Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.
When I was a kid, my parents did “Family Read-Aloud”–every night after we cleaned up from dinner, they would take turns reading a chapter from a book to my brother and me. We worked through many a tome that way–the Chronicles of Narnia series, a wide variety of Carl Hiaasen and Cornelia Funke books, and, of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first time I read those books on my own, I was in seventh or eighth grade.
It’s been a while since then, and while I have enjoyed discussing the books with friends over the years, I didn’t seriously revisit the books until this past summer, when I was doing an internship in a remote, mountainous area. With a lack of wifi and meager cell service, I brought a crate of books (and a plethora of art supplies) to keep myself occupied. One of the books I brought along was my copy of The Lord of the Rings, which I stole from my brother at some point. Dog-eared, with food and drink spills adorning it, the book is well-loved and perused.
It is, perhaps, fortuitous that I re-read the series during a year that was tumultuous for so many, including myself. Middle-earth is a lovely world to get lost in, and the stories found in these books are at times funny and other times poignant (and sometimes, they’re both). I have remarked to several people before that the stories sometimes read as if the characters appeared in Tolkien’s living room and told him about their lives.
But I think the importance of these books, and why they have remained so popular, is not just how well-written they are but also how much they resonate with people. Ultimately, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a story of hope, perseverance, and change. The task the Fellowship is given–take the Ring to Mordor–would be impossible if they did it on their own. Even Frodo, the Bearer of the Ring, must be borne himself. Along the way, they take loses and face immense hardships, but they also gain new friends and have moments of heartfelt camaraderie. And, perhaps most importantly, none of them are the same at the end. Their experiences throughout the books make them all different, and at the end, when Frodo sails off with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the remaining Elves, I always feel both sadness and joy. On the one hand, it’s not easy to watch one leave their friends. On the other hand, they have changed, and so have Frodo’s wants and needs. It’s representative of the new age they find themselves in after the defeat of Sauron.
Perhaps that’s the time we’re in now. The past year has certainly been difficult on many levels, and it has forced us all to adapt. We aren’t supposed to be the same people at the end of our personal adventures. Maybe we’re not destroying a ring of great power for the betterment of Middle-earth, but we all have our own personal Mount Dooms to climb. And I have found that, if you ever need a place to go as you climb, the world of Tolkien is always there.
Edith-Marie started her blog Short Girl Writes in January of 2016. When she’s not reading, writing, or writing about either of those things, she’s a college student, majoring in international studies with a concentration in global health.