On The Books: Tolkien almost cut love story from 'Lord of the Rings'

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Image Credit: Pierre Vinet

First it was Ron and Hermione, now Aragorn and Arwen?? A previously unpublished letter reveals the tricksy W.H. Auden tried to convince J.R.R. Tolkien to axe the romance between Aragorn and Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The illuminating letter is from 1955 and penned by Tolkien, who is complaining to his publisher about the struggle to complete The Return of the King. Tolkien laments that Auden views the star-crossed subplot between the mortal king and his immortal lover as “unnecessary and perfunctory.” Wow. Shoot me straight, Auden. How do you really feel? Apparently the poet was on Team Éowyn-Faramir. Considering the level of minutia that Tolkien weaves into the historical fabric of Middle Earth, you would think LOTR could support a number of love stories. If I know the second cousin, twice-removed of every dwarf in the Shire, I think I can follow two romantic subplots. I guess Auden was a purist though. One story of true love per series. It’s good to have standards. Thank God Tolkien didn’t take his advice. [The Guardian]

Speaking of writers being led astray, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was funded by the CIA during the Cold War as part of the anti-communism chess match with Russia. According to this article, the director of the workshop from 1941-1965, Paul Engle, was a bit of a paranoid nut and he focused his conspiracy theories on “the reds.” He used the writing workshops as a means of indoctrinating international “left-leaning intellectuals” to the American cause. About halfway through the essay this happens: “The workshop was like a muffin tin you poured the batter of your dreams into. You entered with something undefined and tantalizingly protean and left with muffins.” The author of the article attended the workshops himself and delivers a hilarious (but self-aware) vivisection of the program. So treat yourself to some communist muffins this morning. Why does everything in this country circle back to the Cold War? [Chronicle of Higher Education]

Zadie Smith spoke out in support of the Women for Refugee Women campaign against an immigration detention center that holds female refugees in the UK.  [The Guardian]

Heather Swain’s Hunger, a soon-to-be-published YA novel about hungry teens in a dystopian alternate reality (not to be confused with the other, slightly bigger YA novel about hungry teens in a dystopian society), has been tapped for movie development. So many hungers to capitalize on right now. I’m penning my own now, it’s called The Hunger Trains. It’s about trains in a dystopian future that must compete for control of their railways or perish in the junkyard. Sure to be a best-seller. [Variety]


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