Foundational Books: The Lord of the Rings

I know this one sounds a little stereotypical, but bear with me, squiders.

Somewhere in my early teens I received a box set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and The Hobbit). I still have the books, though not the box. Okay, to be fair, I loaned The Two Towers to a friend in high school, who never gave it back (TODD), but I found an identical copy at a thrift store so it’s fine.

My dad read The Hobbit to me as a child, but I didn’t pick the rest of the books up until I was in late high school, when I was going through some emotional turmoil (my sister and my best friend were dating, and had hidden the relationship from me for some months before I found out, so I was feeling betrayed that they hadn’t told me and lonely because it felt like I’d lost my relationship with both in one fell swoop).

And there was something very comforting in that story at the moment in my life. Maybe it was the way that Sam stuck by Frodo through thick and thin, or Aragorn, or how Legolas and Gimli overcame centuries of racial hate to become the best of friends. Whatever it was, reading through those books, appendices and all, really helped me, and I will be forever grateful, even though re-reading them has never had anywhere near the same impact.

These were not my first foray into epic fantasy (I’d found the Shannara books by Terry Brooks when I was 12), so I didn’t personally run into the whole fact that a lot of epic fantasy is just LOTR rip-offs thing (and by the early 2000s epic fantasy was changing enough that it wasn’t necessarily true).

A few years ago I took an excellent course through Coursera, called Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, offered through Vanderbilt University. It’s honestly one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. In it, we used the Lord of the Rings to explore differences in narrative between different forms of media. Each week we’d watch part of the movies, read part of the books, and play a section of Lord of the Rings Online (excellent game, little bit addictive, plus you can turn into a chicken and try out a chicken run, which is where you try to get from the Shire to somewhere else without getting eaten by anything). We also read a lot of romantic (the time period, not like, modern romance) poems and stories, which were the start of modern fantasy.

(I almost made it to Rivendell as a chicken once. It was in sight when I was killed by a giant bug.)

So, I appreciate the books for being there when I needed them. I appreciate the characters, who, for the most part, are good people and willing to help their friends and family, no matter what. I appreciate the movies, even though they are very long, and I appreciate the source material for being there to teach me really cool things years later.

Thoughts on the Lord of the Rings, squiders?

2 responses to this post.

  1. Check out this lovely volume. The cover just feels amazing between my fingers. https://www.facebook.com/jmwwriting/posts/2352424818371169

    Reply

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