Montag, 6. August 2012

Not all those who wander are lost - My favourite classic

Like the vast majority of devoted readers I protest at having to choose one favourite book. That is simply not possible; what with North and South, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and The Divine Comedy, to name just a few. On the other hand nothing is easier for me than choosing the book I have the most personal connection with, the one which changed my life the most and which I spent so many hours dreaming over that its pages became my substitute for the real world. The title of this post already gives away which book I am talking about, at least for those of you who have read and maybe loved it.

To be honest, my history with The Lord of the Rings is not a cheerful story; in fact it is a story of loneliness and not belonging anywhere and after reading it even the last of you will be convinced that I am a complete nerd: how else could I feel this way about a fantasy book? But I don't care because for me The Lord of the Rings is so much more than just a book: it is my childhood, it is accepting myself, it is the world I explored before I had the courage to even want to go anywhere apart from Middle-Earth. For me, it is home.



I was nine years old when I first came across the strange name "The Lord of the Rings". Like so many others I have to thank Peter Jackson's wonderful movies (which are definitely my favourite movies ever, here it's easier to choose than with books) for getting to know Mr Tolkien at all. My mama saw all the movies when they were released and loved them so much that she bought the books, although she never read them. A few years later the movies were shown on TV here in Austria and after having put me and my little brothers to bed she sat down to watch The Fellowship of the Ring with my oldest sister. Had I slept well that night my life would have taken a different direction, but fate in the shape of a nightmare drove me to the living room not long after the movie had started. Normally no mother would allow her nine-year old to watch such a movie, after all there are quite a few rather tough fighting scenes in it, but somehow people seemed to be constantly forgetting my age when I was a child.
Of course I was always very tall, but more than that I was always "mature"; I led serious discussions about things no normal nine-year old girl would think of, I used big words and had even bigger ideas.In fact my mama sometimes says half-jokingly that she thinks I never was a child at all. And that is the reason why I hated a grand part of my childhood so much.

When I started school I had already taught myself how to read and write and I was impatient to learn more. I asked questions all the time and when I didn't understand something or when my opinion differed from my teacher's I actually argued with her. Now, I went to a catholic convent school and my teacher was a very severe and rigorous nun...You can imagine how well she understood my character. She criticised me all the time, often made me stay with her during the breaks and after school to lecture me and brought me to tears several times a week. The only thing that was worse than dealing with her was dealing with the other children in my class. I could as well have been from another planet so little did I understand them and they me! The only things they cared for were Disney movies, sleepovers, boygroups and Barbies. Of course they only acted their age, but I didn't know that then. The only thing I knew was that I was an outcast, I longed for adventures, stories, great ideas and dreams and I wanted to do something meaningful, to be so much more than just a little lonely schoolgirl.

That was the point of my life where I met Frodo and Sam, Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn and all the others. All the heroes. There they were: brave and strong enough to face all their enemies despite their fear, even the smallest of them standing up and fighting for what is right, for hope, for freedom. They showed me exactly who I wanted to be. They became my friends when I had no others. For years I would imagine Gandalf by my side whenever I was afraid, Gandalf in whose presence I could only be safe. When I needed to be strong I slipped into the role of Aragorn and when I was frustrated because I was treated like a little child I remembered Éowyn. My brothers and I would spend hours in the woods fighting with our bows and "swords", escaping from black riders and defeating Sauron. Honestly I think a lot of the self-confidence I have comes from that time: I knew everything about Middle-Earth and learned a great deal about our world through it. I still know almost all of the songs (I even composed melodies for them) and poems which appear in the book by heart and some of them are about three pages long. Finally I had something special only for me, something which the people who bullied me would never understand. But now that I think of it, being a little girl who was able to handle a sword certainly helped to boost my confidence a little too.

I devoured all the movies and then I became the first to take the books from my mother's shelves and find comfort in their pages. I know that many people who loved the film were disappointed by the book and that makes me sad because these two are simply completely different things. While the movies tell the wonderful stories of a few characters, Tolkien does not really want to do so primarily. What Tolkien does is create a whole world, he doesn't just invent a few heroes, places and magical creatures like the fantasy authors nowadays do; he tells the story of his world, consisting of an incredible number of separate stories, each of them as complex as that of Frodo and the Ring. Middle-Earth goes so much farther than The Lord of the Rings. Every side character, even every place has a history and most of them are only touched upon in Tolkien's actual books. Middle-Earth is boundless and its complexity allows it to become real. It became my reality when I wanted nothing else than to get away from this world I hated so much. It was my world when I needed it and if you listen carefully it can become yours too.

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost"
Seven years have passed since I first found a home in Middle-Earth. In this time I managed to find a place for me in the "real" world too, but without the dreams from my first home I would never have had the courage to look for it. And, believe it or not, if I try to be a little better a person today than others in similar circumstances, if I look for beauty in seemingly hopeless places, if I fight for what I believe is right and if I never give up I owe it to J.R.R..
You can call me a nerd now, of course, but you can also call me a patriot: a part of my heart will forever belong to Middle-Earth.

Kommentare:

  1. MAN, you've made me want to read Lord of the Rings again! Totally agree that the world building in LOTR is AMAZING, but I could never quite get on board with all the songs... Bad songs...

    Also, *cuddle* for your lonely childhood days- so glad that things are better now :)

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    1. Okay, I have to admit that my perception of the quality of the songs is maybe slightly influenced by nostalgic feelings

      Thank you! I am glad too!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I must admit that I haven't read this series yet. I own the box set, and I put The Hobbit on my list (knowing that I won't stop there!) I do love the movies, but understand that I will get more out of the books - always do. But I love how much these books mean to you, and what a big part of your life they are. That is beautiful and that is why one reads literature. Thanks for being a part of the Classics Club!

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    1. I can only recommend that you read them when you feel like it, that is very important. And don't give up when they start too slow, I promise it will be worth it!

      Thank you for being so nice! :)

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  3. It's a beautiful experience. Classic literature changes my life as well, though the story is not as unique as yours. I find it comforting to read somebody else's experience, who once was thought as a "freak" just because she is different, just as me. Thanks for sharing.

    I love the books. I also knew it from the movie, and then I went to the library and read them all, one after another. The best part of it? The Appendix. To think that a human being could make his own world with such details drives me to despair, as it is hard for me to even write a story properly. When I was divided between learning German and French, I studied Sindarin instead. So, yes, LoTR is really something.

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    1. It's good to hear that someone feels the same way I do!

      You are right, the fact that Tolkien invented all this is incredible. For me he is as much a genius as Albert Einstein or Mozart.
      I love that you learned Sindarin!
      It is a beautiful language :)

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  4. What a beautiful story! I found The Lord of the Rings as a seventh grader (I was 13?) and read all three titles on a family vacation. They moved me so much and I have considered them favorites since then! :)

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    1. I am glad you liked them too! Somehow the world seems to be a little better for me whenever I hear that someone loves Tolkien's books :)

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  5. Great post! Now I want to introduce your 9yo self to my 9yo daughter, who spends half her time as either a wood elf or Eowyn. I'm glad things are better for you now.

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    1. Haha, I am glad that there are still such kids!
      She is definitely a cool little girl :)

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  6. What a beautiful post. Coincidentally, I am now almost at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, I'm rereading the trilogy. I am one of those people that was initially disappointed in the books after the film but this time I've approached them different and Fellowship has been such an amazing read. The messages in the book are incredible.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! I am so glad you have liked it :D

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  7. Books have been the salvation of many of our lonely childhoods...

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    1. Thank God! What would I have done without them?

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    1. Thank you, that means a lot to me since it's a very personal one!

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  9. Aw -- I love that last line! "You can also call me a patriot." :-)

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  10. What a lovely story, Cassandra. I too discovered Middle-earth via a parent: my dad read my brother and I the books when we were little. I didn't become as attached to them as you have, although I have reread them several times (and plan to reread them this fall). The world Tolkien created is simply incredible--I am not surprised to learn they touched you so.

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  11. There's nothing nerdy about loving a wonderful book to pieces! I posted a quote recently about the solace that books and their worlds can give - your post highlights that idea perfectly.
    I'm lucky to be old enough to have read the trilogy (and The Hobbit) several times in my teens and twenties before the movies came out. I was the other way round - I was disappointed in the movies! For all the things missed out, all the characters not imagined as I imagined them and the Ents - I nearly cried when the ents arrived on screen - they weren't big enough or majestic enough - 10 years later it still grieves me!! Perhaps I am a nerdy type too??? :-)

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