Yes, I am a geek. I am proud to be a geek. I’m really okay with being a fantasy geek. I’ve almost convinced myself that it isn’t the best genre for me to write, but for reading, there are few genres that I enjoy as much. The Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t my first foray into fantasy (that honor belongs to the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony, which, in retrospect, is just plain awful), but it was the first trilogy that I remember taking my breath away.
It wasn’t exactly the plot that enthralled me, though it was many reads before I began to recognize some logical inconsistencies in the story. It wasn’t exactly the characters, though I was happy to see some familiar faces from The Hobbit. And it wasn’t exactly the setting, though I was certainly in awe of the elaborate cultures, languages, and histories of the various peoples of Middle Earth. It was some combination of all of these that lodged this particular trilogy in my mind.
A few key moments especially managed to embed themselves: when Pippin looks into the crystal and is mistaken for Frodo; when Aragorn accepts his place as king and is temporarily bested by Sauron’s trickery; when Frodo tricks Gollum in the forbidden pool and loses his hold; when Eowyn kills the Nazgul and then is mistaken by her uncle as Eomer (a scene dramatically changed in the movie and not nearly as emotional). This latter was one of the great moments in my reading life – a picture so utterly clear in my mind that I sat in stunned silence at the audacity of Peter Jackson to change my favorite literary scene of all time.
The Lord of the Rings also represents a sad moment in literature to me, though. As I became a more conscientious reader, a reader familiar with the varied lenses of literary criticism, I began to see the underbelly of Mr. Tolkien and the tale I loved so much. I was especially traumatized by the rigid racism strewn throughout all three novels and the nationalistic tendencies that countered the dramatic statement of including such strong female characters. I found it impossible to believe that the author was unaware of the statements he made through his writing; this was an Oxford-educated linguist.
The first film had already come out at this point and the other two became an exercise in learning to love this story again, in learning to forgive an author for being both talented and bigoted. In the end, I couldn’t not love Lord of the Rings. At the same time, I’m thankful that I had that moment of disillusionment as it has made me a writer that is far more aware of the things I don’t mean to say – and the things that I do – as I write. It has also given me the opportunity to consider carefully how important it is to be moved by a piece of writing and how unimportant the author is in that process.