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.

10 Replies to “The Lord of the Rings”

  1. Lord of the Rings in a months is pretty impressive. I was discussing that Man Booker Prize winning Seven Killings book with someone and when I said it felt like the longest book I had ever read, they said, What, even longer than Lord of the Rings??? So I must read it to compare now, even though I know it’s something I must read anyway, like War and Peace.
    I love the way this book is a whole family thing, and Ben’s dedication to the poems in their entirety.

    1. We read at least a chapter per night, sometimes two. It might have been more than a month. I’m not exactly sure but it seems to have gone very quickly. Ben has read it more times than he can count. I’ve read it twice now but I’m sure I’ll read it again one day.

  2. I’ve read Lord of the Rings maybe three times, the most recent being almost twenty years ago now, during a very difficult year for me. On that occasion I found it wonderfully healing, and the most satisfying part of the story was actually the last, when they return to the Shire after Sauron’s defeat. (I never got around to seeing the third film, so I didn’t know that’s not in there, but I understand why.) Partly I just didn’t want the book to end, but y’know, you get toward the end of an epic story, the great villain has been defeated, we’re at the spot where most authors would quickly wrap up and stop, and that’s not what Tolkien does. There’s still a hundred-something pages to go. How awesome is that? It’s like having taken this world through a truly severe trauma, he was willing to give his characters and his readers some time to heal, and then does it so beautifully.

    Two things have particularly stayed with me since that reading. One is how Frodo and company return to the Shire, perhaps not quite realizing how their experiences have changed them, only to find it’s been taken over by a gang of thugs who are basically trashing the place, and then discover themselves totally up to the task of trouncing these guys (for whom the whole idea of hobbits who resist is so unthinkable that they can’t see it coming).

    The other is how Galadriel’s gift to Sam of a box of earth was exactly what they needed to restore the Shire and make it fertile again. I don’t recall the others, but there were several things like that that they acquired along the way, where I’d thought, What’s that about?, and that turned up again hundreds of pages later as just what they needed to deal with a situation they could never have foreseen. Nice.

    Finally, you’re spot on with Éowyn. I love strong female characters, and if I have any complaint about LoTR (aside from wanting less Tom Bombadil), it’s that it’s so lacking in that regard. Maybe that’s why I found her defeat* of the Nazgûl Lord especially moving.

    *And what with him thinking he was safe because of some prophecy that he couldn’t be defeated “by the hand of man.” (I did have to look up the exact wording.) I guess the occasional misinterpretation allowed by that otherwise annoying English phrasing—wherein “man” is so often used to mean “human beings in general” rather than males specifically—can come in handy now and then!

    1. The bit at the end when they return to the Shire is fantastic and so satisfying to read. It really illustrates how much the Hobbits have changed while they’ve been away and how easy it is for them to get rid of the bad guys after all they’ve been through. It’s so true that authors often don’t bother to finish the story once they reach the climax and even worse, they sometimes leave you hanging but not so with Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.

      I did also note the lack of strong female characters in the book and perhaps that’s why Éowyn stands out so much. I also love that she went to war to fight for her people and didn’t shy away from standing up to the enemy. And the bit about the “man” was very good.

  3. What do you mean Frodo’s triumph? Sam’s triumph! Look at who did most of the work.

    Was it clear that Aragorn and Arwen were distant cousins by way of his direct ancestor having been Elrond’s brother? (That might be information from the Silmarillion.) Loose incest laws in those days, I guess.

    The actors in the significant roles were all probably well-practiced in stage English, so they were able to get vaguely in the same ballpark accent-wise. The extras not so much, as you say, but what can you expect from a guy who was unwilling to cough up for that totally cool slime Balrog? Worse than that, when Sean Bean gets it we’re left to imagine all of his relatives getting the same off-camera! Sheesh.

    1. Oh yeah, it was definitely Sam’s triumph too. He was pretty amazing at the end.

      It’s not made clear in the book that Aragorn and Arwen are distantly related and I haven’t read the Silmarillion so I didn’t know that. I actually think Éowyn would have been better for Aragorn but I love Faramir’s character and so I think it was perfect for her to end up with him.

    2. Oh and I meant to say that I thought the casting was really good in the film. I think Peter Jackson chose really well. Ben didn’t think Hugo Weaving was right for Elrond because he can’t see past him dressed in drag after watching The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But I’ve seen Hugo Weaving in lots of roles so that didn’t bother me.

  4. I seem to be the odd one out here. I could never get into Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Just not for me.

    Still, the poems you quoted make wonderful reading.

    Ben must have a photographic memory. It’s amazing that he could tell when you skipped over some passages in the book. He’s obviously a genius! 🙂

    1. Have you seen the films? I think the story takes a little while to get into because Tolkien spends so long setting the scene.

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