The Lord of the Rings: On Books, Movies, & Memes

Film poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fel...
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I just finished reading The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This was not my first read-through, but I have not read it since I was young – perhaps around age 10 – and so it was delightful to read it with even more appreciation for the written word.

One thing that I have found, however, is that after seeing the Lord of the Rings movies, I have not been able to burn the images presented there out of my head. That is to say, much of the book is no longer left to my imagination. When I picture Aragorn in my head, I see Viggo Mortenson. When Legolas strides into the scene, I see Orlando Bloom. Little Frodo is forever Elijah Wood, and so the list goes on. Now while not every face from the movies is etched into my skull so strongly, the main characters in particular have had any chance of imagination scratched in favor of the film versions.

It’s disappointing, really, and I think of what that does to the culture of readers. Books are about imagination, and it changes the reading experience significantly if something has been imagined for us. While I am appreciative that such great works of literature see their way into film, I must also wonder if in ways, these films are a double-edged sword that do harm at the same time they do good.

While I did not complete a book-to-movie analysis while I read through The Lord of the Rings, I did make notice of two things that internet meme followers may get a kick out of, especially if they have not read through the books recently.

The infamous “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard” scene, remixed here:

is not present in the books. Although the hobbits were being taken to Isengard, Legolas never made that keen an observation; he merely observed that the hobbits were being taken away by the orcs.

However, “What is taters, precious?”:

is, in fact, quite present in the book, pretty much verbatim. It made me giggle, which I guess is one good thing the film gave me, besides humming “To Isengard-gard-gard” while I read Book 3.
This is the first classic I’ve read in a while. Looks like Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is next.

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