The Quill to Live team is currently doing a reread of Lord of the Rings because for many of us, it has been awhile since we read it (on average about a decade). I initially thought about doing a review piece, but no one needs to hear another review about LotR to know it is amazing. We all know it is amazing. Instead, I thought I would instead do a compilation of some of the more amusing observations people had about the book, usually having to do with things not being as we remember:
1) Sam is really obviously the hero of the story – I read LotR when I was 12, and am 27 now. When I was about 18 I remember reading a piece by Tolkien talking about how he actually intended Sam to be the hero of the story, and it blew my mind. What a revelation! Who could have guessed that Sam was the true hero all along? Answer – probably everyone. At 12 I thought it was the cool prince, but reading now it is painfully obvious that Sam is the greatest. When everyone is running around being an egotistical douche, Sam is usually making comments like “all I want is love and peace on Middle Earth, and to see elves and tell them I love them”. He is the most wonderful character in the series, gets shit done, and whenever he is asked a question usually has a profoundly wise answer. He is not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need.
2) The famous “Not all who wander are lost” line that is quoted endlessly actually comes from a much larger poem – And the rest is equally kickass. It is from Aragorn’s prophecy and the rest goes like this:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
3) Aragorn is a lot less princely, and a lot more crazy homeless person than I remember – When I read LotR I remember thinking Aragorn was the coolest. That was probably some projection on my part, because Aragorn feels like a crazy person who lives in the woods (which he is!) in the books. He’s a lot less romantic and a lot more “can’t have a normal conversation with another person” than I remember. The movie Aragorn with his lush hair, perfect smile, and princely charisma has definitely warped my memory of this crazy ranger who lives in the trees
4) Tolkien has some pretty ridiculous “TL:DR” writing occasionally – For those unfamiliar, TL:DR stands for “too long, didn’t read” and is usually a one line summary of a long piece of writing. Here are some of the major events that Tolkien sums up in a single line: Aragorn randomly reforging his sword, the entire fellowship dealing with the death of Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli going from hating one another to being BFFs, and Gandalf escaping from the death trap atop Saruman’s tower. I would have liked to see all these scenes in more detail, but I also found a lot of humor at their suddenness.
5) Tolkien is actually really funny – It can be hard to realize that Tolkien is actually hilarious, because his prose is usually so complex and occasionally archaic. But after reading a few scenes I took a step back and thought about them and found myself laughing out loud. An example; when the hobbits and Aragorn are being chased by the Ringwraiths, Frodo turns to Aragorn and asks him what is following them and here is a close approximation of how the conversation goes:
Frodo: Hey Aragorn, you are wise and worldly – can you tell us what this scary mystery force is chasing us? I am quite terrified and anything you can tell me about them will make me feel better.
Aragorn: Oh no, you are much better with me not telling you. Like, what is chasing us is so pants-shittingly terrifying that if I told you even a little about what they are and the 11 million ways they will murder and torture you when they catch you, you would be so scared you would LITERALLY die.
Frodo: HOW? HOW WAS THAT HELPFUL? IN WHAT WAY WAS THAT USEFUL INFORMATION, YOU COULDN’T HAVE JUST LIED TO ME? ALSO WHATEVER THEY ARE CANNOT BE SCARIER THAN THAT HORRIFIC DESCRIPTION YOU JUST GAVE.
Rereading the Lord of the Rings has been a lot more fun than we realized, and we recommend you all reread it (or read it for the first time!) when you get a chance. The movies had corrupted my memory of the actual books a lot, and I was surprised to realize how much better many aspects of the story are in their pure original version. Unsurprisingly, Tolkien continues to impress with every read of his masterpiece.