roverandom (the main character) travels so that he can see, from a distance, what I think is probably an allusion to Valinor He can see it but he doesn't reach it. I think there was definitely a sense of longing in that part of the book. At another part he is on the moon and he visits the land where all children go to dream, and I think that land was all about longing. I won't go into further detail because I think you guys should read the story yourselves. It was pretty cute.

I would say that there are many moments in Tolkien's work where the reader feels longing, since Tolkien is so good at leaving those things to the imagination or giving a sense that they aren't easily reachable.

Austin M. said...

The song of the dwarves in The Hobbit is for me one of the most poignant moments of all of Tolkien's work. The characters themselves are expressing their sorrow in exile and their longing to return to the land of their ancestors. I know there were issues with the Jackson film, but I thought it communicated these feelings perfectly.

"Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day
To claim our long-forgotten gold."

sworland said...

I think I may have actually posted this same passage earlier in the semester about something else, but it's one of my favorites, and it's continuing on with my love of Rohan :)

Theoden has just died in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, and Eomer has just noticed Eowyn lying nearby.

"He stood a moment as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart; and then his face went deathly white, and a cold fury rose in him, so that all speech failed him for a while. A fey mood took him.

'Eowyn, Eowyn!' he cried at last. 'Eowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all!'

...Over the field rang his clear voice calling: 'Death! Ride, ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!'

And with that the host began to move. But the Rohirrim sang no more. Death they cried with one voice loud and terrible, and gathering speed like a great tide their battle swept about their fallen king and passed, roaring away southwards." (Return of the King, p. 118)

The repetition of death creates such a sense of the Rohirrim's longing for (essentially) their doom, in a way. But through their longing for death, it's also a sort of longing for glory because of the way they choose to take their last stand.

It's interesting to me because so often Tolkien culminates this theme of longing without the typical "happily ever after." Like in my example with Rohan, they ride to their ruin, longing for death and many of them find it. But then I think we ought to take into account Tolkien's Christianity and view this particular instance at least as a bittersweet juxtaposition: sadness at death on Earth, but joyfulness at eternal life in Heaven.