In response to the Daily Post writing prompt Second Time Around.
Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?
I’m fairly certain I’ve answered that question one way or another before on this blog. And IRL.
I read The Lord of the Rings 37 times between October 1995 and December 19 2001 when the first movie came out. I won’t tell you how many more times I’ve read it since then. You’d think me crazy (my husband does LOL).
I recall my first reading so very clearly. A high school friend lent me the books thinking that since I loved reading and that I had such a fertile imagination, I would enjoy this one. This was the time I decided that I would never read prologues before the story anymore. The prologue “Concerning Hobbits” almost made me drop the book. Then I figured I’d read the actual story and get back to the prologue after. I only read that prologue in 2000 when I procured the books in English for the first time; that’s the year I hoped my English was good enough to actually read that story in its original language without losing too much.
In all honesty, it took me almost 5 months to read The Fellowship of the Ring. In fact, it took me 4 months and a half to read Book 1. Less than two weeks to read Book 2. I read The Two Towers in 3 weeks and The Return of the King in 2. I remember finishing the RoTK past 5am during Easter break at my grandparents’ place, and watching the sunrise from my window before I went to bed, crying myself to sleep because I’d reached the end and I didn’t want the story to be over. I gave my friend his book back once at school, purchased the entire trilogy and proceeded to restart with FoTR. I reread the entire trilogy in one month. And convinced my mom to read it in the process. She loved it too.
I fell in love with that book for so many reasons, I’m not entirely sure I could list them all. In hindsight, and with a lot of rationalization, I’ve understood why it spoke to me on such a deep level.
However originally my passion for the book boils down to three characters
- Boromir: my favourite male character, hands down, although at the time I could only have told you that it was because he was the only one I could truly understand. He was proud. He wasn’t perfect. In his pride, he was arrogant and distant. In his fear of failing, he became even prouder and remote. I loved him and hated him because of all the characters he’s the one that made me think of me the most. But he found redemption; and that is something that spoke (still does) to me on a profound level.
Every other ‘human’ character was faultless or totally not relatable to the teenager I was: Aragorn, Faramir, Legolas… or Denethor, Theoden. The former were the type of men every girl could dream about and I won’t lie, I was excited that Faramir and Eowyn got to be together. The latter because they were too old I guess. Father figures who’d failed in one way or another. I’d never experienced that so I found it was hard to understand them.
- Eowyn: her struggle with the life that was imposed upon her spoke to me. She felt like she was born in the wrong body; wanting to accomplish deeds only a man was supposed to. Instead she was stuck tending to an old man, doing chores – something I hated and still do 😛 . Ultimately she was struggling with who she was as a person and as a woman. I could completely relate to that. What teenage girl doesn’t though 😉 ?
- Faramir: I would lie if I said I didn’t like that character. His need to be loved by his father to the point of doing something that could cost him his life was heart breaking. His refusal of the ring was admirable. The need to be loved I understood – even though I never had to fight to earn my parents’ love. Again something any teenager can relate to I guess. This need to fit in with other people’s expectations. There are different ways to achieve that.
Out of all the choices made by Jackson in the movies, the ones about Faramir still irk me. There are many things I’ve accepted about the movies – the Elves at Helm’s Deep, the Ents’ totally not Entish choice to go to war, the absence of the scourge of the Shire – but the betrayal of Faramir’s character… I just can’t.
Why I come back to it time and time again? After all, it’s not perfect. Far from it.
I mean the fact that even as a teenager I could identify that most characters were one-sided – in their goodness or badness – is an obvious hint.
In many ways Eowyn and Boromir are the only characters who have an arc; and arguably Eowyn’s isn’t the most interesting seeing as she ends up a wife with kids instead of the warrior she wanted to be. That’s one of the reasons I could reconcile with the choices made for Aragorn in the movie.
“Where are Frodo and Sam?”, you might ask. Well… I will admit to skipping most of Book 4 on a few readings. It wasn’t until later that I came to truly appreciate the journey Frodo and Sam take.
I go back to it because I find the world totally immersive. I get lost in this world for the time I read. I can imagine (and have I done that over the years!) fighting on the walls of Minas Tirith or in Ithilien. I can walk the paths to Caras Galadhon or the corridors of Imladris. I may be human living on earth but I can get swallowed in Middle Earth and come back changed all over again.
If there’s one thing that Peter Jackson got right, it’s Middle Earth. He may have messed up a few things – I’ll always hear circus music when I think of Legolas surfing on the Oliphaunt’s trunk – but he certainly found the truth of Middle Earth in all 6 movies. Visually stunning and as encompassing as the book. It still leaves us freedom to imagine that world whenever we go back to the books.