The Children Of Húrin

I’m finally back into a mostly-regular routine, and that includes getting started on my self-imposed book list. Top of the list are three J.R.R. Tolkien titles that I bought almost a year and a half ago for my birthday, and haven’t gotten around to. Last weekend I began The Children of Húrin

First, a little history. It took Tolkien more than a decade to create the world of Middle-Earth and write what we know today as The Lord of the Rings. In the course of this massive project, he created many races of people and wrote complex histories for them. He wrote their languages. Elvish may look and sound like gibberish, but it has rules and vocabulary and grammar just like any language spoken today. The majority of these tales didn’t make it into the trilogy, but they’re vitally important in influencing those events. Some are referenced in the appendices, but not every detail is included.

The events in The Lord of the Rings occur in the Third Age of Middle-Earth.  The Children of Húrin predates these events by thousands of years, occurring in the First Age. The book reads more like a history than a story, at least, stories like I’m used to reading. But the history itself is fascinating, and has helped to expand my understand of the later stories.

Probably the most shocking for me is that Sauron is not the ultimate evil in the world. Sauron began merely as a servant of Morgoth. Morgoth is the central “villain” in The Children of Húrin, as his evil spreads and he attempts to conquer the Men of the North. Morgoth himself is one of the Valar, the beings who created the world, making him essentially a god. His evil grows too large, and the remaining Valar step in to overthrow him and bind him in chains. 

I’ve also always wondered about the elves fleeing Middle-Earth. Why are they leaving? Why now? Where are they going? Why will they be safe there? Most of those questions are answered in this book. Turns out, the elves didn’t originate in Middle-Earth. They appeared there in the far east, and were summoned by the Valar to come west to the land of the gods. Here, the elves branch into several categories, which I won’t go into detail on. Basically, some went, some went and later came back, and some refused the summons and decided to stay. I’m unclear as to why all of the elves eventually leave, unless their continued absence from the Valar causes their powers to weaken.

Much of this information I learned from the preface and introduction to the book, written by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. It seems when he died he left several incomplete manuscripts behind. Christopher Tolkien is working to fulfill his father’s wishes that these stories by published in their entirety, and is attempting to publish them with little editorial work, preserving his father’s words and voice.

Talk to me in the comments. Are you familiar Tolkien’s more obscure works?

Yet Another Move

Into my new office, that is.  The room itself has been ready for almost 2 weeks, but there was always a reason for me to not move in yet.  Ultimately, the reasons themselves didn’t matter. I didn’t move in because I’m resistant to change.

I’ve been working in the living room since we moved here, about 8 months now. I have a routine there. It’s physically comfortable. I can arrange everything to be within easy reach. While not perfect, it was normal.

Working in the office is not normal. Everything’s in a different place. I need to find new homes for my phone, my glasses case, my notebook. The lighting is different. The seating is different. Even the company is different. The dog has forsaken me to sleep on the couch in the living room, and I’m all alone at this end of the hall. All in all, I was reluctant to officially move my working time into the office, because it’s different.

So, today I made the decision that I needed to move. What’s the point in establishing an office if I’m not going to use it? I’m sitting in here now, writing this post. It’s not too bad, although I need to figure out a better way to sit. We put a piece of the couch in here, the curved part that makes it an L-shaped couch, and it’s not quite as comfortable as I thought it would be. My back is bent a little funny, and I’ll need to do some adjusting to figure out the best way to sit in it.

But, the work is getting done. I’m even writing today, which is the first day this week. Now that the holidays are over and life is settling down again I should be able to get back into a regular writing routine (wow, try saying that 5 times fast). I’m still in chapter 14, but at least I’m making progress again.

I’ll get used to my new routine. I always do. And in a few weeks, or maybe months, I’ll wonder why I drug my feet in the first place.

A Barnes & Noble Pilgrimage

I’ll get back into my writing soon, I promise. The past week and a half has been crazy, with Thanksgiving and my mother-in-law in town. She left this afternoon, and while I was in Lubbock 100 miles way from home, I decided to visit Barnes & Noble. My town doesn’t have one, and the closest one is, you guessed it, 100 miles away.

I don’t go to Barnes & Noble often. I love the store, which is a problem. I don’t usually have the money to spend on books (which is why I love the library so much), and simply perusing the shelves without buying anything is painful. But today I had $60 worth of gift cards, so I allowed  myself the time to actually browse and shop. I’m not a very good shopper. I like to know what I want, and be in and out of a store as quickly as possible.

Today I didn’t know what I wanted, and I went in without a plan, which is very not like me. I started in the Teen Fantasy section, since it was closest to the escalator, and prowled through the whole section. Then I moved on to Science Fiction/Fantasy, then Mystery, then Fiction Literature. I think I was in the store for an entire hour, and I went down every single aisle that could possibly interest me.

It’s hard for me to buy books. I only buy books that I’m certain I’m going to read over and over again, so I usually limit shopping trips to books I’ve already read and enjoyed. But today I couldn’t think of any I’ve read lately that I felt compelled to own. So I wandered, and scanned titles, and read some jackets. I finally found something I wanted, but, unwilling to make a hasty decision, I finished my tour of the aisles before circling back.

Want to know what I bought? If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. Well, he also has a fantasy series out, called Codex Alera. I haven’t read it yet, because it isn’t available at my library. But Barnes & Noble carries it.

Codex Alera is a 6-book series, and I don’t know much more about it than that. I’m intentionally not learning about it, because if I focus on it, I’m going to want to read it. And I’ve already made plans to read other things, and I’m going to hold myself to that decision. But this series will be waiting for me, when I finally make time for it.

Codex Alera isn’t the only thing I walked out of the store with. I don’t know when I’ll get to this either, but I bought a collection of Penny Dreadfuls. For those who may not know, Penny Dreadfuls were coined in Victorian London. They were sensational tales of horror, and were sold on the street for a penny apiece to the working class poor. There’s also a decent TV show by the same name.

All in all, it was an exceptionally beneficial trip. And a lot of fun. And now I have new books to read, and soon I’ll have new bookshelves to put them on.

I want to thank all of you for reading my posts and sticking with me. Yesterday’s post hit 20 views, which is pretty awesome.

I Built A Desk Today

Okay, it wasn’t a desk. But “I built a tech station today” doesn’t have the same ring to it. And I figure more people know what a desk is than what a tech station is. A tech station is nearly the same as a desk, only not quite as wide and with nowhere to sit. But, it suits my purpose.

I’ve needed a desk for my new office, but it hasn’t been in the budget for us.  With recent Black Friday sales and holiday money from family, I was able to pick up the tech station this week (new bookshelves next!). Of course, it came in a box, and required assembly.

I put it together tonight. It took me four hours, and my back is going to be angry with me tomorrow, but it’s done. It isn’t perfect. There are a couple of gaps that I don’t think are supposed to be there, but for the most part everything fits together and all the drawers work like they’re supposed to. I’m quite proud of it.

There are a couple of reasons I wanted to be the one to build it, instead of just letting my husband do it (like he wanted to). One reason is about ownership. I picked out the tech station. I bought it and brought it home. Putting it together was the final piece, something intimate in this project that was all my own.

The other reason is simply that I’ve never built something of this magnitude before. I’ve assembled smaller items, but nothing this big or complex. I wanted to challenge myself. To prove I could do it. To do something different and new. To stress my brain in ways it isn’t normally stressed.

I’m a big proponent of exercising the brain. Stressing it in new and different ways helps it to grow. Numerous studies show that learning new skills improves brain health, namely, memory (see these articles from Association for Psychological Science and NPR). Now, I’m not concerned right now about my memory, but I do have a vested interest in keeping my brain healthy.

Not only that, I enjoy learning new and different things. I like the way it makes me feel, and believe that it helps me to grow as a person. Learning new skills will only benefit me. My mind is exhausted, and I feel good about myself. I consider that a win.

Talk to me in the comments. What do you do to keep your mind sharp?