Bungay Priory

Finally a place with a story or two to tell though mostly because of the tragedies that have struck Bungay in times past. Yet, are ever the stories people remember different? As Tolkien wrote:

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”

Hence, the stories associated with this place: firstly, on August 4th, 1577, a massive thunderstorm struck Bungay. During this storm, a black dog appeared in the church and two men were killed immediately with others wounded. An apparition of the devil? Mayhaps…

The second story is perhaps a bit more helpful as it tells of how the Church of St Mary (the former Priory) was alighted by “helpful” people during the Great Fire of 1688 when local people were dragging their furniture into the place while trying to save their belongings. Didn’t go all that well, clearly.

A look towards the former Priory and the new adjoining St Mary’s Church

I liked this place; the ruins on the ground were such a clear indication of the past and all that has gone before while the adjoining modern structure was a wonderfully refreshing look into the present and all that has happened since.

So, while some might say that this many posts on Bungay are superfluous, I am less certain. This place has some charm, and is indeed quite special in what it offers: there’s military history, there’s cultural history. Also, as we are in Norfolk, there’s the sense that this place was so much more though indeed I am not an expert in the Waveney and how it has evolved over the years, but it must have looked so different to allow Bungay access to the sea — which was still the case not too long ago. But, times change…

And where do you lead?..


After my recent reread of the Lord of the Rings, I also decided to watch Peter Jackson’s movies again. I didn’t get very far (yet), but I did get through the opening scene in the first movie. And that made me think of Sauron, and how he is portrayed in the movies and the books.

Surely, we see a brilliant villain in the character of Sauron. He is malevolent and devious, stopping at nothing but complete conquest. And yet, he is not entirely bad. He was once good and fell into the darkness as everyone else — no one is entirely evil in that world, or rather, no one began as evil.

The story and look into his history we get in the Silmarillion is really worth it, and I think that knowing that allows me to think a bit more critically of how Peter Jackson made him look in the movies, and I do not entirely agree with that way. The Sauron present in Lord of the Rings is only a part of the entire character, and I am not certain he is the better part (better as in more interesting).

Of Peter Jackson’s Sauron: I’ll start by pointing out that nowhere can we actually read that Sauron’s was as tall as they made him be. Indeed, there’s plenty to allow us to think that his human form looked as any man or elf would (at least in the earlier part of the Second Age before the Fall of Númenor). There is no reason to believe that his later malevolent form was any taller than that, and it seems to be just an easy way that Mr Jackson has followed : oh, he is the villain, let’s give him black armour and make him twice as tall as anyone else.

The black armour itself I do not object to: it is hardly likely that Gorthaur the Cruel would have worn anything else. The mace? Maybe. I am slightly uncertain about the weapon, although Melkor used a mace and it is not unlikely to have his apprentice follow in the very same footsteps.

Of Sauron himself, I quite enjoy him as a character. As I mentioned before, he appears now and then in Silmarillion and he is more instrumental there. He is also present in the Akallabêth, and we can see the more deceptive manipulative self of his in that record of the Second Age. I find that the Sauron we are confronted with in the Third Age, though being his own master, is the least interesting of these. This last one is solely bent on strength and power, and has seemingly lost the plotting side.

The Sauron of the First Age (that I would define and separate from the others by calling him Gorthaur) was an interesting creature. I like him best, and that solely comes from his encounter with Finrod Felagund where they fight each other. Indeed, the deceptiveness of this character makes him quite fun to read about. This same deceptiveness also works for him in the court of the kings of Númenor making that era quite interesting. It is somewhat of a loss that we lack that interesting side in the Third Age.

As a short aside, I quite like imagining what the force of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden must have looked like for Sauron to submit without trying to resist. That host must have been without equal at that time (or Sauron must have been so clever to know that submission would give him greater power — which is also very possible).

However, Sauron the Great is also of some interest in his multiple roles as the Necromancer and the Eye. The manipulations that he plays upon Saruman and others are no smaller than the ones in previous eras although we learn of these through other characters.

So, when we look at Sauron in his evil black armour and twice the length of man, let’s remember that he used to be graceful and elegant, and that his cruelty was of a different kind in a bygone era. And, yet, even he was not entirely evil for in the beginning it would have been difficult to distinguish what later became Sauron from what later became Gandalf.

‘Lord of the Rings’, J.R.R. Tolkien

‘And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Lord of the Rings (Kindle Locations 6247-6249). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

As I generally quite enjoy reading some works again and again, I do embark on some journeys far more than a few times. ‘Lord of the Rings’ is one such book (and I’ll get down to defining it as a book again in a moment), and I have never regretted taking it up once more. There’s so much of a story in here that something new opens in my eyes whenever I take another look. I’ll hopefully be able to pinpoint some of this here and now, but I am also certain that if I were to read it again immediately I would notice something that I missed this time round. I think that is how it is meant to be for me.

What were the main parts that took me in this time round?

I’ve always been a fan of the journeying chapters, first in the Shire and then through the wilderness and the Realm of Gondor. This time round I think I allowed myself a bit more time to take the scenery in — with Mr Tolkien’s words, I never really have the problem of imagining certain scenes, and the descriptions we are given of mountain ranges and forests and rivers enliven my mind with the wondrous possibilities of other worlds.

The characters themselves have grown on me more than before. I know that I took a look at Boromir the last time I delved into the movies and the books, and I would say that a lot of his character was still very much with me this time round. His brother, Faramir, is another person who really has a very compelling story. I have always enjoyed Gandalf as a character, but if I were to name a few more names that were notable this time round, I would rather go with Imrahil and Theoden.

There is such a strong aura that comes with Theoden King — all of the symbolism of standing up for his own fate in the very end; and that of there still being a glimpse of light and hope even if the sky is dark is a most befitting way to bring about a change in the man. And there is such a change: I am very deeply moved every time Theoden states again that he is better healed than anyone can guess, and that he will rather do whatever he can against the Shadow than hide in the mountains. It feels like a change for the better, and I can imagine the King being happy in his end.

Prince Imrahil is a very different character. He came to my mind during this read first when he brought his men and horses into Minas Tirith — the credit that the people of the city award him speaks volumes of what type of a man we are dealing with. And then the sally out of the city! The cry from the walls, “Amroth for Gondor!”, I can imagine that cry from the soldiers on the walls, and I can also imagine the depth of feeling that these men must feel for this great Lord who rides in the lead of his men to save their beloved Captain. Imrahil, as he is for me, is the embodiment of all this depth of emotion, and that gives him a presence that very few can match.

Now, I began with a small note on how I look at this book. That, however, is a difficult question for indeed I look at it as one book, as three books, and as six books. As the story is divided, I would probably prefer to comment on six books while reading one — the three don’t make as much sense to me.

To further the comment above, I would have to say that Book II could well be my favourite of the story. It has these descriptions of history and lands that can be easily construed as a hastily built world, but I rather tend to see the depth of history — the people who have lived and remembered the last six thousand years with all of the losses and victories that have come by in that time. And I also see that depth of history when our Fellowship passes by the lands of Eriador which used to be inhabited, and when they try to best Caradhras, or visit the Golden Forest of Laurelindorenan. There is an ample supply of detail and brilliance in Book II that is indeed rivalled later — but that rivalry is a mimicry of the beauty and purity that we first see here and that remains here.

This will for now suffice as my comment on this reading of ‘Lord of the Rings’. I’m sure that when I read it again, I’ll write something again. And I might not wait that long to say what I think of some of the characters.

“But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.”
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Lord of the Rings (pp. 788-789). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


‘Arkenstone’, Summoning

Summoning is a band that I would generally put into a darker category, and yet I really like them. I think it is the depth of sound in their tracks which makes me so well disposed towards them. As a brief introduction it is worth noting that the vast majority of their titles concern themselves with the world Mr Tolkien built and created, and this has also spoken well in favour of the band.

One of the tracks I really enjoy by them is called ‘Arkenstone’. Now, there’s a story that comes with this track as there is a story with every item and phrase from Middle Earth. In this case, the Arkenstone is the Heart of the Mountain and the most guarded treasure that has been found under the Lonely Mountain. It is quite literally the embodiment of the Lonely Mountain as I see it — the Arkenstone represents the collective hopes and wishes of the Dwarves who live under the Mountain.

That is at least how I see the Arkenstone — what Thorin Oakenshield’s actions in ‘The Hobbit’ have made the stone be to me. I think it could be described as the sole reason for the Quest to take the treasure back from Smaug and that would probably not be entirely wrong. In fact, I think it might be a more honest measure of the Dwarves’ goals than much else of what was said or done — even if everything else failed, they would have succeeded had they only glimpsed the Arkenstone!

What Summoning has managed to accomplish for me in this song is to make this sense of depth of the Arkenstone a reality. I can imagine the beauty and splendor of the Heart of the Mountain when I listen to these sounds, and I can see light reflecting back from it in a thousand fragmented rays. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine my hand reaching out to the Arkenstone and grasping it — but it would be slightly out of reach. Just slightly out of reach, because unfortunately it is too brilliant for our mortal realm. It is too beautiful to exist in anything but our wishes.

And that is the reason why we have to have our imagination run free!

‘The Dragon is Withered…’, J.R.R. Tolkien

There is a very nice poem (this sentence would probably be more accurate if I had said “There is another very nice poem…”) in ‘The Hobbit’ that I noticed on my recent read of the book. I took some time to look into whether Colin Rudd, Anois, or the Tolkien Ensemble had turned those words into music, but I’m afraid that does not seem to have happened (if I am mistaken, please do enlighten me). However, I discovered another promising singing voice who has sung the words into a tune.

Here it is:


And here’s the lyrics to this poem (note that while you can find the full poem on that site, only the latter half was made into a song, and since that part is the one I like better it is also what I’ve copied here).

The dragon is withered,
His bones are now crumbled!
His armor is shivered,
His splendour is humbled!
Though sword shall be rusted
And throne and crown perish,
With strength that men trusted
And wealth that they cherish,
Here grass is still growing,
And leaves are yet swinging!
The white water is flowing,
And elves are yet singing!
Come! Tra-la-la-lally!
Come back to the valley!

The stars are far brighter
Than gems without measure,
The moon is far whiter
Than silver in treasure:
The fire is more shining
On hearth in the gloaming
Than gold won by mining,
So why go a-roaming?
O! Tra-la-la-lally!
Come back to the Valley!

O! Where are you going?
So late in returning?
The water is flowing!
The stars are all burning!
O! Whither so laden,
So sad and so dreary?
Here elf and elf-maiden
Now welcome the weary!
With tra-la-la-lally
Come back to the Valley,
Ha ha!

Mind you, in my mind the tone is slightly stronger with more force and power, but then again in the books it is sung by the good Elves of Rivendell so maybe my interpretation is less accurate than it could be.

But I think that no matter what tone we apply, these words can bring about a smile and make a day brighter… which is, after all, what a poem is meant to do. So, there we go… ‘The dragon is withered…!

‘The Hobbit’, J.R.R. Tolkien

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Hobbit (p. 48). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

‘The Hobbit’ has been a very special book for me for such a long time. I first read it years ago as a child and since then I’ve returned to it every now and then. I wouldn’t know how many times I have read it, but I know I’ve done it in two languages (Estonian and English) and I think I have managed to keep preferences out of those languages (although I’d go for English right now if I had to).

What is it about Bilbo Baggins? Is it the cheerful tone that carries throughout the book? Or is it the comparison between the dwarves and the hobbit? Or how Bilbo goes on to be from this measly burglar to the near-leader of the group?

The good ending of the story is never really in doubt (especially if you know how to read the hints which are in the book), but there are plenty of moments where it is easy to think that not all will end well — and, well, not all does end well. And yet, the overall outcome is probably not as bad as it could have been yet causing ‘sufficient’ sorrow and sadness. I think that only adds to this elusive charm of what this story is.

“You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Hobbit (p. 54). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

So, what is this charm? I have a hard time defining it, but I can still say that I have not gone for the option of watching what Mr Peter Jackson has made the book. I have preferred to keep to my own imaginary devices, and they work fine. I do wonder though, what will prompt me to watch Mr Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ and when that will be…

I think what I like most about rereading ‘The Hobbit’ is seeing the tone that the author has employed. It is friendly and soothing, and it can probably be called escapist. But I wouldn’t do that. The narrator is a friend and ally here, he is invested in the story — he wants Bilbo to come through and so do I. Because, in the end, who would I be if I didn’t want Mr Baggins to best that dragon and to return to his hobbit-hole?

“And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Hobbit (p. 272). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

“55 Bookish Questions…”

With regards to not posting for a while, a few more general ones will do fine is my reasoning and since I did promise that I’d answer these book-questions to a friend of mine I thought to begin with them.

As a short introduction, it seems to be a list of 55 questions that can then provide some sort of insight (for others, that is) to one’s reading habits. The one my friend filled in (a disastrous 12 days ago which is also how long it has taken me to get this far) is located over here – ‘Logic Tree: 55 Bookish Questions’.

Here I go.

1. Favorite childhood book?
‘Talks with a Tiger’ by Donald Bisset.

2. What are you reading right now?
Unfortunately, this is a mess as always for me. The names I need to mention are A.C. Clarke’s ‘Cradle’, J.Campbell’s ‘Guardian’, J. Barr’s ‘A Line in the Sand’, and last but not least an indomitable book on Bismarck that is there in case I just want to hit myself on the head with something. Oh, and I’ve just started rereading ‘Lord of the Rings’ as well.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. I don’t really have a good enough schedule for libraries.

4. Bad book habit?
Buying a few too many and then stacking them up so that they wait to be read.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing. As above on the libraries.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes, a Kindle Touch.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One on my Kindle and one on paper, but it just doesn’t work out.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really. I may make the occasional effort of posting authors who are not as well know as they should, but aside from that, not really.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I haven’t come across anything that horrible this year, but I did score something rather low on Goodreads. That would have been… ‘Black Wind’ by Clive Cussler. I generally really like his books but this one wasn’t quite up to the standards I’ve come to expect.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
I finally had the chance to take a look at Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’ and that was certainly worth it. Ryotaro Shiba’s ‘Drunk as a Lord’ came by me early this year as well, so those two are probably at the top of the list.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Probably a fair bit of the time.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
The sci-fi I know and have read before, including the Star Wars books I have.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yep, and a very good way to spend the time.

14. Favorite place to read?

15. What is your policy on book lending?
“I only lend to close friends and those that I know will take care of books.”

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Very rarely…

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No, but I want to. There’s just so very little to add.

18. Not even with text books?
No, not really.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
 Depends on what language the author wrote in. Reading English and Estonian means I have a small leeway in choosing a hopefully better translation for a German, Russian, or French author.

20. What makes you love a book?
A story that I cannot guess, characters that feel real, and people for whose fates I want to care. And, a world that brings me in and keeps me there is also a good addition.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Knowing the person and what they might read. Or rather then, what I would have liked to read if I were where they are, assuming I can put myself into a situation like this. But I am also afraid of recommending books because what if the people won’t like them…

22. Favorite genre?
Fantasy/science-fiction and naval histories.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Non-fiction, aside from history. I should probably read more scientific things as well.

24. Favorite biography?
I think that at the present moment I would have to venture the thought of Alan Sked’s look on the Austrian Field Marshal Johan Radetzky von Radetz. That book had a tone to itself.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Hmmh, I think I have. I would be hard pressed to name them though. I think it might also depend on what exactly is classified as a “self-help” book (I’ve certainly read philosophical insights into oneself and how to do things ‘properly’ which might not quite be the regular type of this genre assuming it is this genre at all).

26. Favorite cookbook?
None. I don’t have cookbooks.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
‘The Glorious First of June’ by Sam Willis, and ‘Captain Vancouver’ by E.C. Coleman.

28. Favorite reading snack?
Tea. Occasionally bread or chocolate.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Harry Potter books, I would think.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Sometimes, yes. More often than not, I don’t.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If I didn’t like what I read, there was a reason, and I would hope to bring that reason out in a review of mine. I am not just saying that something was bad, but there was something which made it bad for me. And I would rather have people know of what that was so they can think of whether the same device will ruin their read.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I think that taking into account the times, this would have been Hesse’s ‘Siddharta’. It changed so much.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I generally don’t like starting many new series, just because I think I might like them if they turn out good at all. But I can’t think of any specific books right now.

35. Favorite Poet?
JRR Tolkien or Saigyo. It depends on the mood I’m in, and what kind of poems I’m looking for.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
A few times, I guess.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Maybe Gandalf. There’s so much speaking for him. But maybe there’s someone else I like better. I can’t really say.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Darth Bane is a badass. There are not very many proper villains in the books I read though.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Whatever I want at that moment.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
“I have absolutely no idea!”

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
‘Exile’ by Jakob Ejersbo. I did give it a scathing review on this very same blog though. 🙂 And I did get around 20% through before I gave up and decided not to kill my head with it.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
When I’m into a book, it is difficult to distract me.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I have to admit ‘Lord of the Rings’ was done pretty well, although I might not call it a favourite. I can’t think of others right now though so….

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
‘Eragon’. Horribly done.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Probably around £30.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I sometimes take a look inside but I don’t really skim it. Just look at a few interesting locations.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If reading it is bringing mental aggravation (also why I stopped reading ‘Exile’, mentioned above).

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. But it isn’t happening.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep, keep, keep. Build me a library…

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

52. Name a book that made you angry.
I don’t think I can name a book like that.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Before having read anything else of Mr Tolkien, I was given ‘The Hobbit’. And never would I have thought that I would like it. But I did. So very much. 🙂

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I thought I would like ‘The Ionian Mission’ by Patrick O’Brian better than I did. I am not quite sure why that wasn’t the case though.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Tolkien, Clarke and Ryotaro Shiba.

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