Confession#1 I saw the movies first. I had never heard of The Lord of the Rings until the movies came out. When I saw the first movie I fell instantly in love. I didn’t read the books until 2004, after the third movie was released in theaters but before the extended version came out.
So my first reading of “The Lord of the Rings” was in high school. I loved the books and the extra insights they provided. But I have to admit that I constantly compared them to the movies. There were times when I grew impatient with some of the lengthy monologues and conversations-eager to move on to a certain scene that I knew was just around the corner. Granted, there were some differences in the books that I immediately fell in love with (Faramir’s character was a big one, but also little things like Gimli and Eomer’s arguments about Galadriel).
Confession #2 I didn’t re-read the books for another ten years. I think I started The Fellowship once or twice, but I always found myself getting too busy with other stuff or some such nonsense! Recently I had a couple weeks of vacation and I decided it was high time I made it through the whole series again!
Conclusions: I loved them even more than I did the first time! In fact, I’ll be bold enough to say that I like them better than the movies! I have grown a lot as an author and as a person since I first read that magnificent trilogy. I think one major difference was that this time around I was not expecting every chapter to follow the movies. I thoroughly enjoyed Tolkien’s rambling style. There were so many intricacies to the plot and the characters that I skipped over in high school. Tolkien tells a very patient, well thought-out story.
It also really made me rethink and examine the choices that Peter Jackson made as he crafted the films. As an author and storyteller it was a very beneficial exercise. I asked myself questions like, “What was the value of speeding up the timeline between when Frodo gets the ring and when he leaves the Shire?” “Would it have added depth to keep the character of Glorfindel?” “Why did Tolkien keep Aragorn and Arwen’s relationship so hidden and vague until the third book?” “Would have been so bad if Theoden had chosen to ride to war in the movie instead of “retreating”? After all, he ended up in the same place. And the question of all questions that has haunted me for ten years: “Why, for the love of all things respectable and honorable, did Peter Jackson turn Faramir into such a weak, coward?!” (I know the textbook answer. I heard it on the DVD. But I am not satisfied. And by the way you have a right to disagree with me)
In short, although the movies will always have a place in my heart as fantastic, blood-pounding, heart moving works of creativity and inspiration, in future I would like to delve more into the books. The books truly give you a better glimpse of the world of Middle Earth (as they should). Although the movies are expert at arousing your frustration, heightening your suspense, and evoking your sympathy by some of the liberties they took with characters, I found the character sketches in the books more satisfying.
Of course to do Peter Jackson justice, he had only a few hours of film to cram in a rich encyclopedia of a tale. And I do think he did it brilliantly. But I came away from this reading with a few fun facts that I had completely forgotten (or skipped over) and a new appreciation for the depth of history behind each one of Tolkien’s characters, countries, and climaxes. I’ll share a few with you:
1. I always thought Celeborn was one of the three elven ring-bearers. He was not. When I found out who was I was pleasantly surprised and I wished they had put a reference to it in the movie. (Did they? Does anyone know if they did?)
2. Elrond’s brother was the first king and founder of the Kingdom of Numenor or Westernesse.
3. Merry and Pippin were laid to rest beside Aragorn in the tombs of the kings of Gondor. AND it was believed that Sam also sailed to the Undying Lands (as he was also a ring-bearer), as did Gimli with Legolas.
4. Aragorn did not know who we has until he was twenty.
Those are just a few of them. There are more! Share your favorite book facts. And I know some of you are probably LOTR buffs who have read the series a dozen times along with the Silmarillion. Please add your knowledge and wisdom!
I’d also like to hear some of your thoughts on the strengths of both the books and the movies.