Lord of the Rings
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1- heart wrenching (especially the 3rd)
2- Interesting to read and watch, different take on our world
3- Understanding of Good and Evil more
There are many many more, but I haven't read the books in five years, so I don't remember a whole lot.
Not much. Some people like the books, some don't. Don't sweat it. Go read what you enjoy, and don't feel you have to like something just because the masses do.
Sorry if you feel pressured, but we are all entitled to our opinions. Nothing wrong with that.
I don't feel pressured, but apparently The_Kat_Cache does.
I do think it's weird, though, that some people can't accept that others don't share their tastes in books.
That said, I must say I enjoyed LOTR when I first read it, but then I was in my early teens and I've grown up a lot since then.
I mean, my friends mom wouldn't let her read "To Kill a Mockingbird" until it was manditory in 9th grade! And then there's my mom: "Sure! The Color Purple is a great book! You should read it!" That is, when I was in eighth grade, and I was extremely innocent before I read that book.
Yeah, I think that goes without saying. But I do get tired of responses like #3.
I guess I didn't like it because the story was too straight-forward. You pretty much know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are (I like shades of gray). And even though Middle Earth is torn apart, all of our good guys (at least, all of the characters they spent significant time on) come out relatively unscathed (I like some realism in stories of peril). Plus, the story moves so slowly (especially the first 100 pages that I read). I understand that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination, but there are limits! Finally, I'm not a big fan of battle scenes and Lord of the Rings is chock full of them.
Yet people look at me like I've grown a second head when I say I don't like LotR, especially since I like fantasy generally.
So I guess I bring this all up because:
1) I would like to know if I missed something in the books that I didn't gather from the movies that would bring me to appreciate it and...
2) I want to remind people that not everyone will like the classics you love and you shouldn't treat them like freaks for it.
I don't see anyone suggesting that parents should stop kids from reading LOTR.
Well, what you missed in the movie was Tolkien. The movie provides wonderful visuals, but only the major parts of the story; It can't convey the language, and it simply can't reach all the underlying themes and ideas.
It's impossible to know what about the books might bring you to appreciate them. We are all different. For example in my case, books I expect a lot from always disappoint (which is really frustrating), while a surprise frees me to enjoy. Also, I can't presume to be able to explain what Tolkien has to offer. For me personally, while I like the main story, the real appeal is the colorful elaborate world Tolkien created, with the deep histories each character carries around and emotions sometimes shown openly and sometimes implied. I think the amount of knowledge Tolkien used to construct it, a depth and type of knowledge that was really unique to him, adds quite a bit of weight. Tolkien pulled deeply from various ancient legends, cultures and especially from languages that underlie European culture. Finally, the ethical aspects. Tolkien brought his own Christianity into LoTR, but in his own way. He did it is such a graceful and elegant way that nonreligious readers, like me, can appreciate it.
And now...I am a seriously hooked forever fan.
I find it puzzling that supporters of Tolkien will talk about the English myth he was attempting to create, the depth of allegory in his work - Tolkien denies there is any allegorical meaning to his work (although it's a fair shout that he was lying); and, that the myth he is creating is not new - it is the myth that England is unique, special, an middle-class arcadia that must be protected from foreigners and undesireables. It is heavily indebted to William Morris, who attempted to revive the medieval romance through the fantasy novel, and helped to start the crafts movement in the UK - a movement that rejected the modern world, and wanted to 'return' to a bucolic paradise where people would live in a world just like the shire.
My father discouraged (but did not prevent) me from reading Tolkien - he was at Oxford in the fifties and held Tolkien personally responsible for a great deal of the boredom he claims to have endured there (I don't think anyone warned him he would have to study Old Norse to get an English degree).
I think I'd agree with lilithcat - it's a book best read when you're fourteen. I've tried to return to it as an adult and found it very dull, but I enjoyed it at the time.
I'm with lilithcat, though: don't be intimidated by people who insist you should like something. Life's too short - read what you want to read!
Re: your comment that you gave up after about 100 pages... The first time I read the series, I also struggled to get through the first 100 or so pages of The Fellowship of the Ring. The beginning is just very drawn out, with a lot of back-story stuff that is very dense and can just seem endless. Once you get through that, though, the books really pick up steam. If nothing else, might I suggest that you try to get at least 250-300 pages into the first book, and then make a decision? Because once the story gets going, I think all three books really are page-turners.
I also agree with the group that states that the language and history behind the characters is nice, but if it's not for you, then it isn't. I love the hobbit and LOTR, but it about killed me to read Silmarillion. Anyways, I think LOTR is worth reading through once.
I wrote my honors thesis on the medieval and modern elements of Middle-earth. Tolkien was very much into the medieval world, and this comes through in the high romance culture of Gondor, the perfect hero-king Aragorn, even the feudal relationship between Sam and Frodo. But at the same time, we have very modern heroes in the hobbits. They don't use the beautifully archaic language of the rest of the characters, they bring a sense of humor (and absurdity, at times!) to the tale, and they are very open and honest about their fears and doubts, without ever becoming pathetic. Hobbits are your "guides," so to speak, through the medieval forest that is Middle-earth.
And then we have totally modern characters like Gollum and, I would submit, the Ring itself. Gollum is a modern junkie, addicted to the drug that is the Ring. And the Ring is a character in its own right. It has a will of its own and even acts for itself in certain situations — creepy!
Underlying the entire story is the amazingly detailed and authentic-feeling history of that world... everything in LOTR happens in the Third Age, but there are two Ages before that and they weren't dull, I can tell you (see The Silmarillion). I am drawn to the feeling of cultural depth that Tolkien created in Middle-earth. So much of its history is tragic. And that makes the beautiful things all the more beautiful and perilous.
I do think it's unkind for people to hint that LOTR is in any way an "immature" book, fit only for impressionable 14-year-olds to become fanatics over. This whole respect-for-other-people's-preferences thing works both ways, you know :-)
For me, hobbits are equivalent to the commoner in the fairy tale who proves his 'worth' by performing amazing acts of bravery. The difference is that the fairy tale hero is rewarded by being raised in status (usually by winning the hand of a princess) but the hobbits are not - why? Because they know their place; to demand representation, or power, would unbalance Middle-Earth. They are the workers of England pre-emancipation; men who sacrifice themselves for the good for the nation but are happy to accept the 'fair' rule of their betters. That is why hobbits are able to destroy the ring.
Isn't there a ring in the Kalevala that more-or-less operates in the same manner as the ring in Tolkien's work?
I agree that the hobbits fit themselves nicely into the feudalistic patterns of medieval culture. These patterns are repeated mildly in hobbit relationships: we have "Mr. Frodo" and his servant Sam, and later his "bad servant" Gollum who never calls him anything but "Master." The Shire is an idealized medieval world... but I still think we as modern readers have far more in common with hobbits than we do with the high romance heroes of the tale.
And as for commoners sacrificing themselves for the good of the nation — it's not *just* the hobbits who do that in Middle-earth, you know.
And actually the point of my thesis was how Tolkien wove both medieval and modern values together so seamlessly in LOTR. While I think hobbits are primarily modern characters, there are absolutely those medieval relationships and social structures in their culture. More of that weaving I was talking about.
Must run now; back later perhaps with more :-)
I can't accept Tolkien was writing with modern values; we know he was a man who embraced Oxford because it was a place apart from modern Britain. He believed in the world of middle-England, and was a devout Catholic - traditional models, not modern. He didn't even like the car.
The 'Shire' is not just an idealised medieval world, it is an idealised English village of the 20th century.
It's interesting you mention Golem. He's a hobbit who didn't know his place; he wasn't bad because of the ring, the dissatisfaction was already within him. (I'm sure Tolkien would have been shocked at your reading of Golem as a 'junkie').
One of the reasons I think that accounts for LOTR's popularity is it's anti-modernity - escape the modern world to somewhere that is safe, decent, and unchanging.
But take into account it DOES seem to make the book worthless if you try to write down everything that goes on...I mean, so much history is a little unessessary. In my opinion.
That's odd; the two LOTR films I saw were full of war, mindless slaughter and the destruction of entire civilisations!
In the end though, if you don't enjoy it you don't and little will change this for you.
Personally I really enjoy the depths of the world building, and histroy behind the characters. They aren't just thrown together existing as the heros pass through, but have a stable society independant of the heros. I also like the attention to detail.
Granted some of it drags in places. Frodo and Sam walking through the endless marshes loses it's appeal after a few chapters!
If you do feel you want to try again, maybe reading at speed will help you, don't get bogged down, skim through the slower passages?
Do you really think Tolkien would have been shocked by that reading? Why would he have characters say things like "he will never be free of his need for it" and "it consumed him"? Wasn't morphine making an appearance in WWI and II? I'm not saying that Tolkien was specifically trying to make Gollum a junkie, but I think that addiction, and the powerlessness of the addict to resist the drug, is a HUGE theme of the work. In the end even Frodo succumbs to the addiction of the Ring, and it is "grace," brought about by his odd decision to show mercy to such a creature as Gollum, that redresses the wrong and accomplishes the quest.
In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, p. 234 and 235, Tolkien wrote:
"The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sméagol. But he would never had to endure it if he had not become a mean sort of thief before it crossed his path."
Sméagol knew his place perfectly well; he was a nassssty sort of hobbit (note that Tolkien writes that Gollum's breed wasn't true hobbit; it was a diminutive branch that was related to but not identical with hobbits as we know them in the Shire) who delighted in digging up people's secrets and playing cruel jokes. His place in the world was himself, Gollum, against everyone else. He even thought the Sun was against him! Paranoid.
And so he was susceptible to the powerful addiction of the Ring. To move from that to "junkie" seems no great leap to me.
jargoneer wrote: I can't accept Tolkien was writing with modern values; we know he was a man who embraced Oxford because it was a place apart from modern Britain. He believed in the world of middle-England, and was a devout Catholic - traditional models, not modern. He didn't even like the car.
Oh, I know! He was very much against many things in our modern world... notice how Saruman's turn to evil is described by Treebeard as his mind becoming "metal and wheels"? And how Ted Sandyman foolishly loves the modernized mill that Sharkey's men install over top of the old mill? Industrialization was bad. I wouldn't deny that in the least.
I think every character — every good character, that is — in the tale has at least some medieval element. Some are almost wholly medieval in inspiration, like Aragorn and Arwen. But you can't deny the modern elements either... Tolkien himself, whether he liked it or not, was modern in the sense that he lived in the 20th century and, knowingly or not, he could not help but approach medieval texts with that mindset. I think we all do — we as readers inevitably bring our own lives with us to whatever texts we read (or write).
Hope I was coherent. I'm dying of a nasty headcold over here... *sniffle*
(edited to add: I will admit to saying, on several occasions, "If I have to watch one more frame full of Hobbits running across the hilltops of New Zealand...")
Think about it this way: One of the more common remarks by fans is that they really like the elf linguistics or whatever. These are the people who like the books! If that's one of the fans' major selling points...yikes!
These days, it would never get past the filtering process in the publishing industry. If you're lucky, an agent or editor will be patient and read 3 pages of a submitted manuscript; if nothing grabs him/her...sayonara. Three pages of history...OMG...JRRT is so lucky he got it published!
Anyway, in the last year (decades later) I started reading it to help myself unwind before bed. Since I was treating it like a sleeping pill (and since I knew enough to skip the ridiculously boring opening pages), I was happily surprised. I actually read the whole first volume. However, it wasn't sufficiently "compelling," as people say these days, to make me read the other two volumes.
So for this one it's all about expectations management.
I must say though that, although I enjoyed the movies they seemed so rushed. All the action strung together without the slower interludes to savor the story. One of my favorite chapters is Flotsam and Jetsam where nothing much happens, just old friends getting reacquainted.
However, I enjoyed the movies. They're pretty good. Parts of them, actually. Well, just the battle scenes, and any scene with Orlando Bloom. Having said that, I can't see spending any time watching them again. My husband and 14-year old daughter watch them once or twice a year. I leave them to it. Same with Dune and Children of Dune.
Tried The Hobbit. Tried The Silmarillion. Tolkien just doesn't grab me. I have learned to live with the shame.
So if someone wasn't into wallowing in wonderful prose I can see where LOTR would be a real drag.
In that vein, consider two suggestions: first, the plot of LOTR is the same as that of Watership Down: the UK in WWII.
Second, in the schoolboy slang of Tolkien's school days, "ring" meant the human anus as an object of sexual desire.
Anyone reminded of Greenmantle?
The Lord of the Rings is symbolic of life: life and death, renewal and decline - the things that our world needs to continue. Tolkien created a mythological world that filled out everything around these basic foundations. But the idea is very simple and a reflection of our life.
Very well put, dchaikin. I appreciate your explanation. A lot of what you say echoes my thoughts regarding LOTR.
For me it is a very deep read and I am astounded every time I think about how much time and thought Tolkien put into his writing LOTR. Truly amazing.
I read it originally as a college student and loved it. Now that I am a "grown-up" I enjoy it from a Christian viewpoint. It's one of those books I can read again (when I am ready to sink into a long story) and again and see new pearls each time.
After I read LOTR in college, I did try other fantasy/sci-fi books and nope--couldn't do it.
But as far as not liking the classics go, I totally understand. I hated Wuthering Heights. To each his own. Time is too short to waste on a book you don't like.