August 8, 2016
Why? They inspire me … I love teasing out the technique … I want to learn how
1. from The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien – hardback 1974, p137
– the battle for Minas Tirith
The Nazgûl came again, and as their Dark Lord now grew and put forth his strength, so their voices, which uttered only his will and his malice, were filled with evil and horror. Ever they circled above the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, at each new cry. At length even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war, but only of hiding and crawling, and of death.
– I see the men in WWI dugouts enduring a barrage. I imagine JRR reliving those experiences as he writes. Courageous.
– Vocabulary: not many Big Words in this; little words are, here, visceral & effective. The subject is Fear.
– the simile adds depth to the image; it does not take the reader out of the scene with a distracting comparison. The two sides of the ‘LIKE’ balance in sense, visual and mood: flight, death, carrion, the carnage of war, horror.
– The length of the sentences – building, building – like the tension in the men and the atmospherics of doom. The pace is broken; it’s not just a long string of words between fullstops. Watch this. See how many different pieces of meaning JRR has managed in this single sentence and see how the construction of the sentence itself leads the reader away from the light, away from sight, and down to that ultimate stillness – death:
At length / even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground / as the hidden menace passed over them, / or they would stand, / letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands / while into their minds a blackness came, / and they thought no more of war, / but only of hiding / and crawling, / and of death.
So good. So good. Masterful writing.