Friday, September 11, 2020

A Warning to the source study-ist

 So, I've been reading David Lindsay's DEVIL'S TOR (1932), the last book he published in his lifetime. I'd read it before during my grad school days at Marquette --say 1984 or thereabouts-- but found I've more or less completely forgotten its contents. So I was bemused by the following passage from Chapter VII:

   The torch in hitting the ground had escaped from his hand, so, staying down, he began to grope for it, but could not immediately find it. Then, as he proceeded to crawl here and there with lightly feeling fingers, they encountered something else small and hard on the rock floor, which was not the torch. Doubtless it was some tomb treasure that he had overlooked—it surely felt like a precious stone or talisman, half-round, half-flat. Out of the question it was to examine it there and then, so he slipped the thing into his coat pocket. A moment later the torch met his fingers. 

Taken out of context, it'd be tempting to make the argument that this scene had some influence on the famous scene in THE HOBBIT (Chapter V) where Bilbo finds himself alone in the dark far below the surface. And we do know that Tolkien read Lindsay (albeit a different book, 1920's A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS).

Except that it all breaks down as soon as we look at the context: we know from the dating that the two books were being written concurrently and it’s impossible for either to have been influenced by the other. It's good to be reminded that sometimes similar circumstances produce similar scenes --cf. Edgar Poe's "The Pit & the Pendulum" anyone?

—John R.
--current reading: DEVIL'S TOR and the latest 'Royal Spyness' mystery, along with some other long-read on-again/off-again works.
current music: McGear (1974)

No comments: