Hello dear reader(s) and welcome back to another, slightly different, instalment of Nessa reads and reviews! As you saw from the title I’m going to write about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that I first read 20 odd years ago. 🙂 Hence the title. Although it’s dangerous to assume, I shall go forth and assume that everyone has at least heard about Lord of the Rings, if not read the books, or saw Peter Jackson’s movies. So I won’t dwell much on the plot, because this review was never intended to be about the plot. It was envisioned as a collection of musings about my relationship with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy throughout the years.
Like most Tolkien fans I have fond and happy memories connected with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Like I previously mentioned, I first read the books during the late ‘90s, ’98 or ’99 I believe. I was 13 or 14 at the time, I know that I’ve read the books just before high school. But the funny thing about my first reading of this trilogy is that I read it backwards. 😀 Yes, you read that right; I started with the last book in the trilogy Return of the King, then went on to the second one The Two Towers and finally got to the first book Fellowship of the Ring. Strangely enough I never lost the plot and figured out who’s who and what was going on. 😀 Before you think I’m mad as a Hatter please allow me to explain that there is method to my madness 😀 aka why I started reading Lord of the Rings backwards. 🙂
As I previously mentioned this happened during the late ‘90s, the last decade of the 20th century. I was in my early teens and the only way for me to read books was to go to a local public library. Or buy the books at the local bookstores, which were not well stocked. The only bookstore in Split that sold fantasy and SF books at the time was Algoritam. There was no Internet, or e-readers, or buying books of said Internet… Not that I could afford to buy a book at the time, we were not that well off, and my parents really disliked if I bought books with the pocket money I saved. Shocking I know, but they’re the kind of people that think that there’s no point in owning a book, because the public library has every book you could possibly want or need. Clearly they know nothing, but I’ve given up that particular Sisyphus task a long, long time ago…
Where was I? Oh yes, getting my hands on Lord of the Rings in the ‘90s. Since the branch of the local public library where I usually went had so few copies of each volume of Lord of the Rings I had to frequently go there and check if they had been returned to the shelves, so I could pick them up. And the Fellowship of the Ring was always out, someone was always reading that and The Two Towers. Strangely enough I could always find the Return of the King on the shelves. So one day I was just so sick and tired of waiting and in a true YOLO moment I picked up Return of the King, marched to the counter and took the book out and never looked back. 😀
Which was a grand thing, because the beginning of the 21st century brought Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series. Both the theatre, and extended editions which I, of course have. Granted, the film series has its own faults and issues like Éomer not being with King Théoden at Helm’s Deep or the green fungi (aka the Army of the Dead) at the Pelennor Fields (WTF was that all about), and Faramir trying to bring Frodo to Minas Tirith… Like WTF dude that wasn’t in the books at all! All right, all right, I could go on and on 🙂 , but Jackson’s adaptation is actually very good (and has a magnificent soundtrack which is the work of the brilliant Howard Shore) and it will always have a special place in my heart. Because the movies connected me with other Tolkien fans and finally made me stop thinking and feeling like I was the lone weirdo who liked reading Tolkien and epic fantasy and SF. Intellectually I knew I wasn’t the only person in the world who was reading this stuff, let us again remember the reason I started reading this trilogy backwards was that I could never get my hands on the Fellowship of the Ring because it was always bloody out of the library so someone was clearly reading it! 😀 However, before the movies I never personally knew anyone who liked the stuff that I liked and I felt like an oddball for enjoying those things. By the by never, ever let yourself think that you’re a freak because of your reading choices and the love you have for a particular genre! Perhaps now with Internet and Social Media this situation is not as prominent as it was when I was a teenager, but if you do feel like a “freak” because of your love for a genre know that there are other likeminded “freaks” out there, so shine your weird light brightly and proudly so they can find you. 🙂
Finding likeminded people, making friends, finally sharing and talking about my love for fantasy and SF literature in general was not the only reason I mentioned the movie adaptation. It quite hard to read the Lord of the Rings nowadays in vacuum. You carry the film series, your head canons, other fan theories and everything you ever thought, read and learned about Middle-earth with you when you reread the series. It’s a strange thing how without all of those things that you, the reader, bring to the Lord of the Rings Tolkien’s writing seems somehow less… Not that I’m in any shape or form saying that Tolkien’s is a bad writer. Au contraire, he’s a splendid writer with a rich and vivid imagination. However, the strength of his writing lies in the creation of Middle-earth and its history, but his characterisation skills could use some work. Some of the characters are so well written and fleshed out that it’s a joy to read, and some are just sketches and it takes time and effort on the reader’s part to colour the empty spaces. Hence personal head canons and colouring of empty spaces with which we share Tolkien’s world and make it our own.
Musing about Lord of the Rings after rereading it 20 years later I’m inclined to think that although it might not be the best epic fantasy I’ve ever read, it is still one of the most significant books in my life. It was my gateway to fantasy, the key to open my mind to new worlds and also figuring out that I really enjoy reading fictional history as much as I like reading real life history. 🙂 Although, to be fair Tolkien is like that medieval chronicler – the worst sort of history once can read 🙂 but still filled with all sorts of information and fun tidbits if you can get through the dreary bits. 😀
On the whole returning to Middle-earth has been an enjoyable and immensely comforting experience. I felt like I was wearing my well-loved, wonderfully soft and comfy old sweater. I laughed, basked in the familiarity and comfort of Middle-earth, rolled my eyes at silly things, cried, cheered and just felt everything! It brought back happy memories and I was so glad that I decided to step back into this world again. And to tell you the truth I’m looking forward to see how I will feel about this series in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time… Perhaps I shall blog about it again when that time comes. 😀 Until next time dear reader(s)!