To celebrate National Tolkien Reading Day (March 25), which in my opinion deserves its status as a national holiday, we must acknowledge that we would not have the fantasy genre as we know it today without Tolkien’s immortal work. This is a topic I could write countless pieces about, but we’ll save that for another time. This piece is for all you readers out there who, for some reason or another, have not yet gotten into Lord of the Rings. If that’s you, I have to ask… what are you doing with your life? If your answer is something like “but Abby, I don’t like fiction,” or “I don’t do fantasy,” then I doubt I’ll have much luck convincing you. I’m sorry, but there’s no hope for you. But if you’re a cool, fantasy loving nerd, then The Lord of the Rings is a must. But I understand, as a colossal fandom that’s been around for 65 years, with over 30 books, it can be really intimidating to get into. You might be wondering, where do I even start? Do I need to understand all the lore to be able to really enjoy Lord of the Rings? Can I call myself a fan if I don’t?
First, let me calm your worries. You absolutely do not need to understand all the deep lore behind Lord of the Rings to love the story or the characters. I’ve considered myself a huge Lord of the Rings fan for years, and I still have so much to learn. Confession time: it took me several watch-throughs to remember Boromir’s name. For years, I simply referred to him as “Sean Bean” or “that one guy who dies.” I know, I should have just Googled it. I did Google it a couple times, then forgot it like five minutes later. Go figure.
That important question answered, let’s move on to my tips for getting into Lord of the Rings:
First of all, I don’t advise starting by reading The Fellowship of the Rings. It is a fantastic book, but let’s be real, it can be hard to read. The pace is slow, there’s so many new characters, and it’s filled with long passages of painstaking description. If you’re not emotionally invested in what’s going on, it’s hard not to get discouraged and give up. So my advice?
Start with the movies. I know, I know, it sounds like blasphemy. Right now, you’re saying, “But aren’t the books always better???” Yes, the book is always better! But in this case, the movies are so much easier. When you watch the movies, it’s easier to follow, so you fall in love with the characters and understand the plot so much better. Then, when you go back to read the books (which you absolutely must do; this is not a free pass to not read them), it will be easier to follow the story, and more importantly, you will love the story, which gives you the motivation to keep reading, even when it’s tough.
But Abby, each movie is three hours long. That’s still a big commitment. I know! It’s hard for me too, even as a die-hard fan. But once you get into them, trust me, you’ll love it. Set a few evenings aside, stock up on good snacks (hobbits love to eat, remember that), and invite someone over to enjoy it with you. I promise that you have at least one huge LOTR fan in your family or friend group. I have at least four.
Next, read the Hobbit. You will never convince me that The Hobbit is not the greatest book ever written (don’t watch the movies though). The Hobbit is shorter, written in a more light and humorous tone, and it’s an adventure story, so it’s a much easier read and it also gives some very important context for the rest of the series! Of course, you can get by reading Lord of the Rings without The Hobbit, but in my opinion, why would you ever want to?
Okay, finally, you’re doing it. You’re taking the plunge into the magical world of Lord of the Rings. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Before you start your adventure, I’ll leave you with just a few things to remember:
In this series, you will find many great examples of what true friendship looks like. These characters stick together, protect each other, and sacrifice for each other, no matter the personal cost. But the greatest example of this is Samwise Gamgee (left). As he accompanies Frodo to Mordor, he gives, gives, and gives, even carrying Frodo on his own back when he cannot walk anymore. Sam is a beautiful example of sacrificial love and my all-time favorite character.
Merry and Pippin are hilarious and you must, must treasure every moment they are on screen.
Orlando Bloom is a beautiful, beautiful man. He says a total of five words in this entire series, but damn, does he sure look pretty. Also, if you’re wondering when he’ll run out of arrows, the answer is never.
Aragorn and Arwen are relationship goals, forever and forever amen.