001. Book Notes—March 2023
Quotes from and Comments on what I've Been Reading Recently
Welcome to Jokien with Tolkien: Book Notes!
I thought it might be interesting to share excerpts from and comments on some of what I’m reading—both Tolkien and non-Tolkien—in a new monthly feature! I’d like to continue to make content that’s available for all subscribers and also some that’s exclusive for paid subscribers, so I’m trying out a hybrid format in this feature: any quotes from or comments on the first book each month will be available to all subscribers and any others will be available for paid subscribers.
In today’s Book Notes: The Fall of Númenor, A Grief Observed, and All-Star Superman.
The Fall of Númenor—I just started this new volume a few days ago but am already so impressed by it. Not only is it a handsome physical volume, but the project itself of assembling all the relevant material about Númenor from Tolkien’s legendarium and arranging it in a single, chronological narrative is a worthy endeavor that makes the history of Númenor from start to finish much more accessible to all—from the casual fan who might only own The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the hardcore fan who already owns every volume the materials throughout this book come from but who doesn’t want to hunt down all the references themselves every time they have a question or want to revisit a particular section.
In reading the introductory materials and the first few dozen pages of the book, what stood out to me was the description of the recurring nightmare that Tolkien had during his childhood that at least in part fueled his imagination about and fascination with Númenor. He describes this nightmare in Letter 257, which this volume quotes:
This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming up out of a quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green islands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcized by writing about it.
The Fall of Númenor, xxi
Interestingly, not only did Tolkien “exorcize” this dream by integrating it into the story of Númenor itself: he also gave the same recurring dream to Faramir in The Lord of the Rings, who he thought was most similar to him out of all his characters.1
Faramir tells Éowyn in the Houses of Healing as they stand and look out towards Mordor that he is reminded “of Númenor…of the dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it” (LOTR, 963).
Tolkien’s dream has made it on screen twice: once in the extended edition of The Return of the King as Éowyn2 describes a dream she just had to Aragorn using the same language Faramir uses ("a great wave, climbing over green lands and above the hills”) in the book.
And once in season 1 of The Rings of Power, when we actually see Tar-Míriel’s version of the same nightmare depicted.
So fascinating to me that Tolkien’s own recurring nightmare would not just inspire such a large section of his own fictional history but also be given to several of his characters either directly by him or by those adapting his legendarium to the large and small screens.
Looking forward to making my way through the rest of this volume!
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis—this classic work on grief was one of the few of C.S. Lewis’ corpus that I hadn’t read. After my brother’s passing, I ordered a copy and made my way through it for the first time.
I connected with many of the thoughts and observations that Lewis shared about his own personal journey through grief. Here are a few quotes that have stayed with me.
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