Today's Date in the Shire
24 Foreyule
T.A. 3018: The Company of the Ring stays in Rivendell preparing for the journey ahead.
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J. R. R. Tolkienīs "The Lord of The rings" - Mythology, Philosophy, Allegory
"Facharbeit" - Essay by Manuel Steiner, written ī00 p.r.i.

II. Structure and composition

There are several peculiar points about the shaping of The Lord of the Rings. For one thing, Tolkien did not write it with a firm "master plan", but let it evolve and develop as the story goes on, acting out of inspiration from what he himself had written. He admits that some strands of narration only appeared later, and he is quoted of not knowing where to put Strider, or how to continue the story, as the action reached Bree (comp. Moseley,30). Another aspect of Tolkienīs works in general, and The Lord of the Rings in particular is the way he claims to present the texts. It is not invented by Tolkien, but in fact written down by the hobbits in the "Red Book of Westmarch" and merely translated and edited by Tolkien. As he explains in appendix F, he translated what was in the common speech, and anglicised the names (comp. LOTR, 1107ff.). This can be summed up by the thesis that "The story itself is cast as active, the writer as passive" (Moseley,30). The third person narrator, omniscient and unobtrusive, more often than once steps behind first-person narration provided by the characters, or their flashbacks.

For the actual structure of the novel, Tolkien used methods more common in antique or medieval literature. One is the ring composition of Homer, but also other writers and poets in succeeding centuries, like Wagner. A general, main narrative is suspended for the focus on a single person or item, as is the Ring. As the action circles around the Ring, the whole development of plot is also circular: dis- and reappearing of characters (Gandalf), and switches of focus from Sam and Frodo to the others. Paying attention to the cartographic unfolding of the book, the there-and-back-again scheme is also evident: the starting place, the Shire, is the ending place, Rivendell is visited on both journeys - there and back -, and the most extreme point (in both senses), Mount Doom, is also the geographical turning point. The development of plot and tension fits into this scheme as well, with rising action in the first four books, a postponing in book five, which does not mention Frodo at all, and a resolution in book six, with the eaglesī arrival and the departure at the Grey Havens.

A motif of medieval Romance and the Old Norse sagas are the entrelacements of narration in the novel. With the beginning of book three, the one strand of action suspends into several, following the breaking of the fellowship. These are held together, though, by a map and a chronology of days. The complexity also provides some cross-connections only obvious afterwards: the voice Frodo hears on Amon Hen is Gandalfīs; this cannot be known to the reader at first. Another example is Boromirīs corpse drifting down Anduin, seen by Faramir, but unknown to Sam and Frodo (comp. Shippey, 146f.).

The combination of all these structuring methods creates a tension which otherwise could have been lost a bit if there was less complexity, but this way the readerīs attention is always drawn forth and back, with cross-connections and frog-leaps of action.

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