The Lord of the Rings

I’ve been reading The Lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien to the children at bedtime for the past month or so. We’re just about to finish; we’ve reached the bit at the end where the Hobbits return to the Shire after the quest so today we watched the last of the films since this part of the book is not included in the movie.

I first read the books about 15 years ago and loved them. I’ve really enjoyed reading them again. It’s a fantastic tale; so absorbing and hard to put down once you get into it. I read that Tolkien had to change his address and telephone number because obsessive fans would ring him at 3am begging to know whether Frodo makes it.

It’s quite a hard book for the kids. Elizabeth falls asleep pretty quickly and hasn’t really followed along. Daniel has mostly followed along but finds it difficult in parts. The language is quite old-fashioned now and very foreign for him. Tolkien also spends an excessive number of paragraphs setting the scene. Even I found this tiresome at times and found myself thinking I couldn’t care less how craggy the landscape is or where the wind is coming from, get back to the tale for goodness sake! And all the poems! Occasionally I tried to skip through some of the verses in the poems but Ben, who was usually sitting near and pretending to be asleep, would suddenly lurch into life like a zombie in a horror film who you think is dead but isn’t and reappears for one final assault in the finale and make me go back and read it all. Somehow Ben always knew when I skipped a verse. How could he possibly remember every poem in The Lord of Rings?

Some of the poems are very good though, like this one:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I don’t really like Arwen’s character. She disappointing and doesn’t really serve much purpose and on the whole is a bit of a wet character. Peter Jackson gives her more of a role in the film which is good but in the book she does very little. And she gives up immortality for a man! What kind of woman does that? My favourite character is Éowyn. She’s strong, fearless and she kills the King Nazgûl which is second only to Frodo’s triumph in my view. In the movie she’s played by Miranda Otto who is also from Brisbane. Sam’s character is also pretty heroic and another favourite.

I enjoyed seeing all the New Zealand landscapes again in the film. Edoras, where Éowyn lives, was filmed in Canterbury not all that far from Christchurch. The scenery is spectacular. One of my complaints with the film is that the Orcs had New Zealand accents. Orcs with New Zealand accents just isn’t right. They should have had South African accents because, although I really like the South African accent, I think it’s better suited to villains.

The Lord of the Rings is epic. If you haven’t read it then you really must because you don’t know what you’re missing. The movies are terrific too but the book is better. Tolkien is a master storyteller.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.