Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Tears of Memory

"Good!" said Merry. "Then I would like supper first, and after that a pipe." At that his face clouded. "No, not a pipe. I don't think I'll smoke again."

"Why not?" said Pippin.

"Well," answered Merry slowly. "He is dead. It has brought it all back to me. He said he was sorry he had never had a chance of talking herb-lore with me. Almost the last thing he ever said. I shan't ever be able to smoke again without thinking of him, and that day, Pippin, when he rode up to Isengard and was so polite."

"Smoke then, and think of him," said Aragorn. "For he was a gentle heart and a great king and kept his oaths; and he rose out of the shadows to a last fair morning."

I've been re-reading The Return of the King, completing a re-read of The Lord of the Rings. I used to re-read LotR at least once a year, but lately it's been longer, about three years this time.

Tolkien was a love I learned quite literally on my father's knee. I recall him reading The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Farmer Giles of Ham, and The Smith of Wooten Major to us as children, and the latter two of these I still read with the voices he gave the characters when I read them to our children.

Dad used to say, "The Irish cry at card tricks," referring to the way that his voice might become unsteady or his eyes moist when experiencing something seemingly unimportant. He couldn't read aloud key moments of some books without this happening, the end of Lord of the Rings key among them.

At the time this seemed strange to me. Yes, there was a certain sadness in these moments, but they weren't that sad. How did these moment's get to Dad, who was such a calm support at the moments of actual trouble?

As with so many things, I understand this now as an adult and a father. I do the same thing.

I think what's at work here is not that the emotions of reading itself are particularly strong. Indeed, what I often find is that I don't feel particularly strongly at such moments, but that such moments provide a connection to memories of times of strong emotion in real life, a way for the reactions which I couldn't afford then to flow out. When Gogol says at near the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, "I wish I knew why I was hurt so much." the mist I see before my eyes is not for Gogol. Rather, it's for the times in life when I felt similarly. Moments in fiction become conduits of memory, and of the reactions stored up from memory. I think this is also why these reactions come more as an adult, when we have more stored up.

1 comment:

Finicky Cat said...

Yes. I've always cried at certain moments in books -- and, as you say, those moments are multiplying -- always because the scene somehow tapped into pain of my own. And now there are more tears because there is more pain? H'mm. Disturbing to contemplate the next four decades...