I just finished reading the classic books, The Lord of the Rings. What can I say about them? Just my opinion. If you don’t agree, that’s okay. Fantasy novelist and essayist Michael Moorcock didn’t like the trilogy as explained his his work “Epic Pooh” and this article from the New Yorker.
And that’s okay. I still like it.
I first stumbled across the Lord of the Rings when I saw the cartoon movie of The Hobbit. It looked goofy and outdated but I was intrigued. My dad said it was a really great story.
We read The Hobbit together as a family and I loved it. I liked Bilbo’s magic ring, how they journied across the land. Gandalf was this cool wizard and they fought a dragon, spiders and goblins.
It was around the time the movies were announced that I started reading The Lord of the Rings. It was tough. The books were long and slow with lots of dialogue, backstory and history. I couldn’t believe they talked about Frodo’s family tree for so long. I mean why?!
I was about 13 when the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring came out December 2001.
(Can you believe that was 15 years ago!)
Anyway, the trilogy of film adaptations caught my attention. They engaged my inagination. I liked how they traveled across these awesome environments, how do much trouble was caused by a small ring, how it curropted Gollum, how Aragorn rose to his roll as King of Gondor.
The battles were full of sick fantasy violence. They fought goblins and orcs and Uruk-hai and wolves and a flipping Balrog.
The books just didn’t do it for me. The movies were action packed, suspensful and thrilling.
The book was a snooze-fest and I couldn’t handle it.
Fast-forward 14 years or so and I decided to read the books. I went in with the attitude of, take your time. Don’t rush it. If it gets slow, just embrace it and understand it’s in there for a reason and find that reason. Let’s do this.
The books are better than the movies (duh) because, while I thought the movies were more action packed, mosuspensefulre and more thrilling, the books, in reality, are more so.
The Lord of the Rings created an entire universe. There was a history, with events and these are explained throughout the novels, the appendix and othrr works.
Despite such a large world, the books are about the people. The struggles I felt for the characters was magnified in the books.
For example, in the movies Gollum feels betrayed and decides to take the Hobbits to Shelob’s Lair where she can eat them and he’ll take the Ring.
In the books, Gollum was planning their demise from the beginning. Despite many warnings, from Faramir and their own common sense, Frodo decides there is no other way. We see his desperate predicament. We see his self-sacrifice, that this quest may kill him before being accomplished and his determination to find a way.
We see in the movies they cross the desolate Mordor. They are dying. They are dirty, clothes tattere. They no longer carry gear because they are too weak to and they abandon hope in a return journey home. Their lips are cracked and mouths dry. You see their desperation. They seem to arrive quickly, as there is no indication from the movie how much time has passed.
In the book we see Frodo and San cross Mordor. We see through an episode here and short bit here just how tired, weak, yet determined they are. And at the same time the futility of their quest. It takes them more than a week to cross the fiery plains. They desperately look for water. They fall asleep and one stays up to watch guard, yet falls alseep too. They are going to die and hopefully they can destroy the Ring before they do.
Tolkien created a setting. It takes forever, hundreds of pages, explanations, dialougues, scenes but he creates a setting. It takes patience like planting and growing a plant. But because he takes his time, the harvest is even greater.
I could go on with many examples but the one thing that bothers me about the movies is the ending.
I knew early on, in the books, that Saruman escaped and scourged the Shire, destroying their home and enslaving the Hobbits. Before reading the books, I liked the movie ending. I felt for Frodo who, after such an adventure, couldn’t fall back into normal life and so he leaves.
I assumed the book didn’t touch on that subject. How could it? I thought. Frodo saves the Shire and is a hero! There is no normal life for him.
Going back to the planting and harvesting metaphor, it’s repeated again and again that they are doing this to protect their home, the Shire. Even though they will probably die in the process knowing that the Shire is okay, that goodness exists there, or will, makes all the suffering okay.
Saruman, after losing his powers goes straight for what those Hobbits held most dear. If all the plans and designs of Sauron, none were more devious, malicious or hurtful to the Hobbits than what Saruman did.
The ending of the books shows how the Hobbits had changed. They rallied the other Hobbits to fight, to not be complacent but to fight for what is right, with honor and courage.
After it all, Frodo still feels like he can’t live a normal life. The wound he sustained from the Ring Wraith’s sword still hurts. The wound serves as a metaphor, it could have been anything or not present at all, but it represents the torments that Frodo sustains inside, emotionally and mentally from his tramatizing journey. He also comments on how the Ring was a part of him and now the Ring is gone and there is a gap inside and nothing can fill it.
The movie is a summary or a spark notes version of the books. I still understood Boromir’s story how he was seduced by the Rings power but redeemed himself by protecting Merry and Pippin. The movies portray that only Frodo can destroy the Ring and it is quest, no one else’s.
However, the books provide the real meat, to really understand the characters and their motives.