Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Read Lord of the Rings

Usually I find the little introductions invariably placed at the front of old books to be quaint and bothersome. None moreso when they have the “How to Read This Book” section.

I mean, there are obviously different modes of annotation that might be useful to note, etcetera, etcetera, but once one has become literate and is able to mechanically operate a publication’s apparatus, you’re pretty much good to go.

Not so with Lord of the Rings, at least for me.

via Lianne Taimenlore
I do love the story behind LOTR, and I wouldn’t have watched the extended versions of the movies a million times if I didn’t. It’s just… the books… *shrinks* I got bored.

I’m sorry. I know a lot of people love the books and find them enchanting and fascinating but I am not one of them. It’s hard to say why, exactly, but it kind of felt like I was reading through molasses and the story kept getting stuck in between the page and my eyes. It took me a long time to read the trilogy—but if anyone is having trouble getting through, I thought I’d tell my success story, in case it will help anyone else.

via Tumblr

The Fellowship of the Ring

  1. Try getting started a few times and give up.
  2. Learn that your family is going to your grandfather’s birthday party the first weekend of July, and for the duration of the visit you will have no Internet access.
  3. Bring The Fellowship of the Ring on the trip, and following that, the birthday party.
  4. Help set up as much as possible, then go sit in the kitchen with suspicious-looking catered food and your younger sister and read for six hours straight.
  5. Get about three-quarters of the way done with the book.
  6. Finish the rest of the book during August.
via Giphy

The Two Towers

  1. Realize that you finished Fellowship of the Ring last month and should get on the next one.
  2. Carry yourself on the wings of the finished-book high through the story.
  3. Try to focus on the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli part, because it is hard to care about Frodo. 
  4. Really though Sam is way cooler than Frodo can I get a hallelujah? 
  5. Get caught reading in AP Euro by a teacher who, coincidentally, has a ginormous LOTR poster on the wall (there’s a Hobbit poster across the room now, too)—put away the book because priorities.
  6. Finish the book and put it on the shelf.
  7. Rejoice.
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Return of the King

  1. The following June, as you prepare to leave for a trip to England and Spain, bring Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Return of the King, because you don’t want to read either and if you’re at the airport you can’t get distracted.
  2. Read in the airport until all the flights fall through and your trip gets postponed. 
  3. Learn that you must go back to your grandparents’ on account of your great-grandmother’s funeral.
  4. Pack Return of the King alongside other books you don’t really want to read, like The King Must Die, since you have since learned that Cinder is glorious.
  5. Read The King Must Die first, because it’s smaller.
  6. Bring Return of the King to the recently deceased great-grandmother’s exhibition-of-the-body get together.
  7. Say hello to all of the close family members you like.
  8. Claim a seat on a couch next to sister, and read for about six or seven hours straight until Mom and Dad say you can go home.
  9. Go back to Grandma’s apartment, and then stay up until midnight finishing RotK, because, gurl, you’re on a roll!
  10. Go buy the Twilight Saga because you need some kind of reward for that accomplishment and Half-Price Books doesn’t exist at home.

And then… You’re free. You’ve done it, you’ve managed, and no one can accuse you of not reading the books but still liking the movies, and can secretly harbor a preference for the movies, and not just because Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortenson look nice, or the battle scenes are choreographed better.

I hope it helps. I’m sure you’ll need it.

Have you read Lord of the Rings? Was it as hard for you as it was for me? What are some interesting adventures you took with a book?

30 comments :

  1. My mom read us the entire trilogy when I was around seven or eight, and I reread the books myself about three years ago. If I'm going to be completely honest, I prefer the movies, mostly because they put more of a focus on plot and character development while the books are all about worldbuilding. It's not that I don't like the books...I really, really do, but they can be slow-going. I also hate the "fans" who think anyone who likes the movies better than the books or, even worse, has seen the movies and never read the books, is a total idiot. It's all about preference, and I've got to say that I'd take characters and plot over worldbuilding any day.

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    1. Oh wow, that must have been fun, but long. I like the movies, too, and I agree about your reasons. He sort of info-dumps the worldbuilding so that we know what we're seeing at the expense of all the characters so that we can't always adore who we're rooting for. I agree that fans who have that kind of spite in their attitude are no true fans at all, because that is just unkindness. I completely agree with you. Thanks for your input, Alex!

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  2. I've never read the series, but this is certainly a good guide for someone that's interested in trying it out!

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    1. Well, if you ever try it out, come back and tell me what you thought! I'd be interested to see how other people managed to get through it... It took me over a year for me!

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  3. I just saw on your introduction page that you're related to Daniel Boone and I thought that was cool because there's a town real close to where I live called Boone after him :)

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    1. It's a distant uncle relation, but yes, I am! That's so cool! I think he's a great hero, or something, so it isn't a surprise, but still nice. :)

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  4. I read the title and thought, "I need to read this post." Because I've only read the Fellowship. (And I call myself a fantasy writer, pfft.)

    And then you said you had a difficult time reading LOTR. And I didn't feel so alone and treacherous. LOTR has a lot of description and moves kind of slow sometimes. Plus, the character development is hard to find on a small scale. There's a lot of character arc, but little initial development, I guess is what I'm trying to say? I love the story, and I love the characters, but it's a difficult book to get through.

    We're going on vacation soon and I've been planning on bringing The Two Towers. In part because there's no internet access and because, well, I need to read it.

    Also, I've resolved myself to not finish the movies until I've read the books. Which is agony of the Into the Woods type.

    *gasps* I read Cinder on a plane trip too! And it's fantastic! Right now, I'm reading Cress. Which is the most ginormous book in the world. If it wasn't the Lunar Chronicles, I would be avoiding it's gargantuan size until I lay on my death bed.

    I loved this post!

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    1. Well, I think you needed to read this post, too, because no one should feel alone regarding the treacheries of LOTR. Tolkein had a lot to him, for example crafting a hugely developed storyworld, but you're exactly right. It's a difficult book to get through, no matter how much there is to love.

      (And, for the record, I don't think LOTR has bearing on whether you can be a fantasy writer or not.)

      I hope that your vacation gives you the opportunity to finish Two Towers, and that you enjoy it, but I also encourage you to definitely hold out for the movies—they are awesomeness condensed, I promise. It definitely is an agony, but I think it will be all the sweeter when you finally get there!

      :D I never actually got on the plane to read Cinder there, but cool! I loved Cress as well, but even though it looks long, it feels as long as a heartbeat. I hope you enjoy Cress!

      Thanks for reading, Ashley!

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  5. I've read the series twice, once a few years ago then again last year. The first time I read it I hadn't seen the movies, so I read the thing with glazed eyes and didn't take in much beyond the fact that there were these things called hobbits. It took me about a year to get through them last year because I kept getting distracted :) I thought they were so boring. (Needless to say, I will not be reading them again.)

    AND YES I LOVE CINDER!!!!

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    1. XD It can be a little hard to get your bearings without the movies, right? They definitely dragged, but hey, you said you did it, and now you can just take pleasure in the movies without picking up the books again!

      YES TO CINDER! *high fives*

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  6. Hmm, I love this series, actually all of Tolkien's writing, and have read them at least three times each, no trouble at all. But of course not everyone is the same, but I love the beautiful history of it all and the world-building and well everything.

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    1. Huh, well, I'm glad that you've found them simple reads! As you said, we aren't all able to read the same way, but it's good to know that there are people like you among us who can love the history and worldbuilding in its full. :)

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  7. The books are just so long. I mean, I like them well enough, but *whispers* I skipped bits. Like the elvish having a sing-song and the other boring bits. I just skimmed right through them. The Hobbit was so much easier to read. I read the trilogy once, and The Hobbit about five times. The trilogy is good, and well worth reading, but I agree, they're totally not the easiest books in the world to read. The movies are so much easier to watch. And it doesn't hurt that the Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli story in the movie is so good either!

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    1. May I just say that your circle picture is lovely? It is.

      I know. I honestly can't blame you for skipping, though I didn't. There were definitely parts that just droned on and on. I think that it's worth it to understand, say, the content of the movies, and respect where it came from, but I think I'm willing to say the LOTR movies are better than the books, and the Hobbit book was better than the movies (in my humble opinion, of course). Also, yes. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are just the best. :D

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  8. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but this post made me laughh. :') But yes, I completely agree with you - I had a hard time finishing the books myself. It wasn't because of the volume (I have all six books packed into one) or the language, but the writing style. Tolkien loves his descriptions, and loves to write slow. I feel like all the character came to life better on the screen than on the page. But I do love the world. :)

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    1. I'm glad you laughed! This is just my personal anecdote; it's too hard to talk about the struggles of reading the books without lightening the mood a little bit. I think you nailed the writing style on the head, and the slow pacing killed it for me, especially. There was not a lot of urgency, at all. Still, I have to agree. He made a beautiful world.

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  9. AMEN AND I AGREE AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS. haha. But really seriously now....no. I really hated them. I love the movies and they've endlessly inspired my own fantasy writing, but the books were EXACTLY like faceplanting in molasses. And they fetl dry and boring and I just didn't care. The only part I liked was the intro about the hobbits. I read The Fellowship and then half of the Two Towers before I realised the ONLY reason I was reading it was to say I had. -_- And I also basically would go to bed early instead of reading it...so that's messed up. I would possibly try The Hobbit on audio?? But otherwise, no thank you Tolkien.

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    1. XD I'm glad you liked the post, even if you hated the books. I have to agree that the movies really capture something the books don't, and probably because they do just the opposites of what you said. They were full of life, fast-paced, and you cared. If you're going to sleep to avoid reading a book, I think that's a good reason to DNF. I've heard the Hobbit is better, though I haven't made it through myself, but yeah. I'm putting a cap on my Tolkien consumption.

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  10. This is great, heather. And thanks for the Sisterhood tag (I only just saw it). That was so funny! I have a friend who calls herself Mrs Bloom. When I was 12, my parents bought the trilogy DVDs. I got so scared by the orcs in the Fellowship that I spent most of that movie with my eyes squeezed shut and my ears firmly blocked. Except the Rivendell bits. (Fun fact: I've been to the plce they filmed Rivendell in New Zealand. It was so cool. Sadly, they took down the set but it was very LOTR-y). It took me one and a half years to read the books. I had a similar strategy to you- we only had them on kindle, so I only read them on holiday (this was pre-kindle death). I would read them at the same time as another book, being like 'first get to the next percent then you can go have fun with Artemis Fowl or whatever. Finally, I got to The Return of the King by covering the percentage bar with my finger and only allowing myself to look at it if I had changed percentage. I was so close to the end that when school started I got the physical copy from the library and decided to just finish it. I probably won't try again. It took me so long that I forgot half the names and places by the end.

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    1. Thanks, Shar, and I hope you like the tag! I didn't see the Lord of the Rings movies until I was much older, so I can't say I shared that experience. That's so cool that you got to see Rivendell! That would be a magical experience for me. I think rewarding yourself in that way was rather clever, and I'm glad you saved yourself with Artemis Fowl before anything got too depressing for you. Still, it's impressive that you got through it though, and I commend you for trying. Still, if you can when you're a little older, I'd try watching the movies again. They're spectacular!

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  11. This was hilarious.

    I can definitely relate with your struggles. I don't remember how I managed to get through the Lord of the Rings trilogy (back when I was twelve, I think), but I remember really disliking it. Which sadly kept me from watching the movies for about 3 years, and I missed that much time of blissful Lord of the Rings obsession. I still don't like the books, but I read them religiously just to keep me updated on the reasons I hate them, so as to defend myself from the attacks of my Ring obsessed friends.

    The Silmarillion, however, is quite a different animal.

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    1. XD I'm glad you thought so.

      Wow, twelve? That's impressive. I'm honestly not sure if I had the reader's stamina to get through it when I was twelve. Still, I'm glad you made it to the movies, so that you joined the obsessed ranks and can appreciate the story without necessarily liking where they came from.

      I haven't gotten to the Silmarillion yet, but I've heard it's good!

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  12. Lol, this was pretty awesome! Honestly, I haven't even read the books (love the movies, though, especially the Hobbits), so you've done better than I have at least, lol. Congratz on finishing!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. That's okay, haha. I don't think you need to read the books to be a "real fan." You can like what you like and that be that. Thanks for reading, Alexa!

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  13. Well, that's one How-To I've never seen before. I'll have to take notes. (But seriously, I always laugh at the "how to read this book" section because seriously, if I can read that section, then chance are I already know how to read the book.) I actually really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, but I can understand what you mean about molasses. As much as I enjoyed it, it wasn't because it was a fast-paced, quick read. And the first time I read it, it was for a year-long literature class, so I only had to read a chapter at a time. I don't know, maybe that helped with first impressions? I've actually been planning to reread it soon.

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    1. *salutes* That's what I'm here for. But, you're right. The "how-to" bits in books are sort of laughable. It wasn't all bad for me, just hard, but I can totally appreciate you liking them. That probably would also matter—I mean, first of all, it wasn't a read you were expecting to read solely for pleasure (maybe?) and then you were on someone else's reading schedule. But when you're expecting a book where you can read a couple chapters a night and enjoy it, you have another think coming. Be sure to update me when you finish LOTR again—I'd like to hear about if your perspective stayed the same or not!

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  14. I'm going to have to take your advise because I've never been able to read Lord of the Rings xD

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    1. XD Well, if you ever try again, just set low expectations and don't hurt yourself. The movies are enough, if worse comes to worse. :)

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  15. I am with you on this: The Lord of the Rings is really challenging to get through. I've only read it once or twice, and the hardest thing for me is getting out of the Shire... and then getting past the Ents. -_- I personally prefer Frodo to Sam for various reasons, and tbh for me the only thing that kept me reading to the end were the Mordor parts. I read the books before seeing the films, and Mordor made quite an impression on my young mind. I imagined it a bit different from in the films: more lava, more black instead of grey. It was one of the coolest settings I'd read in a long time. But even those parts where a bit slow sometimes.
    Cinder is awesome! Glad you came to realize your mistake... ;)

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    1. It is, huh? I haven't felt that way between Frodo and Sam, and honestly Mordor didn't interest me too much, but to each her own, eh? Good on you for reading before watching, but I'm glad the setting impressed you! I still am more of a fan of the Gondor battle, but whatever.

      And yes, I'm glad I realized my mistake as well!

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