Sunday, March 2, 2008

On Good Writing and Failing Memory

It seems that Tolkien forgot once that he had already written something, and then he then missed the repeat when he proofread his books.

The Two Towers, p. 151: "Before the wall's foot the dead and broken were piled like shingle in a storm; ever higher rose the hideous mounds..."

and on p. 199: "At the rim of the shattered bowl there lay vast mounds and slopes, like the shingles cast up by a great storm..."


Oops.

7 comments:

becky said...

Once! :) Tolkein has over 1,000 pages for these three books, in ways it is amazing that there has only been once thus far a note of such a repition! :)

Megan Becker said...

I think he was also just trying to create a more vivid picture in your mind...just in case you didn't get one the first time :)

Doty said...

Hardly once! Do you not recall the multiple discussions we've had about Tolkien's excessive use of the word "queer"? Someone who worked on the OED certainly had the resources to acquire a thesaurus. I'm sure that if I dug deeper into these books, I could come up with a great deal of additional instances.

Understand that by no means am I trying to call Tolkien a shoddy writer. But to use the same (incredibly specific) simile twice within fifty pages (and don't forget that both include describing "mounds" at the edge of a wall) is to say that either you're purposefully stating that these two things are almost exactly alike or to accidentally say that you forgot what you were writing.

Doug Simms said...

One could call this a "formula".

E.g. Homer uses the phrase 'ροδοδακτυλοσ Εως /rhododaktylos Eos 'rosy-fingered Dawn' 5 times in the Iliad

becky said...

Yes, he uses "queer" enough times to make us all quite tired of it. Yes, he probably repeats himself more than your one example. Just saying, few of us could write 1,000+ pages of description and not repeat ourselves. It is a good point that he helped describe the origins of words beginning with "w" in the dictionary. I'm sometimes amazed how many times we use the word "like" in one day let alone one conversation!

Soune Ursani said...

I was going to mention the formula bit from Homer.

As for the word queer, perhaps it was one of those words that he just loved using. For instance, I love using the word perhaps. :)

allison said...

I am a bit late posting but maybe he does this so he can create images in our minds and try to help us imagine what things were like. Maybe he uses similar phrases like these because all the fighting just reminds him of this.