Last July, I started reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the very first time. I had read The Hobbit when I was much younger, so I was vaguely familiar with Bilbo, Gollum, and “my Precioussss,” but I somehow managed to go my entire adult life without ever reading any of the subsequent books, watching the movies, or having any idea what they were about beyond a sketchy idea of Elijah Wood as Frodo and Gandalf’s “You shall not pass!”
Cue last year’s Bukbangs, when I decided I wanted to spend the summer reading exclusively fantasy novels, which included the entire LOTR trilogy and revisiting some of my favorite Narnia books as well.
…It took a little longer than intended, but I’ve finally finished The Return of the King.
So! Without further ado, here are ten thoughts I have about LOTR upon finishing as a first-time, completely fresh reader/viewer. If you haven’t finished the series yet and, like me, have somehow managed to escape being spoiled, beware!! There are spoilers.
- There is a LOT of walking.
- One of the reasons it took me so long to get through this series (besides the fact that I am a monster who is constantly reading at least four books at a time), is that the pacing is quite literally all over the place. The amount of time spent traipsing all over Middle Earth is so disproportionate to the amount of time in which something actually happens that there is absolutely no way a modern-day editor wouldn’t have slashed the pipeweed out of these books before publication. That said, how far are you to Mordor?
- The extensiveness of the lore actually blows my mind.
- We’re all about world-building at AGP, so I was immediately taken with the way Tolkien makes Middle Earth feel so rich and vast through the most casual off-handed references to legends, lineages, and historical events. Someone could name-drop a famous king of old and, without having to get into the story of that character at all, Tolkien creates the illusion of a world in which the story is so deeply ingrained into the collective knowledge of his characters that he doesn’t need to explain it any further. Minimal effort for maximum effect, or so I thought until I reached the appendices at the end of RotK and discovered that every single name-drop was actually cataloged and explained somewhere. Mind. Blown.
- Related: I am overwhelmed by the thoroughness of these languages.
- Now I understand why LOTR fans were so unfazed by the fact that people were learning Dothraki. I’m not a linguistics person so I won’t be able to intelligently speak to how much of a FEAT creating entire fictional languages with their own unique histories, grammar, and syntaxes is, but wow. Just, wow.
- I LOVED the gentleness of the male relationships.
- Something I adored about this series was just how soft and gentle nearly all of the male relationships are. I love that Sam and Frodo fall asleep holding hands. I love that Aragorn can kiss Boromir on the forehead. I love that Gimli and Legolas always share a horse, and Merry and Pippin’s general tomfoolery, and that no one is afraid to sing or shed a tear. There is such a pure and wholesome love between everyone in the Fellowship without any of the self-consciousness that is so deeply associated with masculinity in our current culture, and I just think that’s lovely! That said…
- Where are all my ladies at???
- I do have a bone to pick about the absence of women except as icons of otherworldly beauty, like Galadriel, who seems to exist to inspire courage and devotion in the men. I want more ladies like Eowyn ready to jump into battle at a moment’s notice (and who actually get credit for their actions on the field)! And if I can’t have that, at least give me a juicier love story than Arwen and Galadriel’s literal paragraph-long marriage scene.
- The songs/battle cries are not done justice!
- One thing I thought was funny about the movies in comparison to the books was how uber-dramatic everything was, but I do love whenever we get to actually hear a song or a battle cry aloud. I always find the frenzy of battle scenes difficult to imagine while reading, but there is a huge difference in impact when those little italicized blurbs are heard shouted in full battle regalia, preferably with a blood streak or two running down someone’s face. And a song without music is just a poem. Point one for the movies.
- JKR low-key ripped off a bunch of concepts?
- You can definitely see a lineage of “inspiration,” shall we say, from LOTR to the Harry Potter series: a disembodied Dark Lord, a bearded, enigmatic wizard-mentor, flying black creatures of death, giant spider-villains. What struck me was just how little she did to hide some of these similarities, like Wormtongue vs. Wormtail, and how Longbottom was literally a place name in the Shire? :shrug:
- WHERE ARE THE ENTWIVES?!
- Okay, I literally just realized this loose end while writing this list and I’m sorry, what?? How could he leave the sweet, sweet Ents hanging like that! Where could the Entwives possibly have gone?? Will there ever be Entlings again?? If the answer to this question is in the appendices don’t tell me I’m still working on them okay.
- Where were those eagles the whole time??
- (See Thought #1.) So you’re telling me Gandalf had these guys at his disposal basically the whole time, and we STILL chose to go on foot across almost all of Middle Earth? It was like how earlier on in Game of Thrones, it would take a full season to make the trip from the North to King’s Landing, and by the end, it seemed like they just zipped up and down Westeros in a couple of days every other week. It doesn’t make sense, but whatever. Do it for the story, I guess.
- I want to go back!!
- I miss it! Not enough to start reading The Silmarillion (I think I’ll save that for the next pandemic), but even though it always took a while to get into whichever book I was on at the time, it really was such fantastic escapism. I loved losing myself in Middle Earth. I would gladly take a ridiculously long walk with any of the Fellowship. And I’ll be watching all 4+ hours of the director’s cut of Return of the King this weekend.