It’s been a slow week for comics for me so once again I want to delve into the literary. A couple of months ago I started, for about the 5th time, to read a classic series of Fantasy, the great J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring. Now I say 5th time but this is actually the first time I have read through the entire thing!
I have started this book no less than 5 times in the last 15 years and have finally successfully finished it! I feel that the problem I had with it earlier was that I didn’t know enough about the universe that Tolkien had created. I found the numerous asides to explain the history behind a character or event to be tedious and frankly overwhelming. When I was 14 I didn’t want to read 6 pages on what happened in Dale between the events of The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring, an aside that today I was completely fascinated by. This newfound energy and love of the material comes from two things.
The first is that I have seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least 20 times (let’s be honest the number is probably closer to 50 or higher) so I already know a lot of the main plot points like the back of my hand. I have also played many Lord of the Rings (LOTR) video games, the latest and best being Shadows of Mordor, which explains a bit more about the history of the rings, in particular the life of Celebrimbor. Being so immersed in the movies and games of LOTR has allowed me to find a new appreciation for all of the history and lore that Tolkien lays out in Fellowship of the Ring. The second is skipping the songs. Many fans I am sure will be angry at this but I honestly have to skip them or I will never make it through the series!
I also feel that my education and age has really served to help make this a better experience as well. I have a new respect and appreciation for the pastoral and classic themes and devices that Tolkien uses in his writing, especially those of the Icelandic Sagas, which are evident all through his works.
I have to say that the differences between the books and the movies are not that detrimental. There are some things from the books I wish they would have kept, such as the fact that the Dwarves, Men and Elves didn’t plan a meeting around the ring but that each party showed up with a different problem, most of which were tied to the ring or solved while on the quest. In fact my favorite movie part, the Mines of Moria, was awesome in both book and movie though they are very different. In the book it is Gandalf’s idea to go to Moria, despite Aragorn telling him it will be his downfall.
Also Gimli really wants to go to Moria to find out what happened to Balin and the other dwarves who went searching for it after the events of The Hobbit. I love that there is a huge mystery about what happened to Balin that is discovered while the fellowship is in the mine. In the movie it’s Gandalf who thinks it’s a bad idea, fearing the dwarves dug too deep, and Gimli makes it sound like they should expect a warm welcome from a prospering colony of dwarves. In both the events resolve about the same way.
My roommate asked which I liked more, the movie or the film. I couldn’t answer him, not how he wanted anyways. I told him that I couldn’t choose because honestly without the movies I would never have read the book, and without the book there would have been no movies. I feel like this has been a perfect example of the power that adapting a series can have. It not only brings in new readers but can help old readers find a new appreciation for nuisances and they may not have noticed earlier, and also can help some stubborn people with short attention spans (like myself) actually stick with a book of this magnitude.