The Lord of the Reads

The Lord of the Reads

The Lord of the Reads

Author Josh Fickes

As you have likely guessed already from this article’s title, for this edition of the Force File I recommend that you read The Lord of the Rings series.  While watching three movies would be much quicker and easier, I strongly encourage reading the books, especially since the movies removed so many scenes.  I read The Lord of the Rings myself quite a while ago, starting in seventh grade after reading The Hobbit over the summer.  To summarize the plot of The Lord of the Rings, a hobbit named Frodo is given a task by the wizard Gandalf to go take a magical ring, known as the One Ring, to a volcano called Mt. Doom so that he can throw the ring into the lava, thus defeating the evil Sauron.  Frodo meets numerous friends along the way who aid him in his quest as they encounter elves, dwarves, orcs, and the terrifying ringwraiths. Despite the years that have passed since reading this series, it nonetheless remains a lasting impact in my mind as an epitome of literature.

The author, J. R. R. Tolkien, employs a number of tools to make his story so memorable.  The writing level is advanced which keeps the book intellectually engaging, the settings remain varied from the peaceful Rivendell to the dark mines of Moria to the ominous Dead Marshes, and each character has intriguing complexity.  When Frodo attempts to abandon his friends so that they will no longer be endangered by the ring’s presence, Sam, Frodo’s best friend, realizes his companion’s plan and chases after him, almost drowning as he attempts to catch up to Frodo’s boat.  While most authors would either have Frodo get angry and force Sam to stay behind or simply allow Sam to come without explanation for the sake of having another character present, Tolkien takes a different approach.  He instead delves into Frodo’s emotional complexity and has the hobbit tell Sam that even though he desperately does not want him to come with him, he is very glad that he did come along.  This exploration into how friends can help each other even when their help is unwanted is just one of many thought-provoking moments brought about by Tolkien’s complex characters. 

Tolkien’s impressive work has even helped to define the genre of high fantasy, inspiring many other writers.  For example, Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara follows the journey of two brothers from their peaceful home when a powerful wizard gives them some magic stones and tells them to go on a quest to defeat the Warlock Lord.  Along the way they meet elves, dwarves, and are chased relentlessly by a creature called a Skull Bearer.  Besides influencing specific stories, Tolkien even introduced many ideas to this genre which readers often take for granted today.  Magical rings?  Tolkien first invented them for fantasy stories.  Halflings?  Other fantasy writers liked the idea of Tolkien’s creation but had to change the name because of Tolkien’s legal rights to “Hobbits.”  Tolkien has left his mark on countless stories through the influence of his astounding series.

Some people do find Tolkien’s writing style confusing, or occasionally even dull, with its long descriptions of the environment around the characters, the seemingly endless stream of unusual names, and the lore which is so complicated that Tolkien had to devote an entire other book, The Silmarillion, to shedding a bit more light on the past of Middle Earth.  However, I personally found these aspects of Tolkien’s writing appealing, as they showed the immense thought which Tolkien had poured into creating and understanding the world of his books, which is so immense that fans can easily lose themselves in it.

In addition to a great story and world, along with enjoyable allegorical elements, this series contains valuable life advice.  Gollum’s enslavement to powers of the One Ring and Gandalf’s explanation of how he cannot be the one to bear it because it would too strong of a temptation show readers that having too much power will cause corruption, even if the initial intentions were benevolent.  Sam carrying Frodo on his back to the summit of Mt Doom shows how one’s friends can carry one when the burdens of life are cripplingly heavy.  The ents’ rebellion against Saruman demonstrate the need for both times of consideration and times of action.  Every scene of these books holds a new lesson from which readers can learn, assisting them in the real adventures and trials of life.

Even though The Lord of the Rings series follows the format of the Hero’s Journey, which so many other books follow to tell of people overcoming challenges to make a change, Tolkien takes this simple idea and turns it into a staggeringly famous story with his exceptional character development, immersive world, and lessons for everyday life.  In fact, one could easily argue that the characters and messages of Tolkien’s books hold far more importance than its plot, but that would be an article for another time.  I think I have gone on long enough about this incredible series, and I hope that you will consider picking up one of Tolkien’s books next time you are looking for a good story to read.

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