This is a weekly series here at Adventures in Borkdom. It chronicles adventures I have that are directly inspired by the books I read.
As many of you know, a major portion of this summer’s reading has been centered on Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I read these books along with SJ and the gang in participation of Putting the Blog in Balrog readalong. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and PtBiB concluded this last Friday with our final drinkalong to Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King. I was sad to say goodbye to this project, but at least I got in one last huzzah–an adventure inspired by “The Battle of Pelennor Fields” from Tolkien’s The Return of the King.
The armies of the Dark Lord are massing as his evil shadow spreads even wider. Men, Dwarves, Elves and Ents unite forces to do battle against the Dark. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam struggle further into Mordor in their heroic quest to destroy the One Ring.
The devastating conclusion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic tale, begun in the The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers.
On Sunday afternoon, I took to San Diego’s Morley Field to witness a different kind of field battle –Live Action Role Players (LARPers) taking part in the Battle of Morley Field!
Admittedly, I didn’t just go to Morley Field to relive my favorite scenes from The Return of the King. I have heard about the Morley Field LARPers all year from my friends and husband and have been dying to watch. I just needed a reason.
I have been a little obsessed with LARPing ever since I first saw the battling knights on the mezzanine terrace at Comic-Con five years ago. There is nothing better than taking a much needed snack break outside of the convention center, resting one’s tired feet, to the sounds of battle. Sword hitting shield. It’s awesome.
Then, I came across the wonderful documentary Darkon, which profiles a group of LARPers who participate in the massive LARPing game Darkon. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend it. Finally, I have been anticipating the release of the movie Knights of Badassdom, which stars Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse of True Blood), Summer Glau (of Firefly) and ….wait for it….PETER DINKLAGE (Tyrion, duh) as LARPers who have to fight demonic forces. Actually, check out the trailer (I just re-watched it). THERE ARE A TON OF AWESOME FOLKS IN THIS MOVIE! WHEN IS IT COMING OUT? I WANT MY DINKLAGE!!!(I think it was supposed to come out last year, but still hasn’t!). Here’s the trailer I saw at Comic-Con ’11:
Ok, back on task. As you can see, this Inspired Adventure was a win-win for me. So, I set off to Morley Field around 2 pm on Sunday, excited to get a LARPing fix.
As soon as I first took my seat under a shady tree, I started picking up on the rules of the game and the characters involved. Apparently, there were two teams: Team Carl and Team Pokey (?), comprised of a rag tag bunch of players in full gear and players in street clothes. All bore either a two-handed foam weapon or a one-handed weapon with a shield. Also, all were men. Once the game started, the dudes would attack, balls to the wall, scrapping against each other with their foam weapons. Ahhh the sounds of battle:
“Are you dead?”
“I died a while ago.”
Across the field: “Is Elias dead?”
“I said, I died a while ago!”
Apparently, when one fighter receives a mortal wound (presumably a hit to the head, back, or chest), they drop to a knee, count slowly to five, and then it’s game on again. Extra lives, just like in Zelda!
One fighter stood out, a cocky dude with a two-handed weapon, called “Exile”. He was barefoot, wearing some sort of drapey, homemade pants, and he clearly loved to battle and enjoyed an audience. In fighting with the newbs (the guys in street clothes), he would command, in obvious irritation, “Hit harder!”. There was never any question when he was out of the fight, because he would yell out “Exile’s dead!”. Thus, why I knew his name.
I think Exile was the Boromir of the crew.
After this somewhat disorganized melee, the group took a short water break, and then the real battle began.
All of the fighters took to the field and then split into two groups: the experienced and the inexperienced. It was now time for real battle! I imagined the Pelennor Fields…
Great was the clash of their meeting…
But, the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in the forest.
And behold! There were two Eowyns amongst the ranks of Northern men:
And now the fighting waxed furious on the fields of the Pelennor; and the din of arms rose upon high, with the crying of men and the neighing of horses.
And in that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over; and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas. All were slain save those who fled to die, or to drown in the red foam of the River.
And now, it was the fighters’ water break, and I decided to depart (I felt a little shy watching them and taking pictures. Plus, I was almost hit by a thrown spear). So, I returned to the car. As I walked, I thought about how much fun those LARPers were having…and how much exercise they were getting. It seems to me that LARPing is a way better form of recreation than hitting the gym! I think these guys are onto something…
Once I got to the car, I got one more LoTR fantasy: my own personal Legolas:
As I stated yesterday, July was full of reading! And I’m pretty proud to say (although, it really shines a light on the fact that I didn’t do much else) that the following books were all read last week. Whoo! I love it when I get on a reading roll! Of course, I think I put on a few pounds last week too…sitting around and reading isn’t exactly great for the figure. But, here’s what I read last week.
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
This was an excellent authorized biography of the man who created hobbits! It questioned how Tolkien, such an Everyman, could write the greatest, most imaginative books of fantasy. The book related his early years (orphaned at a young age), school years, and professional years. It also included snippets of letters that shed some light on what it really was like for Tolkien to write those books while balancing a full life. No sordid detatils about Tolkien could be found in the book (if there really were any sordid details to his life story), but it was full of opportunities to make connections between his life experiences and the events and characters of his famous novels. A few of these included:
-Tolkien was bitten by a tarantula as a little child. Could perhaps relate to why spiders play such a menacing and terrifying role in his books.
-Tolkien was often caught stealing mushrooms from a local farmer who would then chase him off. This is particularly similar to Farmer Maggot’s role in Frodo’s young life.
-Tolkien had to make use of carrier pigeons during WWI, similar to the many birds used in his books for message-relaying.
These and many more interesting connections can be made through the reading of Carpenter’s book, which I highly recommend.
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
This is the follow-up novel to Westerfeld’s Leviathan, which I reviewed yesterday. I began by listening to the audiobook, which was read by the wonderful Alan Cumming, and finished with the hardcover version. This steampunk novel continues the story in Istanbul (not Constantinople), where Deren/Dylan (the female protagonist who is disguised as a boy) learns more about Clanker machines. It should be noted that in Leviathan, Alek learns about the Darwinist “beasties”. In Istanbul, Deren and Alek help a radical group in overthrowing the Sultan, while hiding from and sometimes battling the German occupiers.
This book was really fun because it felt like an Indiana Jones movie, full of intrigue, exotic locations, and spicy characters. I almost think that I liked this book better than the first in the series. I should also mention that the book is full of fabulous illustrations which really help the machines, beasts, and locations come to life. I definitely recommend this book and series.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Laugh-out-loud-funny book! I love British humor, and this is full of it in a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sort of way. It really makes me want to pick up some more Pratchett, as I know that his Discworld series combines humor and fantasy as well.
Certain parts of the book were really funny and enjoyable for me:
-all of the scenes revolving around “Them,” a group of kids who is led by the child Anti-Christ, were really great as they really captured the joys of childhood.
-The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are characters in the novel, and they all ride motorcycles. At one point, they meet up at a biker hangout where some human bikers decide to join up with them, the real Hell’s Angels. As they ride together, the tagalong bikers decide that they need new names to fit in with their new posse (Death, War, Pestilence/Pollution, and Famine). They came up with names like “Treading in Dogshit”, “Things Not Working Properly Even When You’ve Given Them a Good Thumping”, “Embarassing Personal Problems”, and “Grievous Bodily Harm”. Really silly stuff that I love!
I also came to realize why Supernatural is such an awesome show, and why I love it. It is directly inspired by this book and other Gaiman works! Supernatural even includes Crowley, the demon who is a main character in this novel. Gaga for Supernatural, it was easy for me to fall in love with this book.
Y: The Last Man–Vol. 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is a really good idea for a dystopian graphic novel. One day, all of the men simply die, for unknown reasons, except one. The very goofy Yorick, a 20-something guy, who has to hide his male identity throughout the series so that the women won’t tear him apart. He keeps with him a male monkey, which is also an anomaly, being the only male animal alive. During these first three volumes, a group of women, modeling themselves after the mythological Amazons, hunt him down to rid the world of the last man. So, Yorick sets out on a journey with two other women to find answers on why he is still alive when all of the other men are dead. It’s all very engaging and interesting.
However, I do have to point out that the behavior of women in this series is slightly troubling. While I am very good with suspension of disbelief and I enjoy irony, it bugs me how badly behaved the women are in this world. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t think that I’m the only one who was bothered by it. It’s a little over the top.
But, I did enjoy it, and I will keep reading the series. I recommend it for fans of dystopia and graphic novels.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
I read this for the first time when I was eight or nine, and I have to say that Hatchet is much better than I remembered. I couldn’t put it down after I started it, and I read it in a span of two hours. So good!
If you haven’t read it, you’ve just got to. I enjoyed how the marooned Brian had to learn how to use his senses to survive, and how he had to trouble-shoot fire-building, shelter-making, hunting with a bow and arrow, and trapping fish. He started out with only the clothes on his back, and a hatchet that his mom had given him as a gift (it strapped onto his belt). After almost two months on his own in the wild, Brian is completely self-sufficient. While in the woods, he has to deal with the dangers of bears, wolves, moose, mosquitos, and a skunk (which blinded him for a few hours). This was an amazing story, and I hope to share this book with my students this year. READ IT!
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Much like Hatchet, this was a re-read that was much better than I remembered. Yet, while the first half of the book was much more enjoyable for me on this second go-round, I still prefer the second half, which chronicles the further journey of the Ring with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. Such a creepy segment of the book! And so much character development!
However, Treebeard is my favorite character in this book, and second only to Tom Bombadil in the entire series.
In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book and series if you haven’t read it. A true classic!
So, this concludes my July reading. Now, I’m going to sign off here, pick up my copy of The Return of the King, and get ready for tonight’s drinkalong to Peter Jackson’s film version of The Two Towers. I’m ready to be snarky with the rest of the PtBiB crew. Happy Friday!
While I haven’t been good about writing, I have been a very good reader! Instead of being overwhelmed with a number of full-on reviews to write, I have decided to post a bunch of mini-reviews of the books I have read in the last month. Click the title of the book to be directed to its Goodreads page so that you can get all of the publication info and a synopsis! I’m a pretty happy reader lately!
Immediately following the announcement of Bradbury’s death, I picked up this old favorite. The Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories–some horror and many science fiction. The coolest part about this collection is the premise: a guy meets another guy on the road, a man covered in tattoos (illustrations). The kicker is that each of these tattoos move and tell a story. The illustrated man warns his new hobo buddy not to look at them because one tattoo tells the future of the onlooker. But, the hobo buddy doesn’t listen (of course), and so we get all of the tales found on the man’s body.
My particular favorite stories are the first ones: “The Veldt” (which I try to teach every year, alongside Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” for my irony unit), “Kaleidoscope”, and “The Long Rain”. Bradbury was a true genius.
Ugh. The Sookie books just keep going downhill! Deadlocked is the 12th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and while it’s not the worst (I think the last one was), it is nowhere near as good as the first 6 or 7 of the series were. I’m not sure where Harris is going wrong at this point. It might be that she seems to have her old characters pop up for no reason in her books in a sort of “Hey! Remember me? I have nothing to do with this plot, but I’m here!” At one point in this book, Sookie and Sam are reminiscing about how much better everything was a few years ago, and I couldn’t help but think “Yeah it was. You feel the same way too?”
I can’t abandon this series. I have to see what happens in the end because I invested so much in these characters. But, I have to say that the last few books have been nothing but weak sauce.
After the Sookie debacle, and a rough week at work, I needed to escape in my reading. Thank goodness I discovered The Thirteenth Tale at the library! I’m not sure if I loved this book so much because it was truly well-written, or if it just perfectly suited my mood.
This is a story about a mysterious storyteller, Vida Winter, and her biographer, Margaret. We, the reader, get sucked, right along with Margaret, into Winter’s intriguing and mysterious gothic life story. It’s a book about twins, ghosts, and madness.
It is definitely written for lovers of the story. Lovers of books. Margaret, a woman who would sacrifice any living person for a copy of Jane Eyre, makes excellent observations about the act of reading and its effects upon a person.
Man, I just loved this book. It’s been a long time since I was swept away by a new book, and this one did it for me!
In the same way that it has been a long time that I was swept away by a book, it’s also been a very long time since I was physically affected by a book. I wanted to throw up when I read this book. Not because it was written poorly. I was very upset by some of the events that transpire in this fictionalization of the wedded years of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson.
As Ernest is courting Hadley at the beginning of the story, and during their early years of marriage, I developed a HUGE crush on Hemingway. He’s a young, passionate whippersnapper who enjoys boxing at parties and older, plain-spoken women. My dream man. But, I read A Moveable Feast and I have some background knowledge on Hemingway and his many wives. I know they’re not going to last. But, god! Did it have to be so painful? I wanted to hide my face in a pillow when I read about the lengths he went to in his affair, and what Hadley put up with. I yelled “Bitch!” at the book, I tweeted my nausea, I was very much upset!
This was a good book. I always wondered about Hadley when I read A Moveable Feast and I got some answers here. I also had forgotten why I hated The Great Gatsby so much (besides the forced symbolism throughout), and now I remember. I hate these people! The post WWI generation was a terrible lot! They just didn’t give a hoot! So, I’m glad I read this book. You always know it’s a good one if it makes you feel. I definitely felt with McLain’s novel!
Luckily, I got to feel good again after The Paris Wife by finishing up The Hobbit. I read this for SJ’s “Putting the Blog in Balrog” Hobbit/Lord of the Rings readalong, and I posted about the first five chapters. Upon completion of this re-read, I think that The Hobbit is my favorite. At least for now. I might change my mind with The Return of the King, because that was my former favorite, but, for now, it’s The Hobbit. I just love Tolkien’s tone and humor in The Hobbit. It feels so magical and light. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it! And don’t skip over the songs!
Currently, I am halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring as well as my first foray into steampunk: Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan. Loving both!
As you all probably don’t know, I am participating in SJ’s summer read-along of all books Tolkien. Well, all of the ring-related books (unless there’s more that I don’t know about). The read-along kicked off on the 23rd with the reading of the first five chapters of The Hobbit. The read-along will continue on through the end of August with the reading of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, following our reading of The Hobbit. For more info on SJ’s readalong, check out her announcement over at Snobbery.
A little background on my prior knowledge of The Hobbit: my dad kept copies of Tolkien around the house growing up, but I don’t remember him ever really encouraging me to read them; my 7th grade teacher showed us the cartoon version of The Hobbit in class (he was a big fan of movies adapted from books–we never actually read any of the books); once the LOTR films were released, my dad got back into Tolkien, and I joined in and read the LOTR series; after I graduated college and moved back home, I finally read The Hobbit for the first time.
So, that’s my background with Tolkien, but I don’t think I was as good a reader in those days as I am now (surprising, actually, since I read them while and after majoring in English at SDSU). Thus, I’m expecting to get quite a bit more out of these books than I did the first time around. Plus, now I have buddies to discuss the books with, which always adds to one’s comprehension and analysis. I’m pretty excited to really soak up Middle-Earth!
SJ has posted her first discussion post over at Snobbery, so I’m going to reflect here in a sort of a reply to her post, with additional highlights for me and questions I have for SJ and any other readers who may be well-versed in Tolkien. I’m gonna split up my reflection by chapters. Here we go!
Chapter I: An Unexpected Party
Here we meet Bilbo, Gandalf, and the many dwarves. In reading the first chapter, I was struck by
- the tone of The Hobbit vs the tone of the LOTR series. It feels like a wonderful children’s book. Was this Tolkien’s purpose? Was he setting out to write a children’s book with The Hobbit?
- my love of the Took ancestry. Bilbo is related to the Tooks, who are known for their adventuring ways (which is very unconventional for hobbits). Bilbo struggles with a deep-rooted desire for adventure, which stems from his Took blood. It’s a completely different genre, but this reminded me of Mr. Prosser, the man heading the demolition of Arthur Dent’s house in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Prosser, a very mild-mannered simp of a man, had a deep-rooted desire for battle, due to his distant relation to Genghis Khan. Love these kinds of internal conflicts!
- the humor of Bilbo’s extreme flusteredness (to use SJ’s coined term) at the unexpected arrival of a pack of strange dwarves. Bilbo is a creature of habit, enjoys MANY meals throughout the day, and these uninvited guests completely screwed up his routine. I’ve been there, Bilbo!
Chapter II: Roast Mutton
And, they’re off on their journey! The big highlight of this chapter, for me, were the three trolls. I loved the scene with the three trolls, and so far they are my favorite characters. Lucky for Bilbo, they’re not too hungry when they catch him trying to burgle the troll William’s pocket. Bilbo gets all flustered (again) when they question him, and, surprisingly, William apparently has a sensitive heart and wants to let Bilbo go. I love the trolls’ exchange over Bilbo:
‘Poor little blighter,’ said William. He had already had as much supper as he could hold; also he had lots of beer. ‘Poor little blighter! Let him go!’
‘Not till he says what he means by lots and none at all,’ said Bert. ‘I don’t want to have me throat cut in my sleep! Hold his toes in the fire, till he talks!’
‘I won’t have it,’ said William. ‘I caught him anyway.’
‘You’re a fat fool, William,’ said Bert, ‘as I’ve said afore this evening.’
‘And you’re a lout!’
‘And I won’t take that from you, Bill Huggins,’ says Bert, and puts his fist in William’s eye.
Then there was a gorgeous row.
Gandalf, of course, rescues Bilbo and the dwarves, and when splitting up the trolls’ booty, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin get some super-cool elven blades. They glow when goblins are near–how cool is that?!
Chapter III: A Short Rest
In this chapter, our adventurers take a break with Elrond and the elven gang at Rivendell. I had forgotten that Elrond was in this book, albeit for a short time. I wonder for how long Peter Jackson will extend his role in the upcoming film adaptation? Jackson loves those elves!
My favorite part about this chapter was the revelation of the moon-letters on the adventurers’ map, and the discussion of runes overall. I am a nerd who has a handy guide to runes in my library, so, at this chapter, I pulled it out and set about translating the runes on the map. I dig that stuff!
Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill
Here the gang has a run-in with some goblins. It was fun to get more backstory on the goblins vs. dwarves conflict, but, for some reason, this chapter paled in comparison to the other four. But, that’s just me. : )
Chapter V: Riddles in the Dark
You are absolutely right, SJ. This is a very creepy chapter–it definitely came off as more creepy than the first time I read it. I wonder why. Mood always affects my reading, and I was reading this chapter when I was alone in the house, in the dark. Maybe that’s why? Or maybe it’s my extreme aversion to cannibalism (duh, Mandy, no one likes cannibalism. But, that’s in my top 3 scary elements! Some people hate clowns, I hate cannibals!). Gollum wants to eat Bilbo. That’s creepy. Plus, his little lake is super creepy, with him going around in his little boat. And his descriptions of hunting down goblins for dinner was creepy too. I dug this chapter–I love to be creeped out!
Now for SJ’s discussion topics:
1. Tolkien’s songs I read all of the songs, not skipping any. I don’t hear them or sing along with them, but I definitely read them. These serve as backstory and act in a way similar to the chorus in Greek tragedies. Therefore, it’s essential that the reader doesn’t skip them, as they are serving the plot.
2. Has my opinion changed about these chapters since my first reading of The Hobbit? Not necessarily my opinion–I knew what a masterpiece The Hobbit was when I read it the first time–but, I am a much more conscious and curious reader on this go-round. I have more questions than before, and I am noticing a lot more details than I did at 22.
3. Did Bilbo cheat in the riddling challenge? Nahhh. If this were a proper riddling contest, like, say, with a train named Blaine, it would definitely be cheating. But, Blaine wouldn’t put up with crap like that, so it would never be considered cheating. It would never get to that level because he would simply say “that is not a riddle, Roland, son of blah blah blah (oh crap, I’ve already forgotten his father’s name! It’s just like Derry…you step away from it, and details start to disappear!)” and that would be the end of it. Move on! But, that was a proper, structured riddling contest. Bilbo and Gollum really don’t have any official rules going on, and Gollum, unlike Blaine, actually fell for the “What’s in my pocket?” question. It wasn’t even intentional by Bilbo. I say that the moment Gollum went for it, it became an official entry. Besides, Gollum’s a big cheater too–he was going to eat Bilbo either way. So, no, it wasn’t cheating!
Alright, so this week is chapters 6-12 of The Hobbit, which I will get started on (and probably finish) tonight!
Anyone else reading The Hobbit?