Tag Archives: Tom Sawyer Abroad

I Read the Appendices

OR, Geeking Out Over Author’s Supplements

Book covers, by Lars Aronsson. Licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0 License.

If I read something and like it, I tend to read absolutely everything related to it. I never realized how pronounced this tendency has been throughout my whole life, until this week I looked up Little House on the Prairie on Wikipedia. I read the series as a kid, and haven’t thought much about it since, but looking at the Wikipedia entry I realized I read not only the whole series, but the series about her daughter, the book of published letters Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her family, her biography, and the Little House on the Prairie cookbook (not to mention actually making some of the recipes). If I like a series, you can really tell.

Why do I do this? What drives me to find out absolutely everything detail about a fictional world? Thank goodness many authors indulge tendencies like mine – or maybe, like me, they have trouble tearing themselves away from the fictional world they created too.

I did this with Lord of the Rings too. Not only did I read the appendices, which many people skip (and wonder where Arwen appears in the book), I also read The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. AND I read most of the The History of Middle-earth, which is a slightly-dry-at-times publication of almost every stitch of writing Tolkien ever wrote about Middle-earth. (I gave up when the library didn’t have any more of the volumes, and I was a bit sick of reading the twenty-seventh version of The Silmarillion by that time, anyway). Anyway, The History of Middle-earth has some really great stuff in it if you can slog through it, including the original story of the Fall of Gondolin, which blew me away.

I know I’m not the only one to geek out like this over supplementary materials – and by supplementary materials, I mean all short stories/cookbooks/appendices/dictionaries etc., written either by the author or someone else, about a particular fictional work. Authors and publishers clearly capitalize on these types of fans. Why else would they publish appendices, if no one read them? Sometimes you can tell the author is clearly into writing it, but sometimes it’s clearly a money-grab by a publisher, or cash-strapped author. For example, the venerable Mark Twain even fell prey to this – he was strapped for cash and he knew Tom Sawyer was one of his most popular characters. So he wrote two novellas about Tom, each imitating other popular novels of the time: Tom Sawyer Abroad (imitating Jules Verne adventure stories), and Tom Sawyer, Detective (imitating detective fiction). I’ve read them and I enjoyed them, but somehow it’s not quite the same as Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. But really, if you don’t read them, how else are you supposed to know Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn spent time knocking around Egypt after they leave the plantation?

So I tend to read this stuff, even if it’s just an attempt to fill the holes in some author’s budget. It must just be my obsessive need to fill in all the details. I can’t even imagine trying to write an appendix or dictionary for any of the novels I’ve written, so the effort can certainly be appreciated. And it’s one way to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of a series. So no, I’m not ashamed to say:

“I read the appendices.”

Have you ever found yourself doing this?


Filed under Lord of the Rings