I have loved The Lord of the Rings since I was a tween (a word that didn’t exist then). I was introduced to The Hobbit when I was around ten.
By eleven a friend and I had read and discussed The Lord of the Rings over the span of a school year.
On average I reread it every other year. In other words, I’ve read it at least twenty times.
The formative power of Tolkien
To say that Tolkien has had a strong formative influence on me would be an understatement.
Apart from the brief period of time in which I worried that “fantasy literature” was somehow antithetical to the Christian faith (a phase that mercifully ended quickly), Middle Earth has been a constant influence.
I was recently chatting with a friend about our favorite volumes in the book. I have always gravitated to the first volume The Fellowship of the Ring–ever since I first read it.
For some reason, I assumed that the rest of the world probably liked it the least.
To my surprise, my friend agreed with me. He named for me some things that hitherto had lain beneath my conscious mind.
In praise of the ordinary
The Fellowship of the Ring, he noted, is the most ordinary of the three volumes of LOTR.
With The Two Towers, the narrative begins to pick up speed. It also picks up an epic tone.
The language becomes more lofty, more indicative of the epic nature of this final battle between the free world and the power of the Ring.
That’s not true in the first book.
Instead, we encounter the tale of simple people whose life is interrupted by an adventure they never anticipated and they only partially understand.
That’s me. I’m no wizard, monarch, or even warlord. I’m more a peasant.
I celebrate that my forefathers worked the Suffolk landscape.
I celebrate that they made their living harvesting apples and other soft fruit.
That the sweat of their brow and the ache of their back brought food to the table and shelter for their families.
My lineage includes soldiers, brewers, laborers, and gamekeepers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely grateful that I am literate and well-educated.
At the same time, I’m ordinary and I’m growing to be fine with that.
The little folk of the Shire are right. The finest things in life are simple pleasures.