Thanks to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy

I know, I know. Especially as an English teacher, I know. You’re supposed to read the book first, then watch the movie. But the truth is, I’ve never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or his Lord of the Rings trilogy. But for the past two nights, friends of our sons have been gathering at our home to watch Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Lord of the Rings on the massive wide-screen TV we inherited from dear friends who recently moved to Maine. And while the movies are not overtly religious, it is comforting to know one of the trilogy’s moral lessons is one we want our sons to understand: evil is real and every human has the power to decide whether he wants to be mastered by the evil he encounters or to embrace the path of the spiritual pilgrim. This message hits close to home, coming as it does a week before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which my husband narrowly survived.

We’ve been loading up on Diet Mountain Dew (for some reason, a favorite of teen-aged boys) and potato chips and spending hours immersed in darkness, with Jackson’s Academy Award-winning vision of Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle Earth flickering on the screen the only light in our downstairs. Last night, we watched the second film in the trilogy; the Two Towers. How exciting to watch Orcs beseige the fortress at Helm’s Deep and Ents attack Isengard. Right now, I’m making chicken wings and salad for the 200-minute grand finale: The Return of the King, which won all 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated.

This “Dork Fest,” as we are calling it, is the brainchild of our friend Andy, a Catholic convert who leads our parish’s Chant Club and is a Lord of the Rings – here’s an understatement – fanboy. None of my sons’ film-watching visitors happens to be Catholic; in fact, some of them are not being raised with any religious tradition at all. But the messages of Middle Earth are sinking in. My nearly 14-year-old noticed last night that The Ring, which is a form of evil, is like an addiction. It takes over, it corrupts and it destroys. Nearly every character in the trilogy longs for The Ring, which the protagonist, a Hobbit named Frodo, is striving to destroy. One character, Gollum, lets The Ring enter his soul, and we see his torment and despair. Amid this battle, characters show nobility, mercy and the possibility of redemption.

We cannot encounter Christ and embrace His ways unless we recognize that evil is real and that conversion means turning toward God. I am reminded of this most powerful lesson as we await Sept. 11. We might not be able to see the spiritual battles that surround us but the stakes are high. I am so grateful to J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic who brought his friend C.S. Lewis to Christ, for crafting this tale and to Peter Jackson for putting it on the big screen.

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  • Sarah Harkins

    There's nothing dorky about loving the Lord of the Rings Trilogy! My husband and I watched it together recently. It took us a few weeks, but I loved every minute just like I did the first time I watched them. I agree that it is comforting to know this movie has underlying Christian themes and that the good wins over the evil in every scenario.

  • JC Desormeaux

    JRR Tolkien's LOTRs is weaved in the message & mission of Christ; Frodo is the Priest called to sacrifice, Gandalf is the Prophet and Aragorn is King. Priest, Prophet & King. Sounds familiar doesn't it ? Tolkien knew what he was writting about. His other masterpiece, The Silmarillion is Creation, th Fall, alover again. I've read his works because of the moives, I'Ve read them at least 7 times in two different languages. Enjoy this Tolkien / Jackson masterpiece.

  • Athos

    My wife and I – long admirers of Tolkien's mythopoeic "eu-catastrophe" (his coinage) – cringe visibly at points in Jackson's narrative ('That's NOT how Faramir treated Frodo and the Ring! No way!' etc.). But I agree completely, Allison, that the films are a perfect entree into Tolkien's epic. And, quickly, they faithfully help one's imagination be peopled by wonderful faces and personas as one finally gets around to READ LOTR (hint, hint).Our reading was mainly to one another from the passenger seat on long trips (pre-children days!). Cheers

  • Athos

    Last thought: Some may not be aware that a production crew – unrelated to Peter Jackson's outfit – has produced two, count'em, TWO, tributes to Tolkien that are on the web, free to watch, and practically free to make. Why? because they were created low-budget and non-profit, but large on love for the subject. You can find them here.

  • Allison

    @Athos: Yup. Our son now is saying "This makes me really want to read the books." Me too!@J.C. Desormeaux: Good for you. Seven times, two languages. Is there an Elvish version? I discovered my family doc's husband, who speaks Klingon, also speaks a bit of Elvish.@Sarah: Nothing wrong with being a dork. But actually, I found the movies very emotional – excluding the fight scenes, which were quite exciting!

  • Frank

    Faramir to Frodo, from the book The Two Towers on the Ring:But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.

  • Andy

    We only started calling it Dorkfest when the collectible cardgame duels started breaking out and there was talk of someone having played an elf like Legolas in a tabletop RPG. But that's what I was plotting all along–buwahahaha!

  • Anonymous

    yes, King A'owsome is quite Legolas-like.

  • Allison

    Okay Anon 6:42: I have no idea what this all means! I was able to decipher Andy's post. Andy: G. does want to chat with you about the LOTR ending. And soon.