Is there a such thing as having too many ongoing blog series? Because if there is, I think I’m approaching my limit.

An Adventure in Tolkien will be a continuing series with random posts here and there whenever I’ve embarked a little further into what I’ve now dubbed my Middle Earth challenge. This is truly an insane challenge and one that’s probably going to take upwards of a year or more. What exactly am I doing?

  1. Reread both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  2. Read The Silmarillion & Unfinished Tales
  3. Read the trilogy Christopher published posthumously for his father
  4. Read the entire 13-volume collection of Middle Earth histories

Like, I don’t even want to look at stats on that. It’s a total of 8,737 pages across 22 books, which, in retrospect, is not a whole ton compared to what I read on a monthly basis, but it’s all the same universe, so that’s where it starts to feel like a lot. I also have to buy 12 of those books as I currently don’t own the second two in Christopher’s trilogy or 10 of the Middle Earth histories. And there are extra books that aren’t by Tolkien that I’ve picked up along the way or will inevitably stumble across.

This has gotten away from me.

I’ve kicked off this challenge in the best way possible! I took some time off around Memorial Day so that my best friend, Erin, could visit. We were planning on seeing both Aladdin and Tolkien, and after realizing we’d never watched Lord of the Rings together, decided to attempt watching the entire trilogy over the weekend since we had from Friday until Tuesday. With four and a half days together, we managed to tackle six movies in total (we added Bright Star because we were feeling fantasy-heavy), which is quite a feat considering three of those are four hours long.

Warning: this will start coherent, but eventually, I’m going to start screaming about my love for Samwise Gamgee and linking approximately eight million clips from Two Towers. I love Lord of the Rings a lot. Like, more than is probably healthy.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Did you know there are people in the world that don’t like Frodo and Sam? Like, I am just endlessly baffled by this. They’re actually my favorite characters in the whole series, and Sam? Hands down favorite character in all of literature. I’m so confused when people tell me they either don’t like them or, even worse, skip through their scenes in the movies. Who even are you?

Anyway, so obviously we started off our marathon with Fellowship. No, I’m not going to rank them because that’s an impossible task because they’re all amazing, end of story. It’s honestly been several years since I last sat down and watched these, mostly because they’re four hours long each and because I refuse to watch the theatrical versions. But oh, those first notes of Concerning Hobbits just shake me straight to my core and I immediately well up with tears. It feels like coming home.

ughhhhhh is it too soon to watch them again

I love a lot of things about this movie. First movies are always some of my favorites. I love the setup, the introduction to characters, the first view of the world. And this has so many good beginnings. From the first moments we see and know Frodo (reading in a field) to Sam (hiding in the garden) to Aragorn (mysteriously puffing smoke like a creeper in the corner) even to Arwen (floating out of the darkness bathed in white healing light), we know that these characters are going to be important. We know that they’re going to mean something to us. Even the truly epic introduction to Sauron and the One Ring via the Prologue, which, when was the last time you got a really, truly in-depth look at a world like that outside of Star Wars? Exactly.

There was, at one point, that Erin and I realized that anyone who hadn’t read the books or who didn’t have someone to explain certain bits would be completely lost at times or have things go straight over their heads. I mean, do they ever actually explicitly state why Aragorn is so important? For a book fan, sure, we know who the Dúnedain are, we understand the importance of Isildur, we even get that holy moly the king of men has come again, but, like, ordinary people? I don’t think it’s ever actually explained, you’re just given all these hints and reactions from other people like oh wow this guy is Important. My favorite part of this is probably when Legolas stands up and is all you owe him your allegiance because, again, who the heck is this guy? No one ever says that he’s the prince of Mirkwood! I think Gimli one time, in Two Towers, refers to him as a princeling, but never before then and even that’s only kind of mumbled. So great, some elf dude just told us this man dude was important.

Look, this is not a criticism because I freaking love these movies, it was just something I noticed this time around. But if we’re going to do an extended edition that adds a solid 30-60 minutes onto the movie, why not put in some explanations of important things instead of, like, seeing a hobbit eat? (again)

Rant aside, if I had to pick one single moment of this entire movie, though, it would have to be the first half of this:

Damn it all to hell, name one other scene in any other movie IN EXISTENCE that is as cool as the Fellowship leaving Rivendell and climbing over the mountain so that we get to see them all in slow motion for the first time. I CANNOT. Other scenes I love: Arwen fighting the Nazgûl at the Ford of Bruinen, Aragorn skulking through the daytime hunched in his cloak, Merry & Pippin bursting into the Council of Elrond, KHAZAD-DÛM (no matter how much it makes me cry every time, it’s still one of my favorite battles), Aragorn fighting off the wraiths at Weathertop but specifically when he’s in the Ring world where the wraiths are white and he’s just this sentinel of darkness in the midst of it all, and, most importantly, the Kings of Argonath.

(guys this is part of my upcoming secret LOTR tattoo)

The Two Towers

Like, seriously, argue with me about Samwise Gamgee not being a straight up Hero™, I dare you. I will fight everyone to the death who doesn’t think he’s single-handedly one of the most important characters in this series. That line, Frodo wouldn’t have gotten very far without Sam, WHERE IS THE LIE. Frodo would probably be dead via Gollum, and Middle Earth would be enslaved under Sauron’s tyranny, and that’s the tea.

Okay, but in all honesty, TT is the best of all of them, and I know I said I wasn’t going to rank them, but Helm’s Deep is the most badass battle ever in the history of film and television. Also, the Scandinavian fiddle makes it debut in the soundtrack. Also, Rohan by itself makes this the best one. And then you’ve got the killer trio of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Name a more iconic trio. (don’t @ me about the golden trio, they don’t count because they, too, are The Best) And let’s not even get started on the simple fact of this song:

I mean. Need I say more? I honestly am so surprised at myself that this was the clip from the movie I chose to feature, but there’s something bone-chilling about this scene. Not only is it what incites the Ents to go to war, but it’s so poignant in our reality right now. Our environment is being destroyed, and we are literally slowly killing our planet. This scene is like if a human walked out of their home to see hundreds of corpses all around them brought on by our own ignorance.

Now, not only is TT great, it manages to do something not a lot of movies accomplish–it’s a fantastic second film. Often, in both literature and film, the sophomore slump is real. Being able to continue to captivate an audience with a middle child is not an easy task, and this movie definitely delivers. For me, however, it’s not Helm’s Deep or the Ents that get me. It’s this:

First of all, we’ve got Gandalf pretending to be an old man, which is just hilarious on its own, but then you’ve got Legolas being all doting and giving him his arm to walk in on, AND THEN, after Gandalf has done his whole oh you wouldn’t part an old man with his walking stick ya boy doesn’t even use the staff to walk in, just holds it next to him and hikes his way up to Théoden’s throne like now listen here you little ole rascal. I mean, it should probably be noted that no matter what, if you’ve got something like the Rohirrim and Rohan as a country, it’s probably going to be a damn good movie. Théoden is truly one of my favorite kings of men, and watching him come back to life will never get old for me.

Two Towers is excellent for a lot of reasons. Helm’s Deep is, truly, one of the best battles ever filmed, and I’m just constantly amazed by it. It’s not just the elves arriving with my fave, Haldir, leading them and Aragorn startling him into a hug. It’s not just that it’s at night and downpouring and gritty and why is everything so much cooler when there’s lightning. It’s not just Aragorn and Gimli jumping across the bridge to single-handedly fight off Orcs to give Théoden and company enough time to secure the door again. It’s not just Gimli running off to blow the Horn of Helm Hammerhand as the sun rises and they prepare to continue battling into the next day. Really, it’s not even Aragorn ride out with me and Théoden now for wrath now for ruin and the red dawn! (I’m about to get carried away here, watch out.) What gets me is OH GODDAMN IT I CAN’T FIND IT ON YOUTUBE. You know exactly where I’m going. When Gandalf arrives on Shadowfax, and the sun is rising behind him, and then there’s Éomer, and no matter who you are, you get choked up because THE ROHIRRIM HAVE ARRIVED AND ROHAN IS SAVED!

wait

I found it. Wow, my heart is going so fast right now.

Other scenes I love: Pippin drinking the Ent water and Merry being pissed that he’s taller, Brego just casually showing up to save Aragorn’s life, Aragorn pushing through the doors after he nearly died duh, literally every scene with Théoden I am a simple person really, also anytime Samwise is on screen, is this the one with the taters? then yes also that, Legolas swinging up onto his horse during the Warg attack you’re such an asshole I love you, and then, because I haven’t shared enough videos for this movie yet, my two favorite scenes:

As I was searching for this scene, all I could hear was that Uruk-hai saying man flesh, and now I can’t stop giggling.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve read this quote during my yoga class or even just talked about it or even just thought about it and been lifted up by it.

The Return of the King

Did I cry during all 37 endings of ROTK? YOU BETCHA! Real talk, though, the way Tolkien ended this massive undertaking is absolute perfection. He ties all of his stories up in a bow, and I am so grateful for that. In case you haven’t been paying attention lately, readers want happy endings! This is not a secret! And it’s not a bad thing! I want 37 endings please!

Now, Erin’s favorite is ROTK, and I do have to agree with her on many points, but perhaps none is more pertinent than this:

I’ve got chills, and they’re multiplying. This is one of my favorite songs in all of the soundtracks, and watching the beacons light across the mountains will always make my heart swell three sizes.

There’s a lot to enjoy about ROTK. I promise I won’t link nearly as many videos because then we’d be here all day as I was working my way through the battle at Minas Tirith. It should be obvious by now that my favorite Middle Earth race are the humans. I have a big weakness for kings and leaders, too, so after Sam and Frodo, my favorite characters are usually Aragorn, Théoden, all of the Rohirrim, Faramir–you get the idea. The battles both at Osgiliath and Minas Tirith are phenomenal. After coming out of this movie in the theaters, I told myself that I was allowed exactly one battle at night during the rain because I was really thankful Tolkien hadn’t done it a second time. Plus, these battles need to be crystal clear so we can see all of the insane nonsense that goes on, like Legolas taking down an oliphant and Gandalf facing off with the Witch-king. Something I really appreciate about the battle with the Witch-king, though, is that I don’t think all of that scene is in the theatrical version, and yet, we don’t see Gandalf with his staff again during the battle of Minas Tirith. A lot of other movies would have forgotten that it was shattered and quietly snuck it back in to the theatrical version, but he just fights with a sword after that.

I could talk for ages about the middle of this movie, I really could. The way Aragorn’s hair slowly gets more and more groomed as we go on until, in the final battle, he looks truly like a king. The actually impressive CGI of the ghosts of Dunharrow for that year. Gimli, in general. But, for me, this movie is about its ending, and, in that, about its most important character.

Frankly, I get asked a lot why Sam is my favorite character. If you know me in real life, or even on the Internet, honestly, you know my type. I have long loved Aragorn and all like him. Thorin? Yes, please. Arthur? Sign me up. Beowulf? I’m here for it. Roland? Check and check. But the thing I love about Samwise Gamgee is that he’s not a king. He’s not even really a leader. He’s not special. He is an ordinary person who did something no one thought he would ever be able to do. He is someone small and usually not thought of who literally saved the entire world. Yes, Frodo carried the ring, but Sam carried Frodo (literally, as well as metaphorically), and this story could not be told without ordinary, little Sam.

Other scenes I love: EOWYN SLAYING THE WITCH-KING OF ANGMAR DUH, I am no man, Arwen seeing her son, when Aragorn pulls Andúril out of its scabbard and the camera has to pan up for a full year because it’s so long, every single time the White Tree of Gondor is onscreen (I’ve got it tattooed on my thigh, that’s how much I love it), Aragorn casually facing off with Sauron just to grab his attention, you will suffer me, Sam FINALLY MARRYING ROSIE COTTON!!!, the Grey Havens even though it destroys me, and okay I lied I have scenes to link.

I MEAN COME ON YOU HAD TO KNOW THIS WAS COMING RIDE NOW RIDE NOW RIDE TO GONDOR!

Aragorn’s face when he says for Frodo is my undoing, and when Merry & Pippin start screaming and run after him, I’m a mess.

Tolkien

Admittedly, I was so unsure about this movie. A reviewer that I really like wasn’t so keen on it, and I was worried going in. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and even though I’d seen a trailer, I couldn’t actually remember what it was about. I mean, obviously, it’s about Tolkien, but aside from that, all I knew was that Lily Collins was promoting it a lot, so I figured it focused primarily on their romance. And while it did highlight Tolkien’s relationship with his future wife, this movie was primarily about, you guessed it, fellowship.

And wow, holy magic, did I love it. I won’t go on nearly as long as I did for the trilogy, but my favorite thing about this movie was definitely Tolkien’s friendship with his three friends. Being able to see them as kids, teenagers, and adults was just wonderful, especially as we got to see them grow and change together. Plus, boys are so dumb when they’re together, and it’s adorable.

Some of my favorite moments were Tolkien drunkenly shouting in early Elvish in the middle of the night before flopping down to recite something about Elendil as he stared up at the stars, Edith absolutely not letting Tolkien treat her like anything less than someone to be admired and held up at the beginning, and the very end, when Tolkien is describing what his novel is about to his children.

It was a heartwarming movie, and I enjoyed it for a lot of different reasons, but perhaps the most important to me was that you can work on something for years and years and years, and there is no limit on when it’s over and you’re never “too old” to start it and someday it will happen. As a writer, this was powerful to see spelled out, and this movie is going to stick with me for a while because of that.

So, that’s my unexpectedly very long hot take on the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, I guess. Wow, I’m sorry, guys, I should have known that was going to happen, but I thought maybe I could avoid it.

What’s next for the Middle Earth challenge? I’m about to buddy read The Silmarillion with Holly, and I am so excited to start! I’m also planning on rereading The Hobbit this month, so I was thinking about doing a similar blog to this, but with the book and all three movies. I haven’t watched those in ages, and I can promise you it’s going to look very different than this. Eventually, I’ll review The Silmarillion and probably Unfinished Tales together, and then I’ll start breaking down the history volumes. Those, I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to buy more until I finish the first set that I have, but I imagine they’ll probably come in sets of three or something of that ilk when I do review them.

What’s next is really an admission that this challenge is going to take a crazy long time. Posts will be spread out since I’ve got to read a heck ton of books, but honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.

What are your thoughts on the Lord of the Rings movies? Are you also insane, or do you just have a passing appreciation for them? Let me know in the comments below!