Welcome to The Once Lost Wanderer. The name is derived from two poems: Amazing Grace by reformed slave trader John Newton, and All That is Gold Does Not Glitter by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

Roverandom is a children’s fairy tale about a dog who is turned into a toy dog by a Wizard. Tolkien wrote this story for his second eldest, Michael, when Michael’s toy dog is lost during a family vacation.

The tale begins when Rover bites the wizard Artaxerxes in the seat of the pants. Artaxerxes had it coming as he took a ball that Rover was innocently playing with, but the wizard – known as something of a curmudgeon – is unconcerned with the justice of the situation and spitefully turns Rover into a small toy dog.

Rover experiences a series of adventures as he tries to find Artaxerxes to convince him to change him back into a real dog. Rover is adopted by a young boy, but the boy quickly loses his new toy at the beach, exactly as Michael Tolkien lost his cherished toy dog that inspired this story.

Rover’s adventures take him to live for a season with the man in the moon. The man in the moon, a wizard himself, renames Rover to Roverandom, to avoid confusing him with his own dog Rover. Roverandom is eventually sent back to earth, but now to live under the sea with Artaxerxes who has become PAM – Pacific and Atlantic Magician, and yet another dog named Rover. Artaxerxes seems less annoyed with Roverandom, but usually too busy to listen or help. Eventually however, he changes Roverandom back into a real dog and all ends well.

Rovernadom is beautifully illustrated by Prof. Tolkien.

Rovernadom is nothing like the epic fantasies we are accustomed to from Prof. Tolkien. It is silly, whimsical, never terribly scary, and ever hopeful. If you have children or grandchildren Roverandom, along with Mr. Bliss, would make excellent introductions to Tolkien, before moving on to scarier tales like The Hobbit.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - Guest Book Review by my Granddaughter Alathea

This guest book review is by my Granddaughter, Alathea. We read this book together some months ago, but I’ve misplaced the picture of us reading together, so you’ll just have to be contented with a picture of Alathea.

Alathea says The Lorax is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, first-person narrative. She feels it is illustrative of an underappreciated tenet of the Dr. Seuss’ canon, specifically that his tales, ostensibly childish whimsy, often portend social commentary of global significance. She cites The Great Butter Battle, Sneetches, Green Eggs and Ham, and of course, How the Grinch Stole Christmas as other examples.

As for The Lorax, Alathea acknowledges a plurality of possible meanings, but most come down to one of two major themes:  an environmental warning or an indictment of conspicuous consumption.

Alathea feels the debate over which, is rather superfluous as the two are by no means mutually exclusive. Alathea feels the preponderance of evidence suggests an environmental message – the Lorax after all – speaks for the trees, truffula trees to be precise, but the tale also addresses the egregious mismanagement of natural resources all in the greed induced making of thneeds, indistinct articles of dubious utility.

Alathea opines that THNEED is a euphemism for items we THink we NEED, and likens them to the current fidget spinner craze.

Besides the moral admonishment, Alathea feels the Lorax represents something of a personal passion for Dr. Seuss. She refers to a legal battle the good doctor fought, and thankfully won, to save beloved eucalyptus trees in view of his office, that were threatened by real estate developers in San Diego county. Alathea feels Dr. Seuss is The Lorax and vice versa, and points out that Seuss is actually an anagram of Lorax. (Obviously, Alathea is mistaken on this point – she cannot spell yet, and I did not have the heart to correct her.)

Alathea points out the story ends with a strong magical realism element, as the Lorax utters the admonishment “Unless” and then lifts himself, hence the aptronym: The Lifted Lorax, and floats away into oblivion. Alathea is relieved that the tale ends with a hopeful message when erstwhile villain, the Onceler, produces a single remaining truffula seed.

Alathea gives The Lorax 5 Stars

Monday, June 12, 2017

Othello by William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, commonly known simply as Othello is of course a tragedy by Shakespeare, probably written circa 1603, set in Venice and Cyprus early 16th century. The title character Othello, is of course a Moor, and a military hero, general in the Venetian army, and recently married to Desdemona without the knowledge and consent of her father, a Venetian Senator.

It is the story…Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well

Othello picks up enemies quickly. Besides Desdemona’s father, there is also Roderigo who was in love with Desdemona, but the most dangerous is the treacherous Iago, an ensign under Othello’s command, who appears to be the model of loyalty and faithfulness, but who secretly, hates Othello for promoting Cassio to second in command. Iago and Roderigo – though mostly Iago manipulating Roderigo – plot a treacherous scheme of revenge, intended to cause Othello to be suspicious of a love affair between Cassio and Desdemona.

My recent Shakespeare reads were comedies, and those some of the lesser known plays, so this was quite a change – a tragedy, and one of The Bard’s better known plays. It’s been decades since I read a Shakespeare tragedy and I’d forgotten just how – well – how tragic they are.

Othello is the tragic hero, and I get that, brave defender of the republic and all, but I found him quite fickle and faithless. He loses faith far too easily with both Cassio and Desdemona, and is far too trusting of the unctuous Iago. That is my only complaint with this play. But plays are supposed to be enacted – not read. I’ve never seen this performed but I imagine a good performance could cover this small complaint.

Overall very good, but yeah – tragic. Have some Jerome K. Jerome or P.G. Wodehouse handy after reading Othello.

Shakespeare phrases from Othello, that are now part of English vernacular:
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
Jealousy – the green ey’d monster
Forgone conclusion