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Posts Tagged ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” — Woodrow T. Wilson

Friends are on my mind today. Two of my good friends, Karen and Wendy, have birthdays this week. Just last week, I had the opportunity to spend several hours (including lunch) with Patti, a friend who I haven’t had a chance to visit with in-person for two years. I chatted with dear friend Kelly on the phone just the other day. And I’m looking forward to spending time with more friends this summer.

Besides family, I think friends and their friendship are the most important thing holding my world together–which is why friendship often plays such an important role in my stories and books.

BeyondSheercliffs_Balticon Like the unlikely group pulled together in JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, sometimes the friendships we forge because of a common goal turn out to be the most meaningful. At their core, Star Wars and Star Trek, are also about unlikely friendships. As is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. For “Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” [Bill Watterson].

The concept of friendship growing from a common goal (and enemy) led me to cobble together several groups of seemingly dissimilar individuals in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). And the idea of friendship is also playing an important role in my current work-in-progress novel, Beyond the Sheercliffs (Book 1.5 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). 

The fight against evil; the quest for an item or person of great value; shared hunger, thirst, and danger; a common goal; and unexpected circumstances that link characters together are all wonderful devices in storytelling that can be the seeds of friendship. And best of all, readers understand friendship. It is something we all have in common.

A great majority of us desire strong friendships. We all have known the pain of a friendship that has ended. Many of us have watched a friend grown apart from us or change in a way that makes them a different person–and one which we no longer want to be friends with. Most of us remember the joyful feelings of realizing someone has moved from friendly acquaintance to friend. And we embrace the truth of Helen Keller’s sentiment: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

And so, as I shape and polish the various friendships in Beyond the Sheercliffs, I urge you to reach out to your friends. Take the time to phone, message, or better yet, visit with your friends. Or maybe, make the effort to develop a friendly acquaintance into a friend. Because “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out” [Walter Winchell], and we could all use more of those sorts of people in our lives.

 

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Thanks to author Cindy Young-Turner for stopping by and sharing another point of view on the darkness in fantasy literature and film.

Finding Hope in Fantasy by Cindy Young-Turner

cyt_photo “A guest blogger here recently commented on the dark themes in YA novels these days. I like the fact that YA literature isn’t afraid to deal with serious issues. I’ve been reading a discussion in one of the fantasy groups on Goodreads about the current trend toward darkness in fantasy. It does seem like many of the popular fantasy books are very grim and very graphic. In fact, that could be said for a lot of media, whether it’s books, movies, even music. I’m not sure what the reason might be. Maybe it’s the 24/7 coverage of crisis after crisis or the recession and fears of global instability. Darkness does appear to be all around us. Perhaps the new trend of anti-heroes in a world where there is no right or wrong is simply a reflection of our times.

I don’t mind a bit of darkness in my fantasy. I like realism and characters with shades of gray. I like the answers to be difficult to obtain, and a book that makes the reader think about the fine line between the perception of what’s right and wrong. But as I’m currently working my way through G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (please, no spoilers, I’ve only finished books 1 and 2), I’m noticing that the grimness can be overpowering. Slogging through 800+ pages of the brutal effects of war on a populace and following a huge cast of characters, most of whom are pretty despicable, with the ones you actually like having little chance for happiness, makes me want to take a break and read something lighter before I tackle book 3.

TOHFINAL200x300 While I’m enjoying ASoIF, it’s also made me think about what I like most about reading fantasy, which I haven’t found much of in this series: the element of hope. Fantasy is often written on an epic scale. There might be a dark lord who needs vanquishing, a kingdom to save, an invasion to counter. Somewhere in that desperate situation, a hero will arise. Maybe it’s a hero you least expect. Maybe the hero herself never expected to be in that role, but somehow she carries on. She may stumble along the way. She may take a few wrong turns and make some bad choices, but in the end she gives the reader hope that the darkness can be turned back. Even when things are at their worst, such as Frodo and Sam on their trek through Mordor, or Harry, Hermione, and Ron facing the forces of Voldemort on their own, the reader clings to the hope that somehow the heroes will succeed, despite the odds stacked against them.

There are many things I love about fantasy, such as the amazing world building, the magic that I wish could be real, and the characters I’ve fallen in love with, but ultimately the stories that touch me the most are the ones that leave me with a sense of hope for the future. Although the fantasy worlds aren’t real, one of the great things about writing this genre is that it allows us to explore elements of our world and the human condition in a different venue. A hobbit can stand in for anyone who would rather be home enjoying a book and a pipe by the fire and instead is thrust into an adventure and a quest with grave consequences. And these unsuspecting heroes do the right thing. That gives me hope that any of us might make the choice to do the right thing.

Little Moon_JourneytoHope_CindyYoung_200x300 There’s a wonderful conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring that has stuck with me ever since I saw it. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” And Gandalf responds, “ So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

To me, this sums up the power of fantasy. Even in our darkest hour, we can decide to find the hero within.”

Cindy Young-Turner is the author of Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope, both published by Crescent Moon Press. Read more about her and her writing at www.cindyyoungturner.com. Thief of Hope is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Journey to Hope is a $.99 ebook available from Amazon Kindle.

Thanks again to Cindy Young-Turner for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a light-filled day.– Vonnie

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Animals and Nature are usually woven into my stories, poems, non-fiction, and art. I think my interest in Nature and all her creatures started when I was young. My Granny, who lived on property that joined my parent’s backyard, gardened in the early morning and was kind to the neighborhood strays and neglected animals. As a child, I could usually be found tagging along with her.

My family vacationed for a week each summer from the time I was 5 in a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. Deer, raccoons, opossums, snakes, bears, crayfish, minnows, salamanders, bats, and birds were plentiful and often encountered. Unfortunately, so were mice – but that’s a different tale!

I’ve always enjoyed growing flowers, vegetables, and berries. I’ve always loved watching wild animals and having pets. In fact, since I’m short, have never been thin, and quite enjoy a well-prepared meal, I think I’d have made a rather good (though tall at 5’2”) hobbit!

In the beginning of The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien describes the day Gandalf stopped by Bilbo’s home to warn of the coming dwarves thus: “one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous…” More green – that sounds lovely to me.

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes that hobbits are fond of gardening. I especially like the picture painted by this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring (and I can close my eyes and see the image filmed by Peter Jackson for the movie):

Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers, and nasturtians trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round windows.

‘How bright your garden looks!’ said Gandalf.

‘Yes,’ said Bilbo. ‘I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire…’”

 I gaze out my window at flowers red and golden: roses, snapdragons, and butterfly weed, and at nasturtiums trailing over a brick wall, and scratch my dog behind her ear. I know I am very fond indeed of Nature, all her creatures, and of living at Wood’s Edge. In both of my short story collections, Owl Light and The Greener Forest, as well as my young adult novel, The Enchanted Skean, animals and plants play important roles. And I suspect, they will always have a special place in my creative work.

For those who’d like to listen to an excerpt from “On a Midwinter’s Eve,” the 1st tale in Owl Light, it’s the reading that begins about 14 minutes into the September 2012 “Nature and Animals” Broad Pod from Broad Universe: http://broadpod.posterous.com/september-2012-animals-and-nature In the excerpt, an owl, wolf, and the winter woods play a role. The complete story has even more animals in it.

So as Bilbo’s much anticipated Birthday Party approaches, I urge you to celebrate Nature and read (or listen to) a story featuring some of her creatures.

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IMG_2217 I’m back after journeying through a small part of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. Spectacular is the only word I can use for the mountains towering above the roads and waterways of this beautiful part of North America. Snow-covered, glacier-topped, or just sheer cliffs of rock – the mountains were inspirational.

And journey is the most appropriate word for this trip. The untamed nature of the landscape, the chill of icebergs and glaciers, the smell of the dense forest, and the wild animals who populated this wilderness area made these past 2 and 1/2 weeks a journey of distance and spirit.

I’ve always been a fan of journey stories where the reader follows the main character as he or she ventures down paths, across oceans, or over mountains on a quest for treasure, knowledge, powers…  – or maybe to rescue a captured friend. So much so, that I wrote my own journey story, Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir.

Finding a publisher for this Young Adult novel became another sort of journey with lots of twists and turns including: finding an agent only to have the agency close, not being able to find another agent, submitting the manuscript myself to publishers, being told twice that it was between my YA novel and another – only to come in 2nd, and finally, to finding a small publisher interested in publishing the book in both print and eBook formats.

In celebration of the forthcoming publication of Enchanted Skean, I’ll be including a bit of trivia from the works of JRR Tolkien (a master of journey stories) in my blogs starting today. So here goes:

1- Where must the One Ring be destroyed? Okay, that’s easy for most of my readers. Here’s another one. 2- What was the name of the mountain range The Fellowship tried to cross unsuccessfully, and ended up traveling through the Mines of Moria instead? Still too easy for some of you. For The Lord of the Rings savvy here’s the last trivia question. 3- What was the name of the mountain The Fellowship was climbing when snow and avalanches made them turn round and head for the Moria Gate?

I encourage each of you to begin a journey. It can be traveling to a new place, reading a book that takes you to other worlds, or just putting one foot before the other on your life journey.

Answers to the Tolkien trivia:

1- Mount Doom (also known as Orodruin or Mountain of Fire).

2- The Misty Mountains.

3- “The narrow path now wound under a sheer wall of cliffs* to the left, above which the grim flanks of Caradhras towered up invisible in the gloom… They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them. It may have been only a trick of the wind in the cracks and gullies of the rocky wall, but the sounds were those of shrill cries, and wild howls of laughter. Stones began to fall from the mountain-side, whistling over their heads, or crashing on the path beside them…before long the snow was falling fast, filling all the air…” [The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter III: The Ring Goes South]

* As a nod to Tolkien, I have a range of mountains called The Sheercliffs in Enchanted Skean.

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