Well, it's finally here. The conclusion of our summer-long journey through Middle-earth. Yesterday marked the end of our book club.
But of course, we need to talk about the ending first!
I don't mean to get ahead of myself here, but I just want to go ahead and state that I think, overall, the ending to Return of the King was about five times better than the movie. My main reason for this is that we actually get some closure for characters that kind of just disappear at the end of the movie. Let's take Faramir and Eowyn, for instance. Despite the fact that Eowyn straight up slays the Witch-king of Angmar and Faramir is nearly burned to death, the movie almost forgets about them after their "big moments."
On the other hand, I love what Tolkien did with their characters in the book. Their romance seems fitting: both have lost family, and both long for some kind of companionship in the wake of so much destruction. Not only that, but their arc married so naturally with Aragorn's character. Of course, Aragorn never showed any bitterness towards the Stewards, and felt it fitting to bestow a princedom on Faramir, however briefly he served. We only got hints of love between Aragorn and Arwen in the book, and this Eomir (or should I say Farawyn?) thing is just the romance this series needed to tie itself up.
Moreover, Theoden is fittingly honored in the book, whereas in the film they kind of just let him rot on the battlefield for all we know (and after he answered the call of Gondor when his forces were destitute?? I mean, come on, guys). Rather, Tolkien gives him a proper funeral and burial on his own homeland. Just a little later, Merry and Pippin get their final ent-draught from Treebeard, and we learn of Saruman and Wormtongue's fate (which becomes more sinister at the end of the story).
Film is a different medium, true, but I just enjoyed getting to see where all of these great characters ended up, and I wish the movie would have treated them with more attention.
My only critique of the ending is that, while the Shire becoming a dictatorship makes sense in some ways (after all, hobbits had become fairly well-known by the end of the story), it almost disrupted the story arc, in my opinion. It kind of created a climax after the climax. Here, I did like the movie ending better, as the hobbits returning to a peaceful and unchanged Shire was almost like a sigh of relief after the terrors of Mordor. Having another battle at this point felt almost a little anticlimactic in light of the Ring and the battle at the Black Gate.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed getting into these books and getting to understand Middle-earth as it was originally intended. I no longer feel ashamed at calling myself a Lord of the Rings fan, ha! Thank you to everyone who joined in with me, as well. I hope you also loved getting to dive into Tolkien's magical world, and please let me know if there are any other books you would like to do in the future!
For now, I'm signing off. I pray you all stay safe and healthy during this season, and I pray you always remember that God's incredible, unconditional love for you.
It's been a little while since I posted an update, but I'm back on Week 11 with some thoughts on The Return of the King. Something went wrong with my last post, so hopefully everything shows up here this time!
As a side note, we've only got one week left in our book club! I've really enjoyed getting to dive into this classic for the first time, and I've enjoyed getting to hear your thoughts on the books as well. Many times, you pick things up that I just glossed over! With the pandemic going on, things have obviously been a little different, but I'm thankful that technology affords us the opportunity to read together from afar.
Now, to Return of the King. I'm just now starting the final part of the book, so I'm mainly going to be talking about Book V. And can. we. talk. about. it.
Personally, the section on the Siege of Gondor was one of the highlights of the series so far. Helm's Deep, in my opinion, was kind of disappointing. It was short, light on details, and overall threw no curveballs in the story at all. I don't need to hear about every orc head that is "hewn off" as Tolkien might say, but for me, a battle should be fully fleshed out and exciting. The Battle of the Pelennor satiated that desire.
It's got all the ingredients of a good battle: chaos, bickering amongst the ranks, high stakes, and (my personal favorite) the nick-of-time arrival of the Rohirrim. "Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last." Wow. Even having seen the movie, that was just a stunning paragraph. It's surprising. It's visceral. It makes you want to turn the page. To me, this section is truly one of Tolkien's great achievements in this book.
At the same time, we've got some great standout character moments. Let's be honest: Merry and Eowyn's showdown with the Witch-king of Angmar is everything you could want and more. It's a tried-and-true and yet instantly relatable formula: the two most unlikely heroes defeat the most fearsome enemy. It's a theme that runs quite clearly through all of this series, but here on more of a smaller scale. Yet, that small focus on Eowyn, who overall is really more of a side character, feels inspiring. It's not just the "chosen ones" that can beat back the dark tide, it's the ordinary folk, as a wise wizard once put it.
I could go on about the tension Tolkien ratchets up with Denethor's descent into madness, or the artful way he ties the arcs of so many characters into one harmonious thread, but I'll save that for later. In short, it was masterful, and a welcome, fiery introduction to the finale of the series.
What are your thoughts on the book so far? Let me hear you in the comments here or on social media!
Hello, fellow readers! It's Week 9 of our virtual book club and we are finally starting on the final part to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic, The Return of the King. The film version of this book is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I'm excited to begin on this one.
Before we get into that, though, let's discuss our final thoughts on The Two Towers.
First of all, let's talk some interesting details I picked up in the last part.
Can you believe it's already Week 7 of our virtual book club? Summer is flying by, unfortunately 😥 However, we've still got several weeks to go, and I am excited about starting Return of the King in a little while--it was always my favorite movie of all three. For now, though, we'll stick to discussing The Two Towers, plus stick around to the end of the post for some LOTR food recipes!
So as I presumed, "Book 4," which I just started, brings us back to Frodo and Sam. It's been quite a ride up to this point, following Gandalf the White through Helm's Deep and Isengard and now disappearing into Gondor with Pippin. As a side note, I thought it was interesting how the book really gave Gandalf no impetus for going to Gondor; rather, it seemed to be more of an intuition than anything else. In the movie, as we remember, Pippin sees a white tree in his vision when he picks up the Palantir (or Seeing Stone, if you just must use the Common Tongue). Maybe that comes into play at some point in the future. Just an observation!
Anyway, back to Frodo and Sam. At first, after the whirlwind of Isengard and Helm's Deep, their journey seemed to be a bit plodding. It kind of hearkened back to the Fellowship when the hobbits are journeying through the Shire. As expected, though, Gollum appears and adds another level of tension. Sam is, of course, mistrustful of Smeagol from the beginning, and while Frodo is as well, I can already see Gollum's deception beginning to work on him. I think the movie captured this pretty well. You really want to see Smeagol redeemed, but at the same time, you know how sneaky he is and you kind of want to take Sam's side.
It's funny thinking about how Frodo and Sam almost play the two sides of our human nature. We tend to hang on with someone when we probably know we shouldn't, hoping for redemption, while at the same time, when we are hurt, we have trouble rebuilding trust. Perhaps that's why it's easy to feel so torn reading or watching these parts of the story.
Anyway, I'm not too far into the hobbits' journey, but that's where I'm at so far. Let me know where you're at right now and what your thoughts are!
Bonus - LOTR Recipes!
In perfect timing for our book club, a popular food channel on YouTube called Binging with Babish just released the first of a three-part series on how to make recipes from Lord of the Rings! I definitely want to try some of these, especially lembas bread, although I have a feeling that it won't give quite the same magical strength without the elves making it. Check it out below!
I might have missed last week's update (sorry! 🙈), but rest assured, the book club is still going strong! We are currently in the middle of The Two Towers, the second book in the Lord of the Rings series. I am personally about halfway through at this point, which is good since we are technically at the halfway mark in the timeline. However, I'm hoping to put a big dent in it in the next week or so.
I'm somewhere around chapter nine or ten at the moment, so in case you don't want spoilers, use caution if you continue reading!
Of course, I'm always going to mentally compare the books to the movies, since I watched the movies first (I know, I know...). That being said, I've found it pretty interesting so far how the book progresses in comparison to the film. Currently, there have been exactly zero scenes including Frodo and Sam. That's pretty different from the big screen adaptation, which uses a more modern "parallel" approach in which we see the perspectives of multiple characters happening simultaneously. After a brief stint with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, we got a glimpse of Merry and Pippin's adventures with the Orcs and Ents before switching back to the threesome's adventures in Rohan. Finally, I reached their reunification in Isengard.
In some ways, I liked this style of storytelling that is often missing from modern literature. It's a bit of an adventure following the characters through their own journeys before having to piece together what was happening at the same time with the other characters. For instance, while we see Merry and Pippin heading off to Isengard, we don't get a clear picture of what happened there until Aragorn and the others arrive at the ruined fortress of Saruman. It creates suspense in a unique way.
Speaking of the destruction of Isengard, I have to say that my mental picture of the Ents has been challenged a bit while reading this book. The movie portrays them as "walking trees." Reading Tolkien's description, I can see where the filmmakers kind of got this idea--Treebeard describes some of the Ents as becoming more "tree-like," their skin is described as bark-like, and their beards are mossy. But Tolkien often compares them to trolls, which threw me off a bit. Now, I feel a bit lost as to how to imagine them! Are they trees? Are they trolls? I feel like the movie rendering of them is probably not 100% faithful to Tolkien's idea, but I'm having a hard time expelling the tree-people image from my head.
I'm looking forward to catching up with Frodo and Sam, but I'm guessing that probably won't come till Book 4 within The Two Towers. What about you? Are you ahead of me or behind me? What are your thoughts on the Ents? Let me know in the comments here or on social media!
All right, everyone, we are officially wrapping up our reading of The Fellowship of the Ring tomorrow!
Now, of course, I know some people may be behind depending on when you joined in, but luckily for you, this is a virtual book club, so you are free to read at your own pace. That said, I encourage you to keep up with me so that you are able to join our discussions as we move along. Next, we're starting The Two Towers (I've already gotten a bit of a head start), and I am excited to see what's ahead!
Now for a short wrap-up discussion of The Fellowship. Of course, as always, I want to hear what you thought as well. Feel free to leave a comment here or any of my social media accounts!
Let's start with overall thoughts. Starting out, I thought I might be disappointed picking this series up again. The first fourth, maybe third, of the book does move a little slow. Obviously, I'm approaching this with a modern reader's mind, but there is a good portion of this section that is little more than descriptions of their travels. BUT... For me, the book really started to pick up after the Council of Elrond. The passages about the Pass of Caradhras, Moria, Lothlorien, and beyond gripped me. As a big fan of the movies, it was reminiscent of the films in the right places all while adding Tolkien's elegant voice.
That brings me to one of my favorite things about the book, and that is the prose. Tolkien's writing style lends such a magical air to Middle-earth. As I read, I could almost hear the wind bringing news from the west and see the starlight glittering over the yellow woods of Lorien. In a lot of ways, I felt like the movie captured the essence of his tone really well--the otherworldly elves, the ignorant but well-meaning hobbits, the valiant Men of Westernesse embodied in Aragorn, and the stubborn and hardy dwarves.
Of course, the Fellowship ends right before the movie does (it actually stretches over into The Two Towers a little bit). The ending of the book feels incomplete. There's really no conclusion, no major battle. But I definitely don't think that's a bad thing. Having already started the sequel, it flows perfectly. And that's really how Tolkien thought of it: one continuous story. Our modern minds tend to split a series up into nice set of boxes, which makes this unbroken narrative somewhat refreshing and exciting.
Have you also finished The Fellowship of the Ring? Are you looking forward to The Two Towers?
Welcome to Week 2 of the Summer Book Club! In case you haven't been following along, we are doing a virtual reading of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we are currently on Book 1 (The Fellowship of the Ring). It's not too late to join in if you haven't yet! Even if you can't follow our schedule exactly, don't worry--you're still invited to our weekly "meetings." 😉
Well, we'll start with a little update on my progress, and then I want to hear about yours! I'm a little over halfway through the novel at this point. I'll be honest, it was a slight trudge getting through some of the in-between passages, as it were. It can be a little hard to follow the "they turned west, then north, then got back on the Road, then got off it" after a while. Some eloquent prose adds a little spice to these sections, but there's only so much you can do to make that exciting to read.
That's not to say, of course, that I don't appreciate what Tolkien was doing. The long descriptions really add a level of depth that many stories lack today. It gives you a sense that the hobbits are traveling in a real world. In actuality, that's one of the most endearing qualities of Tolkien's writing: his lifelong commitment to crafting a rich world with deep history is nearly unmatched.
I also love how he breaks up some of these passages with excellent poems and songs. You really get a sense of how important tales and ballads are to the cultures of Middle-earth, which makes me sad in a lot of ways. It feels like it's a bit of a lost art in the real world! One of my favorite passages was from the story of Beren and Luthien, which I've written about on my blog before:
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glittering.
I'm just now getting into the Council of Elrond, and just like in the movie, I love the little hint of nostalgia that Tolkien sneaks in with the reunion of some of our beloved dwarf-friends from The Hobbit. This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie, so I'm excited to read this!
All right, I'm ready to hear from you! Where are you at? Do you have a favorite song or tale so far? Let me know in the comments here or on the socials!
Hey everybody! Week 1 of the Summer Book Club is wrapping up! I am really enjoying getting back into The Lord of the Rings book series, and if you're following along, I hope you are too. I remember trying to read The Fellowship of the Rings when I was about 13 or 14 and kind of thinking it was boring.
I don't know what I was thinking. The pacing is definitely different than a modern fantasy book, but the rich descriptions and excellent world-building from Tolkien make up for it. Right from the outset, the world feels fully fleshed out, from the little peculiarities of the hobbits to the languages and locations.
Before I get into some of my more specific thoughts, I'll go ahead and let you know that I am about to start Chapter 8, so if you're reading through the first time and don't want any spoilers, stop here!
Ok, if you're reading this, you want to be spoiled (or you're more cultured than I am and have already read the books). In any case, any discussion of The Lord of the Rings books would not be complete without comparing them to the movies. I kind of already do this with other books anyway, but it's obviously especially appropriate here. One of the things that stood out to me most was some of the major changes the movies made right out of the gate.
Of course, some important dialogue is preserved, whether it's my favorite, "I feel like butter scraped over too much bread," or Gandalf's cryptic warning, "Keep it secret, keep it safe!" Some important scenes from the movie are almost ripped straight out of the book as well, like Bilbo's birthday party and even the Black Rider stopping to "sniff out" the hobbits on the side of the road. I loved these parts because I have such a clear mental picture of these scenes due to the movie.
However, there are a couple of changes that took me aback a little bit. No, it's not that they took out Tom Bombadil (even though I think he and the River-daughter might have made for some cool on-screen moments). First, that seventeen years (!) passed between Bilbo's birthday party and Frodo leaving Hobbiton with the Ring, and second, that Farmer Maggot's actually a pretty nice guy.
That second one may sound lame, but we'll get to it in a minute. I'll preface the first point by saying that I recognize that putting seventeen years between the "Long-Expected Party" and Frodo's departure probably wouldn't have made for good cinema. It probably would have killed the suspense just a little bit. However, in the book, I think it makes sense. Obviously, Gandalf would have needed to have been thorough in his investigation into the Ring, for one thing. I mean, do we really think he would have gone to Minas Tirith for a couple of weeks just to conclude that this little trinket Bilbo had was THE Ring? Plus, at this point, the reader isn't really sure what the significance of the Ring is, even though they get a sense of it in the opening scenes. In the context of a book, there is space to create a sort of slow build that culminates with Gandalf's terrible revelation.
As for the second surprise, I just feel that the movies did injustice to Farmer Maggot's character (not to mention Pippin and Merry's just a little bit). In the movies, as you remember, Merry and Pippin are chased out of Farmer Maggot's fields after stealing some of his crops. I was surprised to find in the book that Farmer Maggot actually invites them in for dinner and vows to protect their whereabouts from the Black Riders! I feel like starting a petition to clear the farmer's name after he was smeared in the movie as this cranky old man. (#SupportFarmerMaggot, anyone?)
Eh, I don't get the sense that it will catch on.
What surprised you about reading LOTR so far? If you're rereading it, did you find out something new? Let me know here in the comments or on social media!
It's been a while! In the last year, I've started an internship and school has only gotten harder, leaving me with little time to keep up with blogging. A few months ago, I finished my first true novel and am currently getting feedback from some friends and family on the manuscript. Hopefully I'll have some news to share on that front pretty soon!
But summer is finally here, and with it, some much appreciated free time. I recently received a really nice set of The Lord of the Rings as a birthday gift (pictured above), and it gave me a cool idea to start a digital book club! It is to my great shame that I admit that I have never read the LOTR books all the way through, despite the fact that I have been a huge fan of the movies for years. I want to change that this summer!
To participate in the digital book club, there's no signup required! Just pick up that copy lying around your house, order it, get a Kindle copy, listen to the audiobook--whatever works for you--and follow along with me! My plan is to read roughly one book each month, with me posting updates on my progress each week. I know that might seem a little long for some, but for the slow readers (like me!) and those with busy schedules, I think this will work out well. So here's the official timeline:
May 13-June 13: The Fellowship of the Ring
June 14-July 13: The Two Towers
July 14th-August 13: The Return of the King
I'm looking forward to reading along with you guys! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment!
Great, you're probably thinking. Another Snoke theory. You might just want to stick around for this one, though. You probably would have never guessed it.
If you're even a little bit involved in the Star Wars Universe chatter, you've probably heard a plethora of theories on who Supreme Leader Snoke really is. The most popular seems to be Darth Plagueis, a resurrected version of Darth Sidious' master, but some have posited that he is everything from Darth Sidious himself to Mace Windu and even Boba Fett. But one fan on Reddit got to thinking, and well, what if Snoke isn't real at all?
Yes, friend. Perhaps he is just a figment of Kylo's unstable imagination. But how? you say. Everyone else can see him, too!
Here's where it gets interesting. We've seen plenty of new Force-related abilities in the new Star Wars trilogy so far, whether it be stopping laser fire mid-air or Luke's stunning cross-galaxy projection and exit from The Last Jedi. The theory here, then, is that the newly inaugurated Supreme Leader of the First Order is powerful enough to have projected Snoke for others to see as well, and that Snoke is little more than a projection of some kind of second personality inside Ren himself. Our Reddit user said it best:
"Whenever Snoke is spoken about in the series by either Luke, Leia, or Han, he's spoken about in a rather impersonal manner. 'We lost him to Snoke', 'Snoke did this' etc etc. It would be cool if someone like Luke when referring to Snoke, was actually speaking about Kylo's dark side. Maybe Luke knew? Maybe Han knew? Remember when Han said to Kylo Ren on the bridge, 'That's Snoke talking'?"
It's certainly intriguing, and totally within the realm of possibility considering what we've seen in the movies so far. Unfortunately, I have something of a hunch that Disney is planning a safe plotline for Episode IX considering the backlash against The Last Jedi. Even if they don't, I think it's unlikely that they will explore Snoke's character any further with Rian Johnson already having said that he felt any such explanation was an impediment to the flow of the story.
But we'll see. Maybe Disney will, in fact, let the past die.
I'm a sci-fi/fantasy lover & writer who especially likes talking about Star Wars and futuristic tech. I like finding new things & finding the beauty in old things, especially in my "Everyday Snippets" series. I hope you'll join me on my blog and unleash your imagination!