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Reading Nine Princess in Amber from Roger Zelazny and Hobbit from Tolkein.

Reading your favourite childhood stories as an adult has its side effects.

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Marija Jurić Zagorka, a master of historical romance.

Being able to vividly recollect different stories I read through the years (maybe even better than my everyday events) I didn’t often read books more than once. Only books I have read more than once (sometimes seven or more) were first books I read for my own pleasure, they were written by Croatian epic romance writer Zagorka. She was my first love and it took me awhile to sail to other authors and their worlds.

For me reading remained magical process in which I would lose sense of self, where I would, without criticism, experienced new world view. I had no distance between me and words on paper.

Reading is a magical process were you lose a sense of self. Click To Tweet

Problem with choosing to which world to sail wasn’t in perils and horrors, I could cope with that, but in distrust in the writer behind it. I feared the most before indifferent writer that plays with characters carelessly like bored boy with puppets that aren’t his. Death, loss, sad endings (although I don’t like them), murders, hidden sorrows, all was fine until it would be done with care.

But there was true horror before indifferent protagonist that just moves around without purpose (not really existentially cool for a philosopher, but I just don’t roll that way).

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Corwin maybe changed the most in my eyes.

Reading again Nine Princess of Amber and Hobbit was quite interesting for me. Like an experiment.

It turned out that I’m right, I did remember most of the scenes in detail, and characters were the same, but something did change, perspective was different. The thing that I never considered was that, although book didn’t change since I read it, I did. I’ve changed. I couldn’t love Corwin like I used to, or accept mocking about with Thorin.

So when I took Hobbit I instantly laughed remembering what I loved about it (and why I loved it more than Lord of the Rings). I loved the satire. I loved the way Tolkien had fun on account of his characters, how Bilbo was an anti-hero, first one I met, which was opposing classic hero full of virtues. How I loved that mocking about with greedy elves, corrupted humans, closed up dwarves, uptight Hobbit. No one was good enough for Tolkien. When I picked up Tolkien’s biography later on it became all the more clear, he didn’t like people much.

There is a true horror in an indifferent protagonist. Click To Tweet
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Thandruil, a character you can hate but can understand in the end.

I loved that, it was all fun and games. But this time around I watched movie Hobbit version before reading. And what struck me (yes I loved movie version which I know many didn’t) how in movie version dwarves were shown like full blown heroes, and Bilbo had a hero’s journey of his own. Events stayed quite true to book version, elves, humans, hobbits and dwarves kept their mocking flaws and traits. Only big difference was that main characters were given opportunity to tell their story like they saw it, difficult and challenging. The opportunity Tolkien himself grants to Frodo, Boromir, Aragorn and others. He was free to stop the mocking after Bilbo was so loved.

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Bilbo and his cheese knife looking stern.

But the dichotomy between two versions is maybe best illustrated in Thorin. Probably because I loved his movie version so much. That version showed just how much Tolkien was biased while portraying him. In the book he’s just a fellow to be laughed at as pompous and too serious, who talks too much and has a big pride. What he has lost is only an anecdote. Although even in book Bilbo cries for him mourning for days, Tolkien address it as a curious thing, not entirely understandable.

Chronicles of Amber have another side of the problem but I’ll address that elsewhere. For this purpose is enough to say that Princes in second read
through didn’t seem worth admiring at all. Their power was wasted on futile attempts to rule without real cause that they would bring with themselves on the throne. They are ruthless and reckless. And Zelazny was aware of that, he made them anti-heroes too. They don’t progress but divert from their goals, ending up without meaning.

Where that leaves me?

In realization that my favourite authors were reckless towards their characters under my nose. And also that anti-hero ideal was introd
uced to me really early on. After initiation into world with Zagorka, who is masterful in portraying heroes and villains in archetypical way, I was led to like heroes that weren’t full of virtues which didn’t do everything by themselves. Those who weren’t good at everything they touch and don’t end up standing on the top of everything being praised for their achievements. Admired for their virtues. They slip away continuing to live their lives. And I love that. That is the thing I admire, ability to live on.

The thing I admire is ability to live on. Click To Tweet

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