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What’s so good about Lord of the Rings?

Sebastian Pearce, Senior Teacher at the British Council Kraków, tells us why he is a Lord of the Rings addict and reveals his ‘Top 5’ moments from the books.

I’ve never been a great fan of books, and I’m neither a deep nor even a particularly regular reader.  This is despite, or maybe because of the efforts of my parents and older brother. To an extent I make up for this by reading one book in particular over and over again – usually about twice a year….no prizes for guessing that the book concerned is the Lord of the Rings.

I first encountered Tolkien’s tale of Middle-Earth in 1978 on a long train journey to the South of France. I was 13 or so. This book seemed so incredible, and so incredibly long that my determination to reach the end led me to read it at staggering speed. My next read a couple years later made it obvious how little I’d taken in the first time. I couldn’t recall Tom Bombadill, and I was decidedly hazy on how Isengard had been smashed up. By then I was hooked so it didn’t matter at all, and these days when I pick up the book I’m happy enough to read 50 pages here or there and just relax into the story. 

Good though it undoubtedly is, the Fellowship of the Ring film has obvious difficulties for addicts of the book. It has an impressive go at building up what I had already constructed in my imagination, so I found myself having strange doubts; “ Hold on a minute, Aragorn looks a bit young to me….Is that what an Elf really looks like ”, and so on.

For me this assault on the imagination will always be the essence of Lord of the Rings. It offers such a massively complete and detailed world of its own, that the reader can really get inside it. Put a gripping and complex adventure within this context and, rather like me, many people of all ages have been gripped by the story since it was first published half a century ago.

I’ve never even considered its merits or flaws as a work of literature; I simply love it. I love staring at the maps of Middle-Earth, wondering what it’s like living Elf-like in the trees, wondering whether Gollum might have got rather bored living under the Misty Mountains, thinking Theoden of Rohan seemed a bit old for charging around on a horse, and so on and so on and so on…...

Many have gone to great depths working out where all the names and places can be connected to the real world, and I have few ideas on this too. Runic letters have deep connections with Scandinavian history; I’ve met people in the South-Caucasus with very Tolkien like names - Elmar, Eldar, Gulmamed ( for Gilgalad ? ) When working briefly in Slovenia, I thought it had a bit of Lord of the Rings about it. But first and foremost these are all associations with my imagination, and for me the thing about Lord of the Rings will always be that I gave my imagination a chance to get to work. 

Top 5 Lord of the Rings moments ?

These tend to fluctuate depending on my mood or which part of the text I’m reading, the following always rank high, along with any of the maps:

4       Gandalf explaining ‘Bilbo’s ring’ to Frodo

4       Sleeping in the trees on the edges of Lorien

4       Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas’s pursuit of the orcs

4       Treebeard meeting Pippin and Merry

4       The Paths of the Dead

What are your ‘top five moments’ from either the film or the books? Send them to us and we will put them on our pages.

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