. . . Iluvatar spoke to Ulmo, and said: ‘Seest thou not how here in this little realm in the Deeps of Time Melkor hath made war upon thy province? He hath bethought him of bitter cold immoderate, and yet hath not destroyed the beauty of thy fountains, nor of thy clear pools. Behold the snow, and the cunning work of frost! Melkor hath devised heats and fire without restraint, and hath not dried up thy desire nor utterly quelled the music of the sea. Behold rather the height and glory of the clouds, and the everchanging mists; and listen to the fall of rain upon the Earth! . . .’
Welcome to my third book quote post on The Story Scientist! (This must mean I’m entering my third month of blogging. Wow. . . .) I post book quote analyses on the first Saturday of the month. I have previously examined quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring and Oliver Twist. Today, I draw from the first part of one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s lesser-appreciated works: The Silmarillion.
Because this book isn’t so well-known, the excerpt requires a little explanation. Here, Iluvatar (basically God) is talking to Ulmo (angel of water) about Melkor (the devil), up in heaven at the beginning of time. So, let’s see what we, as writers, can learn from this quote!
1. Old-fashioned language can be hard to read. This is probably half of why people struggle with The Silmarillion. Most of it is narrative, more history than story (this is one of the few bits of dialogue in the first part), and the characters tend to talk like Shakespeare. While this is appropriate for Iluvatar, who, as creator, is set apart from the rest of the characters in the book, all the “thees” and “thous” can be hard for the modern reader to wrap his or her head around. If you’re going to use old-fashioned language like this, do it sparingly and, as Tolkien has done it here, in a way appropriate to the characters (as everything really should be written, right?).
2. Philosophical concepts can enhance novels. Look at the quote again. Iluvatar really isn’t just talking about water here. He’s talking about how even the evil spawned by a fallen angel can enhance the good. Melkor brings cold, which creates beautiful frost; he brings heat, which creates beautiful clouds. Iluvatar is saying, in a much grander way, “There’s always a silver lining.”This brings in one of the central themes of this work: good versus evil. It’s great to incorporate big themes into your story like this.
3. Prose should be beautiful. I’ve talked about the eloquence of Tolkien before, but I love it so much, I can’t help but bring it up again. 🙂 The beauty of this prose lends itself to the grandeur of the history Tolkien relates to us in The Silmarillion. So really, this should read, prose should be beautiful if it lends itself to the story (or the piece of description, or whatever it is you’re writing). In this case, it does, so it works well.
That’s all for today! Have you ever read The Silmarillion? Did you like it? Do you think old-fashioned language is hard to read? Do you ever write characters who say “thee” and “thou?” What kind of themes do you enjoy reading about? Tell me in the comments!