I almost don’t know where to begin with today’s title, for numerous reasons. Countless writers more articulate and eloquent than I have already written so much that I know I have nothing new to add to the discussion, so I will simply share my own personal experience with The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and how it has influenced my life. [Note: Even though Lord of the Rings was published as three books, I will refer to it as one, since that is how Tolkien intended it to be read.]
This is another case where I have to admit that I saw The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of Peter Jackson’s mostly-brilliant film adaptations, before I had ever read the book. My younger brother, at about age 7, had read the whole trilogy – continued reading even though the book gave him nightmares, which was hardly surprising for a 7-year-old! – but for whatever reason, I never had enough interest to pick it up and read it. But when that first movie came out, I knew I wanted to be cool and go see it with my brother; in fact, I remember when New Line Cinema released the first trailer for the film, and I watched it over and over again, asking Ryan to point out and introduce characters to me. When the movie came out on the big screen, I did go see it with my brother and my dad, and I have since seen it on DVD at least 20 times (no, I do not exaggerate). Obviously, I loved it, and before The Two Towers film released one year later, I had read the whole trilogy, and thoroughly enjoyed the second and third films (I saw The Return of the King four times in theaters, which is still a record for me!).
After all these years, I still find it difficult to put into words what makes Lord of the Rings so special to me, but perhaps this photo speaks the proverbial 1,000 words.
In my junior year of high school, I took an advanced literature course that spent an entire semester on Lord of the Rings, and this is what my book looked like after the class. (What you can’t see in this photo is that there are sticky notes on all three surfaces, though you can only see those sticking out from the top and the side in the picture!) I have kept it exactly as I left it, removing none of those precious notes, visible reminders of one of the most profound literary experiences in my life.
In my encounters with Tolkien’s masterpiece, I learned, in a new and overwhelming way, the power of the imagination when an author brings an entire world to life in such remarkable detail; I observed the emotional strength of truly compelling characters, and how characters drive the story right off the page and into the reader’s heart; I saw fresh examples of true friendship and self-sacrifice, of loyalty and courage, of honor and faithfulness; and above all, I experienced once again the power of words to transfix, transport, and transform the reader.
I have not ventured back to re-read Lord of the Rings since that class in 2004. I’m not sure if perhaps I have feared that the experience would not be the same, but after pulling out my old copy and sifting through those priceless notes, I feel extremely motivated to go back and experience it all again. After all, a true classic, like a good wine, only gets better with age.
Have you read Lord of the Rings? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!