Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Watching And Finally Liking The Lord of the Rings


I'm not really a Tolkien fan. I know, that's blasphemy but I've never been a fan of his work. I tried to read The Lord of The Rings as a kid and gave up because I found it dull. The movies came out and before I watched I gave the unabridged books a listen, but didn't find them any better. Over the last few weeks I've been watching the movies again with my kids, and am happy to say this may have finally changed my mind.


Every Monday night we eat pizza in the living room and watch a movie that the kids choose. I am only allowed to overrule if they choose something I'm sure will cause nightmares. The Lord of The Rings was off the watch list for awhile, but we decided to give it a try over the summer.

My worst fears were initially realized as both kids came running out of their bedrooms in the wee hours after the first night of viewing. Of course, they didn't remember this in the morning and begged to keep watching the next Monday. We relented, and this time, no nightmares. Success! Except that I now had to watch all three movies.

I know, I know, I  know. How can I not like Tolkien? It's because I don't like overly descriptive books whose pages are filled with genealogy or endlessly detailed dinners or the names of every tree and flower in the realm. I want stuff to happen more than I want to read about the intricate carvings on the furniture.

The movies do cut out a lot of the description because it's there for you to see, but I was tainted by my first impressions and fell asleep during the third film. See, not a Tolkien fan. So, as the kids took out the first in a long line of discs, I prepared myself, and was happily surprised when I actually enjoyed the experience.

The girls were completely sucked in and full of questions. We had to pause often to help them understand the characters' motives because they were so completely vested in the success of the fellowship. They wanted to know it all and were rooting for their heroes. When Boromir died, they were crushed and I feared that was the end of Tolkien for them, but no. Much like the fellowship, they were determined to see it through to the end.

Their reactions made the story more interesting. Seeing it through their eyes, as they worried about who would live and who would die, made the viewing experience itself an adventure. I marveled that Gollum became their favorite character and loved how they at once loved him and disapproved of his bad behavior.


When Gollum lured Frodo toward Shelob my kids cast a scornful eye in his direction, but were still screaming for him to run and get out of the cave even as Frodo hung tangled in webbing. Of course, they were happy that Frodo also survived and completely approved of the thrashing he gave Gollum once he escaped.

Their commentary has been priceless, too. After watching one Orc toss another out the window, my oldest commented, "Waste of a perfectly good Orc." and I couldn't stop laughing. Watching Tolkien with them is far more fun than reading it or watching it on some huge movie screen.

Would I consider myself a Tolkien fan? No, I can't say I'll be dressing up like Gandalf or Frodo this Halloween, but I do have a new appreciation for his work through my kids' eyes. My girls have been drawn into the incredibly rich and beautiful world Tolkien created and I am happily along for the ride.

6 comments:

  1. I had the same experience with my older daughter, except it was with the Star Wars prequels (insert howls of dismay from the peanut gallery). I went kicking and screaming to these, especially the first one. She thought JarJar was hilarious. The fangirl in me cringed at that, but her perspective helped me get through those viewings. I got much more enjoyment from watching her, watching them.

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  2. My 14 yo wanted to watch ALL of the Star Wars movies from 1 to 6, in chronological order. And so we did over two weekends. It was great seeing his reaction to the movies, including his recognition of many of the memes and quotes he's heard many times but had never seen the origin of them. Good times. His fav was the original - A New Hope. Mine has always been The Empire Strikes Back. I can live with that.

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  3. Perhaps tolkien wouldn't have wanted it the way I would recommend reading it (since he was a language professor and linguist, etc) but I could not enjoy the books until I learned that all the poems and songs can be skipped without losing any of the story... In this way the stories are great...I would recommend reading the appendix info as it gives you great and interesting insight on the characters and their differing motives as well as the movements of middle earth...

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  4. You're not the only one who wasn't the biggest fan of Tolkien's writing: The man needed an editor badly, and if he wasn't a professor at Oxford I doubt his work would have seen the light of day or at least been an obscure work and people would be worshiping Burroughs, Howard and Lieber they way they should be ;)

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  5. I read the Tolkien books when I was very young and so when the movies came out, I really had forgotten how dry and tedious the LOTR series was until my wife picked up a BBC reading on cassette (the actor who played Bilbo read for Frodo) and I winced realizing the characters used such long-winded, flowery speech.

    Then again, I also read The Silmarillion at about the same time, and that WAS a snorefest. Not sure how I got through it in the eighth grade, but I did.

    I do have a great interest in linguistics so I can appreciate that aspect to the stories but have to somewhat agree with Michael. Then again, good editing doesn't always stop bad writers. I recall my few philosophy courses and remembering how painful reading Immanuel Kant was. Great mind, horrible writer.

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  6. I love reading about your kids' reactions to the series. I'd guess people feel the exact same way about Gollum.

    I loved The Hobbit as a youngster, but it took me many tries to get all the way through LotR -- and even then that was skipping over a lot of the poems and stuff. The story itself is, IMHO, amazing, but it is *not* an easy read.

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