Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring at 20 a reminder of merrier world this Christmas - Joshua King
The flight to the ford, the council of Elrond, Gandalf facing the monstrous Balrog - moments which captivate me still.
I remember gobbling Tolkien books after seeing those images 20 years ago.
Just this week, I spoke to Mike Calder from long-standing Edinburgh fantasy bookshop Transreal Fiction about the surge in demand for Tolkien back then.
But the scenes which capture my heart now are quieter moments. Grief on the hillside in the wake of Gandalf’s passing. Bernard Hill’s towering performance as Théoden, a king with the weight of Middle Earth on his shoulders.
As in Tolkien’s writing, these adaptations impart a deeper truth, a loss of innocence, a vulnerability amidst suffering.
I never knew this as a child but Tolkien in the trenches in France and it shows.
At a time when our political class is wedded to the war spirit of Britain’s past, we should remember the overriding feeling of those who returned from war was not of jubilation but incomprehension.
Peter Jackson explored this in his First World War documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old.
Soldiers from the front - men like Tolkien, who saw the horrors of the Somme - returned home but not to life as it was. People simply did not understand what had happened.
Lord of the Rings ends with that same sense of incomprehension. When I rewatch the trilogy now - as I do, often - it gives me pause for thought.
At a time when we’re all struggling to comprehend the world, I’m drawn to a line from The Hobbit: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
I hope, amidst it all, your Christmas is full of cheer and is a reminder of a merrier world. I’ll think back to that winter 20 years ago, fondly.
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