Previously on An Adventure in Tolkien: Look, I did not ask to fall in love with Beowulf EVEN MORE, but here we are.
Wow, it has been a Minute. I reviewed Beowulf back in June, and, before that, both Tolkien’s biography & his letters, but I haven’t read a book in the main legendarium since January, and that is a true tragedy. I’ve been “meaning” to read FOTR pretty much since January, and I’m not sure what’s gone on that I haven’t, but I’m sick of not reading it, so here we are. The recent reviews have been pretty normal and structured, so I’d just like to remind you of what my Tolkien reviews usually look like when it comes to things like The Silmarillion and The Great Tales of the Elder Days. Not to mention I was freaking out so much about The Unfinished Tales that I had to break the first, second, and third age into separate posts. Suffice to say, you’ve been warned that this is going to dissolve pretty quickly into straight up nonsense. Also, I’ve already reviewed each movie, but I will be reviewing them individually alongside the books, as well, so that I can compare. Okay, is that enough of a catch-up? Let’s goooooo!
Also, I’m reading a second edition hardcover of the book, so that’s how my citations are noted.
hi my name is Mary and I’m going to cry about SO MANY THINGS
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
You know what’s crazy? I haven’t read this trilogy since the movies originally came out. The first one was in 1999, so it’s been literally 20 years. That’s insane. I don’t know why I never did because they’re truly my favorite story ever, but damn. Here we go.
This man is just such a nerd, I love it! In the prologue, Concerning Hobbits, he’s talking about how the years are labeled and how the Hobbits basically restarted their calendar after an event, and so, in order to determine what Hobbit year coincides with what the Men use, just add 1600 to any date, and you’ll get the math. It just baffles my mind that he put that much detail into this.
I always forget how old Frodo was at the start! Also, I just love Hobbit ages so much. “At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.” Like yes, that’s how it should be, please don’t make me do responsible things while I’m still in my twenties, haha. But Frodo’s newly thirty-three at the start of Fellowship, and it hadn’t occurred to me, when I was starting this again, that I was finally reading this at nearly the proper age.
Okay, well, not really, because I also forgot that a couple decades pass between the first chapter and the second, so Frodo’s fifty by the time he actually sets out on his adventure. Goodness, Tolkien had the right of it. We shouldn’t be responsible for anything until we’re in our thirties, and we shouldn’t expect anything exciting out of life until we’re in our fifties. Can I move to Hobbiton? I’m sure my life expectancy will grow just surrounded by these wondrous ideals.
The Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said.The Shadow of the Past, pg 53
Look, let it be known that I am trying REAL HARD not to fangirl over Sauron, and it is proving IMPOSSIBLE. The Silmarillion has truly ruined me for all other LOTR books because every time Sauron even gets hinted at, I’m suddenly moon-eyeing my book like oh my boyyyyyyy. HE IS THE VILLAIN, MARY.
Sam’s thinking about how fast the grass is growing, and I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about my next tattoo! My right arm is almost completely covered with a space sleeve (there are still some blank spaces that drive me crazy), but my left arm is almost entirely empty. I’ve got a stack of books on the forearm and a few small Harry Potter ones on the wrist & shoulder, but the rest of it is blank, and so, it’s time to shift my LOTR tattoos from just being on my legs to starting a sleeve on my left arm. My plan, currently, is to do a hobbit’s circle window with a flower box underneath it and Sam’s quote from the movie, there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for. Beyond that, I’ve got a million and one ideas, but I do know that I definitely want Andúril, pieced together and not broken as the shards of Narsil, as well as the Argonath on the Anduin, so we’ll see how those fit together. And, though I know it’s overdone, I’d like Tolkien’s signature, as well.
Oh, Orodruin. What a good name! Though Tolkien occasionally does stupid things like renames waterfalls into The Shuddering Water just because someone cries near it, he also has really badass names like Orodruin for the mountain that the ring must be cast into. Anyway, I’m at the part where Gandalf is trying to convince Frodo that he has to be the one to destroy the ring, and it just makes my heart break for Frodo because he so badly doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want the ring, he doesn’t want evil to come into his life, he doesn’t want anything to do with Sauron or Mordor or all this treacherous history. And even though he’s longed for some kind of adventure, literally saving the world by going up against the greatest evil of all time is definitely not what he was seeking, and I just–I want to weep. Our poor, brave boy. He’s lived a quiet, soft life, and he wished for a little bit of adventure, maybe just wandering as far as an Elven land, and instead, he gets the worst possible fate. And though he wants nothing to do with it, he tightens his bootstraps and does it anyway because it’s the right and good thing to do.
OKAY I AM WEEPING
I just love Frodo so much. I have a friend who skips past the Frodo scenes in the movies, and I literally don’t understand. He’s truly such a heroic character, and he sacrifices so much, and he deserves an entire twelve hours of film time just for himself, no one else included. His name deserves to go down in history forever, but, at the same time, he deserves to remain unknown and unbothered so he can just live out his peaceful life. There is so much good in his heart, and he deserves to be recognized for that alone.
There was too much crying, we needed to take a break.
One of the things that I disliked in my youth, but that I’ve really grown to appreciate over the years, is the amount of song that’s included in LOTR. I mean, it makes sense, song is so ingrained in every single culture, and oral tales were how we passed down history in the beginning, so of course there should be something similar in the grand world of Middle-earth. There’s a lot of it, and there are some, like Pippin’s bath song, that make me giggle, but even though a bath song feels unnecessary, it adds such a rich layer to the world-building and the culture of the characters in such a subtle way.
Okay, for real, if Merry hadn’t been in charge, they literally would have gotten nowhere. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin manage to nearly get lost, accidentally happen upon Farmer Maggot, have to hide from the Black Riders several times, and literally hide beneath blankets when Merry comes out of the darkness and they think he’s something sinister. When they’re finally in Merry’s company, Pippin upends an entire bath all over the floor, Frodo tries to sleep in, and Sam just blunders around. Literally the only reason they get out of the Shire is because Merry is a Mom™ through and through.
Ah yes, we come, at least, to Tom Bombadil. This is either going to turn into a rant or just a lot of rambling.
YOU THOUGHT WE COULD GET THROUGH A NON-SILMARILLION-RELATED LOTR POST WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT MORGOTH? THINK AGAIN.
Growing up, I couldn’t stand the Tom Bombadil chapters. Granted, I was barely a teenager when I first read these, and I just thought it was a silly detour along a more serious story, which, now that I’ve read more Tolkien and aged quite a bit since my first LOTR adventure, I, uh–well, yeah, I don’t know why I ever thought Tolkien was capable of writing anything entirely serious. Sauron literally turns into a vampire bat and flies over Gondolin, which he has been searching forever for, and doesn’t notice because he’s an idiot. So, like, buckle in, folks. Time for some conspiracy theories.
This idea that a piece of Morgoth’s soul lives on in Middle-earth, but is so riddled with guilt and a chaotic need for peace, that it transforms into Tom Bombadil is just? The best thing ever, truly. And it actually makes a lot of sense! Because yes, I am 100% on board the Melkor is misunderstood train because if you’re going to rename someone and call them the Black Foe of the World, well, like? What did you honestly expect? Yes, Melkor was shitty to everyone, but they were also shitty back to him, and it’s my Lucifer complex all over again because literally all Melkor does is ask if, like, maybe they should pay attention to the humans a little more? And Ilúvatar is like BYE BITCH YOU ARE NOW THE BLACK FOE OF THE WORLD EVERYONE SAY HI TO MORGOTH.
And yes, Morgoth shouldn’t have seduced (the fact that this is Tolkien’s description of it makes my little gay heart even happier) Mairon into joining forces with him. And yes, Mairon is definitely a little more at fault than Melkor is when he turns evil because he had every chance to turn back, but, like, consider this: you don’t really feel appreciated by your coworkers, or by your boss, and here’s this sexy banished god that comes around promising to make you feel appreciated and offering you a promotion. I’d take the evil cookies, too!
So now, Morgoth’s been banished (because he’s strong, he can’t be killed, and I will never be over this), and while Sauron is going to come into power again shortly, he’s also been defeated enough times that he’s not in a great space. All that said, imagine that a tiny piece of Morgoth’s soul, which still thinks of his time as Melkor fondly with his family and the peace that laid over the land, decides it’s gonna peace out and go back to Middle-earth and try to find that peace again so banishment can maybe not be the worst thing to ever happen, and Sauron, who’s fully gone off the deep end, doesn’t notice that a tiny piece of his nearly withered Mairon soul, skips right off to join Melkor, and the pair of them became Tom Bombadil and Goldberry.
Am I crying over the villain of this story while they’re not even in it yet based purely on a batshit theory?
So anyway, Tom Bombadil is still annoying to me, but less so because I’m just pretending he’s Melkor? Although, truthfully, they sound more like Beren & Luthien, if Tom was less elfish and Goldberry dark-haired.
Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless–before the Dark Lord came from Outside.In the House of Tom Bombadil, pg 142
I mean, can you blame me? He’s hella spooky during this scene, and then, only a couple pages later, he asks Frodo for the ring, and Frodo feels so compelled that he just hands it over without thinking, and the tone of the text changes almost immediately. Thank heck it’s Tom/Morgoth handling the ring and not Goldberry/Sauron at that point.
No matter what way you look at it, Aragorn is a total creep in the beginning. In the movie, he’s sitting there in the corner, only the light of his pipe making his eyes glow, completely shrouded in darkness. The innkeeper talks in hushed whispers when describing him, and even just the fact that he doesn’t know his name, like–Aragorn, chill, alright. The book is much of the same, too. One thing I’ve been noticing that I obviously hadn’t before, having read these so long ago, but many of the lines are taken directly from the book for the movie. I’ve seen the entire trilogy enough times that I can pretty much quote them in their entirety, so I’m basically watching Fellowship in my head while I read, and it’s really cool how much Jackson plucked straight out of the book. That said, Aragorn is a different type of creep in the book–he’s still brooding in the corner, mostly shrouded in darkness, but he casually threatens Frodo by calling him Mr. Baggins while they’re still downstairs, and he whispers about how Pippin’s going to ruin everything, and he’s just so dramatic, it’s hilarious. He even has an entire chapter named after him, and he occasionally speaks in third person!
Also, fun fact: for years, Aragorn was my favorite. This is 100% unsurprising to me and anyone that knows me IRL because the Aragorn archetype is one of my favorite characters to write, and I put it in pretty much everything. It wasn’t until the last five years or so that I really began to fall in love with Sam. (Is that a link for my completely rhetorical question, is Samwise Gamgee really the best?, that I posed earlier this year? Heck yes!)
All that is gold does not glitter,Strider, pg 182
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Okay, before I start weeping over the fact that Aragon sings the Lay of Leithian, I have to note just how damn interesting of a writer Tolkien is. Like, he did no pre-writing. There was no outlining or plotting things out before he started. He wrote The Hobbit entirely on a whim, and the reason it took LOTR so long to come out after was because every time he wrote in a new piece of lore into LOTR, he then went and wrote about that piece. He was writing The Silmarillion all along, and so, instead of just the normal bullet points that probably 98% of authors today do, Tolkien just legit wrote out the entire history of his lore WHILE writing the books. It’s insane. He’s insane. I love it.
oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh this is the BEST FANART I’VE EVER FOUND
Someone illustrated the entire lay! I’m officially crying! Okay, okay, okay, I’m actually going to explain this instead of just shout about it because there are definitely people out there who give The Silmarillion the stink eye, so this is one of those parts that just seems like an awesome addition of lore, but is actually heartbreaking. And I know that Aragorn gives a quick breakdown of the story in the book, but it’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH because I like to tell the story of Beren & Lúthien in my yoga classes sometimes, so I’m going to do this the proper way. Also, the artist of the above illustration linked this absolutely incredible rendition of the lay, YOU’RE WELCOME.
There was once a young elf woman dancing in the woods, carefree and wild. She had never experienced such joy as she did when dancing where no one might see her. And yet, one day, a man stumbled upon her. He stayed at the edge of the wood, entranced by her beauty and grace, yes, but, more importantly, the radiant joy that curved through her smiling facing. He watched her for many days before he finally got up the courage to step out of the woods and ask if she might teach him how to dance.
Lúthien, endeared by this sweet, humble man, agreed, and so began Beren’s dancing lessons. For many days, they danced in the woods together, and, before long, they fell in love. So great was their love that Lúthien, though immortal, asked Beren to meet her father, Thingol, so that he might give them his blessing. Lúthien wished to give up her immortal life so that she could marry Beren and live with him forevermore.
But Thingol was not a giving man, and when he heard their tale, he could think of nothing in the world he would loathe more than losing his daughter to a simple man. And so, he set Beren a task. “A beautiful jewel has been stolen from me,” Thingol said, “And I would like it back. Bring me one silmaril, and you may have Lúthien’s hand in marriage.” It was an impossible task, and all knew it. For the silmarils were safely kept in Morgoth’s grasp, and to even go near his kingdom was to walk with evil. Lúthien, furious with her father, begged and pleaded for him to reconsider, but Beren would not hear of it. He agreed to the task and set out at once.
In an effort to keep his daughter safe, and knowing how reckless she could be, Thingol had Lúthien caged in a wooden box tucked high in the trees. He brought her no news of Beren except to prematurely comfort her, as though she should already be in mourning. After a time, when it was obvious that Beren had not succeeded, Lúthien wielded a song of magic so that her hair grew and grew and grew until, finally, the wooden box keeping her prisoner burst at the seams. She floated down to the earth amid the startled guards, disarmed them easily, and made off into the woods at a speed that could not be followed.
None were able to keep up with Lúthien, for love sped her onward. At last, she reached Angband, the terrible land of all evil. Along the way, she had gathered woodland companions, though none more brave than Huan the wolf. While the others lingered at the edge of Angband, ready to carry Lúthien and Beren home, Huan walked into the heart of all evil with her. He was instrumental in helping her enter Morgoth’s foreboding castle, but it was Lúthien that claimed victory that day. When Morgoth demanded to know who she was and how she had come to slip past his guards, Lúthien said, “I am here to sing you a song, oh great king. A beautiful one of magic and mystery.” Morgoth, intrigued, agreed to hear her song.
And so, Lúthien wielded another song, this one threaded with the weight of sleep, with the magic of slumber, with a heaviness that bore down upon Morgoth’s shoulders until, for the first time in many, many long years, the evil king closed his eyes. Quickly, Lúthien raced across the hall to where she’d spied Beren tied up next to the throne, singing all the while. She freed Beren from his chains, and Beren sprang up to Morgoth’s enormous crown, deftly prying one of the silmarils free. Morgoth began to stir, and so, the two quickly ran toward escape. They had no sooner fled the palace, though, when one of Morgoth’s wolves attacked. He tore Beren’s hand from his body, but the silmaril burned his insides, and the wolf ran off, mad with pain.
Eventually, Lúthien and Beren returned to her homeland. A great battle ensued, in which Beren slayed Morgoth’s wolf, retrieved the silmaril, and presented it to Thingol before he died, fatally wounded as he was from battle. Lúthien passed away in grief, but when she arrived to the great halls of the gods, she wielded a third, and final, song, threading it with such love and loss that even the immovable gods felt her pain. They granted her a single wish. “For the sacrifice of your immortal life,” they said, “We will restore Beren’s body to you.” Lúthien agreed at once, and when next she opened her eyes, she was in the woods surrounding her home, Beren at her side.
They considered returning to Thingol’s hall, but the woods were where they’d met, where they’d fallen in love, where they’d most been at peace, and so, Lúthien and Beren remained in the woods, loved and beloved, forevermore.
DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED
Basically, this all is heartbreaking because Beren & Lúthien’s story acts as a foil to Aragorn & Arwen’s. Obviously, there are no silmarils left for Aragorn to thieve from an evil king, but Elrond does tell him, under no uncertain terms, will he let his daughter marry some wild Ranger. Much like Thingol, though with a substantial less asshole-ishness, Elrond tells Aragorn that he needs to prove himself before he’s allowed to marry Arwen. And Arwen, who’s got the same “no man will tell me what to do” attitude that Lúthien does, says fuck it to the patriarchy, and gives Aragorn her heart, thus giving up her immortality.
So the fact that Aragorn sings the Lay of Leithian while he’s helping the hobbits get to Rivendell on the long journey of proving himself worthy of Arwen’s love is just–here’s my stabbed heart on a golden platter.
Anyway, these two are one of my favorite couples of all time, and I definitely listened to that entire lay while reading it via those illustrations, so I’m just a mess over here.
In those days the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant, dwelt in Angband in the North…A Knife in the Dark, pg 206
I swear to Satan, Mary, this review is already too long, WE ARE NOT HERE FOR MORGOTH.
what in the WORLD
Tolkien, sweetheart, durstn’t?????????
Ah, so durst is the archaic past tense form of dare, so Sam durst/dare not, WOW.
WAIT I’M AT THE FLIGHT TO THE FORD CHAPTER, WHICH MEANS MY BOYYYYYYY
BALROG SLAYING BOYYYYYYS
Wow, holy shit, LOTR is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s HELLA more enjoyable having read The Silmarillion. Like, Glorfindel just kind of appears out of nowhere, and you don’t really get an explanation of who he is, which is SO SAD because he’s such a badass. Anyway, it’s late as I’m finishing the first book in FOTR, so I’m not going to go into detail, but the tl;dr of it is that Glorfindel & Ecthelion fought in the last battle of Gondolin
and were in love, and they were absolute menaces when it came to the balrogs. Gondolin ended up falling, but not without a heck ton of damage done to Morgoth’s side. Glorfindel & Ecthelion actually both died killing individual balrogs (don’t even get me started on Ecthelion slaying Gothmog, lord of all damn balrogs, so that Glorfindel could get their people to safety), and though Glorfindel would fall fighting a balrog, he was able to help the people of Gondolin far enough into escape that his death gave them the last distraction they needed to flee. All that said, Glorfindel was such a badass that the gods were like “alright you’re not done yet.” Even though we just talked about this happen above to Lúthien, the Valar really couldn’t give two shits about what was happening on Middle-earth, so when they intervened and sent someone back to continue living, it was a big deal. And so, even though all Glorfindel does right now is give Frodo his horse and call upon the magic in the Ford of Bruinen, he’s got probably the coolest history of everyone present in that scene.
Also, look at this sad Third Age Glorfindel, bereft because Ecthelion wasn’t brought back to life with him.
jfc can we just, for a moment, appreciate that I’m only halfway through the book OI
Oh, heck yes, my new favorite past time is definitely turning into listening to song adaptations while reading them.
This song is done in three parts, so make sure you click to the next one! It’s seriously so fun to listen to these while reading instead of just reading through them quickly. It feels very immersive.
Not gonna lie, Eärendil is one of my more favorite characters. He just has such a cool story, I mean, who else literally takes to the skies in their ship so that they might follow their one true love as she sails along the night sky as a bright star that’s masking the fact that she’s actually hiding a silmaril? I mean, damn. Not to mention that Eärendil is one of few mortals to not only go to the Valar, but also to appeal to them to ask for help with the war and have them actually listen to him. And, uh, not to knock Smaug down a peg yet again for being the tiniest dragon ever (again, truly terrifying that that’s the case), but Eärendil also went up against Ancalagon and won.
Wow, seriously, like. Guys, for the best possible LOTR experience, read The Silmarillion first, it’s so worth it.
I find it so interesting that Glóin goes to Rivendell to seek advice from Elrond. It’s incredible, that after literal centuries (maybe more/less, I’m bad at counting time in Middle-earth, but enough time that most have forgotten why they’re mad) of bad blood between elves and dwarves, they come seeking the advice of an elf for the shadow of Sauron that is creeping into their lands. Hobbits truly are some of the most powerful beings on Middle-earth, and everyone underestimates them, including themselves. Sure, there’s a lot else that contributes to the elves & dwarves forming a tenuous alliance during the Battle of the Five Armies, but, really, it’s Bilbo that brings them back together, that convinces them working together makes more sense than continuing to hate each other. And now, only a handful of decades later, Bilbo has affected them so much that Glóin willingly comes to Elrond seeking help. It’s powerful how someone so small, who people like Thranduil and Thorin might have considered insignificant, can change the entire course of history.
‘Smoke rises once more from Orodruin that we call Mount Doom.’The Council of Elrond, pg 258
You know, I always thought that calling it Mount Doom was so stupid, but this actually makes a lot of sense. Tolkien was so invested in things being accurate. Hold on, I’m going to dig through my previous reviews for an example.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled screaming with a lengthy passage about the history of Lothlórien’s name:
In a note to the text it is explained that Lórinand was the Nadorin name of this region (afterwards called Lórien and Lothlórien), and contained the Elvish word meaning “golden light”: “valley of gold.” The Quenya form would be Laurenandë, the Sindarin Glornan or Nan Laur. Both here and elsewhere the meaning of the name is explained by reference to the golden mallorn-trees of Lothlórien; but they were brought here by Galadriel, and in another, later, discussion the name Lórinand is said to have been itself a transformation, after the introduction of the mallorns, of a yet older name Lindórinand, “Vale of the Land of the Singers.” Since the Elves of thi sland were in origin Teleri, there is here no doubt present the name by which the Teleri call themselves, Lindar, “The Singers.” From many variance among themselves, it emerges that all the later names were probably due to Galadriel herself, combining different elements: laurë “gold,” nan(d) “valley,” ndor “land,” lin- “sing”; and in Laurelindórinan “Valley of Singing Gold” (which Treebeard told the Hobbits was the earlier name) deliberately echoing the name of the Golden Tree that grew in Valinor, “for which, as is plain, Galadriel’s longing increased year by year to, at last, an overwhelming regret.”
This is one of Christopher’s notes, not actually Tolkien’s writing, but this honestly almost murdered me. This man was the biggest Nerd of all time. He literally broke down the different versions of Lothlórien’s name, and why it would have had all these variances, which is what we do in standard languages, and how country names change over the centuries, but he decided he was going to do it for some fictional place he made up with his fictional language, which, let’s not forget, he created before he began the lore.
Okay, so, actually, the reason that it’s called Mount Doom is because humans are assholes. Think about all of the amazingly named cities and countries out there, and we fucking called our planet dirt. Guys. Tolkien didn’t name it Mount Doom. He named it Orodruin, which is a badass damn name, but the men of the world were like “that’s harddddddd why can’t we just call it the mountain of doom OH I KNOW.” But Tolkien gets this, right, he gets that names change over time and with different cultures (again, see the transformation from Lórinand to Lothlórien), so while we know it, formally, as Mount Doom, we only know that because hobbits are similar to men in ways that mean they would also drop the Elvish name for it. But, in reality, Tolkien was not creating a complex lore and then just saying fuck it with Mount Doom. He was properly following the etymology of what would have happened to a place with a foreign name that white men would feel uncomfortable about because they’re assholes.
Heyoooo, if you’re surprised a Tolkien review got political, you don’t know Tolkien very well.
Okay, I am currently trying to compare this Legolas:
Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then he turned to the others. ‘The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow–an Elf.’
With that he sprang forth nimbly, and then Frodo noticed as if for the first time, though he had long known it, that the Elf had no boots, but wore only light shoes, as he always did, and his feet made little imprint in the snow.
‘Farewell!’ he said to Gandalf. ‘I go to find the Sun!’The Ring Goes South, pg 305-6
with this Legolas:
Today is probably the day that I finish reading FOTR. It’s 8/17, and I started reading (and writing this review) on 8/11. When I started it almost a week ago, I had this really weird feeling, and now, I’m starting to wonder if I put off reading this for so long because of that feeling. I am rereading these books. I read them when I was younger, somewhere around middle school, but I’ve only read them that time. It was in order to prepare for the movies, and when I tell you I’ve probably watched the movies, at minimum, once a year, I’m not kidding. And, uh, I usually watch them all in one go, so that’s why it’s only ever once a year because I’m an extended edition twelve-hour kind of person. It’s going to be very bizarre for me to only watch the first one this week.
The short of it is, I love the movies. More than I could possibly ever describe. They’re my absolute favorite of all movies ever, and though I could quote them, I don’t because I’m still so in awe every single time I watch them. Sometimes, just listening to the end of Gilraen’s Memorial, when they’re crossing the mountains for the first time, gets me just as much as seeing it the first time.
YOU HAVE TO WATCH FROM THE BEGINNING, DON’T YOU DARE SKIP AHEAD TO 0:25
That’s actually the first time I’ve watched a clip while reading, I’ve been trying to save it, but man, that was fun.
Anyway, the point of all of this is that I was really weirdly afraid that I wasn’t going to like the books as much as I love the movies. I’ve always said it’s my favorite story ever, but do I just love it because of the movies, or do the books mean that much to me, too? I mean, I’ve got the map of Rohan & the white tree of Gondor tattooed on me; if I don’t like the books, I might be about to have a midlife crisis.
Well, I think they might actually be my favorite books of all time. I’ve just never experienced the kind of pure joy and excitement that I have while rereading Fellowship of the Ring, and I know that I’m going to have a similar experience for Two Towers and Return of the King. That joy & excitement is only made more apparent because of the previous knowledge provided by The Silmarillion, which makes me freak out over even the littlest things, like Glorfindel’s past, in addition to the bigger things (ie: Sam just existing). They’re just so good. They changed my life all those years ago, and they’re changing my life all over again right now.
Fun story, actually. The writing on Durin’s Door is in the Elvish dialect spoken during Fëanor’s time, which is the very beginning of the modern ages of Middle-earth. Thranduil’s father was born (or woken up, whatever it is elves do) in the Second Age, so, at best, if Oropher & Thranduil were extraordinarily more fast-paced than the rest of their kind, Legolas is nearly a two full ages removed from when that dialect was spoken. And, since the First Age ended with a massive war that killed off every single descendant of Fëanor, I’m gonna go ahead and assume that the dialect didn’t really survive. Thus, the fact that Legolas doesn’t speak up in this scene actually makes sense. I mean, it’s still hilarious because your everyday person would just see some elf being a punkass and not doing the express thing he’s there for, but I digress.
Can you imagine, though, if it’d been Glorfindel that went with them and not Legolas? A) Gandalf never would have fallen in Moria because B) Glorfindel woulda been like ALRIGHT IT’S BALROG SLAYING TIME LET’S GOOOOOO!
My music just lined up perfectly for when they entered the big hall in Moria, and it was delightful. While they’re there, they rest awhile in the book, and Gimli recites the Song of Durin. I’m linking the group that I’ve been featuring above for the other songs, but I’m going to feature the man himself here:
WHAT A CUTIE
oh my gosh did I just order the vinyls of him reading from LOTR & Hobbit YES I AM SO EXCITED
Correct me if I’m wrong (and I mean that), but has anyone ever survived a Balrog? Sure, Gandalf & Glorfindel get sent back, but that’s not exactly surviving if you die and have to be resurrected by the gods that first created you.
Wow, Morgoth is just the worst, it’s wonderful. He literally took every good thing and was like “it’s all mine, but make it Goth.”
I won’t lie, I love that the books are movies and not a TV show. I don’t think it would’ve been as good as it is had it been done as a show. However, I do wish we’d spent more time in Lothlórien. We spend so much time in the realm of men in the next two books, between Rohan and Minas Tirith, but we don’t even see Cerin Amroth, which is so important to Aragorn, and which would have just been beautiful to see visually adapted. With the towering tree meant to look like two crowns, the history between Aragorn & Arwen, and the golden leaves all around. Not only would we have gotten to see more of Haldir (always a plus), but we all would have collectively fallen in love with New Zealand even more. I love every single second we get in the realms of men, but I wish we’d gotten the same kind of screen time for the elves. And I get it–more of the story takes place in Rohan & Minas Tirith, but we get to see almost every scene in Rivendell and Mirkwood, so why not Lothlórien?
And now that we’re leaving Lothlórien behind, here’s a last Elven song:
I have never been a huge fan of Boromir, and while I completely understand why some people love him, he’s just so combative at all times. Anytime someone says something to him, he comes back at them with knives for words. For example, Celeborn tries to remind them to be careful of Fangorn if they intend to go on toward Minas Tirith, and Boromir immediately tries to right hook with “those are old wives tales.” Of course, Celeborn does an internal eyeroll and says,
‘But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.’Farewell to Lórien, pg 390
But it’s just constant with Boromir. He mutters about how the Ring should go to Gondor, he constantly tells them he’s going to strike his own path if the others don’t agree with him, and he’s just sour about every decision they make until he can find a way to have an I told you so moment, and it’s annoyingggggg.
‘To the tall isle I will go, but no further. There I shall turn to my home, alone if my help has not earned the reward of any companionship.’The Great River, pg 406
Frodo peering forward saw in the distance two great rocks approaching: like great pinnacles or pillars of stone they seemed. Tall and sheer and ominous they stood upon either side of the stream. A narrow gap appeared between them, and the River swept the boats towards it.
‘Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!’ cried Aragorn. ‘We shall pas them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold the middle of the stream!’
As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening. Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and still they preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn. Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning: in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom.The Great River, pg 408-409
I truly can’t wait to someday get this tattooed on me. For all my recent complaining I’ve done about Boromir, the race of men is my favorite in Middle-earth, and given that I’ve got a tattoo for both Rohan & Gondor, I need something for Arnor, too, and it was always going to be the Argonath.
Holy hell, people are amazing. I Googled how tall the Argonath were (in the movie, people have estimated around 1000′ based on Legolas paddling by & the way the water moved, which is just fascinating), and I found this insanely cool article: The Seven Structural Wonders of Middle-earth. Which reminds me, someday I need to write a post about how Middle-earth was actually real.
And that’s a wrap! I forgot that Boromir doesn’t die at the end of this book, though I think it was a good film choice. This review is already insanely long, so I’m going to try to keep my movie shouting to a minimum (which I’ll be unable to do, undoubtedly). I’ll probably watch it tonight, annnnd to celebrate, I made lembas! I like this recipe from Tea with Tolkien, which I’ve used before. I adapt the lemon & orange extract to just be zest & juice, and they turn out lovely.
To say that I didn’t take notes during the movie is a small lie, but only a small one. I did post this entire Twitter thread of reactions, so if you’re really curious how my Fellowship movie experience went, there you go. Turns out it’s pretty much a perfect adaptation, and there’s nothing I would change about it. This post is truly longer than I expected (I’m not sure why, Tolkien & I are a bad combination), so I’m not going to ramble on anymore. I hope you enjoyed, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed I end up reading Two Towers next month!
How much do you love Fellowship of the Ring?
Previously: Beowulf | Next: The Two Towers