Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!
Today I want to talk about: my love for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
When I was ten years old, I picked up this huge fantasy book that I’d never read before. I was (and still am… obviously) an avid devourer of fantasy fiction, and here was one I hadn’t yet read! It was written by the same author who wrote The Hobbit – I’d read that a few years before and loved it. I’d also heard there was a film version of it coming out next year, and it’s always more fun to read the book first. That book was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it changed my life.
It wasn’t long before I’d finished all three books, and I was obsessed. It didn’t really help that the films were coming out soon, which meant there was merchandise EVERYWHERE. I bought countless movie guides, guides to Tolkien, books about Tolkien himself, art books, the video games, posters, trading cards, figures… I even had one of those huge cardboard promotional cutouts. Seriously. My local video shop sold off cutouts and posters so I ended up coming home with a Two Towers one, which took up the majority of my tiny bedroom at the time. Totally worth it. I did tons of fanart (a lot of which I still have), I learnt to write ‘like a hobbit’, I tried (and failed) to learn Sindarin, I ran several different Lord of the Rings websites and fanlistings. I didn’t hide my love for it either, everyone at school knew my obsession. Sometimes I felt that it alienated me from others and that they looked down on me for being so passionate, but eh.
It’s difficult to give a toss about how people perceive you for liking something, when that something is so important to you. Reading, particularly the fantasy genre, has always been a HUGE part of my life. From a young age I was encouraged to read: to my parents, by myself, before bed, whenever I could. The Lord of the Rings only made me delve deeper into the fantasy genre, and I have so much to thank it for.
I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Tolkien’s language is old-fashioned, but that’s what I LOVE about it. I love the archaic words, the feeling that somehow this could have been our past in an alternate universe, the hobbits and their country bumpkin lifestyle – it sounds pretty idyllic. It’s a tale with unlikely heroes: within the Fellowship we’ve got an heir to the throne of Gondor, the Gondorian Steward’s son, an Elven prince, an Istari (or wizard), a Dwarven warrior (who is of the royal line, however distant) – and four hobbits. Two of which prove to be the strongest of them all, and we can’t forget what Merry and Pippin went through either.
Tolkien turned the traditional ‘epic quest’ tale on its head when he made his bumbling country folk – who’d normally rather spend the day fishing or farming, followed by an evening with a mug of ale – the true heroes. Despite the fact that Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mount Doom will most likely kill them and their chances of ever seeing the Shire again are slim, they carry on. That very thought of their beautiful home pushes them through. The message is clear: it’s not who you are that matters, it’s what you do. You don’t need to be the long lost heir to the throne, a rich prince or a grizzled warrior to have an impact. It’s essentially, when stripped to the bare bones, a story of good overcoming evil and how even the littlest person can change the future. To me, it also speaks of overcoming prejudices: it’s well known that elves and dwarves do not get along. But Legolas and Gimli end up forging a strong friendship, although they were distrusting of each other at first. There’s so much more within the books than a tale of nine people going on a long and arduous journey.
But you know what impresses me even more than the positive message Tolkien sends out through The Lord of the Rings? His sheer and utter dedication to thoroughly creating the world of Middle-earth. He invented entire languages, and not just the words and sentences he used in the books, but an entire new vocabulary and syntax. A whole history of Middle-earth was written, cultures and peoples that the reader barely catches a glimpse or even mention of were created. Inspired by myths and legends of other cultures, Tolkien sculpted this beautiful world that feels so real to me. I’m pretty heartbroken that I can’t just move to Middle-earth, to be honest.