Friday Favorites: Lord of the Rings

Friday, October 22, 2010

When I was in 3rd grade my family took a trip to visit relatives in Boston and my Dad gave me a copy of The Hobbit to read while we traveled. I’ve never forgotten my first taste of Middle Earth. Bilbo Baggin’s journey was much simpler than his nephew Frodo’s in the books that followed, but it was the perfect introduction to Tolkien’s epic world.

The plot, in a nutshell, is as follows. There is one ring of power, created by a dark lord, which ends up in the hands of a simple hobbit. Once the good people of Middle Earth realize what the ring is, they must band together and travel to Mt. Doom to destroy it. A fellowship of four hobbits, two men, a wizard, an elf and a dwarf take on the quest.

One of my favorite things about the trilogy is that their world is so different from ours, filled with wizards, elves and orcs, yet the relationships are so similar. Tolkien created such original creatures, like the tree-herding ents, but the emphasis is really on the friendships that have to withstand such intense trials.

Tolkien’s story is memorable not only for the plot, but because of the wonderful characters that fill it. There’s Gandalf, a powerful but wise wizard, Aragorn, a reluctant leader, Gollum, a broken, depraved creature, Samwise, the most loyal friend a person could hope for, and so many others.

Our hero is not a powerful man, but instead a small hobbit, the gentlest people in the land. Our villain is Sauron, the ultimate embodiment of evil. He has no redeeming qualities, just an all-encompassing need for power. He is the inspiration for future characters like Voldemort. Yet at the same time we also have other characters that used to be good or are still trying to be, that succumb to the temptation of the ring, like the Ringwraiths, Boromir and Saruman. These characters demonstrate how even good people can become weak when tempted by something so powerful. Their failure to resist just makes Frodo and Sam’s journey all the more poignant.

I’ve heard people complain that the books are too long, too boring, too detailed, etc. I understand those thoughts, but I think people are more forgiving with other classics, like Anna Karenina, than they are with these fantasy novels. People expect aspects of Charles Dickens work to be too detailed, so they read it and judge the book by its overall plot, but LOTR is sometimes overlook by those same people. I would argue that the story Tolkien created is just as powerful as many classic tales from centuries gone by. So don’t skip these because fantasy isn’t your thing or some other silly reason.

Side Note: People are divided on whether the films did the movies justice and I’m firmly in the camp of, they absolutely did! They manage to capture the massive scale of the wars and the intimate delicacies of falling in love. They also highlighted the best parts of the books and even emphasizing lesser story lines, like Aragorn and Arwen's relationship, which is only an appendix in the book. So I love the films and never get tired of watching them.


Falaise said...

Certainly one of the greats! I have to confess, though, that every time I read it, I skip over the Tom Bombadil section, which I think is pointless and dull.

I remember the Sunday Times quote on the cover of the first copy of the Fellowship of the RIng that I had read something like: "The English-speaking world is divided into two parts - those who have read the Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read it."

Teacher/Learner said...

I like that anyone can appreciate LOTR without being a huge follower of fantasy series. I have to admit I haven't read them or seen the movies (am I the last one on earth?! LOL!) but have an old copy of The Hobbit I should dust off and try.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Falaise - Yes, I wasn't heartbroken about Tom Bombadil's absence from the movies like some people were.

Teacher/Learner – I would recommend starting with The Hobbit and seeing if you like the style. The trilogy can be daunting. I can’t wait to see the Hobbit movie when they complete it. I heard they’ve cast Martin Freeman (from the British version of The Office) as Bilbo.

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I'm a fan of the books and movies too! I think if I ever reread the books I would skip all the songs. They were my least favorite part because they were too long, boring, and detailed.

Jenners said...

I always like The Hobbit more because it was less dense and more self-contained. I still don't think I've ever finished the entire three books of LOTR ... I always quit somewhere in Book 3.

And I did think the movies did a fantastic job. It is hard to capture all the happens without seeming totally fake and I think they did it.

Kate said...

I agree - I think that because of the genre many people are not willing to wade through the (beautiful) prose.

These are favorites of mine, as well. Also - the covers of the second set you posted are beautiful! Makes mine look so boring! :)

I love the movies. I think that they did a very nice job keeping the story moving forward, especially the scenes where Frodo and Sam are trudging towards Mordor. There are points where the movie differs from the book, and after really thinking about it, I understand why. There are some things that make perfect sense while reading, yet it's hard to translate into a visual medium.

The music is gorgeous as well!

Great post!

Alyce said...

I've only tried to read LOTR once and was turned off by the details (which I guess I shouldn't be because I have read other long books like War and Peace and Anna Karenina). The main difference is that for some reason I got bored with LoTR (maybe because I already knew what was going to happen) but wasn't bored by Tolstoy.

Vaishnavi said...

I couldn't agree more with you. The LOTR is much a classic as any of the others, genre aside. One has to give the book a proper chance before passing it off as boring or long or unreadable.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I agree with you that the movies was very true to the books, and I also lost no sleep over the exclusion of Tom Bombadil.

One of my great literary crushes if Faramir and I was terribly afraid of what Peter Jackson would make of him, but it wasn't too bad. My biggest problem with the movie was Gimli becoming a comic relief.

Susan E. Harris-Gamard said...

Yes, I think the films definitely did justice to the books. Actually, I've feeling the urge to watch them all again!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Captain - I'm with you on the songs. They got a bit ridiculous.

Kate - Oh the music!

Jenners/Alyce - At least you gave them a shot. Like any classic, I don't think they're perfect for everyone.

Alexandra - I know! Imagine what Gimli would have said if he knew he was comic relief.

Wingchair - I just rewatched all 3 (extended edition) versions of the movies with my husband over the 4th of July weekend this year and they were just as good the 4th/5th/6th? time around.

Shelley said...

I love both the books and the movies. At first, the movies were more gory than my mind pictured everything, but once I got used to it I was hooked. I own the extended version DVDs,and my son and I have a marathon every once in a while.

Jeanne said...

I can't imagine skipping any of it--I love the first cover photos, because they're of the edition I found in the school library when I was 11 and read for the first time.

I like the movies too, except for the way Faramir and Denethor are written; they're all wrong.

She said...

Love love love love, on both the novel and film accounts! World building at its best in the books, and just amazing and fantastically beautiful film work in the movies. Two Towers was my favorite, and I cried so much in the third movie-- ah! I think I need to revisit everything LotR.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Shelley - I love LOTR marathons!

Jeanne - I actually couldn't find a photo of my book covers, but I love both of these. I also didn't love Faramir in the films. I can't imagine how hard casting is for a film like that though.

She - The ents are what make the Two Towers for me. I just love them.