Name That Tune

Friday, October 5th, 2012

I’m halfway through the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire (better known as Game of Thrones) saga. It’s not the first epic series I’ve gotten sucked into, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but it’s helped me hone in on something I can’t stand in literature — a feature that many of my favorite books seem to share: songs in novels.

A Storm of Swords is silly with songs, and every time I get to one it’s the same problem. How do I read this? Do I make up a tune? Do I read it like poetry? Do I just skip the stupid thing, because, really, who cares? Drives me crazy! I dabble in songwriting, but I can’t just come up with a melody on the fly.

At least George Orwell was kind enough to provide some help in Animal Farm when he wrote out the lyrics to Beasts of England:

Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing. As he had said, his voice
was hoarse, but he sang well enough, and it was a stirring tune, something
between ‘Clementine’ and ‘La Cucaracha’. The words ran:

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time.

The latest trailer for The Hobbit has another example. In the book it reads:

The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without their music.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

The movie had to set this to music:


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