Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

The First Time I Read The Lord of the Rings

I remember it still. I was in high school. Everyone else I knew had already read it. I was one of those types who resisted going along with the crowd. I refused to read it. And refused. And refused. My friends thought I was nuts, but I wanted nothing to do with it.

I was in a theatrical production of The Hobbit, and one of the stipulations to be involved with the play was everyone had to read the book. So grudgingly, I read the story and learned about Hobbits and Bilbo Baggins and Smaug the Dragon, over hill and under dale. Still wouldn’t read the big tome.

But then I snuck a peek.

And then I was hooked. I discovered that the elves of LOTR were somewhat different from the elves of The Hobbit. Oh the elves! They weren’t the silly, short Keebler kind of elf. No these elves were tall, and beautiful, and wise beyond words. The first elf I fell in love with was Gildor, who Frodo and Sam met at Woodhall and who uttered the famous admonition, ‘Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.’ The second elf I adored, and have a twinge of miffed with every movie version that cuts his character, is Glorifindel. A High Elf from the West, ancient, and wise beyond all measure and powerful. He glowed with an aura of pure light. And of course, there is Legolas, my favoritest of all the elves way before Orlando Bloom was even born. I learned all the elfish phrases I could and even taught myself how to write in elven script. When has a book taken you to such places and taught you so much, I wonder?

And then there was Strider, the dark Ranger of the North you weren’t quite sure of until Bree. And he was my favorite, right after the elves. Gimli son of Gloin was my favorite, and Boromir and Faramir. I cried over the fall of Gandalf and cried again when he returned as the White Rider! All of them were my favorite. And I read, and read and read that book over more than once. Well more than 20 times by now, and right around this time of year, Sept. 22, the shared birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, I read it again.

So forget about watching the movie (that got so much of it right, but also got some of it very wrong), pick up your old dog-eared, yellowing copy or a nice shiny new one – you can still find this book in any bookstore – and read it again as if it were the first time. May starlight always guide your path.

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That Time of Year

Summer is over. The kids are back in school. Bilbo Baggins is about to be set upon by 13 dwarves and a wizard, where he will then set out on a grand adventure over hill and under dale. It is that time of year.

I want to see the mountains now, when the leaves change and watch the cloud shadows play across the vivid colors, sweeping down and then up, covering the land in fleeting darkness. I want to feel the cool, crisp touch of autumn on its way, not too cold yet, but just a snap in the air that might make the tips of your fingers and nose cold if you get stuck in one of those cloud shadows too long. But then the sun comes back out and pretends its still almost summer. It’s that time of year.

I want to walk the paths, familiar and new, around my old house, down to the Run, over to ‘Spirit Rock’ and the Little Dam again where as a child I never got up the nerve to jump. There were rocks beneath the water’s surface one had to avoid or legs would be broken and skulls cracked. So I was content to watch the foolish boys running and leaping and missing the hidden rocks while I sat on the dam and dabbled my toes in the muddy water beside the spillway. But in the fall, we were all content to watch the water run over the rocks, clear and cold to the touch, listening for the bell to ring us home. Sometimes, we’d rock jump across and hope not to fall in or then have to explain about getting wet when we weren’t supposed to. Sometimes we followed the line of the water, roaming its banks for hours on end, discovering treasure troves nature set in our path. It’s that time of year.

Tolkien knew what he was doing when he sent both his adventurers from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on their way in September. I’m struck by the same desire to rush out my door, down the road, with nothing more than a cloak and a walking stick, not sure what adventure I might find along the way.

Illustration by John Howe

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

JRR Tolkien

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Filed under fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien