When I decided to read and live-tweet The Fellowship of the Ring (FotR) it was mostly as a lark. For years I’d been dissing and dismissing Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, assuming it’d be similar to Peter Jackson’s film adaptations: overhyped and unending (yell all you want – “The Return of the King” was tedious). Despite my participation in #ReadtheHobbit, a Twitter-based reading challenge in which participants read one chapter a day of The Fellowship of the Ring and tweeted commentary, I was confident that my original assessment of Tolkien’s writing stood. I still had the memories of several failed attempts to start FotR, each one ending halfway-through a prologue which read more like historical text than fantasy fiction.
Yet I couldn’t deny I’d been completely charmed by The Fellowship of the Ring, which turned out to be a much easier read than I anticipated. I was pleased and surprised with the diversity of readers tweeting, as I’d always thought the majority of Tolkien’s fan base was white cis-het males. What truly peaked my curiosity was the absolute Love expressed by the other participants for Tolkien’s work, which ranged from jovial to fanatical. I secretly began to wonder what I was missing out on. With my smartphone in one hand, and a thrift-store copy of “Fellowship…” in the other, I began to read. I expected it to be entertaining. I expected it to be sloggy.
I did not expect to fall in love.
Thanks to “The Hobbit ” jumping into FotR was easy once I made it past the Forward and Prologue, which were eventually entertaining but mostly dry toast. It’d been years since I’d watched the movies, so I was completely taken aback to find a richer cast of characters than I remembered. Merry and Pippin were no longer background simpletons, they were capable journeymen!
The duality of Strider/Aragorn was so visible, he became even more intriguing. And HOT. In reading Frodo’s internal struggles as the Bearer of the Ring, I was able to find sympathy for poor, warped Gollum. As I read, I often tried to see through the eyes of someone who knew nothing about what lie ahead. I found myself wishing more than once that I had never watched the films, just so I could experience the joy of visualizing Middle Earth purely in my imagination.
I knew it was love when the world I was reading about almost daily began bleeding into my everyday life. I began wistfully looking at the clock around nine a.m., hungry for Second Breakfast. I joshed with folks around the globe about favorite LotR memes and looked up recipes for lembas bread. I named that moment when you fall in love-at-first-sight with a perfect stranger a “Gimli”. And on Jun. 12 when I woke up to the news of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre and was still weeping four hours later, only the words of Samwise Gamgee, the most loyal friend and Everyman ever written, could convince me that there was still good left in this world worth fighting for.
I understand why 62 years later this story has stayed with us. Tolkien wrote us a wonderful and rich world to revel in, where there are dark forces a’brewin’ (not unlike our own.) As we travel with the Fellowship, their actions let us see what our best and worst selves might look like on such an adventure. Several times, as I thought about how much the characters had progressed, I found myself reflecting on my own troubled past and recognized how far I’d come.
What started as a lark became an actual journey and in every member of the Fellowship, I saw myself. It’s why I blushed with Gimli when he asked for a single strand of Elven hair, and cheered as Legolas took down a Ring-Wraith in one shot. I empathized with the desperation that drove Boromir to his eventual betrayal, and welled up with Sam every time because we’re both fat, easy criers. However irreverently I may tweet about Tolkien’s story, I feel a part of it now. I’ll continue to read, to tweet, and to see the Fellowship’s journey through to the end. After all, we’ve only just begun.
Follow me into The Two Towers on @ReadLOTR #ReadLotR