Battle of the Books?

by Avondster

After reading the article that (((Elf-Prin))) linked to in her post below, about Harry Potter versus LOTR, I decided to post this musing-essay-thingy that has been brewing for quite some time, in response to this article and the reactions it caused.

Like Dr. G., I laughed my socks off at this story. Seriously, is this guy for real? Sounds to me like he opened the LOTR book in the library once to look up the silliest-sounding song to prove his point. The fact that it is in fact sung by Bombadil doesn't make him stand out very intelligently, really.

Don't get too worked up about this, Elf-Prin. It's just not worth it. There will always be people who bash the books, the films, and us. There always have been.

I, for one, love both of these books in very different ways. But let's face it: they're too different to even be compared to each other! Sure, on first sight it may not seem so; both LOTR and HP are 'fantasy' novels (or series, if you wish), starring wizards and unlikely heroes. But the comparison ends there.

LOTR could not be more different from HP if it was written in another universe. The Trilogy was written by a Professor in linguistics, a man who'd seen two wars (say what you want, but you can tell it has influenced him), who spent most of his life creating his own world, complete with different languages and social behaviour for each race and folk. Also, it was written some forty years before HP, which makes a difference as well. And, LOTR is an adult book also read by children, while HP is a children's book also read by adults.

HP was written by a single mom of thirty-something, who'd had her own share of blues, surely, but her window of reference (as we say here), can in no way be compared. There is a huge gap between these two writers: in age, in experience, in writing style... and that matters as well.

JK Rowling takes her readers by the hand, allows them to see and feel through her main character, describing every second of his life, it seems, in finest detail. Tolkien, while taking the time to tell us minutely what the landscape looks like, mostly lets us guess as to what is in any character's mind. His books lead us through epic battles, the rise and fall of kingdoms... the most spectacular battle we have seen in HP as of yet is Harry vs his own hormones. Wink

The HP world, though also created ingeneously and brilliantly, obviously never took as much shape as Tolkien's did, nor will it ever have such depths. That's okay; it was never meant to be a piece of scholarly literature. It's just a fun read.

And let's face it: most people are more interested in that than anything; HP simply appeals to a wider variety of people. It's a book of this time, and features a hero that more people are likely to identify with; more than anything because they get to know him better. I will not go so far as to say it is an easy read; it isn't. For its genre, it is a quite a heavy set of books, especially the last few. It features ingenious plots, intriguing characters. But it is, and remains, a book written primarily for children and teenagers.

LOTR is definitely NOT an easy read, far from it. The tone of the book was dated even when it was published. The story is complex, multi-layered, and leaves the reader with much to think about. The characters mostly remain enigmas, even when we do sometimes get a glimpse of their thoughts. This is just not everyone's cup of tea. Many people I've talked to found it 'too big', 'too difficult' and, many times, 'too boring'.

'Tis the way of the world, I say. Not everyone is fit for LOTR, it's as simple as that. They may not have the energy or the interest to read it, or whatever. It's their choice, and, dare I say, their loss. Because when you do have the energy and interest to read this book, and are willing to look a bit futher, think on it a bit more... you will find out just how brilliant it is.

HP is more of a 'what you see is what you get', book. You read it, you get absorbed in it, you marvel at the cleverness of it, you enjoy it thoroughly, and you walk away thinking: 'now that was a good book!'. IMO, this is not a lesser way of reading: it's, once again, just a different experience.

I have no time for people who bash one of these books to glorify the other (HA! says everyone, but you did just write a novel of a musing about it!), because it's just stupid, not to mention disrespectful to other people's passions.

They're both good books in their own respective genres.
Which are, just for the record, not the same.