I hope you all remember the lovely Amy from Lucy’s Football. I know everyone loved her post on first impressions of The Hobbit, and she has been kind enough to write her thoughts down for us upon completing Lord of the Rings. Honestly, I was worried she wouldn’t make it through. I knew she had said she’d give Fellowship a try, but wasn’t sure how much more she’d be into. I’m so happy she stuck with it. If you’re not already following her, you should be. You should also be buying her book (available for sale here, and you can read my not at all biased review of it here) and just showering hearts and rainbows upon her in general.
Once again, the lovely sj has asked me to guest-post, which makes me all FIRED UP. I always worry that when things like this happen I will make a fool out of myself and spill wine on the good tablecloth. I will do my best to keep my wine in my MOUTH. Or at least in the coffee cup I’m drinking it out of. What? What’s that? You’re not supposed to drink wine out of coffee cups? Shut up, wine glasses are tippy and unstable and also break easily when you’re washing the dishes and then you cut yourself on the shards of sharpness in the dishwater. I mean, I hear you do, from other people who are clumsy. (ed. note – I also totally drink my wine from coffee mugs. For the exact same reasons.)
So I totally (not as vocally as I could have, I know) participated in the ENTIRE Lord of the Rings readalong. Yes, you read that correctly. I went from not having read a single Tolkien book (well, I had The Hobbit read to me as a wee Amy, but that barely counts) to now having read ALL FOUR BOOKS. I am totally in the know. You can’t even make Tolkien references that fly over my head like swift birds now. I WILL CATCH THOSE BIRDS. Well, no, probably I won’t, not if they’re real birds. Birds are creepy and would peck you if you tried to catch them. But I’m all over catching metaphor-birds. ALL OVER IT.
OK, so, if you recall, I read The Hobbit, and liked it well enough, but wasn’t totally FAN GIRL SQUEE. There were things I liked a lot, there were things I was meh on, overall I thought it was a solid read but I wasn’t as in love with it as some people are. I was worried you’d all think I was a HEATHEN and possibly come burn my house down but you were all very understanding. Thank you for that.
(Also, side note, Jackson’s turning The Hobbit movie into THREE INSTALLMENTS? What the hell? How is that even POSSIBLE? It’s not even that long of a book? I don’t know about that. I don’t know about that at all.) (ed. note – Welcome to my world, dear Amy.)
Now: my thoughts on the ENTIRE rest of the series. All three books! Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be like seventy-kabillion-pages long. Maybe like forty-kabillion, only. I’ve probably already forgotten more than I knew when I was reading. I have the memory span of a goldfish sometimes. And those were a LOT of pages. So don’t be all “you left this out!” or “you left THAT out!” because yeah, I know, I had to leave a LOT of things out. If you really really REALLY want to know what I thought of something (which I somehow highly doubt) you can ask me in the comments. I’ll tell you. I’m not hiding anything. Promise. Except that body in my trunk.
In no particular order, here are the things that stood out for me, either good, bad, ugly, or awesome:
I wasn’t sure what to think of her at first. She was kind of all fan-girling over Aragorn and that annoyed me. But then I realized she ALSO wanted the chance to prove herself in battle, and that kicked ass. And listen, I’m easily fooled, because I had NO IDEA that Dernhelm was Éowyn. None. I was reading that part in bed and I said RIGHT OUT LOUD “holy CRAP it’s Éowyn!” (Up until that point I thought maybe it was some evil spy for Sauron, all embedded with the gang, I had no idea what was going on.) Then I emailed sj all “DERNHELM WAS ÉOWYN!” and she was all “I KNEW YOU’D LOVE THAT!”
I kind of wished the whole “fell in love with Aragorn and then oh, well, I guess Faramir will do, he’s pretty fly I LOVE YOU NOW FARAMIR” thing hadn’t happened because with it, she’s just a typical lady, but without it, she’s totally the most badass. I wanted her to be all, “Sorry, Faramir, we can have all the no-strings-attached sex if you want, but I don’t want to get married, I want to rule my OWN little kingdom somewhere, I KILLED THE LORD OF THE DAMN Nazgûl (with some help from Merry.) Teach you bastards, not letting me go into war with the guys.”
Was I the only one who finished the book kind of…dissatisfied? confused?…that we didn’t see Sauron, like, at all, throughout the book? I’m not talking about THE EYE OF SAURON, which we kept seeing, but you know how in most books or movies or video games or whatever, at the end, you have to face down the final foe? There wasn’t that. I was expecting Sauron to be waiting for them when they were about to dispose of the Ring, all “A-HAH! IT IS I! SAURON!” but that never happened. It was a touch anticlimactic.
Faramir, Boromir, and Denethor
What a tangled web o’crazy was going on here, right? Denethor (also, that sounds like an evil name. I kept saying it in a robot Transformer voice. DENETHOR. DENETHOR) was a world-class A-1 jackhole, and played favorites and loved Boromir more and when he found out Boromir died was all IT SHOULDA BEEN YOUUUUU FARAMIR! (nice, yo) and then I guess he was all bedazzled (not in the rhinestone way) by a Palantir (I like to call those Sauron-glasses because unless I look it up, I can’t remember the word Palantir) and it made him BANANA-CRACKERS! And he tried to BURN HIS SON ALIVE! (Side note: I totally have a Faramir-crush. He just seems really honest and upstanding and I like that when he had the chance to get the Ring, he was all, “Nope, no thanks, I don’t need any MORE crazy in my life, thanks.” Now that we know about his family history, we see that the guy KNOWS from crazy.)
So much boringness. Total boring city. Town. Village.
I have to admit the number of things I skimmed through due to boredom was higher than you probably would be comfortable with. THERE WAS SO MUCH WAR. I hate fighting and I hate war and I hate READING about fighting and war and I was SO EFFING BORED during those scenes. Gah. Also, I know a lot of people like such things, but scenery porn makes me bored. A little description of the scenery is fine, because, well, we need to know where we are. Pages of it? Why aren’t we getting on with the story already? Sorry to disappoint, but I did some major skimming. I don’t think I missed anything important.
No? No reunion? We never got to see the Entwives? BOO TOLKIEN. I wanted the Entwives. I wanted the gang to come across this grove they’d never seen before on their way home and be all “hey! look at this whaaa?” and THERE WOULD BE THE ENTWIVES! but no. Boo.
Argh, Saruman and Wormtongue!
I know, I know, Gandalf was so noble, and we don’t KILL people and such, but when Saruman and Wormtongue popped up again at the end, I was all “DAMMIT! KILL SOMEONE ONCE AND A WHILE, PEOPLE!” (Also, I did NOT see that coming. Not at all. I like to be surprised. That made me happy. I was all “OH DAMN IT’S SARUMAN!” and then laughed at myself.)
A thing that I found confusing
Although the book would go on and on and ON about things like “then they walked fourteen feet, let’s describe the scenery for a month” or “WAR WAR WAR WAR!!!” other things weren’t even described at all, and only got the most rudimentary mention because they happened OFFSTAGE LEFT or something and I found that confusing. For example: Arwen and Aragorn’s romance. Yes, yes. I know it got explained in an appendix. But when Strider was Strider, they traveled together a loooong time. He couldn’t have shared that story with them as they walked? Or the whole “oh, Wormtongue murdered Lotho and ALSO ATE HIM ATE HIM ALL UP!” Or, as mentioned above, why no Sauron? Things like that. I found that confusing. I know, I know, if he put EVERYTHING in, the series would be a MILLION YEARS LONG, but I think these things would have been interesting – more so than SO MANY PAGES OF WAR WAR WAR.
Things that made me cry tears of tearfulness
When Sam thought Frodo was dead. When we realized that it was Éowyn all along that had been traveling with the party. When Sam saw the elephant. When Sam is watching over Frodo and he looks up in the sky and sees one star and thinks about all the beauty in the world. When the party sees the pile of hobbit-clothes and thinks that Sam and Frodo are gone, gone, gone. When Merry’s on his last legs and Pippin appears to help him get healed. When Sam’s all down-and-out and he sings, all defiant, and he hears a little voice responding to him. When Sam had to throw away his pots and pans. When Sam said he wasn’t able to carry the ring, but he sure as hell could carry Frodo, and he did. Right on his back. When Sam realized that the trip with Frodo wasn’t just to say goodbye to Bilbo, but to say goodbye to both Frodo and Bilbo.
I saved the best for last.
Bilbo: aw, Bilbo, with his disappearance and his stories and then the end! So SAD! Getting all old and doddery and giving back presents he already gave once before!
Merry and Pippin: I liked their character arc, how you could see them grow and mature and just grow right into themselves into big old giant hobbits! Who are super-tall! Due to drinking Ent energy drinks! Whoo-hoo! Also, YAY FOR THE HOBBIT-BATTLE! They totally won there, right? They were like the heroes of the Shire forever and ever! (I haven’t seen any of the movies, but from what I understand, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are kind of portrayed as fools. I don’t care for that in the least. Because they’re not.) (ed. note – Sorry, Amy…there’s no Scouring of the Shire, either.)
Frodo: how much did I gasp when I realized how warped he’d become by the ring when Sam rescued him from the Orcs and he was all, “YOU HAVE THE RING? YOU GIMME GIMME RIGHT NOW!” Aw, Frodo. So brave. Went though so much. Damn those Hobbits, those brave little sniffly-Amy-making Hobbits.
Gollum: I can’t be the only one who really, really wanted things to work out ok for Gollum, can I? I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to turn out ok – I mean, he was all Ring-affected – but I really wanted maybe the Ring to be destroyed and Gollum to maybe disappear, and Smeagol to be able to come back again? I’m very naïve. I want the best for everyone. Poor twisted little Gollum. So lonely and sad and trying SO HARD to be ok and failing SO DAMN MISERABLY. Also, he bit Frodo’s finger! He bit it right the hell OFF! Whoa Nelly!
Sam: Yes, I saved my Sam for last. Sam made me just WEEP. He was so loyal and funny and brave and wise and I just ADORED him. I’m scared to watch the movies because they’re going to make him into a fool. I don’t think I can watch that, even if it’s the amazing Sean Astin playing him and I’ve had a crush on Sean Astin since The Goonies.
(ed. note – Amy’s instructions said “Insert Sean Astin here” and I have NOT STOPPED GIGGLING about that. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!)
Anyway, Sam. Sam! Man, what a character. Like, seriously one of my favorite literary characters, like, ever. He never stopped, you know? He knew things were grim, and he knew there was very little chance they were going to get out of this alive, but he just kept GOING. And he was totally the poet of the series. He had the best lines. He would say things that just made me THRILL. Plus, he has such childlike glee in things that you HAD to love him. How could you not? And he got a happy ending, with a wife! And a kiddo! And he got to be MAYOR! Of course he did. Poor little self-deprecating Sam. No one would be a better mayor, no one at all. He’d be amazing.
So…did I like them? Yes. I did. I didn’t LOVE them – I don’t feel about them like I feel about other series, like my beloved His Dark Materials trilogy, or the Dark Tower series, or the Harry Potter series, or the Song of Ice and Fire series, all of which I’m extremely passionate about – but I liked them very much. I appreciate what Tolkien did – he really was the father of a lot of current fantasy writing, wasn’t he? I saw that a lot of writers got inspiration from him – G.R.R. Martin, King, Rowling – and every time I’d see something in the series that I could recognize from one of my favorites I’d grin. It was like I was slowly being allowed admittance into a secret club you’ve all been members of for years.
Thank you, sj, for setting up the readalong – it was just the kick-in-the-ass I needed to actually READ the books that I’ve been saying I was going to read for years. Now I’m fancy! I HAVE READ TOLKIEN!