It’s OK to Not Like LOTR

I’m going to say something now that might be controversial. But I checked with the biggest Lord of the Rings fan I know (my roommate), and he said it’s OK, so here goes:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS ISN’T FOR EVERYONE.
I’ve mentioned to a few fans that I’ve never read the series before now, and whether its because I have a reputation as a reader or as a nerd I’ve gotten some pretty nasty reactions. There was a sense from some of these fans that I was doing myself a disservice by not reading these books, and I was told at least once that everyone should read them, no exceptions. I want to make perfectly clear that I get the obsession with LOTR—really, I do, I’m getting the fever myself. I just began Book Four of The Two Towers, and I can’t get enough. The references that I don’t get are like crack as far as I’m concerned, and I can’t wait to reread the books, and borrow my roommate’s Silmarillion until I totally understand what’s going on. But I’m a complete nerd, and obsessing over fantasy epics is as natural to me as breathing. I have the time, and the desire, to read 700+ page books, multiple times, with a reference book or webpage open so I don’t get confused. That’s kinda what I do. Not everyone is like that. Not everyone has the time, or the desire, to throw themselves headfirst into a world that technically doesn’t exist. Not everyone has the patience as a reader to stick with someone that isn’t immediately fascinating to them.
Because I wouldn’t be being an honest reader if I didn’t say some parts dragged on…and on…and on. I was warned about this by some of the biggest LOTR fans that I know, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise. What does come as a surprise is that the driest parts seem to be during parts that, objectively, should be the most exciting. Merry and Pippin wandering the forest with Treebeard doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as a battle against the evil Saruman. But for me, the quieter scenes of the forest are more impressive and immersing than getting ready for battle. The subtle humor Tolkien shows during those scenes hold my attention much better than the loud rousing of men to banners that I don’t recognize. I assume (and discussion with the aforementioned roommate bears out the idea) that it’s because LOTR novice, and I can’t entirely keep track of all the characters and how they’re connected and what nation they all come from. I also don’t have an understanding of the history that’s being sideways referenced, and that seems like an unthinkable handicap. I totally understand how people become as obsessed as they are with LOTR—it’s so intense and detailed and so much is just implied in the trilogy that almost the only way to understand it is to become obsessed with it and just suck up all the knowledge you can find on it. Even talking to a hardcore LOTR fan can be a terrifying experience—they have so much knowledge that you don’t have access to, and the idea that you would need to learn all of that to understand three books is pretty discouraging.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “It’s OK to Not Like LOTR

  1. Kait

    I agree with you. Lord of the Rings is totally not for everybody, in fact, I think it is only for people who have the patience to “transform” into that world for a little bit of time…that world Tolkien took nearly 20 years (I believe) to create. But digesting every single aspect of it isn’t always the point of his writing either- there are these overall themes you can get sucked into as well and they start making you think about the world around you. What is real evil? What is good? Can one work without the other? Okay, enough of this. I need to return to another world I am having trouble understanding: the 17th century Puritan colonies.

  2. Bookish Hobbit

    Not like LOTR? Blasphemy! *lol*
    Involved fantasies like Tolkien’s epic isn’t for everyone, agreed. Personally my favorite book is The Silmarillion and that seems to be intimidating to a lot of casual fans? I dunno, maybe I’m misunderstanding readers’ reactions to it.

  3. I agree, I think that anything past the trilogy is intimidating to a lot of people, since they don’t necessarily have the time or energy to devote to it…and several sections of the trilogy are difficult to understand if you don’t read The Silmarillion or know whats up in the history

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