Book Matters – Fiction – The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
Content warning: This post deals with the death of a person by suicide.
Not My Favourite
‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien is not my favourite book ever. Then why would you dedicate a blog post to this particular book? Well, I figured there are more reasons to write about a book than just it being your favourite. In this case, there are several important reasons why I chose this book. I respect how much work has gone into it, it was my father’s favourite book and the video game I play every day is based in Middle Earth. So yes, I do care a lot about Lord of the Rings and its inhabitants.
In de Ban van de Ring
When I was eighteen years old, I read Lord of the Rings for the first time. Or actually, I read ‘In de Ban van de Ring,’ the Dutch translation of the story. I didn’t like it much. It was enjoyable, but especially the part in the tunnels leading to Shelob was longwinded and boring. I think it took me months to read the whole thing.
After reading the Dutch version, I heard somewhere that Tolkien was a linguist and that he had put extra care in the language of the tale, so I set out to read the original English version. It was like a breath of fresh air. The sentences flowed so much better, and I was finally able to appreciate why everyone loved it so. I liked the book, but still, I can’t say I was in awe with it. I guess you can say I thought it was a nice book.
The reason why I set out to read the Lord of the Rings was that I knew it was my father’s favourite book. I knew he reread the story once a year. He was still alive at this time, and since we shared a taste in things like the fantasy genre, I figured I wanted to give it a try.
I went to the cinema with my father, both when ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ came out, and one night for a marathon session with all three movies. That night has been so special to my father, he even mentioned it in the letter he left for us after his suicide.
During his funeral, he also requested two songs from the LOTR movies to be played. The first was ‘Concerning Hobbits’ from the first movie, the second being ‘Into the West’ by Annie Lennox.
When going through his belongings, I found many items related to this series. Not only books but also a chess game and small figurines. To me, Lord of the Rings is very much tied to my father.
Online Middle Earth
Even today, Middle Earth is in my life every day. I play Lord of the Rings Online, an MMORPG based on the world written by Tolkien. I love the world, the hobbits, elves and dwarves that inhabit said world, and the storylines I get the play out. But what I particularly love about this game is the kind community that plays it. Overall, the people are friendly and helpful. I have tried other games, like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy IVX, but so often you get called out for doing things wrong or for asking the stupid questions. Lotro’s world chat is benign. If you say: ‘sorry, I’m a newbie, can I ask how to advance this quest’, nine out of ten times you get an honest, helpful reply. No, not always, and not by everyone. And yes, our kinhouse too has been raided by players who had the wrong intentions, but overall I find the community welcoming and friendly. I keep coming back to this game, even though it’s pretty old and the graphics aren’t the greatest. I love the long-lasting influence Tolkien has on our world, even in the realm of video games.
As a writer, I have immense respect for Tolkien and his dedication to writing this magnum opus. I mean, I struggle to write a story of twenty thousand words and keep the characters and storyline consistent. I can’t imagine what it must be like to write those thousands upon thousands of pages Tolkien wrote.
I know he invented the Elvish language and his friends told him: you should do something with that. I mean, as a kid, I’ve tried to construct new languages, but I wouldn’t come much further than ten/twelve words before giving up. Let alone build an entire universe with history around said language. I sometimes wish I had that dedication and perseverance to finishing projects. But no, blog posts and short stories suit me better.
Part of My Life and Me
So yes, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien has played, and will always play, an essential role in my life. I probably will reread the book one day. I’m actually on the lookout for an audiobook version so I can listen to it while playing Lord of the Rings Online. The book has been influential to many people to such an extent the average writer can only dream of. I hope the legacy of this book will live on and will inspire generations to come.
Let me end with this somewhat sad but still uplifting quote:
“PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.
GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings