The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Similar to my decision to reread the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, my decision to reread these books was inspired by a movie.  After watching the fourth commentary track on The Return of the King, I decided I had to reread the series.  It hadn’t been that long since I had read them (between the releases of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers), but I had watched the movies so many times that I had lost the original plot in places.  Plus, I had read the books very quickly the first time in order to finish them before seeing the films; I wanted to catch what I had missed or not understood.  It’s taken me since about February to get through the series, but I finished last night.

The first time I read the books, I skimmed or skipped many of the song and poems that Tolkien sprinkled through his story.  I had been in a hurry, and I didn’t understand the significance of the tales of the old Elves and men of Númenor, so I just didn’t bother.  This time I read them through.  In some cases, some of the songs gave me new understanding.  For example, the songs by Aragorn about Beren and Tinúviel were meaningless to me the first time.  This time, I understood to read a mirror to his relationship with Arwen.  It helped immensely.  Of course, many of the Hobbit songs were no more insightful this time than the last.

What I found interested was how much my memory of the books had been overridden by the movies.  I had remembered a lot of the changes (like Peter Jackson adding more conflict by having Faramir take Frodo to Osgiliath), but there was a lot I had forgotten.  I had lost wild men of the Forest of Drúadan and their leader, Ghân-uri-ghân.  I had completely lost to memory the Prince of Dol Amroth.  I had forgotten how much Jackson had changed the part the Dead Men played.

An interesting aspect of the stories is the importance placed on bloodlines; Aragorn is a worthy king because he is a direct bloodline descendant of the kings of old, Éowen is a noble and substantial woman because she is the niece of the King, etc.  It’s a way of thinking about the role one can play in life that is different than modern American thinking about personal potential.  Of course, Tolkien gave the most important and difficult role to a member of a race that had never amounted to much before, so I’m not sure how much emphasis can be placed on this quibble.

Independent of regaining those parts of the story, I really enjoyed reading the books again.  Tolkien’s style can be dreary at times (who really uses puissant?), but the overall story justifies such excess.

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About Lance Finney

Father of two boys, Java developer, Ethical Humanist, and world traveler (when I can sneak it in). Contributor to Grounded Parents.
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3 Responses to The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. Rob says:

    Have you read the Silmarillion? I read that between the first and second time I read the trilogy and that made a huge difference in how much of the context I picked up.

    The Prince of Dol Amroth was one that I forgot as well. Ghan-uri-ghan I’d remembered, though it was more in the sense that as I watched the movie I knew something was missing and roughly what it was.

    What I feel I miss from the impact of the movies is the little characters (Ghan probably qualifies but the Prince of Dol Amroth had a fair amount of page time). For instance, the one mention of Radagast the brown in Gandalf’s tale at the council. If I don’t think back very hard, the movie tends to make me blur over those.

  2. Lance Finney says:

    No, I haven’t read the Silmarillion. I think I borrowed it from you once, but never even tried to start it.

    Have you read the Appendices of The Return of the King? I haven’t decided whether I’m going to try to read them. I’m sure that they would help fill some of the gaps, too, to a lesser extent than the Silmarillion. So far, I’ve just referred to the timeline occasionally. I’ve already started another book (look for another review someday), but perhaps I’ll go back to finish the Appendices.

  3. Rob says:

    I was wondering if you had borrowed it. I had a vague memory of you returning it w/o reading it but wasn’t sure if it was you who’d done that.

    I have read at least some of the appendices. I’m not sure about all of them. I remember enjoying the story of Aragorn and Arwen – talking both about their lives before and after the LotR.

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