After a marathon viewing session of all three Lord of the Rings films several weekends ago, I began re-reading the books. I purchased The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books in a nice boxed set. I first read the books about 15 years ago while I was in college at the behest of my friend Kari (who would become my roommate the following year). I really enjoyed them. It is an interest I shared with my father, who has re-read his pristine paperback copies with Tolkien’s artwork on the covers countless times over the years. He seems to be able to recall the smallest detail from any of the books. I decided the time had come for a re-read. I may have re-read the books some time in the last 15 years, but if so, I can’t recall it. And exactly how many times have I read the Harry Potter books? Don’t ask. I can’t remember. It’s been that many. And The Lord of the Rings definitely merits a re-read.
The first thing that struck me once again was how fully realized Middle-earth is. Tolkien invented places that became real, languages that became real, people that became real. Tolkien’s books were the first adult fantasy fiction I had read. I thought, wow, fantasy is great stuff! I’ll read more! I tried other books and quickly came to discover that Tolkien outstrips them by a wide margin. I never did finish that Terry Brooks novel I picked up. Now it’s years later, and my daughter Sarah is in love with fantasy fiction.
I really love Frodo after seeing Elijah Wood’s portrayal of the character. And let’s face it — Orlando Bloom just made Legolas cool. Gandalf was always my favorite character. Some of the humor in the novels is left out of the movies. I did love the landscape and the costumes in the movies, however. The old adage remains true — the movie is never as good as the book.
Warning: Spoilery stuff in the next paragraph. Skip it if you need to.
One of the things that strikes me most is how intelligent Merry is in the novels. He isn’t given much credit in the films, but he’s really not as blundering as he’s portrayed. It really bothered me that the movies gave away that Eowyn was Dernhelm so early. In the books, this isn’t revealed until she and Merry kill the Witch-King, and I like it better that way. I found it interesting to read again about what became of Merry and Pippin later in their lives (there are bits of this information in the prologue of The Lord of the Rings).
It has been throroughly enjoyable to go back to Middle-earth, and I advise any of you who haven’t been there to take a trip soon.