Oh, no, I've read
Lord of the Rings before. I read it as the Jackson films came out so that I'd knew to whine about them, but the Jackson films were fifteen years ago, and I hadn't read it in its entirity since. There's a bit of story to this.
To begin with, I'd read "The Hobbit" a few years earlier, and the book was very, very dear to me. I loved Bilbo Baggins something fierce, but as we all know, there's not a whole
lot of Bilbo Baggins going on in LotR, and scarcely more of the general tone of The Hobbit. It's very, very obvious that "The Hobbit" is a children's book and that "Lord of the Rings" aspires towards myth, and I think that my problems comes being in the minority that read The Hobbit first and wanted more of it. I'd tried to read it several times by the times the films came around, yet I only just managed to finish the last two parts just before setting off to the cinema to see their films adaptations, respectively
Briefly told: "Fellowship of the Ring" always went down fine. I loved the bits in the Shire, I loved Tom Bombadil, I loved the bits in Moria and the bits in Lórien. I loved "Fellowship of the Ring".
Then came "Two Towers", where I struggled. I didn't finish it until my third attempt at getting through it, and if you asked me to describe it to you before my recent re-read, the most detailed summary I could've given would be "Merry and Pippin meet the Ents, Strider and Legolas and Gimli run around doing IDK and meet Gandalf, Sam and Frodo and Gollum spend five hundred pages walking through some mire and I think they meet Faramir or was that in book 3".
And from "Return of the King", which I got through on my first try on sheer willpower, my memory was "they destroy the ring, Sam marries Rosie Cotton and sires his own football team, Eowyn gives up being a warrior and becomes a healer and marries Faramir, Legolas and Gimli are so totally a couple".
I assumed there was something wrong with my othwerwise capable reading abilities, aaaaand... yeah, in a way? Having become fifteen years older and professionally trained in the science behind reading comprehenseion, I'm pretty certain that my problem with reading the last two parts of Lord of the Rings was because "The Hobbit" had given me some genre expectations, and when LotR moved way beyond the genre, I was mentally unwilling to follow it there. I was there for the goofy dwarves, goddamnit, and if the book insisted on being difficult, then I wasn't about to follow it!
That, however, wasn't all. Lord of the Rings was an attempt at writing a mythology, which is reflected in its style. The Lord of the Rings is told to an audience that presumably lives in the same world that the story takes place (ref. The Hobbit, where the narratee
is explicitly said to live in the same world as hobbits). Thus, the "author" (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam) makes references to Tolkien's mythopeia as naturally as a work of western fiction might refer to classical mythology. The enormous difference, of course, is that any reader who hasn't read the Silmarillion won't have the foggiest idea who Feänor or Eärendil are; will have to confer with the maps to figure out where the hell Anfalas and Anorien lie. At some point, it was mentioned that Aragorn and Eomer went into Minas Tirith with Imrahil, and I just went "Imrahil? Who the hell is Imrahil?" I can only assume he had been mentioned at some point before since he's obviously got some clot in Minas Tirith and leads one of their armies in the final battle, but yeah
, that kind of thing. There are a lot of very casual references to past mythology, and a lot of landscapes and places mentioned in a manner that takes it for granted that the reader knows the map of Middle Earth like their native country.
Then there are the names
. Forget about Sauron and Saruman, try with Denethor and Theoden, who besides being summarised as "allied ruler of questionable allegiance w. inheritance issues" have names that are fucking anagrams
. Whenever I was reading about one, I couldn't remember the name of the other.
But that said: Having grown older and more open-minded re. genre, it went down just fine this time around. More than just fine, at that: I really, really love it and can actually see myself reading it again at some point when I don't have a 100+ list of unread books lying around at various locations.And some complaining about the (Jackson) films:
First of all: I mostly like them very much, but don't do what I did and force people you love into maratoning them with you. Note that the problem was the maratoning, not that I did it in company; she suffered without complaint, but 3 times 3 hours is too much. I'm pretty sure Game of Thrones wouldn't exist if Peter Jackson hadn't made Lord of the Rings, but I'm also pretty sure that Lord of the Rings is a story of a scope that would be told better in TV-sized bits.
There is a lot of sillyness happening here, more obviously so after watching Jackson do it to the Hobbit too, I guess. Legolas-on-Oliphant action is one thing, but I don't actually think Rohirrim vs. Oliphant army was a whole lot better. There was a lot of pointless fighting going on here. Did we really need thirty minutes of Faramir going at Osgiliath? And Gollum jumping Frodo and Sam at Mt. Doom's doorstep, FFS
In general, there was a lot of moments being blown out of proportions that didn't need to be - see Pippin with the palantir
for the prime example, compared to the book. I just feel that a lot of those things would've been more, well, believable
if they hadn't been so obviously dramatic when in the book they weren't.
I find it more annoying than I thought I would to revisit Jackson's films and be reminded about how he pretty much turned Merry and Pippin into one singularity. It's expected
, I guess, but good God: Merry is the smart one out of all four of them
, yet his first appearance in the film is to utter "no no, the big one!" while he and Pippin are filching Gandalf's fireworks. I'm also none too fond about the, uh, modernisation of Sam and Frodo's relationship. I don't like Sam a whole lot in the films in general. I'm oddly not bothered by the doe-eyed youngster Frodo - I guess Wood just makes it work. It bears some comparison to the BBC radio drama, particularly at the point where he starts ordering Gollum around. It might be that I'm subconsciously doing some Ian Holm = Bilbo thing in my head, but goddamn
was that weird to listen to.
Legolas and Gimli: Ugh. Legolas lost his merry ways to become Aragorn's BFF, Gimli was reduced to comic relief.