Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A for Arrogant or Aragorn; An Honest Review of LOTR (the book)

Somehow, its still possible to learn things about yourself far into middle age. And even in middle earth. My foray into Tolkien's mind has been enlightening as well as entertaining.

Let me start by way of confession.

I was wearing a monogrammed necklace that was a gift from one of my students, and it dawned on me as I gazed on it that I am somewhat proud of the fact that my first name starts with the first letter of the alphabet. As if I had anything to do with that. The alphabet or my name!! Sometimes I surprise myself.

So, on to middle earth. For a moment let me speak in literary generalities. Every good hero is a delicate mixture of self doubt and self approval. Every villain must be out of balance in the same way - either a slithering  Gollum or Wormtongue, who possess qualities best described as self-absorbed and devoid of healthy self-esteem. While I don't identify with either of the villains, I'd like to find myself in Frodo, or perhaps Aragorn (I would say Gandalf, but I'd rather hide that arrogance a little longer, thank you) but more often I find myself in Bilbo Baggins. This is a more subtle recrimination. I find that my self-aggrandizement is often challenged by the reality of, well, being me.

It is a great satisfaction to know that the great JRR himself knew this personal angst. How else could he have written so honestly about human traits, even if he did assign them to hobbits, elves, dwarves, and wizards? The enduring quality of the Lord of the Rings story is that ability it has to make us look at ourselves.

Having made it to the end of the book, (it was of ponderous size) my fond remembrance is of the heroism of Frodo and the sacred faithfulness of his dear friend Sam. May we all be Sam, because we can't all be Frodo.

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