Hey Writers! So today, on "Why Is That So Popular?", we're going to look at J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It's popular worldwide, and has been since it first became widely known in the 1960s, about five years after its original publication. (Although Tolkien wrote the trilogy as an epic novel, it was published in three volumes as we know them: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.) So, what is it about Tolkien's epic novel that has such lasting popularity? Why is The Lord of the Rings so popular?
|J.R.R. Tolkien's original book covers (image compiled from various sources)|
To start, I'll turn it over to two of my fellow admins, Brian McBride and Carilyn Anne, with their thoughts on why The Lord of the Rings is so popular.
I (Brian) am a HUGE Lord of the Rings fan, and I even have the swords and poster to prove it! I bought the authentic Narsil sword, Legolas' fighting knives, the LOTR movie trilogy and book trilogy, The Hobbit move (also went and saw it in the theatres, which was actually my first ever theatre experience!)
It wasn't until a year ago that I was actually allowed to watch LOTR. Before then I had thought it was another move series like Harry Potter, with witchcraft and the like. My uncle lent his trilogy to me and I watched it (however warily). After tons of research, I discovered that J.R.R. Tolkien meant the trilogy (along with the prequel) to be kind of allegorical, yet not as blatantly so as C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. From then on, I was a huge fan of not only Tolkien, but also that specific series.
I think that LOTR is popular because it tells the reader/viewer that no matter their weaknesses, their strengths will always be shown through victory in hardships and struggles. It shows the ups and downs of friendship; it shows that if you push those close to you out of your lives you'll fall victim to those who prey on the weak, but if you realize you need help and actually ask for it, your weakness can be overcome by a new strength, because you now know that your true friends have your back. Really, I think The Lord of the Rings is a story of friendship, and victory in times of struggle. Also, the entire series is riddled with Christian symbolism. Unfortunately, I can't get into that right now. ;) My final reason for thinking this series (fandom!) is so popular is that the battles are beyond epic! That alone is enough to love it!
|Challenge: find The Shire. It's a lot harder than it sounds.|
I (Carilyn) am not a huge fan of LOTR. I don't love it. But I have seen the movies at least twice, and I've read The Fellowship of the Ring. (I *think* I read it all the way through. I know I at least read part of it, like half.)
Here are the reasons why I think LOTR is popular:
1. It's epic. It's a story that covers a grand scale, but also the characters on a personal level.
2. The scenery and setting. At least for the movies. Some of the places they shot at for the movies are just gorgeous!
3. The character development. While the big plot is going, each character has got their own little character development thing going, from Boromir to Frodo to Sam to even Aragorn. I can't think of one character that doesn't have their own development going on.
4. Good vs. Evil. Good always wins and bad always loses in the end, sort of thing. Personally, I don't believe there is any such thing as "good magic" or "good sorcery" or whatever word you want to use for the powers that Gandalf and The Lord of the Rings contains. It also kinda promotes bravery and courage and honesty and loyalty, which are all good traits.
I (Kira) definitely fall more on Brian's side of the spectrum. I don't know that I can say I'm "obsessed" (although after reading this, you might correct me), but I definitely love me some Lord of the Rings. I own the books (including The Hobbit) and the extended editions of all three movies. Plus, I do know some Sindarin Elvish, which is the dialect used by third age elves - the version you would be familiar with from The Lord of the Rings movies. (A! Pedig edhellen?) The other dialect of Elvish is Quenya, which is the style of the Noldor (first and second age elves). Galadriel (a first age elf) and Elrond (a first age half-elf; long story, do some reasearch on him if you're interested) would have spoken Quenya as well, but probably switched to Sindarin when it arose after the second age. My Elvish name is Moréfindiel, which is a translation of the meaning of Kira - "black-haired."
When I was younger, my dad had a rule that my sister and I had to read LOTR before we were allowed to watch the movie. Unfortunately, this meant that I first experienced the books begrudgingly to say the least. However, I've since reread them to acknowledge the brilliance that is J.R.R. Tolkien's writing.
I can honestly say that I think there are hundreds to thousands of reasons why The Lord of the Rings is so popular and successful, and everyone has their own reasons for liking it! Broadly, I agree with Brian and Carilyn - LOTR is popular because it highlights real issues while somehow managing to give every one of the many characters in the narrative a history and personality all their own.
On a more personal level, I appreciate Tolkien's epic novel for reasons additional to the above. First, I love the linguistics (as you may have gathered from the above tangent on Elvish). Tolkien constructed more than twenty different languages from scratch - which is insane considering that they all have unique vocabulary and grammar. Along with the above mentioned well-known versions of Elvish, there were many more, not to mention languages for the dwarves, Ents, orcs, men, and a completely separate language for Mordor itself. Secondly, I love the characters. Each and every character in Tolkien's universe of Middle-Earth has a history and story. Many of these include family trees and subplots that hardly anyone knows about. Thirdly, I love the symbolism. Brian talked about this earlier, so I'll just mention it briefly, but almost every situation Frodo finds himself in through the epic novel have some sort of subtle symbolism. Finally, I love the story. This seems like a simple reason, but everything about Tolkien's storyline generally is brilliant. While on the surface it may seem a bit cliche (the little guy goes on a long journey to save the world), there is so much depth to the large plot and every subplot in between.
|The Lord of the Rings movie covers (image complied from various sources)|
"The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings