Revisiting the past. Sort of.

It’s spring break. Last Friday, my son and a friend decided to do a movie marathon of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. One of his friends had never seen it. I can’t remember if my son had seen it all the way through, either. I know he hadn’t seen the extended versions. I didn’t get to watch the whole thing. I had work I had to do and then my dogs were sick and I had to go to the vet and so on and so forth. I did get to see some of it, though and I was rather nostalgic. The movie came out more than fifteen years ago and I remember how amazing and powerful an impact it had on imaginations everywhere, on movie making, and on our culture. That was the first movie, and as each was released, it seemed to have an even stronger, more powerful impact.

Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was no cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn–a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the nazgul–absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become–good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness–in whatever shape it takes.

Like many songs, or smells, it took me back to my own past. Took me back to 2001 and what I was doing. In fact, the  initial movie is one year older than my son. I often listen to the music, but find it bittersweet, remembering that while so much was won, so much was lost, and some things happen that can’t be recovered from. That true leaders walk in the trenches and sacrifice more than most others.

It reminds me that stories are important and feed our souls. That telling stories of courage and grace are worthwhile. That reading them teaches my heart things. That evil is insidious and often knocks on the door looking like something better than it is.

“Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




About Diana Pharaoh Francis

A recovering academic, Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. She's owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. Check out samples of just about everything on her website:


Revisiting the past. Sort of. — 12 Comments

  1. I strongly agree ( and in fact am nearly done with a reread of Fellowship of the King but I feel that way about the books, not the movies.

    The books hit my generation hard in the mid-sixties. It’s difficult to recapture that wonder, which is now more Sehnsucht after all these years, but I always discover new things on each reread.

    The movies were beautiful in so many ways, but so very flawed in others. Especially the last one.

    • I’ve always been leery of watching movie versions of books that I love, simply because so often they get massacred in the adaptation, and I don’t want to spoil my own unique vision. But I actually enjoyed the LOTR movies, melodrama, plot alterations and all. Because they got so much right, and so respectfully, I could forgive the other stuff that they flubbed.

      Gollum alone was worth the price of admission!

      I first read the books one summer when I was eleven. My much older siblings had gone off to work at a summer camp, and I was left to my own devices (well, more so than normal, at any rate). It rained literally almost every single day that summer, and everything outside became overgrown and dank and gloomy. It was a perfect backdrop for my traipse with the hobbits towards Rivendell.

      And when I was finished I remember the immense sadness I felt that I would never be able to read it again for the first time.

      • I do love aspects of the movies, just: too many monsters, too long spent with them, and I cannot forgive that terrible ending. “The Scouring of the Shire” is so very brilliant. Its absence leaves a hole that the unmoored four endings of the third movie don’t even begin to fill.

    • The books are terribly important. I totally agree. I think they have had less impact to the more recent generations simply because Tolkein charted new waters, and since then, others have stood on his shoulders. So many people have not read him. I think that was another powerful effect of the movie–to get people reading the books again.

  2. I really liked the first film. I think a lot of its appeal lay in its unorthodox perspective. I’d have expected a trilogy like LOTR to be either shot in Hollywood or the UK, and reckoned either one would be problematic – Hollywood would have turned the trilogy into a western. The UK would have made it far too plummy and cosy, something along the lines of ‘Downton Abbey’. Jackson was a kiwi and I think it shows – in a good way.

    That said, I have to admit I’ve always reckoned ‘The Hobbit’ to be by far the better book, and that there was a measurable drop in quality with each subsequent film.

    • The Hobbit, to me, was very complete in one book and tightly written. The trilogy sought both to tell a story, and explore the world, which I know makes it less tight in terms of story. YMMV.

      I hadn’t really looked at the movies separately. I mean, I did see them separately as they came out, but I always sort of considered them in light of the whole.

  3. There are three movies that I could watch over and over again.

    The Lord of the Rings
    The Lathe of Heaven (from the 70s and PBS — my real problem with the TNT or TBS version is that they cut out the aliens and the aliens are NECESSARY).

    I would add, if I could, a fourth — Persuasion, the movie version.

    • Heh heh—we watched LOTR so often that we had to give it a rest for a few years. But every once in a while one of the offspring decides it’s time for a marathon, and away we go again.

      The Harry Potter series has become a marathon favourite too. It’s just so hilarious watching those kids grow up before our very eyes.

  4. My husband (who is much more of a Tolkien fanatic than I am) was leery of the movies, but after seeing Fellowship, he commented, “He got the Shire right, and that let me buy in to the rest of the film.”

  5. While I enjoyed much of the films, the horse stuff kept throwing me out of it. But as a horse person I’m prone to that, anyway (though I had to love Harrison Ford’s tack in Cowboys and Aliens….). Just a nitpick…