How Reading The Lord of the Rings Changed My Life (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks


Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.


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How Reading The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien Changed My Life

I’m sure I’ve talked about this on the blog before, so this story may be familiar to some readers, but when I think about a classic, or simply any book, that changed my life there is only one that immediately comes to mind: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. There are other books I’ve liked and have read over and over, ones that have made me think about myself and the world in new ways, but in terms of actual, concrete changes to my life, The Lord the Rings is the only book that makes the cut.

I first read The Lord of the Rings in sixth grade, devouring the entire story in four days. From there, I dove into Tolkien scholarship (I was a weird kid, ok?) and started learning more about Tolkien’s academic background and his literary influences. Soon I was reading medieval literature like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I loved that, too.

When I went to college, I took far more pre-1800 literature classes than the department intended (but it was allowed by the rules), and afterwards I entered an English literature PhD program, intending to specialize in medieval literature and become a professor (like Tolkien!). I eventually decided to leave the PhD program with my master’s degree, due to reasons largely related to academia as an institution and not due to any lack of love of the subject, so unfortunately I’m not going to live the dream of teaching the next generation of college students to think medieval romances are cool and Chaucer is actually readable if you try. However, my point is that my entire academic career (and other facets of my life that spun off from that, like whom I have been able to network with and what non-academic jobs I’ve gotten because of those networks) was influenced by the fact that I read The Lord of the Rings in sixth grade.


19 thoughts on “How Reading The Lord of the Rings Changed My Life (Classic Remarks)

  1. mphtheatregirl says:

    Never thought of this- a classic that changed your life.

    However, Harry Potter and Narnia for most responsible for my love for fantasy. That eventually led to reading Lord of the Rings.


  2. majoringinliterature says:

    I love the fact that reading LOTR led you to explore the world of medieval literature! It’s such a fascinating topic (and such a great way to get into it!).

    I had a very similar experience with academia so I know where you’re coming from. And it sounds like that no matter what, thanks to LOTR you have some incredible experiences and knowledge for the rest of your life. 🙂

    Here are my thoughts on this topic:


  3. Never Not Reading says:

    That’s such a cool story! I read LOTR as a young person too, but it took me more like 4 MONTHS to get through the whole thing. Even now I can’t imagine reading it in 4 DAYS. I’m generally not into old English literature, but I like the idea of it and might enjoy studying Chaucer if I could go back in time and do undergrad again.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I have this vague memory of doing basically NOTHING ELSE except reading for the first two days, and then I got a bit tired of that, which is why I took four days total instead of three. (I took one day for FotR, one day for TTT, and then two days for RotK.) It must have been summer vacation or something because I don’t exactly have that kind of time now! :p

      I didn’t even study Chaucer in undergrad, which makes me a terrible medievalist! No idea why they even let me into grad school for medieval literature with that background. I was TA’ing for this Canterbury Tales class like, yeah, I’ve never actually read this before…. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Never Not Reading says:

        I read a little bit of Canterbury Tales in high school, but I admit I struggled with the medieval English. I’m told it works better when one ignores the meter/form, but I never got the hang of it. Enjoyed the stories once they were explained to me, though!


        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I think it got better after I read other stuff in Middle English that was much harder to understand because it was older or in a different dialect. Suddenly I was like, “Wow! Chaucer is so readable! It’s basically Modern English!” My one grad school professor assigned this early medieval text where the author didn’t use any of the new French loan words after the Norman Conquest, and it was basically like reading Anglo-Saxon, and I was the only one who even read most of it…then in class he was all, “Oh, I didn’t want you to REALLY read it; I just wanted you to note it looked close to Anglo-Saxon!” Yeah, thanks.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    Thanks for sharing – I love reading about how books, esp. Tolkien, influenced someone’s life. Tolkien didn’t influence my entire academic path but I did choose some courses like History of English because of his work. I think the most concrete effect reading The LotR had on me was prompting me to travel to Oxford and New Zealand!


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