Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reading The Lord of the Rings aloud

“Since I had three children, I’ve read Tolkien’s trilogy aloud three times. It’s a wonderful book to read aloud or (consensus by the children) listen to. Even when the sentences are long, their flow is perfectly clear, and follows the breath; punctuation comes just where you need to pause; the cadences are graceful and inevitable. Like Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, Tolkien must have heard what he wrote. The narrative prose of such novelists is like poetry in that it wants the living voice to speak it, to find its full beauty and power, its subtle music, its rhythmic vitality.” [1]

So wrote Ursula K. Le Guin, and I have heard the opinion echoed many times. I share it myself. And if you live in Michigan (or near enough; N.E. Brigand, I’m talking to you), you might think about swinging by a public reading at Hope College this weekend. From a local news story promoting the “marathon reading”:
The department of English at Hope College will sponsor a marathon reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring in the college’s Pine Grove on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25. The reading will extend from noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. All are welcome to sign up for 10-minute reading slots, either in advance at the department of English, located on the third floor of Lubbers Hall, or at the event itself if slots are still available.
Fifteen hours for approximately 175,000 words (not counting the Foreword or Prologue) — it’s going to be tight. This would be a reading pace of just under 200 words per minute, which really seems like wishful thinking. In all likelihood, the reading will either have to run over its allotted time, or else leave the Fellowship before the breaking at Amon Hen. In any case, it sounds like a wonderful event.

[1] Le Guin, Ursula K. “Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings.” Meditations on Middle-earth. Ed. Karen Haber. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001. 101–16, p. 101–2.


  1. I participated in a marathon reading of The Return of the King here in December 2003; I read the first few pages of "The Land of Shadow" at about 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. This was the third annual Tolkien reading conducted at Cleveland State University, and was part of a small conference, the first I ever attended, and the first time I got to see Tom Shippey speak. Great fun! Unfortunately, it's about five hours from here to Holland, and my weekend is pretty full already (among other things, I'm seeing Ed Asner in his one-man performance of FDR), so I won't make it to this event.

  2. That does sound like fun. Is CSU still doing this? 2003 would have been at the peak of the Peter Jackson film mania, so maybe it’s petered out since (sorry for the dreadful pun; couldn’t resist). :)

  3. That sounds so cool, Jason! I won't be able to attend, alas, but what fun it will be for those there, participating and even more for those listening. I had my splurge on the 11th watching ROTK to a live orchestra in Virginia with one of my sisters and many of myriad nieces and nephews. What a blast!

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)

  4. wow, thats quite an endeavor...but it's definitely the way Tolkien was meant to be read.