Why I Loved The Lord of The Rings

Why I Loved The Lord of The Rings

I love fantasy. When I was a small kid, I used to watch a lot of cartoons. Watching them, I got drawn to the fantastic elements. The things which were really impossible to perform in real life like making fire, flying, going from one place to another in the snap of a second, traveling to a world filled with exotic and wonderful creatures. These things can hold the attention any child, but not all of them can keep their love into teenage and adulthood. It is not a bad thing per se. People just get comfortable with reality and find their time accosted by it (or their minds have been shattered by society).
Even I have forgotten many of these fantasies.
However, there is one story filled with magic and such wonder, I and as well as the people well into their old age still have it in their minds and hearts and dream of it. They are still fascinated by it, amazed at such a tale was able to be told. It is none other than The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of The Rings is an epic fantasy story written by J. R. R. Tolkien. A story so long for it had to be published in three volumes, each volume consisting of six books.
Lord of The Rings has stood the test of time, transcending something akin to high literature without being overly boring, of course, which is quite an achievement. It has been adapted into animation, radio, stage, and the faithful live action movies.
The story has been much beloved and even critics can’t help but be lost somewhere along the way into analyzing it.
People love it for many reasons. Some love it for the great battles, others for the great epic heroes in the form of men and elves, of powerful wizards who are always on time ever late nor early. Not to forget, the movies gave the story, one of the most iconic soundtracks ever made. God bless Howard Shore. Excellent use of CGI also must be mentioned with the practical make-ups of the orcs and goblins.
I agree with all these sentiments, yet I must say, I like Lord of The Rings for different reasons entirely. These are small nuances, very subtle but felt altogether and serve as little details to the big picture which are very easy to miss. But, these are the most important aspects which make up the story. If these were taken out, I have no doubt in my mind, the story would completely fall apart what it truly meant to be. These are the heart and soul of Lord of The Rings and these are the reasons why I love The Lord of The Rings.
Be warned for I will take the reference of both books and movies, but it will be easy to follow through. Also, beware of spoilers!

The Importance of The Shire

The Shire is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place ever conceived in either page or film. It does not have the majestic marvel of the elves dwelling place Rivendell, or the magical warmth of Tom Bombadil’s house in the Old Forest, what it has is the simplistic nature of a countryside with holes in the ground. No, not smelly, dirty or wet holes filled with worms–hobbit holes, which mean comfort.
The Shire can be said to be the closest to a physical paradise. While there may be some pesky neighbors trying their best to get your house for themselves, and the folks might not like you adventuring around very much, it is still a lovely place.
The importance of The Shire lies in the fact in its timelessness. While the Elven realm’s splendor is maintained thanks to the three rings of power, and Tom Bombadil seems to possess immense power over the boundaries of his land, affecting them at his command, and while the race of Men has neglected the nature, the Shire stands by itself. There is no magic involved, just hobbits living there eating and celebrating their days and nights.
The Shire has even been able to endear itself to Gandalf, who has been all over Middle-Earth from olden days and has seen many wonderful places.
It is very much adored by all who visit, but the most who must have is none other than Frodo Baggins.
The very first scene in the movie (after the narration) is Frodo sitting under a tree, while ‘Concerning Hobbits’ plays in the background. Quite many of the first scenes of the first movie are taken of the Shire, such regard is not provided to the same extent to Rivendell or Lothlórien or Bree or Gondor. It is the Shire which holds precedence over all and for a very good reason.
To illustrate my point, Frodo agrees to be the ring-bearer, to take it to a journey to Rivendell nearly getting killed and even then volunteering to make the trek to Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy it. Frodo was a hobbit. He wasn’t foolish or very brave. He was not a fighter or a tactician.
Frodo was afraid, yet he found courage in his heart for he knew if the enemy gained the ring, his home could be destroyed. He did it for The Shire. Not for honor, glory or revenge, but simply to save his homeplace. He loved the Shire, as Bilbo Baggins had earlier said to Gandalf about how Frodo loved the Shire too much for him to go with Bilbo.
If this does not make you believe me, listen to the soundtrack. There are iterations of a piece you must hear from time to time in the three movies. They are named ‘Concerning Hobbits’, ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’, ‘Many Meetings’, ‘Samwise the Brave’, and ‘The Return of the King’. If you check, you will find them listed under the heading called ‘The Sound of The Shire’.
The Shire was always there through out the books and movies.

The War Didn’t Matter

Now let me tell this out. By saying the war didn’t matter, I am not denying its severity in any form. War is hell. War brings the worst out of us. There are no winners, only those who are left. This is true to what J. R. R. Tolkien thought when he served in the first World War.
In the Lord of The Rings, the war is a looming threat driving the heroes to undertake the journey, but to me, I felt it just served as background noise, small and hushed to the real important things happening in the midst of it.
Many fantasy stories have some form of conflict in them in the form of war. In which the forces of evil and good fight to decide the victor. Literary epics like The Iliad, Romance of The Three Kingdoms, Mahabharata, etc, have large-scale wars in them. It is all about restoring order and justice. But Lord of The Rings is different. Yes, there is the threat of a war, but the story was never about the battle. Lord of The Rings acted as a subversion of war epics.
It may be very hard to understand in the amazing action scenes, but Lord of The Rings is a fantasy story where war was recognized as fruitless and so instead of themes like good vs. evil, vanquishing of the bad people, it is about preventing the war. The journey is not for honor, or glory, or respect, as pointed earlier and added further, it is to protect Middle-Earth and its inhabitants. All the kings, knights and elves are doing it to protect Middle-Earth, just like Frodo is doing it to protect the Shire.
It seems people seem to forget about it (especially those who have watched the films). It must be because, in the latter two of the three films, characters like Gandalf and Aragorn were put in the front. Their task was to gather support, rally their men, fight for Helm’s Deep and prepare for the worst, while Frodo’s journey was given lesser gravity. I can understand this in making the movies show more exciting stuff, but it did hamper the meaning of the story by a little bit.
At the end, there was a little skirmish but, the war was stopped before it could gather a bigger flame. It was an epic fantasy where war was stopped. Stopping the war was a greater priority than fighting the war.

The Quiet and The Voiced

There are scenes in the trilogy of both the films and the books, where nothing happens, where characters just stay there and moments are quiet. Other times they keep talking on and on. Now, from a general perspective, it does not advance the plot much. The quiet moments could be cut off and the conversations could be exchanged for action to convey the information, but I feel taking these things out will take away from experiencing the true beauty of the story.
I watched the films first before I read the books. I didn’t know the part of the story which was spent in Farmer Maggot’s farm. So while I read the book, I, myself, had the urge to skip this side bit. But, as I read it, I found a certain charm in the following part of the book. Reading passage after passage, I found myself in the low lights of Farmer Maggot’s house, and at the dinner table. I saw him, his family, the tired hobbits bathing and singing a song they learned from Bilbo. The anxiety of Frodo with Farmer Maggot for he used to steal in his younger days and kindness of the farmer.
Again, cut from the films, the meeting with Tom Bombadil. The enigmatic, strange and master of the Old Forest, meeting Goldberry, the trick with the ring, it was more than just mere world-building, it was enjoying the story not to finish it, not to reach the final destination, but to immerse in the journey which was being undertaken. The threat of the enemy loomed above constantly, but the magic of the world could not be denied.
Similarly, the characters talk a lot in this movie. There is a lot of exposition, but it is in a way which is made believable in the context of the journey. But these interactions give them a sense of presence. Most of the time, in movies and stories, only the important dialogues are shown, which are rich in exposition but lack emotion and weight. This is a kind of mistake, to only show what is important. Yes, it makes for a tighter paced story but it will start to feel unreal. Reading some of the newer novels, like even the one I have liked very much, they seem to feel like somebody has compiled all the action scenes of a movie and uploaded it.
The books have started to feel incredibly fast like there is no moment to relax, and of course, it is made to be more interesting, making sure the reader will turn every page, utilizing cliff hangers, snappy dialogues, witty remarks at the end of a conversation. The books seem to be trying too hard to pull the reader into the story instead of trying to let the reader follow it at their own pace. At times, even a medium-sized novel becomes exhausting and makes me want to just get from everyday life.
However, even as long as a movie The Lord of The Rings is, it is never exhausting. The pacing is never off, there is a sense of progression. The dialogue is not only for exposition or character development, but they are there for emotion, just small talk as friends would do on a journey. In layman’s terms, they feel natural.
There are no unimportant details to be taken out. Everything is there to be read, to be enjoyed being read. Everything is there to be watched and enjoyed being watched. What makes this occurrence in the books quite logical is J. R. R. Tolkien wanted to write a story for himself. He wasn’t an author, but a professor. Simply, he was not an author. He was a writer writing a story which he wanted to enjoy.

Conclusion

Lord of The Rings has a special place in my heart among many other people. Its great world-building, lore, themes, and narrative still have me spellbound after all these years. It is not an epic perse, it is not the journey of a king, or queen, or knight. It is the journey of a hobbit, a simple creature with loyal friends by his side, who shaped the landscape of all ages to come. For while great men keep their eyes far out, it is the simple men, gentle and kind, who remain true in dark times.
I would like to end this essay on this quote by Gandalf which I feel, summarizes the essence of what I loved about it.

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.

The Art Of The Comic Tragedy

The Art Of The Comic Tragedy

I do not like tragedy very much. I always have tried to avoid sad stories with tragic elements for I grow despondent with life and actually get a depression after the final credits roll for the movie. This feeling of despair and sadness I develop stays for a long long time. I can’t seem to forget the particular movie no matter how hard I try. I don’t necessarily hate the use of tragedy or the idea of tragedy itself. After all, it helps us grow.
But still, I would at least like to wash my socks without dropping my tears all over the place, thank you very much.
But the tragedy is not something even the hardcore fans would appreciate if it didn’t have some form of levity. Something to tell them it was still alright. Hence, there is the genre of tragic comedy or tragicomedy.
It can be said the people from old times would not appreciate their plays to only be able to depress them and lose their faith in humanity. Shakespeare, the heart-breaker, found about it. Thus comedy was integrated into tragedy for the betterment of it.
But good things come at a price. Tragic comedies are difficult to execute properly. Too much comedy and the tragic elements fall flat or may feel insulting. Too much tragedy, the comedic elements will not derive a laugh and may again, feel insulting. In short, tragic comedies were hard to make. Even for Shakespeare.
Even to this very day, the makers struggle this constant effort of making them. They fail a lot. How to make someone laugh and cry without one overpowering the another?
But then, there was already a master of this craft. He is not modern by any means. He was the very only Charlie Chaplin.

the-actor-charlie-chaplin

He was the master of the Art of Tragic Comedy and he did it with the iconic character of The Tramp.

charlie-chaplin-cp-1322466_8722

Now, what makes the adventures of the Tramp which was commercialized as silent comedies appear so tragic in the first place? If you can’t see it in the previous line, let me tell you myself. The tragedy is being a tramp, a hobo, a poverty-stricken man, who roams around trying to make ends meet. Now, on initial viewings, it does not appear so.
The Tramp is a confident and rather charming fellow in a bowler hat, a suave mustache, and a suit. He walks as if he in wonder with the whole world. It becomes even more likely for the audience to find the tramp as a hero or a winner. More likely to find it in his short films.
The tragedy lies in his actions and so does the comedy. The Tramp is an active character, someone who drives the story of the film. He does it by getting a crush on a girl or by getting a job. He can also be a passive one. He reacts to the stuff happening around him.
One great way to see the low life of the Tramp is what he smokes. The tramp smokes a cigarette. In old times, the high class smoked cigars while the low class could afford only cigarettes. It was a statement with negative undertones for both of the people. Also cancer.
The soundtrack helps us understand the Tramp. When the Tramp is not in a chase scene or kicking the behind of a law enforcer, a somber music plays instead of the cartoony, fast music. The music gives a sad vibe, which the audience can feel and seeing the Tramp moving from places to places, all alone with no friends, can help us empathize with the character.In extreme cases, it can sadden our moods too. However, the Tramp on the screen is goofy. Spinning his laughably thin walking stick, slipping on banana peels, or stumbling on rocks, the Tramp is always doing something which lightens the mood.
And that is the genius of it. The audience can feel for the character but still laugh at him in sympathy and connection. This is one aspect Charlie Chaplin did right.
There is a scene in The Kid where the eponymous kid is tried to be taken from the Tramp by the orphanage cause the Tramp is not the father. As the two men enter the Tramp’s room, they and the tramp get into a slapstick fight. The other calls a cop and two men grab the Tramp while the third one picks up the struggling child who is screaming for the Tramp. While the tramp tries to get out, the kid is put in the automobile and we see his crying face as he begs to return back.
There is a cut to the Tramp being held between the two men, with his own face in fear and grief, maybe being able to hear the kid’s cries from down below. The sheer intensity and emotion in this scene with no dialogues except the incredible score which plays following it convey far greater than anything I have yet to see.
This is a sad scene. This is tug at our heartstrings. This is a tragic scene. But, Chaplin does not let it overpower all our senses. The Tramp is able to get loose and escapes to the roof through the window while the automobile goes off with the kid. The Tramp frantically tries to catch up to the car while the policeman follows and even punches the policeman in retaliation and into submission. This scene is meant to be comedic. But the comedy here also is accompanied by the heavy music.
The Tramp catches up to the car and jumps on it, throwing off the previous man with a short fight, kicking him out of the car (the Tramp really loves to kick people).
Reunited, the Tramp and the kid hug each other, crying and kissing. They are together again.

thekid_large

This heartwarming scene is amazing cause it does not interfere with the comedic scene before. It works in compliment with it. Sadness and happiness, always being balanced out by comedy. Here too the heartwarming scene does not overstay it’s welcome. When the car finally stops and the driver looks back to find the Tramp and the kid hugging, his astonishment brings out a laugh.
Furthermore, the deadpan look Charlie gives when he realizes that the driver is looking at him and jumping to give him a severe beating is just gold. The driver very wisely runs away.
Another great way of mixing tragedy and comedy is shown in Modern Times. In it, the industrial revolution is in full swing. The machines are getting faster and more efficient than the workers. Our hero works like mad in a factory, screwing bolts on a piece of machinery as hundreds and thousands pass by on a conveyor belt. It goes on and on and on. There is little time to rest. Not even a millisecond. Even then, the scene which seems soul-rending is shown in a comedic scene, where our hero’s wrench gets stuck on a bolt, leading to a fight between him and another worker beside him who hammers the pieces. Then, there is a break which is laughable cause the Tramp only gets to take a puff of a cigarette (again the class order) until he is called back to go at his job again. It starts again which is madness. And the character follows through. The Tramp has a nervous breakdown where he tries to screw everything in sight. Tries to destroy machines and acts like crazy.
moderntimes2a
All this is presented in a comedic way. The infernal work, the inhumane break time, and the nervous breakdown. But these things were happening all over the country. This would all seem very tragic for when we find the workers are fired from the factory a few scenes later. But the comedy handles it and lets us enough time to dwell on it but not drown in it.
There are works of Charlie Chaplin which dwell on more of the tragic elements than on the comedic ones. One is which I find is The Circus. The circus is a place where people go to laugh and enjoy. It has tightrope walkers, clowns, lions, cannons, jugglers, a huge assortment of people and acts of entertainment. But in The Circus, we get to see behind the curtain. Turns out the circus is not a place of charm and delight. It is controlled by a ringmaster who also happens to be the owner. He is not above refuse food for her daughter, just for missing a step during the act. If the clowns cannot make the people laugh, they are berated and threatened with firing. For all the pomp, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus paints a depressing picture of the lives of the performers. But as usual, The Tramp does not let us stick to this thought, for he is constantly creating his own chaos throughout the film. There is innocence, humor, charm, all there in service to the art.
In the end, we see the Tramp leaving the Circus, having only stayed for the affection of the ringmaster’s daughter who had come to love the new tightrope walker. It is a tearjerker, seeing the Tramp sitting down as the circus rides away.
thecircus
He throws away the circus cloth he’s been staring at, collects himself and then walks away from the camera in quite a funny style. Again, the tragedy is not dragged out long. A light of hope is presented at the end in the form of comedy. This small scene alleviates the whole show. It is not a climax, there is no tension but it a wrapping up like a goodbye.
Now there is anything more we can say about the pure genius of Chaplin. Yes, those are two words. City Lights. It is available on youtube. I consider it one of Chaplin’s magnum opus. A film that transcended it’s medium and told us that tragedy and comedy are not separate, not extreme ends of a spectrum but, in reality, maybe one and the same. All we need is to look deeper, to find both the laughs and the tears.

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.
– Charlie Chaplin