I was thinking about it after going to bed. Fellowship came out in 2001, and I didn't get a chance to see it until it was in the cheap theaters, so it was probably mid-2002 when I saw it. That would make it over 12 years that I've been obsessed with this story. By the time The Two Towers came out in late 2002, I had already read the whole trilogy at least twice and jumped into the realm of the internet for more information. I was a nerdy kid. I read everything I could find, memorized arcane facts about this world.
12 years later, I remember a lot of that random information. Maybe not everything. But I still geek out when I find Histories of Middle Earth. I have multiple copies of the Trilogy because some are just pretty and some are actually to read. I have other writings of Tolkien, books of poems, some translations that he did of other great works. (Side note: if anyone wants to buy me a truly spectacular gift, Tolkien's estate released his translation of Beowulf just this last year and I've been drooling over it ever since.) 12 years later, I'm still obsessed with this story. I wake up randomly and decide that I need to watch the movies. I listen to the audiobooks on my phone on the way to and from work. Or just pick up the books randomly and decide to read a little bit.
What is is about this story that has held me so enthralled for 12 years? I'm not the only one, and certainly not the biggest mega-fan of these books. Christopher Lee (who played Saruman, for those who don't know) was so excited to be a part of the movies, after reading the trilogy at least once a year for like, 40 years. That's dedication. That's love. I can only hope to equal that level of dedication to anything in my life.
There's just so much to this whole story. Both the books and the movies, in their own special ways. As I was watching Fellowship, especially after just finishing the audiobook, I couldn't help but notice some of the distinct differences. Contrary to a lot of book purists, I think that those differences are a good thing. The movies are, ultimately, based on the books. They are not the books, and they never could be. There is no real way to put all the little details that Tolkien peppered his work with into a movie. I've always been fine with that. Less fine when they add major story-line changes that are completely outside the realm of possibility (in my opinion), but I'll set that aside for now.
I couldn't figure it out last night, just one thing to talk about on here. One aspect of the movies that really struck me this time around. Until I realized that it was exactly that. After 12 years, I still get something out of it every time I watch the movies or read the books. Only the best books can do that. Grow up with you. From 13 years old when I was so enamored of the history of every little landmark and battlefield and sword. To 25, when the reality of watching a father bury their child is no longer a distant thing to me. That scene in Two Towers when Theoden has to bury Theodred, that hit me especially hard after May of 2013. Especially Eowyn's lament, which has always been one of my favorite parts of the movie. This time around, the emotion that she puts into her song was way more real to me.
This is the mark of a good story, that it grows and changes with the one experiencing it. It's one of those things that changes every time you read or watch or listen to it, because you change. And in turn, it changes you. There are things that I didn't understand when I was in high school. I used to find Sam's speech to Frodo in the face of the Nazgul attacking Osgiliath too long and unnecessary. This time around, I connected with it for the first time really.
"But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come! And when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer! Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something."
This story is one of those for me. All the darkness that they face, the impossible odds, the completely unexpected method of destroying a powerful artifact (let's just send the Hobbits, he'll never expect that!), the finding of courage even in the smallest of people. The depth of history of this world, the loyalty of the company to one another, even across the greatest of distances.
And then there are verses like this one, which have stuck with me for years even though it was only mentioned once (and only half of it) in the movies. I'll leave you with this beautiful picture of renewal.
All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not with
Deep roots are not touched by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
A light from the shadows shall spring
Renewed shall be blade that was broken
The crown-less again shall be King