Let’s talk about The Lord of the Rings.


I am planning to write a few posts about The Lord of the Rings. This one explains how I plan to read it. From there, I’ll move on to a discussion of the books and then the movies, so this will be a series. I am aiming for three posts (because a trilogy for this would be cool, right?) but it may be that I have more to say about LOTR than I can fit into three posts. We shall see. Here are some assumptions that are important to my reading:

The One Ring is a character. It is not a mere object and it is not simply an appendage of Sauron. It has its own personality and its own interests. The motive of all the other major antagonists – including Sauron – is to gain the ring. 

The trilogy is a series of encounters between the Ring and other characters. This series of episodes is the only narrative structure that matters to me here. Even though there are other things going on and there are characters who are never really involved with the ring, this part of the story gets enough page-time to make my reading work. 

Next, I break the characters into categories and look at how different categories of characters relate to The Ring.

Ancients – So named because I do not know what else to call them. This category includes Tom Bombadil, Shelob and The Ents.

Elves and Wizards – Includes Galadriel, Gandalf, Elrond, and Saruman, among others.

 Mortals – Humans and hobbits. Sam, Boromir, Faramir, and Denethor are the ones I am most interested in, but there are interesting things to say about Merry and Pippin as well.

Ringbearers – Mortals changed unnaturally by contact with rings of power. They have to be categorized separately from “mortals,” because the rings alter their life spans, personalities, and behavior.

The reason I am reading LOTR this way is because I want to look at characters who encounter the ring, see what choices they make, and then see where the story takes them from there. I think this might tell us interesting things about the nature of good, evil, and mortality presented in the text.  

I am mostly interested in the mortals, because I am working up to a discussion of the book-to-movie adaptation, and the Faramir of the movies is drastically different than the Faramir of the books. In fact, he may be the character who suffers the most severe changes in the adaptation. 

Character categories adapted from:

Agnes Perkins and Helen Hill, The corruption of power. In The Tolkien Compass, ed. Jared Lobdell. Toronto: Ballantine, 1979, pp. 60-72.

A three-sentence review of that essay: It’s good analysis, but the point they support with it is kind of obvious. You do have to consider that this is a presentation paper from a conference in 1974 though. It would benefit from several more pages of detail.

image: SilentrageLeon/Deviant Art



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