So for those of you who do not truly understand the brilliance of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or his Lord of the Rings trilogy, let me lay some truth on you.
For those of you that think the book series and the 2001 film release came within a few years of each other, I have some surprising news for you. The Hobbit was written in 1936 and released in 1937, yeah that’s right 64 years before it appeared on the big screen. The Lord of the Rings trilogy came many years later. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers books being released in 1954 and The Return of the King in 1955.
Shannon, you might ask, why does this really matter? It matters because Tolkien wrote something not only so relevant for his time, but also created works that would transcend the world he knew and remain relevant to this day. Tolkien was born in 1892 and died in 1973. During his life he lived through World War I (1914-1918), the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953). This is important especially in The Lord of the Rings series as he uses his unique perspective of the wars to create middle earth in the image of our world during war. Look at his dialogue about the rise of power, the reluctance of different peoples/races to get involved or help one another. These important aspects of his stories echo the things that he saw happening in the world around him and sadly echo what is still happening today.
I rarely talk about this and many people don’t know about it at all, but I struggled as a reader for many years suffering from learning disabilities that made it hard to enjoy a good book. In fifth grade I read The Hobbit, it was the first full book I read on my own and it made me fall in love with literature and spurred me to want to be a writer. Ultimately, reading The Hobbit gave me a reason to overcome my obstacles, so I could read more. Today, when I write, I think of Tolkien and the sheer brilliance and magnitude of the world he created, and I hope to create something with at least a smidgen of the kind of talent he had. Today we look at writers like JK Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series, for anyone who’s been living under a rock) and praise their creation of uniquely original worlds and characters. Therefore, in this respect Tolkien was an innovator and trailblazer.
I love this series, the books of course more than the movies, but the movies were phenomenal, and that’s coming from someone who always prefers the book to the movie. I love the series because it touches so poignantly on the heart of man both good and evil; it touches on who we are and who we become when the chips are down. It is a reflection of both the good and bad that will always exist, and more so, it is a reflection of those who will always fight for tomorrow and the right for all races to live in peace.
At its heart we fall in love with the most unlikely of heroes, the hobbits whose small statures make them seem so insignificant, but they end up being the saviors of the story. These small heroes highlight the idea that our prejudices and assumptions are often responsible for or own failings. The character of Samwise Gamgee is the most brilliantly written character because he show’s us just what a true hero embodies, selflessness, humility, undying loyalty, friendship, and love. It is his dedication to his friend, and his penchant for hope that save the world, without him the bad guy would have won. I leave you with this quote from The Two Towers because it’s what ultimately drives us all to fight for a better tomorrow. Thank you Tolkien.
Sam: "I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."
Frodo: "What are we holding onto, Sam?"
Sam: "That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.”