Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Japanese Buildings

No, I haven't vanished due to NaNoWriMo. I've simply been swamped with work-related and personal projects. Many of the personal projects are ones that have been sitting around for quite some time. I am actually cutting back on most of my writing so that I can get these off of my plate. I order to let you know that I am still alive and kicking I thought I'd treat you to more pictures from Japan. These are, as always, taken by my father-in-law, Tetsuya Tanaka. I hope you enjoy these pictures of different Japanese buildings.

I like the way the sun shining on the red and yellow leaves give the impression that the house is one fire in this last one.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

Monday, October 29, 2007

More than a month

I apologize for my absence on this blog over the past month. I have been prioritizing my time lately and this didn't fall high enough on the list to warrant constant, or even occasional, attention recently.

I have been devoting a great deal of my time to my family. My daughter, Nanami, just turned three months old. My wife and I seem to be losing a lot of sleep lately. Nanami takes a long time to settle down to sleep at night and it drains us of energy pretty fast. She has been great fun, though. It's a delight to come home from work, say a few words to her, and get a great big smile in return.

The other things that have been occupying my time are activities I'm involved with at my church. I attend Southern Hills Church, a United Methodist Faith Community. My wife and I love being a part of this church. We are nearing the completion of phase one in building an addition to our church. This coming weekend we are actually hosting a number of concerts and activities to inform the community as to what we are doing with out facility.
Part of what I've been doing is managing an Online Newsletter (blog) for our church. I've put a lot of time into getting information and getting it out there for everyone to see. I've also been helping in the organization of our Miracle Weekend, as we are calling this coming weekend. If you want to see a little about what has been taking up so much of my time please visit the Southern Hills Church Online Newsletter. In the "Important Articles" section on the right, click the "Miracle Weekend Schedule" link. It will tell you all about what we've been preparing for.

I sincerely hope to find some time in the near future to tell you about my struggles to organize my writing during this busy time. And about my latest distraction. I recently purchased the DVD collection of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" TV series. I've become hooked to all things relating to Firefly. I think the story concept and the writing are superb, especially the dialogue throughout the series. If you haven't seen this yet check out the DVD collection, or look for the movie which was made after FOX canceled the series entitled, "Serenity". I will try to give you some of my opinion on the overall series, the canceling of it, and the movie that resulted from the uproar of the fans. Anyway, more of that to come.

I'll leave you with a picture of a taiko drummer. Taiko is another topic that I've been wanting to write about, as I have a great collection of photos. This is thanks to my father-in-law, Tetsuya Tanaka. Enjoy, and be well.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Article on Dark Roasted Blend

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have an article out on Dark Roasted Blend. If you've never checked them out before you should. They feature collections of pictures ranging from the weird to the wonderful. This can include collections of photos of cool advertisements to funny signs to pictures featuring the latest technology and a lot more. Some of my favorite collections are those related to the space shuttle and outer space. My article is on the great variety of Japanese vending machines that exist.

You'll also find articles like this one on there written by my friend Jason Heath. Jason has been mentioned here before. He is the author of the Double Bass Blog and the podcast Contrabass Conversations. Jason has a great style of writing and his pictorial article on Dark Roasted Blend is well worth looking into.

I want to thank Avi Abrams for contacting me and giving me the opportunity to join the team of writers at Dark Roasted Blend. I consider it quite an honor to be able to contribute content to one of my favorite blogs.

I hope all of you enjoy a dark roast as much as I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Work in Progress and Pictures of Mt. Fuji

I am planning some posts with more substance, honest I am. However, a three year old toddler, and a seven week old infant tend to take up a great deal of time and attention. My intention is to finish up on a story outline for what, I'm hoping, will eventually become a podcast novel for me. I'm trying to meld things I know from life here in the Midwest and my time in Japan and add an element of the fantastic to the results. I'll try to keep everyone updated on the progress, though it may be slow getting the ball rolling again.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy these two pictures of Mt. Fuji. I enjoy the way they focus on the elements of Japanese life in the foreground, allowing Fuji-san to stand back, keeping watch over his land.

Japanese fishing boats. I believe this is in Suruga Bay, to the west of the Izu Peninsula, though I'm not positive.

An open field in front of some Japanese dwellings. I'm not sure exactly what kind of field this is. No, not a rice paddy.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Japanese Pictures

Here are more wonderful pictures from Japan, though not necessarily of Japan, all taken by Tetsuya Tanaka.

Standing Buddha statues at a sculpture's workshop.

The town of Ajiro.

Paper lanterns on the side of a Matsuri float.


Japanese fishing boat.

Wind blowing past Fuji-san.

A Question of Loyalty

Here's another essay that I wrote during my college years. With the addition of Japanese material on this site I thought this would be a good one to include for everyone. I hope you enjoy it.

The United States of America possesses a short, yet rich history. This history also contains many dark episodes that our people would rather forget about. One such incident occurred after the Japanese Military attacked Pearl Harbor. This attack gave the citizens of the West Coast an excuse to show their racial prejudice openly.

The U.S. Government made a decision based on prejudice and fear of people of Japanese ancestry. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This government document “paved the way for a massive eviction and subsequent imprisonment of Japanese American” (Tateishi, xviii). This document was clearly an attack on the Japanese people, but America didn’t seem to realize it. People didn’t seem to mind that the document left people of German and Italian ancestry virtually untouched, save those who had been specifically singled out by the intelligence agencies as security risks.

The Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans, believed that they would receive fair treatment and be received as the citizens that they were. This was continually proved to be a false belief, despite their attempts to show the loyalty they had for their country. Even when approximately 33,000 Nisei served in the military during World War II, acts of racism occurred frequently. Despite the lack of faith that America showed for its Japanese American soldiers in the U.S. Army, these Nisei continued to perform to the best of their abilities to protect the land that they called home.

The Nisei involvement in the war began with the formation of the 100th Battalion in Hawaii. These men began as a part of the Hawaii National Guard, but were requested to remove themselves from active duty by the by the War Department. Hawaiian Commander Lieutenant General Delos Emmons wanted to keep this from happening. “He needed the manpower and had been impressed with the desire of many Hawaiian Nisei to prove their loyalty. After much discussion, Emmons recommended that a special Nisei Battalion be formed and removed to the mainland” (Personal Justice Denied, 256).

After the 100th Battalion finished their training they shipped out for North Africa and were immediately sent north to Italy to join in the combat. These men entered into a bloody campaign that slowly moved the Allies up the Italian peninsula. The 100th Battalion suffered several casualties as they refused to give up in their efforts for the Allies. Warren Fencl, who fought near the 100th said of it, “The only time they ever had a desertion was from the hospital to get back to the front” (Personal Justice Denied, 256).

During the time that the 100th Battalion was earning over 900 Purple Hearts, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team had been formed and trained back home. The 442nd landed at Naples and immediately moved north to meet up with the 100th, who had engaged in heavy fighting on their way to Rome. At this time the 100th officially became a part of the 442nd.

The 442nd definitely showed their ability to serve their country during World War II. And with this they also showed their loyalty for the United States. During seven major campaigns, the 442nd took 9,486 casualties. They were one of the war’s most highly decorated regiment combat teams. The 442nd received seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations and earned 18,143 individual decorations—including one Congressional Medal of Honor, 47 Distinguished Service Crosses, 350 Silver Stars, 810 Bronze Stars and more than 3,600 Purple Hearts.

On July 27, 1944, Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, Commander of the Fifth Army, awarded the 100th Battalion a Presidential Citation and commended the other units for their performances, saying:

You are always thinking of your country before yourselves. You have never complained through your long periods in the line. You have written a brilliant chapter in the history of the fighting men in America. You are always ready to close with the enemy, and you have always defeated him. The 34th Division is proud of you, the Fifth Army is proud of you, and the whole of the United States is proud of you (Personal Justice Denied, 257).

But the whole of the United States was not proud of the accomplishments of the 100th Battalion or the 442nd Regiment Combat Team. In fact, the participation of Japanese Americans in the U.S. Military was enough to drive some peoples’ prejudice to the point of rage. This racial hatred drove people to act terribly towards Japanese Americans they saw in soldiers uniforms. “In the little town of McGehee, a Nisei soldier was attacked and yelled at. “You dirty Jap!” Such an assault on a U.S. soldier reverberated throughout the internment camps” (Tsukamoto and Pinkerton, 153). There are also much more violent stories of outbursts against U.S. soldiers. “Private Louis Furushiro was shot at when he stopped at a café for coffee. His assailant was a 72-year-old man who had two sons in the service. He fired at him from just ten feet away; Louis dodged just in time and escaped with only powder burns on his face” (Tsukamoto and Pinkerton, 153). One of the most well known stories of discrimination against Nisei soldiers is the story of United States Senator, then Captain, Daniel Inouye. “Captain Inouye had lost his arm in combat. In San Francisco, on his way to Hawaii, Inouye went to a barbershop. He was in uniform, medals and empty sleeve pinned to his chest. The barber refused to cut his hair. ‘We don’t serve Japs here,’ he said” (Levine, 128).

Of course, American citizens were not the only ones that looked down upon those Nisei that chose to serve the United States in the military. There were several groups of Japanese in the camps that frowned on all those that would serve a country that locked them up like this. One woman, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, that experienced life in the camps recalls how her father showed support for the United States, and how he wouldn’t back down on his view, no matter what the others thought about him. He was even willing to fight for his opinion. She told of how several men in the mess hall one early morning started whispering inu (dog) about her father. One man had jumped up and made the accusation aloud. “Papa went for him. Now, outside in the dirt, Pap had him by the throat and would have strangled him, but some other men pulled them apart. I had never seen him so livid, yelling and out of his head with rage” (Houston and Houston, 76). Later that evening, her family huddled in their cabin from a dust storm, Jeanne heard her father singing the Japanese national anthem. Unlike other anthems, this was not a martial song, or a victory song, but rather a poem. It is a poem that goes back to the ninth century, and can be read as a personal credo for endurance,

Kimi ga yo wa chiyoni

yachiyoni sa-za-re i-shi no i-wa-o to

na-ri-te ko-ke no musu made.

May thy peaceful reign last long.

May it last for thousands of years,

Until this tiny stone will grow

Into a massive rock, and the moss

Will cover it deep and thick

(Houston and Houston, 78).

Several Americans could not bring themselves to understand that the Japanese American 442nd Regiment Combat Team was one of the driving forces that allowed the Allies to win the war. Some would say they even shortened the war by at least two years. How could a group of people, who’s families were still locked away in camps back home, fight so effectively and relentlessly for a country that didn’t know if it could trust them? One soldier, Tom Kawaguchi, from the 442nd gave some of the credit to his ancestry. “I think the Japanese culture really came into play, all the things that we were taught as kids—honesty, integrity, honor, and haji, ‘not bringing shame on the family’” (Tateishi, 182). These cultural teachings brought a great sense of unity to the 442nd. They were constantly looking out for each other and worrying about their fellow soldiers. They knew that if they were hit they’d never be left out there.

There was a great deal of opposition to the Nisei involvement in the war. But along with this could be found a lot of support for these young men who fought valiantly and accomplished incredible feats for their country. One soldier, Mitsuo Usui, experienced both rejection and acceptance through the same experience, which was one common to what many returning veterans would face. Mitsuo had boarded a bus. A lady sitting in the front of the bus saw him and cursed him for being Japanese. Mitsuo was a proud soldier returning from the war, decked in his new uniform and new paratrooper boots, all his campaign medals and awards proudly displayed on his chest. When the lady made her remark the bus driver pulled the bus over and asked her to either apologize to the American soldier of get off of his bus. She simply got off the bus. Mitsuo relates his response, “Embarrassed by the situation, I turned around to thank the bus driver. He said that’s okay, buddy, everything is going to be okay from now on out. Encouraged by his comment, I thanked him and as I was turning away, I noticed a discharge pin on his lapel” (Personal Justice Denied, 260).

Another person who appreciated the Nisei soldiers was Yanina Cywinska. She was a Polish Catholic who was being held in a Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, with her family because her father was helping Jews escape the Nazis. This camp was liberated by the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 442nd Regiment Combat Team. At the time of the camps liberation she was blindfolded by the Germans and expected to be shot. As she recalls,

Next thing I knew, a little Japanese man pulled off my blindfold. I said, ‘Go ahead and shoot, get it over with.’

But he said to me, ‘You are free. We are Americans.’ I started to touch him, cry and hug. To this day, if anyone says the word ‘Jap,’ I become a vicious woman. I adore Japanese people for giving me the chance to live (Levine, 127).

Due to their great accomplishments, Japanese American soldiers even received recognition from the government. One person who commented on the contributions they gave to the war effort was General Joseph Stilwell, who commanded Nisei troops in the Pacific. “They bought an awful hunk of America with their blood…. You’re damn right those Nisei boys have a place in the American heart, now and forever. We cannot allow a single injustice to be done to the Nisei without defeating the purposes for which we fought” (Levine, 118). When the troops of the 442nd Regiment Combat Team returned to the United States, they went first to Washington, D.C. President Harry Truman presented the regiment with a special Presidential Unit Citation. He also stated his gratitude for their efforts. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the privilege of being able to show you how much the United States thinks of what you have done…. You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice…and you won” (Stein, 44).

The Nisei soldiers of the United States Army did indeed fight prejudice as they battled the enemy overseas. And in many respects they did win against prejudice. But despite the victories of these small battles against prejudice, they continued to meet with racial animosity from many Americans. In many places the struggle still goes on for recognition as an American citizen, fully deserving of every right provided by the U.S. Constitution. But until our government and populace can put to rest their fears based on racial prejudice these people will continue to struggle for the place in American society that is rightly theirs.


Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Personal Justice Denied. United States of America: Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and University of Washington Press, 1997.

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki, and James D. Houston. Farewell to Manzanar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973.

Levine, Ellen. A Fence Away From Freedom. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995.

Kawaguchi, Tom. And Justice For All. Ed. John Tateishi. New York: Random House, 1984.

Stein, R. Conrad. World At War, Nisei Regiment. Chicago: Regensteiner Publishing Enterprises, Inc., 1985.

Tateishi, John, ed. And Justice For All. New York: Random House, 1984.

Tsukamoto, Mary, and Elizabeth Pinkerton. We The People, a Story of Internment in America. United States of America: Laguna Publishers, 1988.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Japanese Picture - Matsuri Float

Here's a float that was built for a festival held in my wife's hometown of Ajiro. I have a number of wonderful pictures from this event and many more great festivals in Japan.

Photographer: Tetsuya Tanaka

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Among Sequels

The new Thursday Next novel by Welsh author Jasper Fforde was released this past July. I have not read it yet myself, but I have read the previous installments in the series. If you have not discovered the incredible writing of Jasper Fforde you are missing out on a wonderful experience. I hope to go into detail on the story of Thursday Next and why you should read these books in a later post. For now I will simply direct you to one of the places you can find a copy of Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. Please check it out...after you've read the first four installments, of course. (Trust me, this is a series worth investing in. Or at least worth visiting your local library.)

Amazon.com - Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Japanese Picture - Catch of the Day

Ajiro is my wife's hometown. It's where she was born and where she grew up. Ajiro is a small town on the southern tip of a small city called Atami, located in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Dried fish is one of the specialties prepared in this small fishing village. Any morning you choose to go for a walk along the seaside you will see countless drying racks with a wide variety of fish, squid, and other catches from the previous day and night. I hope you enjoy this picture, taken by Tetsuya Tanaka, looking out toward the lighthouse in Ajiro.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Japanese Expansion

Well, friends, I've decided to expand on my content. I am planning on including pictures and articles about Japan, it's culture, people, literature, etc. I am doing this for a number of reasons. One of which is simply the desire to provide more material for my readers. Looking beyond that, though, is the fact that I am doing some research on all things Japanese right now. I am planning on writing a novel-length work that is taking place primarily in Japan. I am hoping, in fact, to write it for future publication as a podcast novel.

Why Japan? Well, I fell in love with the country when I lived there for a couple of years. The Japanese people, existing in their melded world of ancient tradition and modern technology, fascinate me. Also, I have some great sources I can call upon for information. Not only is my wife a very well-educated native of Japan, but her family and numerous friends of our are still living over there.

To start this off I will present you with a picture that was taken by my father-in-law, Tetsuya Tanaka. Tetsuya is an amateur photographer. And I use the word amateur to mean that he simply doesn't get paid for his incredible pictures. He has an eye for the artistic side of Japanese nature. I think that you will love his pictures.

The following picture is kind of a tribute to my good friend Jason Heath over at the Double Bass Blog. Jason has two cats and has numerous posts on his blog related to cats. Check out the page for cat labeled posts. You'll love watching the Cats listening to various styles of music post. This is a picture of a cat sitting on a wall with Mt. Fuji in the background. The photo was taken on January 2, 2005. I believe this is a view of the south face of the mountain, though I may be wrong about that. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Story Starters - Number Two

Here are some additional story ideas for you. I invite you to take these and use them as exercises for your writing practice. Or, if something about them strikes your muse and fires up the inspiration, go ahead and make what changes are necessary to bring your vision to life. These are a collection of ideas that came to me, and that I will not likely be using personally.

If you do take one of these ideas and start your own story, or stories, because of it I would love to know. Please comment and let me know if these story starters are helpful to you. If you happen to take one of these ideas and mold it into a finished product, I will not ask to be credited in any way. These are ideas that anyone can come up with, and I am sharing them freely with you.

  • The protagonist is an avid reader. He/She has been reading all of his/her life. Recently, as extraordinary as is may seem, many of the events from the protagonist’s books are starting to occur in the real world. Now determine what kind of literature your protagonist likes to read: mystery, romance, sci-fi, horror, etc.
  • This situation is similar to the previous one; only in this situation the reader finds himself/herself entering the book world that they are reading about.
  • Your protagonist lives in a large suburb. One day she wakes up to find a large shape or design of some sort painted on the front of her garage. She learns that several seemingly random houses have been marked in the same fashion.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's a girl! - Part Two

Like the original "It's a Girl!" post, I've decided to remove the pictures of my family for my peace of mind. See my full comments in the original post. I hope you enjoy the rest of the articles here.

It's a girl!

Greetings, friends. We have wonderful news to share. After a great amount of anticipation our daughter has arrived. Due to a low level of amniotic fluid the doctor decided to move Rihoko's C-Section up from 9 am on Tuesday, July 31 to 10:30 am on Thursday, July 26.

At 10:37 am, Thursday, July 26, Nanami Elizabeth Colwill was born. She weighs 6 lbs. 4 oz. I'm not sure of the length right now. My family and some friends were here, or arrived shortly after Nanami's birth to meet her and insure that Rihoko is doing well.


Yes, I used to have pictures of Nanami, Christopher, Rihoko, and me on this post. As traffic to Kanteker's Craft increases I've decided to remove the pictures of my family for my own peace of mind. You might catch one or two that slipped into a Public status on my Flickr account, but I felt better not keeping them here. Plus, the post served it's purpose of informing my friends and letting my in-laws in Japan, my brother in Ireland, and my wife's "international siblings" in England, Brazil, Sweden, and France see our new daughter.

If you are family or friends of ours please contact me directly. I could then look at adding you to our Flickr contacts as a friend so you can see more pictures of us.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Story Starters - Number One

Here's something new for you. I've decided to put to potential story ideas out there for people to enjoy. If the concept strikes you with inspiration run with it. If you think it would make a great idea, but needs a few details altered, go ahead, make it work for you. These are ideas that don't fit with any of my current projects, and I won't likely use them in the future. And even if they don't lead you to your next novel, they should give you some good writing exercise. Enough rambling, on with the ideas.

  1. You are sitting in the cafeteria at work. As you're eating your lunch you overhear some people at the table behind you having a conversation about an individual who apparently died in a tragic accident. When your name is mentioned a minute later you ask the group of people what they are talking about. One of them hands you a newspaper article recounting the details of the accident and giving your name as that of the deceased victim.
  2. You receive a phone call in the middle of the night from a friend or former colleague whom you haven't spoken to in twelve years.
  3. While working in the basement of your home (or place of business) you notice a brick protruding slightly from the wall. While examining the brick you find it easy to remove from the its place. A dark space is revealed behind the brick wall. You find it impossible to see anything behind the wall so you set out to find a flashlight.
  4. You find yourself sitting in your cubicle at work taking care of things on your computer. Suddenly every phone in the building starts ringing at the same time. (Variations on this include having every land-line start ringing, but none of the cell phones, or vice versa.)
"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." - Mark Twain

Strategies to Move Your Muse

One of the worst enemies of an aspiring writer is the ability to get himself or herself started writing. I’m not talk about writer’s block. This isn’t a situation where you’re having a lack of ideas. You’re problem is a lack of time and motivation. Or, perhaps you have the motivation, and finding time is the issue. Whatever the case, every aspiring writer, and some of those who are published, can always use some tips on getting themselves organized, prepared, and working on their writing.

This inability to set a structured schedule that allows me to produce my ideas is one of the issues that I have. I’m a married man; I have one son and a daughter whose arrival we are expecting any day now…in fact, I could actually say any hour now. On top of all this I work a full-time job that takes a lot of my time and energy to excel at. (No, I may not have to pour so much energy into a “day job”. But I believe if you want to excel at your writing, you should strive for excellence in all areas of your life.) The opposition I face with my writing is trying to find the time to write and not take away so much sleep that I am ineffective in my various aspirations.

Another problem that writer’s often face is one that can occur for writers even when they are able to find the time to work. This is the dilemma of moving your muse. Again, I’m not talking writer’s block, per say. Sometimes a writer must be in the mood to write. Though not necessary to produce writing taking action to put yourself in the mood for the material you are working on can often improve the quality of your end product.

I have taken the time to compile a number of the suggestions that I have run across. Some of these are from books or magazines I’ve read, some from the internet, some from friends and peers I’ve talked with. I am sharing these with you in hopes that they will help to move your muse. I’ve place these in no particular order, so browse a bit and see if you can’t find something that appeals to you.

  • Set productive goals for yourself. One example is setting a number of words or pages that you expect to accomplish each day. You must then make the time to reach your goal. Or you might decide to work for two hours every day. Once the end of those two hours is reached you power down your computer or put down your pencil until tomorrow. Or you might strive for a chapter each week, putting in the time when and where you can. One thing to remember with goal setting is that you want to be realistic. Don’t try to show off to yourself or others by setting goals that are out of your reach. I’m not trying to hold anyone back, but if you set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself you’ll find that gradually you’ve written that book.
  • Schedule a writing period in your day where writing takes priority of everything, save emergencies.
  • If you must limit your time due to family or a need for sleep try setting an alarm. Place it somewhere in your office where you won’t be watching it all the time, then eliminate other clocks and time pieces that might be distracting. This eliminates counting each minute or second, and keeps you from overworking, losing needed sleep, or creating tension in your family.
  • Accountability. Form a group of friends or peers, in person or on the internet, who can keep after you when your realistic goals aren’t being met. It helps, of course, when this group consists of other writers with similar aspirations, but it’s not a necessity.
  • Keep a word count in sight. This can help keep you motivated and will also let others know how you’re progressing so they can offer support and encouragement.
  • Outlining. This is a technique that works for some, but not for all.
  • Eliminate outside distractions for a period of time in order to devote more time to your writing. This can consist of a week, two weeks, a month, or longer. Items that you might consider eliminating your exposure to include television, radio, internet, email, computer games, or radio.
  • Write in a stimulating environment. This could include your neighborhood coffee shop, a café, or even your nearest library branch. Another option would be to decorate your office or writing space with items that put you in the right mindset for writing.
  • Take a walk. Whether you live in the city or out in the country somewhere, walking can be a great stimulant. Not only do you absorb ideas from your environment, but you have quiet time to let that latest idea mull about in your head. For those who don’t enjoy walking, ride a bike or drive your car. I lean away from the car idea, though, because walking and biking are great ways for a writer to get some exercise.
  • Find an outdoor hobby that allows you time to think. This can include the aforementioned walking or bike riding. Other ideas are hiking in the countryside or mountains, swimming, or kayaking. Check out some of these hobbies, or others that I haven’t mentioned. Again, they give you a great opportunity to empty your mind of distractions and just let the ideas simmer for awhile.
  • Pick up a book to read. This can be something that is similar to what you are writing, but does not have to be. It’s entirely possible that the latest suspense novel by one of your favorite authors holds an idea that could turn your fantasy story into something really exciting.
  • If you write for a younger crowd you can garner ideas by telling improvisational stories to your kids. Try coming up with a story idea that they would find interesting and add to that each night. Then, after the kids are asleep, write down as much as you can remember. You never know what the result might be. In fact, this is how Tolkien’s The Hobbit came to be.
  • Find some music that helps put you in the right mood for your current plot progression. I find that instrumental soundtracks to movies are some of the best stimulants. You can pick similar scenes to the one you are working on and play the background music that was used in that scene. Or just put the disc in your CD player and see what images start to take shape.
  • Be prepared for your writing at any time. Do this by carrying a small notepad or digital recorder with you everywhere.
  • Keep a journal.
  • NaNoWrimo. National Novel Writing Month takes place in November and is a great way for aspiring writers to dive into that novel. You will be struggling to boot that word count at the same time as aspiring novelists all over the world. Though I have not participated myself, I have followed the progress of the NaNoWrimo over the last couple of years and I believe it would be a wonderful stimulant for the person who can dedicate a lot of time to their writing during that month. Learn more about it at http://www.nanowrimo.org.

There are a lot more helpful hints out there than what I have shared with you here. I encourage you to check out some of the writing books at your local bookstore or library. Also, do some hunting on the internet; check out some of the blogs that other aspiring writers are posting to. Learning from other peoples’ experience can be a great advantage when you want to avoid some of the potential pitfalls out there.

I will leave you with an anger management tip for writers. Save often.

Good luck and good writing.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tolkien - Chapter Four

Tolkien's Legacy

by Michael I. Colwill

J.R.R. Tolkien is a man who will be remembered whenever people talk about fantasy literature. He alone has given more to the genre today than perhaps any other author that has ever written in the genre. And all of this from the fame that came with the publication of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This devoted Oxford Professor of Philology and Literature gave birth to a story that is just that, a wonderful story. It was not a work of allegory that was attempting to spread Tolkien’s ideals and opinions among the minds of his readers. These stories were for the pure enjoyment of those who enjoy a good read during the evening after they’ve come home from work.

Because of his success Tolkien bent the road on which the fantasy genre was traveling. He not only gave the genre a formula to follow in his epic journey by a group of friends that have put aside their differences for the good of all, he revitalized it and made it popular once again. According to best-selling author R.A. Salvatore he “took all of the common folklore of western European culture and put them in an enjoyable format. He brought them to the masses, so to speak, and since publishing, books or games, is a business, that popularizing of the genre allowed it to blossom” (Salvatore).

No, it was not just books that were influenced by Tolkien. He also had a great influence on games of all sorts, but his greatest influence was probably on role-playing games. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons has long been one of the most popular of all role-playing games. And just by looking at the format of the adventures that take place one can notice the resemblance to the fantasy quest that occurred in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons a few individuals create characters that they will portray during the adventure which is led by the Dungeon Master, or judge of the rules. These characters can be one of many different humanoid races and can choose from one of many different adventuring careers. It was from Tolkien’s stories that the so called “party of adventurers,” or “adventuring company” came to be. So it is quite possible to end up with a party consisting of the same kind of adventurers that banded together in order to guide Frodo Baggins to the lands of Mordor in order to destroy the Ring of Power in the Cracks of Doom. In all the years that I’ve played the game it remains true that a group of people are bonded together for a time in order to accomplish some task of great importance, just like in The Lord of the Rings.

And it isn’t just Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that came about because of the ingenious story-telling of Tolkien. There is even a “Lord of the Rings” role-playing game that is based in Middle-Earth and takes place around similar characters that were in the novels. There are also several forms of video games and computer games that are based on the epic structure that Tolkien put in his books. At the time that he wrote the books, I’m sure that Tolkien had no idea how far spread his influence would be around the world.

Unfortunately, there are those out there who think that there really isn’t much to the writing of Tolkien. They think that it has nothing to share with its reader that will teach them something useful. And this is why, for quite some time, it was hard to find a copy of The Hobbit in the children’s section of your local libraries. One author who is very prominent in the fields of fantasy and science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin, made this statement, “I shall never cease to wonder at the critics who find Tolkien a ‘simple’ writer. What marvelously simple minds they must have!” (Le Guin, 107).

Those critics who find Tolkien simple must have not read into the origins of the book. It is a work that was born out of a love for language, not out of an attempt to write an entertaining story. As Tolkien himself put it in the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, “I desired to do this for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of ‘history’ for Elvish tongues” (Tolkien, 5). And so you see, it was the language that gave birth to the story, not the other way around. Sound like the work of a ‘simple’ writer?

Tolkien has been a great influence and inspiration in a lot of places and a lot of areas. However, it is in the area of writing fantasy literature that Tolkien’s influence is most clearly seen. It is not an uncommon thing these days to pick up a contemporary fantasy novel and notice the peculiar similarities to the epic quest of Frodo Baggins and his friends. There are probably no writers of fantasy out there today that have not read anything of Tolkien’s. And in all of those that have you can see the influence of the master.

One of these writers is best-selling author Terry Brooks. Terry Brooks is author of one of the best-selling fantasy novels of all time, The Sword of Shannara, having outsold even Tolkien’s trilogy. His story about the quest of a simple vale man against the great Power of Darkness, the Warlock Lord, is quite similar in format to The Lord of the Rings and Frodo’s own quest against the evil of Sauron. Terry Brooks admits to being influenced by Tolkien, along with every other fantasy writer out there today. “Tolkien’s influence was at least two-fold. He pioneered modern fantasy and he influenced an entire generation of writers in the field” (Brooks).

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks that modern fantasy writers have been influenced in a good way by Tolkien. Though recognizing the talents and accomplishments of Tolkien’s work in the area of fantasy, they do not believe that every writer who comes in contact with him produces good work based on what they have read. Brian Attebery, in his book, The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature, claims that “undigested Tolkien has produced some literary nightmares of the first order” (Attebery, 155). One author that is specifically mentioned by Attebery happens to be Terry Brooks. Trying not to disrespect the author “who may have intended homage to Tolkien,” Attebery claims that Brook’s novels “attempt to evoke wonder without engaging the mind or emotions, and they threaten to reduce Tolkien’s artistic accomplishment to a bare formula” (Attebery, 155).

I have to disagree with Attebery on this point. In his argument he claims that Brooks has copied many of the elements that are found in The Lord of the Rings. He believes that these elements were deeply rooted in Tolkien’s own life and philosophy. With this I cannot argue. I know that Tolkien’s creations were deeply rooted in his life. However, Attebery also claims that:

To attempt to copy Tolkien is necessarily to misread, to mistake the mechanics of his tale for the substance. Roger Sale makes a good case for The Lord of the Rings as a study of “modern heroism,” very much the product of two world wars and the upheavals of English urbanization. Elves and rings and hobbits are part of Tolkien’s way of confronting his life. (Attebery, 155-156).

Even though every writer will be in some way influenced by the events that surround him, Tolkien did not write The Lord of the Rings based on the World Wars and other incidents that affected his life. Humphrey Carpenter quoted Tolkien’s friend, C.S. Lewis, as saying of The Lord of the Rings, “These things were not devised to reflect any particular situation in the real world. It was the other way round; real events began, horribly, to conform to the pattern he had freely invented” (Carpenter, 190).

Terry Brooks gives a little insight into the different things that have influenced him, and into how Tolkien has influenced him:

My writing was mostly influenced by the European adventure story writers of the past century—Stevenson, Scott, Dumas, etc. I started out as a writer thinking to do something along those lines, but not in an historical context. Tolkien gave me the format I was looking for. So I cloaked the traditional adventure story in fantasy trappings (Brooks).

And Brooks does not pull his plot ideas from Tolkien, but rather from events that he reads about in newspaper and other places. “All of my work deals with current issues, if you take a close look. Environment, violence, family disintegration, and so on” (Brooks). Where Tolkien stays away from the real events that go on about him, Brooks draws from these. I do not see how Brooks could possibly be called a bad imitation of Tolkien. He has simply absorbed Tolkien and used his format to give life to his own ideas.

Another fantasy writer that has been influenced by Tolkien is best-selling author R.A. Salvatore. Salvatore has written over 25 novels, all in the fantasy genre. And he, like others, recognizes Tolkien as a true inspiration for him to become involved in more classical reading and eventually his own writing. Salvatore recalls his freshman year of college when his sister gave him the boxed Tolkien series for Christmas:

I remember reading The Hobbit and wondering why I had never realized how enjoyable and fulfilling reading could be. I changed my major to communications so that I could take more literature courses and went on to appreciate the classics—Shakespeare, Chaucer, and James Joyce. Those same classics, brought to me through Tolkien, were my truest inspiration (Salvatore).

Salvatore was introduced to the fantasy world by Tolkien, and has since gone on to bring life to his own worlds and creations. He is another example of a writer who has come in contact with the work of Tolkien, absorbed it, and moved on to his own writing. He gave an appropriate thank-you in his dedication of one of his books, The Woods Out Back, to the master of fantasy. “To the memory of J.R.R. Tolkien and to Fleetwood Mac, for giving me elfs and dragons, witches and angels, and for showing me the way to find them on my own” (Salvatore, The Woods Out Back).

I have one more example to share with you of someone who has been influenced by Tolkien. That amateur writer is me. I have aspirations of one day being published as a writer in the field of fantasy. And Tolkien has been a great inspiration to the work I have done so far. This past summer I read Humphrey Carpenter’s authorized biography of Tolkien and drew information and inspiration from the love and dedication that Tolkien had for his own work. That coupled with the experience of journeying through Middle-earth while reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings has influenced and inspired me to devote myself to the stories that I work on. And like Tolkien’s work, mine has become a labor of love.

One of the many things that I have learned from Tolkien is the need to pay attention to detail. Tolkien wholly devoted himself to the perfection of his work, which contributed to the great quality it possessed as a finished product. He has also reaffirmed something that I learned the hard way, the need for maps while writing stories in a created world. In a January 1971 interview with BBC Radio 4 program ‘Now Read On…’ Tolkien was quoted as saying, “I had maps of course. If you’re going to have a complicated story you must work to a map otherwise you can never make a map of it afterwards” (Interview). I attempted to map out a story that I wrote about a year after it was finished and discovered the difficulty in this.

Like Tolkien, I wish to give people a story that will allow them to dream for a few hours of things that can only be seen by their minds eye. I want them to run with the unicorn, fly with the dragon, and dance with the elf. In his letter to me, R.A. Salvatore told me to “do the master proud” (Salvatore). I can only hope to carry on the legacy started by Tolkien as well as the others have that came before me.


Attebery, Brian. The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

Brooks, Terry. Letter to the author. 6 Apr. 1997.

Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977.

Le Guin, Ursula K. “Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown.” The Language of the Night. Ed. Susan Wood. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons: 1979.

Salvatore, R.A. Letter to the author. 11 Apr. 1997.

Salvatore, R.A. The Woods Out Back. New York: Ace Books, 1993.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Enjoy a Dark Roast

I was introduced to the Dark Roasted Blend blog by my good friend, Jason Heath. No surprise there. Jason has been making a name for himself in the blogosphere with his Double Bass Blog. He is also a very popular podcaster, being the host of Contrabass Conversations. All in all, a great friend to have when you're learning the ropes. Jason has included a number of posts on his blog about posts that have appeared on Dark Roasted Blend, bringing incredible material to his readers.

Dark Roasted Blend specializes in articles surrounding collections of photographs. Though I have not delved into the inner workings of this well-crafted blog I have enjoyed the majority of their posts over the last several months. The content ranges from comical to inspirational to awe-inspiring. Dark Roasted Blend is a page maintained by Avi and Rachel Abrams. They began the blog, one of many they have, in October of 2006. In their short time in the blogosphere (look who's talking) they have made an incredible impact and attained a readership most bloggers can only dream of.

The reason I wanted to mention them today is due to a post that appeared on Dark Roasted Blend on Tuesday, June 26, 2007. Their "One Day in Space" post includes several photos from NASA's recent Atlantis shuttle mission. These pictures fall under the awe-inspiring category. Especially one that shows the shuttle flying over a mountainous terrain. It almost feels as if the shuttle isn't really in space in this photo. I haven't included a copy of the picture because I haven't researched who actually owns it. And, being new to the blogosphere, I don't want to break any rules...or laws. But check out One Day in Space at Dark Roasted Blend and discover why this blog has such a loyal following.

Trying To Be Well

I still haven't posted Chapter Four. I'm sorry about that. I will try to get it up for everyone sometime this weekend. I have just been trying not to push myself lately. I've had this terrible cough for the last 3-4 weeks, and it is driving me nuts. The second week that I had it I also had bronchitis, which was no good. I saw the doctor again tonight and they did some blood work and chest x-rays. Everything looked OK, so the doctor is assuming some nasty virus is holding on for dear life in my body. We'll have to see how this next round of prescriptions works.

Sorry, I didn't mean to ramble about personal issues. This was not meant to be a personal journal. I just hate coughing my lungs out. Stay tuned, I have some more information to share in a separate post.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tolkien - Chapter Three

The Choice of the Ring

by Michael I. Colwill

When reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, one is reading an epic in the form of a novel. In giving us this tremendous tale, Tolkien has kept in mind the style of the epic story. The story should follow a particular person who resembles a hero both mentally and physically. This hero ought to embody the ideals and values of a particular group of people. Like the heroes in The Odyssey and Beowulf, this hero will go on a journey and experience several adventures. And after surviving many hardships during his journey the hero will return once again to his own home and people.

In writing his epic, Tolkien has given us several variations on the typical format of the epic. In the classic epic the hero encounters a collection or council of gods; in The Lord of the Rings we are shown the council meetings at Rivendell. The traditional epic hero usually visits legendary places during his journey that are spoken of in legends; Tolkien’s hero visits places of legend in Middle-earth, such as the house of Tom Bombadil, the Mines of Moria, and the kingdom of Mordor. During the traditional epic a bard is usually found singing about the history of times past, such as the deeds of ancient heroes; this is found continually in the use of song and tales throughout The Lord of the Rings. In the epic a hero will often travel to an underworld of sorts and return with information that allows him to go on with his journey; during Tolkien’s story we see the descent into the Mines of Moria. We sometimes see visions of the future being granted to a hero in the epic; such glimpses of things to come are given from Galadriel’s mirror in Tolkien. The epic hero will frequently be held captive in the arms of a beautiful woman who prevents him from continuing on his journey; Tolkien brought in an ironic twist to this element through the use of Shelob, the giant female spider. But perhaps one of the most significant changes for Tolkien was his use of a hero. The hero, Frodo Baggins, is a distinctly unheroic figure.

The Lord of the Rings does contain its heroic characters, like Aragorn, son of Arathorn. But the continuous use of unheroic characters throughout Tolkien’s novels seems to imply that Middle-earth must be saved by someone who is quite ordinary and even humble in many respects. Tolkien’s hero is made great by the fact that, despite the obvious lack of mental and physical heroic qualities, he decides to take on the task of destroying the one Ring of his own free will. It is the personal choices of Frodo Baggins throughout the story to continue with his quest that truly makes him a hero.

It seems, however, that not everybody shares my opinion of free will in The Lord of the Rings. C.N. Manlove recognizes Tolkien’s use of an unconventional hero in his book, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies. He tells us that Tolkien chose “a little man, a four-foot halfling of a race happiest just to eat and sleep. The idea is to give us in Frodo a protagonist who grows into being a hero as his journey proceeds” (174-175). It is here, says Manlove, that Tolkien’s problems begin.

Manlove goes on to say that the conception of any hero “demands that the hero’s actions be substantially based on free choice and human will; and Tolkien certainly seems to have meant this to be a major spring in the action of his fantasy” (175). He believes that the decisions Frodo makes in the Shire and at Rivendell are simply arranged to appear as if they are acts of personal choice on the part of the hobbit, “in each case he is presented with the facts and we are to believe that he has a choice between the comforts of staying and the rigours of going which he alone must decide” (175).

Free choice is not meant to be the sole thing that drives the action in The Lord of the Rings. After all, it was the Ring that chose Frodo to be its carrier. With one exception, a Ring-Bearer is never the one to make the decision to pass on the Ring. Bilbo, though with some regrets and persuasion, willingly passes on the one Ring to Frodo. Even Gandalf hints at the already made decision for Frodo to carry the ring by saying, “only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero” (The Fellowship of the Rings, 283). However, the whole idea behind the Ring is that its bearer is constantly tempted by the power it has to offer, and must make a conscious decision to resist every step of the way.

Manlove also goes into the fact that in all of his most important decisions Frodo always seems to choose correctly. By some stroke of good luck he is led along the correct paths throughout his journey to Mordor. “And if he is in doubt,” states Manlove, “as he is at Parth Galen whether to go to Minas Tirith or Mordor, he is pushed into making the right decision” (177). In this case it is the attempt of Boromir to possess the Ring, thinking that it will aid him in conquering the evil forces that threaten his people, that pushes Frodo. The result appears to be a continuous run of correct choices that cause the reader to expect Frodo to never go wrong. In fact, this makes the possibility of making a wrong choice all but disappear, and with it goes the very thought of choice.

There are several examples of this luck that seem to be surrounding Frodo during his quest. Many of these examples occur during his near encounters with and narrow escapes from the Black Riders. On one of these occasions a black rider turns away from Frodo’s hiding place when he is nearly upon him. We realize what an unusual occurrence this is when Aragorn later describes the Black Riders’ heightened senses. “’In the dark they perceive many signs that are hidden from us: then they are most to be feared. And at all times they smell the blood of living things, desiring and hating it. Senses, too, there are other than sight or smell. We can feel their presence…they feel ours more keenly. Also,’ he added, and his voice sank to a whisper, ‘the Ring draws them’” (The Fellowship of the Ring, 202). There are also other near encounters where Frodo and his party are saved by elves that appear to protect them. And we never find out why the Black Riders do not guard the road to the Shire when they already know that the Ring is in the possession of a Baggins there.

Manlove continues his argument; “The treatment of the Black Riders is only one strand in a whole skein of apparent coincidences and luck by which the hobbits are protected” (182). Tom Bombadil rescues them from Old Man Willow on the one day of the year that he is found in the Old Forest. Gandalf finally discovers the spell that will open the gates to Moria as the monster that was residing in the Sirannon Lake emerges. Sam Gamgee happens to wake in time to stop Gollum from stealing the Ring off of a sleeping Frodo. The giant eagles rescue Frodo and Sam just in time before the molten lava that surrounds them from all sides swallows them.

In the face of all this, any conception that the reader might have had of Frodo or the others as heroic will battling against giant adversaries fades into oblivion. It may be true that from the point of view of the characters themselves, the constant assistance is not expected, and that to themselves, their fear and courage are real; but for the reader, who sees that it is not mortal luck which is the architect of success, the struggles with the evil forces become unreal (Manlove, 183).

Manlove seems to indicate that, from the reader’s point of view, Frodo was not moving through the narrative by way of his own free will. I do not agree with what he has been saying. I think that it is evident to the reader that Frodo was moving through the narrative based on personal choices that he made as he went along. For him there were a number of possibilities for the future. He could conceivably have taken an entirely different route with different occurrences in order to reach his final goal, but that is not how Tolkien wanted it to happen, or perceived it happening. In his essay, “The Quest Hero,” W.H. Auden makes this comment, “Man is a history-making creature for whom the future is always open” (40).

When the decision has been taken to send the Ring to the Fire, his feelings are those of Papageno [The Magic Flute]: ‘such dangerous exploits are not for hobbits like me. I would much rather stay home than risk my life on the very slight chance of winning glory.’ But his conscience tells him: ‘You may be nobody in particular in yourself, yet, for some inexplicable reasons, through no choice of your own, the Ring has come into your keeping, so that is on you and not on Gandalf or Aragorn that the task falls of destroying it’ (Auden, 55).

Yes, this could be seen as a removal of Frodo’s power of free will. However, being human, he still has the choice to refuse the task of destroying the Ring. Frodo knows that the Ring has come into his possession through some higher fate than he is aware of. Knowing that he can’t pass on such a task to someone else, and still have a clean conscience, Frodo makes the decision to carry this item of power that has worked its way into his life.

In his book, Master of Middle-Earth, Paul H. Kocher speaks about Frodo being chosen to bear the Ring. Frodo is not quite sure as to why he was chosen and not someone else. He is sure that it is not because of any past merits that he has. Gandalf tells him that even he is unaware as to the reasons that Frodo was chosen, but assures him that he has been chosen and must now use what wit and strength he has. Gandalf carefully goes on to inform Frodo that he is free to accept or reject the choice: ‘…the decision lies with you.’ The option not to cooperate with the grand design is open to Frodo’s will, as it is to that of all other intelligent creatures who are aware of the issues” (Kocher, 36).

In order to show that Frodo’s decision to make the journey to Mordor with the Ring was one of his own free will, we should look at what could have caused him to make that decision. Frodo seems to have an extraordinary sense of what is right and what is wrong. And he possesses a conscience that helps him determine the right thing to do. “If Frodo’s acceptance would be ‘right,’ would not refusal be, if not ‘wrong,’ at least an abdication of duty, diminishing him morally?” (Kocher, 41-42). The refusal of the Ring is not in Frodo’s character. In order to do what he knew was the right thing, Frodo made the conscious decision to be the bearer of the Ring on the journey to its destruction.

Tolkien does want to give his readers a mystical sense that some divine hand may be guiding some of the action; however, he does not want to cause this theme to overshadow the fact that his characters have a choice in what they do. He does not want to take away the suspense from the narrative by allowing the reader to know that Frodo will make it to his next destination safely. Kocher says that one “technique Tolkien finds handy is to couple every incident anyone calls foreordained with some notable exercise of free will by one of the characters involved in it” (40). An example that is given is the encounter of Bilbo and Frodo with Gollum. Both hobbits are said to have been chosen as Ring-bearers. This is where they have no choice in the matter. However, when either one of them comes across Gollum, they have had at least one chance to do away with the evil creature that is driven insane by a mad longing to possess the Ring, and passed it up. They spared Gollum’s life.

This free will that both Bilbo and Frodo have shown in their decisions to spare Gollum, and throughout the rest of their adventures, is something that Tolkien has believed in since he was a child. It was taught to him at an early age by his mother when she was teaching him the basic convictions of the Roman Catholic Church. As the scripture says from the Book of Joshua, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (NIV Bible, 225). Even after all that God had done for them, the Israelites still had a fundamental choice to make. It is this ability to choose that Tolkien places in Frodo’s character.

This choice that Frodo makes inevitably has a great impact on the outcome of his adventure. At the Cracks of Doom the Ring seems to finally gain power over Frodo. He, like many of the bearers in the past, cannot stand the thought of parting with the Ring, and slips it on his finger. Frodo’s salvation ends up being the mad creature, Gollum, who leaps out of the shadows and wrestles with the invisible form of Frodo until he manages to bite off his ring finger. And then, while dancing about in triumph, with both the ring and Frodo’s missing finger, he slips on the edge of a cliff and falls into the flames below.

I believe that Tolkien has done a wonderful job of mixing the use of intervention by a divine force, and the free choice of the characters to drive his narrative forward to its conclusion. The divine force, which represents God, watches over Frodo as he willingly makes the decision to carry the Ring of Power to Mordor and the Cracks of Doom. He also seems to take part in the story at those times when Frodo and his friends are most in need of help. Some examples include, the apparent resurrection of Gandalf after his fall with the Balrog, and the narrow escapes that Frodo has from the Black Riders. And we cannot forget the timely appearance of Gollum at the end to steal the Ring away from Frodo, who is unable to bring himself to destroy it in the volcano’s fire.

Tolkien uses these to drive home one of his great themes: that good shall triumph over evil. Richard Mathews says, in his book Lightning From A Clear Sky, “free will is of paramount importance in Tolkien’s moral scheme” (20). And Burton Raffel comments on the continuous appearance of deus ex machina like rescues. He says that these rescues are “part of the delight that we take in the story…discovering for us how Good is to prevail over Evil” (241). And the story of The Lord of the Rings is, ultimately, a story of a small force of Good against an extraordinarily powerful force of Evil, and how that Good came to triumph. In no way does the use of divine luck and intervention take away from the narrative that centers around the free choice of a small halfling to carry the greatest power in Middle-earth to its destruction.


Auden, W.H. “The Quest Hero.” Tolkien and the Critics. Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press1968.

The Bible. New International Version.

Kocher, Paul H. Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.

Manlove, C.N. Modern Fantasy: Five Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Mathews, Richard. Lightning from a Clear Sky. California: Borgo Press, 1978.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954.