A reflection on The Lord of the Rings

First off, before launching into the main point, I hope you were at least partially amused by my three-part fictional take on Owen Pallett’s Heartland. “Spectrum” almost felt like it needed research- indeed I got the lyrics to all the songs on the album and studied it closely to construct the rise of Lewis as accurately as I could. I probably still made mistakes, but hey, I’m only human. And now, to quote the beloved Monty Python, for something completely different.

Fair warning; the following text will have spoilers from all three books/movies.

Yesterday afternoon, I finally finished watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. Yes. It’s true. I never saw the films in the theatres, and as of yesterday, in the year 2013, I can finally say that I’ve seen all three films in the epic fantasy series.

My first experience with the trilogy came in book form. I began reading the books in grade seven or eight, and I recall being utterly bored to tears. I felt amazing after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers only because I had succeeded in finishing them. I didn’t even bother trying out The Return of the King; I had absorbed so little from the first two books that I knew trying out book three was pointless. I mean, hell, I didn’t even know the difference between Sauron and Saruman.

Shortly after Christmas, I had a gift card to spend at HMV. I noticed they were selling a Lord of the Rings box set, so I decided to buy it and watch the movies. I knew it was a risk, and I was really hoping I wouldn’t be as bored with the movies as I was with the books.

I wasn’t put off by the length of each film; I simply watched the movies in halves. And pretty quickly I was hooked. The movies did a fantastic job of condensing the lore of the Rings. I now knew why Gollum existed, why Aragorn was so important, and how ridiculously destructive the Ring is to everyone who is near it. It’s mentally devastating, but as soon as one puts the ring on one’s finger, it summons the ringwraiths.

I loved the epic battle sequences, most of which appeared in the second and third films. I’ve seen things like this a million times, but it was great to see Gimli and Legolas compete with each other to see who could slay the most orcs/whatever else.

What I really ended up taking from the films is how much of a microcosm of real life they are. As Saruman’s armies began to invade Rohan, the fort called for help from its allies. At first, nobody answered. Eventually the elves came to Rohan’s aid, but Gondor did not send reinforcements.

Theoden, king of Rohan, didn’t take that slight lying down. When Minas Tirith, a city in Gondor, was about to go under siege, Rohan at first decided they would not help Gondor.

But this highlights the most human trait all humans have in them; the power to unite in the wake of a crisis. Soon, all Middle Earth was united against the final assault of Sauron’s minions.

Of course, there’s also powerful narratives of friendship at play here. Naturally, the four hobbits make up the strongest bonds. Though he’s told not to, Sam Gamgee accompanies Frodo on his quest to drop the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

(A quick side note: of all the cool names that Tolkien gave all the lands and peoples, he couldn’t have come up with a better name than “Mount Doom?” It sounds like a set piece out of a b-movie.)

And then there’s the bond between Merry and Pippin, who never do anything without each other, and are generally comic reliefs until the last film, where they start to kick ass and get involved in actual, mortal danger.

So I really did enjoy the films as a whole, and feel like my pop-culture knowledge has been expanded for the better. I don’t think I’m going to bother trying the books again; in a rare case, I prefer the movies over the novels. But I’m okay with this; there was some real emotion in the films. Frodo was believed to be dead at least twice over the course of the movies, and it was incredible to read the pain on Aragorn’s face when one of Sauron’s messengers told him their friend had been killed by orcs.

The Lord of the Rings will always have its place in pop culture, and it’s well-earned. Now perhaps, someday, I might finally watch The Hobbit, and maybe its accompanying sequels over the next two years.

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