The Lord of the Rings: A Classic

 

I was very young when I was first introduced to The Hobbit. I could not have been older than seven when I was swept completely into the journey with Bilbo and the dwarves on their way to reclaim treasure from the dragon. When the story was over, I wanted the magic to continue, so I sought out my father’s copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which was much more difficult to understand. (Tolkien loved him some semicolons, and I was a second grader.)

The truth was, I wasn’t quite ready for Frodo’s epic adventure then, so I had to put it aside for a while, disappointed by my first introduction to Tolkien’s next generation. I thought Bilbo’s nephew, Sam, Pippin, and Merry were a bit boring. It took them too long to do anything. I did not get beyond them stealing mushrooms, as if that was even noteworthy. Already cynical, I snapped the cover shut and quietly returned that tale to the bookcase to collect dust again in my parents’ home.

Fortunately, very soon after this, I had a birthday. I unwrapped a boxed collection of books about a place called Narnia. (I still have that same, now battered box in my office today, the spines of the well-loved novels contained within, cracked and fading from a girl’s constant rereading.)

Upon adult reflection, that proved to be the exact right time for me to meet Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund. I could understand Aslan before I understood Aslan. I think now that C.S. Lewis kept me enthralled with fantasy and, in this way, he would serve as a kind of bridge that would take me back to his fellow Inkling.

Time rolled by, as it inevitably does, and there was a summer evening on which I went with my mother to the library with no particular agenda apart from having something to do. Wanting to escape from the mundane of an endless August, I somehow found Smith of Wooten Major, which I read sitting cross-legged on the commercial orange carpet in the middle of the fiction aisle as grownups walked around me as if I were an island. (If you’ve not heard of it, this is a wonderful Tolkien tale about magical cakes and the Land of Faery that lingered with me long after I forgot the title.)

By then I was a mature 10 or 11, and my hunger for Middle Earth began to rumble again.

Something must have changed about how I read stories because the next thing I knew, I had blown the dust off The Fellowship’s cover and consumed The Lord of the Rings in full. The complex sentences that had once meandered aimlessly like the feet of homeless rangers now rang with the music of elves, the rhythm of poetry.

Looking back at my own intellectual development, I suppose that was the exact right time for me to meet Strider in Bree. I could understand the clash between evil and good that is illustrated by Mordor and the West long before I understood the nature of evil and good. I felt I had entered a realm that helped me see my own world in a different way while entertaining me as much as The Hobbit had once done. That is something only a masterpiece can accomplish.

Of course, I understand Tolkien is not everyone’s cup of tea. His style is that of a man who reveled in classic works. He takes his time on paper, though I find this builds suspense if one is patient enough to let the action unfold. To be enveloped by his story … to start to like his semicolons.

For some reason, I felt inspired to pick up Tolkien’s magnum opus a couple nights ago and have started reading again from the beginning, and I feel thus far as if I’m spending time with a very old, very good friend.

Additionally, I know I will get something new from the story this time around because I have changed, as we tend to do, since the last time I read it. I am already annoying my husband by keeping the reading lamp on late.

I know I am not alone in my own taste in literature as Tolkien’s works are loved by many. Still, I wonder what other books have meant as much to others as The Lord of the Rings does to me. What works do you reread with joy? Why?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Lois Lane: What works do you reread with joy? Why?

    Anything by H. Beam Piper. Why? Because the man could write. He died in 1964, and much of his vision of the future is outdated, but the stories aren’t really about the technologies; they are about human nature.

    • #1
  2. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Lois Lane: What works do you reread with joy? Why?

    Anything by H. Beam Piper. Why? Because the man could write. He died in 1964, and much of his vision of the future is outdated, but the stories aren’t really about the technologies; they are about human nature.

    Any lasting story has to tackle the eternal truths in some way.  I think I was partially molded into a conservative by the literature I read because it made it clear to me at an early age that people have a consistent nature…  In this way, Tolkien was a bridge for me to Shakespeare whom I did not like until my twenties!  

    • #2
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    All the Harry Potter books.  Yep, this nearly 70 year old lady is a Harry Potter fan, big time.  I have all the books, and am accumulating the illustrated editions as they come out, in the British editions which I find more authentic.  I am a member of Pottermore, JK Rowling’s fan site, and have been “sorted” into houses at both Hogwarts and Ilvermorny (the US school).  Harry Potter is just good fun, and a tale of the fight between good and evil.  I can even overlook the author’s liberal leanings.

    • #3
  4. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    All the Harry Potter books. Yep, this nearly 70 year old lady is a Harry Potter fan, big time. I have all the books, and am accumulating the illustrated editions as they come out, in the British editions which I find more authentic. I am a member of Pottermore, JK Rowling’s fan site, and have been “sorted” into houses at both Hogwarts and Ilvermorny (the US school). Harry Potter is just good fun, and a tale of the fight between good and evil. I can even overlook the author’s liberal leanings.

    I believe J. K. Rowling planned her story out so that she would have the same number of books as the Chronicles of Narnia, right?  (She was a big fan of C. S. Lewis, which in part explains how she presents her name.)  –Correct me if I’m wrong @rushbabe49!

    While I’m on that…. Quick grammar question.  Would it be the Chronicles of Narnia or The Chronicles of Narnia.  I don’t know why, but it seems there is some weird rule about how to treat the article in a title?  Or am I confusing this with something else?  (You would write the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times rather than italicizing the article, right???)

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    and have been “sorted” into houses at both Hogwarts and Ilvermorny (the US school).

    Which houses?

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    The Chronicles of Narnia

    This.

    • #6
  7. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Minor correction — it’s King Edmund of Narnia, not Edwin.

    • #7
  8. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):

    Minor correction — it’s King Edmund of Narnia, not Edwin.

    You know what?  My father’s name is Edwin.  Ever since I was a girl, I’ve changed that in my mind when not reading the books (once he was GOOD, of course)!  I’ll change above.  

    • #8
  9. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’m a big LotR fan.

    I also liked the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson.  It’s excellent and creative fantasy, though the writing is a bit pretentious at times.  

    • #9
  10. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    There are three books I’ve read more than twice.  They are:

    The Bible

    The Lord of the Rings (counting all three novels as one book)

    The Martian

    Middle Earth to me is a world to which I can escape almost instantly.  I’ve read through them beginning to end so many times I’ve lost count.  And of late I simply open one of the novels to a random page and start reading.  I am transported to Middle Earth without effort.  Even the parts I used to hate (Tom Bombadil, anyone?) I have grown to love.  A lot of people criticize Tolkein’s writing.  To me, it is like rich, fresh tilled earth.  It’s full of life, and you can almost smell it.  It’s like a really, really good cup of coffee.  

     

    • #10
  11. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Spin (View Comment):

    There are three books I’ve read more than twice. They are:

    The Bible

    The Lord of the Rings (counting all three novels as one book)

    The Martian

    Middle Earth to me is a world to which I can escape almost instantly. I’ve read through them beginning to end so many times I’ve lost count. And of late I simply open one of the novels to a random page and start reading. I am transported to Middle Earth without effort. Even the parts I used to hate (Tom Bombadil, anyone?) I have grown to love. A lot of people criticize Tolkein’s writing. To me, it is like rich, fresh tilled earth. It’s full of life, and you can almost smell it. It’s like a really, really good cup of coffee.

     

    Absolutely wonderful, @spin.  Coffee or fine wine!

    @arizonapatriot, I don’t know the Donaldson books.  I’d assume they have nothing to do with the journalist with the big eyebrows!!! :)

    • #11
  12. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    @arizonapatriot, I don’t know the Donaldson books. I’d assume they have nothing to do with the journalist with the big eyebrows!!! :)

    I had forgotten about the Thomas Covenant Chronicles.  They were a staple for us D&D nerds back in the day.  Worth a read if you enjoy Fantasy.  

    Something from about that same time frame:  the Bio of a Space Tyrant series.  

    • #12
  13. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    You mean besides Lord of the Rings? Vrouwe and I read that aloud about once a year. 

    All of Shakespeare’s plays in the Henry IV-V cycle, most of the sonnets, Hamlet and Macbeth. 

    Various medieval epics (Iwein, Erec, Beowulf) and sagas (Egil’s saga, Njal’s saga, Kormak’s saga, etc.). 

    Schiller’s plays but especially Maria Stuart

    The Aeneid. 

    And lots of non-fiction Christian living books e.g. The Normal Christian Life, The Complete A.W. Tozer, Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name, several books by Bill Johnson…

    Come to think of it, my non-fiction list would be a lot longer than novels or literature. 

    • #13
  14. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    You mean besides Lord of the Rings? Vrouwe and I read that aloud about once a year.

    All of Shakespeare’s plays in the Henry IV-V cycle, most of the sonnets, Hamlet and Macbeth.

    Various medieval epics (Iwein, Erec, Beowulf) and sagas (Egil’s saga, Njal’s saga, Kormak’s saga, etc.).

    Schiller’s plays but especially Maria Stuart.

    The Aeneid.

    And lots of non-fiction Christian living books e.g. The Normal Christian Life, The Complete A.W. Tozer, Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name, several books by Bill Johnson…

    Come to think of it, my non-fiction list would be a lot longer than novels or literature.

    I wonder if The LotR’s religious undertones appeal more to certain  readers?  I know Tolkien despised allegory, but the book drips with a Catholic worldview:  I don’t know.  Obviously many non-Catholics love this book, but do you think this has anything to do with its lasting attraction on a subconscious if not conscious level?

    • #14
  15. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    You mean besides Lord of the Rings? Vrouwe and I read that aloud about once a year.

    All of Shakespeare’s plays in the Henry IV-V cycle, most of the sonnets, Hamlet and Macbeth.

    Various medieval epics (Iwein, Erec, Beowulf) and sagas (Egil’s saga, Njal’s saga, Kormak’s saga, etc.).

    Schiller’s plays but especially Maria Stuart.

    The Aeneid.

    And lots of non-fiction Christian living books e.g. The Normal Christian Life, The Complete A.W. Tozer, Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name, several books by Bill Johnson…

    Come to think of it, my non-fiction list would be a lot longer than novels or literature.

    I wonder if The LotR’s religious undertones appeal more to certain readers? I know Tolkien despised allegory, but the book drips with a Catholic worldview: I don’t know. Obviously many non-Catholics love this book, but do you think this has anything to do with its lasting attraction on a subconscious if not conscious level?

    Yes. And he was clever in that he divided his Christ and Mary figures up into different people. And the Archangel Michael has the cleverest disguise of all. Or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit. 

    • #15
  16. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    You mean besides Lord of the Rings? Vrouwe and I read that aloud about once a year.

    All of Shakespeare’s plays in the Henry IV-V cycle, most of the sonnets, Hamlet and Macbeth.

    Various medieval epics (Iwein, Erec, Beowulf) and sagas (Egil’s saga, Njal’s saga, Kormak’s saga, etc.).

    Schiller’s plays but especially Maria Stuart.

    The Aeneid.

    And lots of non-fiction Christian living books e.g. The Normal Christian Life, The Complete A.W. Tozer, Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name, several books by Bill Johnson…

    Come to think of it, my non-fiction list would be a lot longer than novels or literature.

    I wonder if The LotR’s religious undertones appeal more to certain readers? I know Tolkien despised allegory, but the book drips with a Catholic worldview: I don’t know. Obviously many non-Catholics love this book, but do you think this has anything to do with its lasting attraction on a subconscious if not conscious level?

    Yes. And he was clever in that he divided his Christ and Mary figures up into different people. And the Archangel Michael has the cleverest disguise of all. Or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit.

    So Galadriel/Arwen is Mary.  Gandalf is Christ, though Aragorn is also a good contestant.  Who do you make the Holy Spirit?

    • #16
  17. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Arahant (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    and have been “sorted” into houses at both Hogwarts and Ilvermorny (the US school).

    Which houses?

    Funny, but they are both serpents.  Slytherin at Hogwarts, and Horned Serpent at Ilvermorny.  Horned Serpent is the equivalent of Ravenclaw at Hogwarts.  Oh yeah, my Patronus is a Stoat.  I like him.

    • #17
  18. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    and have been “sorted” into houses at both Hogwarts and Ilvermorny (the US school).

    Which houses?

    Funny, but they are both serpents. Slytherin at Hogwarts, and Horned Serpent at Ilvermorny. Horned Serpent is the equivalent of Ravenclaw at Hogwarts. Oh yeah, my Patronus is a Stoat. I like him.

    I know nothing about Ilvermorny, though I read the whole series.  Where is that detailed out?

    • #18
  19. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I wasn’t much of a reader until High School. Then for some reason the flood gates opened maybe I became more proficient, maybe I just finally found good books. I recall in my sophomore year I picked up the Lord of the Rings. And I read it like a starving man eats a cake. In fact I recall that I got to the end of the Fellowship of the Ring at about 11PM on a Friday. I was done with the Two Towers by Saturday evening. I would have finished it sooner but by 5AM I was too tired to read and I fell asleep. By Tuesday I was done reading the Return of the King (I was disciplined enough not to stay up all night Sunday and School did get in the way for reading on Monday and Tuesday).  I loved and love those books. Then a few months later I learned they were releasing a movie based on the Fellowship of the Ring. But I think my greatest joy in Tolkien was when I discovered the Silmarilion in a book store in Cincinnati. I think I’ve read the Silmarilion more times than I’ve read The Lord of the Rings. And I’ve read the compiled poems (Lay of Luthien and Tale of the Children of Hurin) even more, they can be found in the the Lays of Belleriand book.  I spent the next few years all the way until my Junior year at university reading everything I could about Tolkien. Biographies, literary criticism, his published letters, all of it. I’ve eased up since then, but man reading your piece puts me in the mood to maybe crack open the books once more. It has been a while. 

     

    • #19
  20. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Join Pottermore.com for all the fun.  It’s completely free.  Get sorted, get a Patronus, take quizzes, read new writings.

    • #20
  21. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    And I read it like a starving man eats a cake.

    Yes!

    Is Manwe St. Michael if we are pulling the whole Tolkien world into this?  (See comment #16.)

     

     

    • #21
  22. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    Is Manwe St. Michael if we are pulling the whole Tolkien world into this? (See comment #16.)

    Well, I don’t know but I would say Ulmo is St. Gabriel if he is anyone. 

    Though as was pointed out Tolkien wasn’t working for a 1:1 allegory. His Catholicism permeates his work, but as he said, it couldn’t really be any other way since he was a Catholic. The world view of the author always penetrates their work. What I find most interesting is how his middle earth theology differs from Catholicism. Because there are some interesting deviations. Namely the concept of death as a gift of God to men and the reincarnation of elves. 

    • #22
  23. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    I wonder if The LotR’s religious undertones appeal more to certain readers? I know Tolkien despised allegory, but the book drips with a Catholic worldview: I don’t know. Obviously many non-Catholics love this book, but do you think this has anything to do with its lasting attraction on a subconscious if not conscious level?

    It drips with a Christian worldview, which Catholics and Protestants share.

    • #23
  24. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    You mean besides Lord of the Rings? Vrouwe and I read that aloud about once a year.

    All of Shakespeare’s plays in the Henry IV-V cycle, most of the sonnets, Hamlet and Macbeth.

    Various medieval epics (Iwein, Erec, Beowulf) and sagas (Egil’s saga, Njal’s saga, Kormak’s saga, etc.).

    Schiller’s plays but especially Maria Stuart.

    The Aeneid.

    And lots of non-fiction Christian living books e.g. The Normal Christian Life, The Complete A.W. Tozer, Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name, several books by Bill Johnson…

    Come to think of it, my non-fiction list would be a lot longer than novels or literature.

    I wonder if The LotR’s religious undertones appeal more to certain readers? I know Tolkien despised allegory, but the book drips with a Catholic worldview: I don’t know. Obviously many non-Catholics love this book, but do you think this has anything to do with its lasting attraction on a subconscious if not conscious level?

    Yes. And he was clever in that he divided his Christ and Mary figures up into different people. And the Archangel Michael has the cleverest disguise of all. Or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit.

    So Galadriel/Arwen is Mary. Gandalf is Christ, though Aragorn is also a good contestant. Who do you make the Holy Spirit?

    Tolkien didn’t put anything in to the works to tell the story of Christ the way Lewis did.  But his worldview informs the story.  I don’t think there’s any “clever disguising”.  If anything, the themes are unconsciously planted.  Much the way Harry Potter is unconsciously a Christ figure (Rowling I am sure would context this, but it is there).  

    You can find the allegory through the whole story if you want it to be there.  But Tolkien himself did not put it there, and did not want you to think it was there.  He was telling a different story.  

    • #24
  25. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    Is Manwe St. Michael if we are pulling the whole Tolkien world into this? (See comment #16.)

    Well, I don’t know but I would say Ulmo is St. Gabriel if he is anyone.

    Though as was pointed out Tolkien wasn’t working for a 1:1 allegory. His Catholicism permeates his work, but as he said, it couldn’t really be any other way since he was a Catholic. The world view of the author always penetrates their work. What I find most interesting is how his middle earth theology differs from Catholicism. Because there are some interesting deviations. Namely the concept of death as a gift of God to men and the reincarnation of elves.

    I admit that I am not nearly as versed in his works outside of The Lord of the Rings. I know it’s not a strict one-to-one representation either; however, I recall reading somewhere that he said Catholicism first permeated his work in an unconscious way but then in a deliberate way.  

    How does the reincarnation of the elves work?  I see them as most similar to angels per their immortality…  (Can you kill actual angels?  Forget reincarnation.  Death itself creates a difference?)

    I don’t know.  Going back to Tolkien hating allegory, I know there are not perfect matches/symbols/whatever.  It is interesting to think about though.  

    • #25
  26. Hank Rhody, Acting on Emotion Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Acting on Emotion
    @HankRhody

    I reread the Lord of the Rings recently. I started writing a post on it, but I got hung up on what I was going to say. One thing I still had written down:

    Pop Quiz: Which is a name that didn’t get applied to Aragorn at some point in the novels?:

    1. Strider
    2. Elessar
    3. Elfstone
    4. Estel
    5. Wingfoot
    6. Dunedan
    7. Thorombar
    8. Telcontar

    The answer, by the way, is that it’s a trick question; “Estel” and “Thorombar” were only applied to him in in the appendices to the Return of the King. And I’m not sure about the spelling on that last one; I was going off of memory when I wrote it down.

    • #26
  27. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Spin (View Comment):

    Much the way Harry Potter is unconsciously a Christ figure (Rowling I am sure would context this, but it is there).

    You can find the allegory through the whole story if you want it to be there. But Tolkien himself did not put it there, and did not want you to think it was there. He was telling a different story.

    On the first… I’m not sure she would contest this.  Like I said earlier in the thread–and believe it to be true per some interview I either saw or read in the past–Rowling found a lot of inspiration in C. S. Lewis.

    Though it seems she struggles with her own faith, she says here that “the religious parallels have always been obvious.”

    (Reading that article, by the way, I don’t understand the Pope Benedict’s problems with that series.  I’ve never understood the Christian backlash against Harry Potter.)

    I also do think Tolkien was telling a different story than Lewis had, but if you look at… say… the creation account in The Silmarillion, his work as a whole seems… well… more allegorical than he might have admitted?

    • #27
  28. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Hank Rhody, Acting on Emotion (View Comment):

    I reread the Lord of the Rings recently. I started writing a post on it, but I got hung up on what I was going to say. One thing I still had written down:

    Pop Quiz: Which is a name that didn’t get applied to Aragorn at some point in the novels?:

    1. Strider
    2. Elessar
    3. Elfstone
    4. Estel
    5. Wingfoot
    6. Dunedan
    7. Thorombar
    8. Telcontar

    The answer, by the way, is that it’s a trick question; “Estel” and “Thorombar” were only applied to him in in the appendices to the Return of the King. And I’m not sure about the spelling on that last one; I was going off of memory when I wrote it down.

    I don’t remember Wingfoot at all.  Sounds like the name of a horse!

    • #28
  29. Hank Rhody, Acting on Emotion Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Acting on Emotion
    @HankRhody

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    I don’t remember Wingfoot at all. Sounds like the name of a horse!

    When Eomer first appears Aragorn introduces himself as Strider.  When he tells Eomer that three days ago they had stood on the edge of Rauros and moved by foot forty leagues since then Eomer decides the name Strider doesn’t do him justice and names him Wingfoot.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy secretly Member
    Misthiocracy secretly
    @Misthiocracy

    Lois Lane: What works do you reread with joy?

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

    Lois Lane: Why?

    42.

    • #30
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