Masculinity is expected to be presented and challenged in traditional epic tales. Texts that include epic journeys of their protagonists, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Bible, capture challenges that call into question man’s courage, strength, intelligence, love, dedication, and more. I mean, just look at Odysseus here, rendered helpless, with the sirens encroaching:
So when I picked up the first book in Robert Jordan’s 14-book series The Wheel of Time, The Eye of the World (American, 1990), I was not surprised that this epic tale centers on a quest to purify the masculine half of the One Power, which is integral in turning the Wheel of Time.
Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is a musical.
This was the second trait that jumped out at me during my first reading of this beloved fantasy novel. I was startled by the important role that music, singing, and song played in each segment, how integral was the improvisational song as well as the memorized, ancient song to the forward movement of the plot and also to character development.
When I came to literature as a profession I did so because I fell in love with words at a young age. Not necessarily the big words, not the dictionary or the thesaurus. I fell in love, really, with how the simple words could cause so much pain or intense pleasure.
This, I saw all around me and not just in the books that I read. Language seemed like the backbone of communication and that made a lot of sense to me. It seemed to shape cultures and ways of thinking. Before I came to university I was, without knowing it, a structuralist in a way.
Then, I went to college where I learned that many “academics” question the nature of language: that all words are really meaningless to a certain extent — they are all at least problematic. Questioning the very essence of how humans understand themselves became my preoccupation.