I love the Lord of the Rings. I’ve been reading the trilogy for more than a week now and am almost done with it. I am also watching the movies. Yep. All three of them. Day and Night. I watched the trilogy before actually, just last Fall. Now I am seeing them again, experiencing the visualization alongside with the book’s imaginativeness, pausing every now and then to go back to the pages just like when you read real history. There’s a certain joy in doing that, I can guarantee you; one that’s both weird and profound at the same time.
Now beyond the plethora of academic studies and reviews (which I’m madly excited to find out about), that have been showered upon the books—the LOTR trilogy, I am pretty sure I don’t have yet another fresh perspective to offer on the books’ merits through this blog. My new understandings (as laid out below) are hardly applicable to anyone but me—an outsider who’d been banned from going anywhere close to popular Western readings and films until her teenage years were over.
1. A Different Outlook on Heroism
I must confess I used to have an inherent distaste for nowadays heroic stories. I’ve heard that the (modern?) Western consciousness was built upon and around them—legends of men as conquerors and masters of major adverse forces coming from the larger world outside (which is the nature, in most cases).
As always, there could only be one clean defeat that sets forth permanently man’s invincibility status and righteousness against the nature’s unruly beastliness. Perhaps as someone who’s obviously outside the culture, I find this heightened heroic feat a little bold and annoying sometimes (especially if it’s being reproduced too often). When I start to see this in a book, honestly, I’ll put it down forever.
The LOTR however does not unravel as an epic voyage to heroism, or this kind of heroism. With diverse spacial and temporal span and sufficient depth for each of the characters, it focuses on no one in particular. It reads almost like a history where an individual’s action could never be the sole course for victory but a thread on the tapestry of larger things. All the magical wonderfulness about the books aside, this is actually the main reason that keeps me reading.
2. Binarism–When They Are Turned into Movies
In small and large ways, the movie’s plot-line differs from the original story, as movies always do and the audience are way familiar with this. A stunning and almost accurate re-imagination of fantastical lands and creatures, the movie has its own wonders and I don’t really mind the plot being shifted here and there for the purpose of economy and conciseness.
The thing is this: Tolkien’s creation is a harmonious system of all the forces existing in the human world, the world of other creatures and the supernatural world. There are things that aren’t necessarily bad or evil or good (mount Caradhras or the Ents, for examples). If something happens to thwart our path in life, it doesn’t automatically mean that that thing is evil and vice versa.
Leaning toward the popular structure of heroic tales, (with a heavily-focused plot line, more highlight on core characters and the binary depiction of “good” and “evil” etc), the movies leave out this nuance (much to my dismay). They also eliminate all possible complications other than the grudge between heroes’ fated mission and the will of the evil side. Because of this polarization (that happens in most Hollywood movies anyway), I appreciate the books better for its fuller depiction of the state of the outside world.Additionally, I also hate the film’s favoritism through the addition of the Elves’ screen time in the battle of Helm’s Deep. But I watched them anyway, repeatedly even, for the “good graphics” as they actually help me follow the books.
3. Outside the Books and the Movies–An Irrelevant Note
My colleague knew Lord of the Ring since his childhood, telling me often how he read it till midnight when sleep folded on his eyelids. On a large sidewall in his office parade the grace of the Middle Earth’s heroes clad in shiny armors and thunderous landscape unfurling behind their backs.
I’m not sure if he reads the story the way I do now but he said it founded an important part of his and his peers’ younger years, memories and imagination. I can totally empathize with this. Although I didn’t read or watch anything alike in my teenage years, the stories that followed me to bed had very much similar aspects, characterization and structure at least.
All those at being said, I can say I finally get to read LOTR. If you haven’t, you definitely, definitely should. It’s not a life-changing book and it won’t turn your life upside down or change you in any major ways. Instead, it’ll be like something you’ve always known and understood, a part that’s always inside you.