So anyone who knows me in person, or on Facebook for that matter, will know that I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey. In that order. I can drive you crazy with my Doctor Who references. If you ask me about the show, be prepared for a 5 hour monologue on the subject. Well…over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to finally read The Lord of the Rings. I’ve had this on my to-do list for the last few summers. After my little sister read The Hobbit in a ridiculously short time I decided I better catch up. I enjoyed The Hobbit so much I just went on to read the trilogy. It was beautiful. I had no idea what to expect. The reason I kept putting it off was that I had the impression the books took like 50 hours to read and were more dense than Shakespeare or Homer. Maybe it is a reflection of our society’s intelligence that Tolkien is considered “hard reading.” My only regret is that I didn’t discover the truth sooner. But anyways, I actually found the books very refreshing. I’m usually alternating between something challenging and a little dry—recently it has been Kant, Rousseau, and Marx—and something so easy I finish the book before I realize I started it. Tolkien is the perfect balance. It is a compelling story but something that actually requires the use of my brain.
I think the books took 5-7 hours to get through. I read part of The Two Towers and the entire Return of the King in one sitting. No joke. I’m not even sure how I did it. Got home from work one night, grabbed some food, and got lost in LotR for about 4 hours. I had the same emotional crisis as I did with Doomsday and Angels Take Manhattan, The Reichenbach Falls, and the last episode of Downton Abbey’s Season 3. That emotional crisis consists of crying hysterically through the story climax, spending the next two hours trying to wrap your mind around what just happened, and then gaining emotional equilibrium three or four days later. And that, folks, is fandom life. It is wonderful.
I really liked how the story didn’t just end with Frodo throwing the ring into Mt. Doom. Tolkien spent quite a few chapters after that wrapping up the loose ends of all the story lines. Which I thought was neat because that makes it seem like such a multi-faceted and complex story. It isn’t like, “climactic deed done, end of story, everyone lives happily ever after.” There’s quite a bit of aftermath and cleaning up which makes the reader focus on the entire setting instead of just the act of destroying the ring. Steven Moffat has made me quite skeptical though, because at first when I realized there was so much left after the ring was destroyed and all appeared to be going okay, my first thought was, “oh no, what horrible things are going to happen?” But once I realized that the immediate threat of evil was gone and that it would truly end well I was able to enjoy it more.
Yes, Tolkien was a bit detailed and I didn’t really follow all the history of Middle Earth. But I’m glad that he made it that way. It means that I can keep reading the stories and learning new things. It means there is literally an entire world and history there to be explored. I’ve pretty nearly got down the history of Narnia, which is far simpler, and since fantasy is so fascinating I’m excited about the depth of Tolkien’s world.
Everyone and anyone I talk to will eventually be told they must know about all these fantastic stories. I’m inordinately excited to have my own family someday so that there will be a new generation to grow up on stories of the madman in a blue box, the world through the wardrobe, and the hobbits who saved Middle Earth. Or maybe I’m just excited to have helpless victims who won’t be able to run away from my craziness like everyone else does 😛
Seriously though, I wonder how people live without stories like this. It makes you see the world in a new way. Fantasy has a way of revealing reality. It can be easy to be discouraged by the evil of the world around us. And then you think of Frodo and Sam walking into Mordor (although we all know that ones does not simply walk into Mordor, haha) and surviving the onslaught of pure darkness. This has happened. Darkness has been conquered. Evil has been subdued. It make look hopeless. But that’s just appearance. Because under it all, the battle has been won. The lesson? Be brave. Keep going though all seems lost. Believe in all that is good and true. Don’t be deceived by the facade of evil. Cling to what is right. And light will prevail in the end. So if you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, go do it. Right now. I mean it. It is well worth your time. You won’t regret it.