15 Years of Lord of the Rings

The Story

I first read Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old. My family started watching the movies shortly thereafter, and since then, Peter Jackson’s masterpieces have become an integral part of our family culture.

This year, after fifteen years of the movies, I returned to the books for the first time. I’d put off reading them again, both intimidated by memories of never-ending Ent lore and afraid that so many years of movie-watching would have tainted my book-reading.

But in April, I finally picked up The Fellowship of the Ring and began reading. I couldn’t put it down.

Four months later, I finished The Return of the King. And I cried.

Delving back into the books turned both my fears upside down: the Ent lore (or any lore) was not never-ending, and rather than tainting my reading experience, the movies enhanced it; many times I could picture the scenery, the characters, the actions, the attitudes so precisely thanks to Peter Jackson’s painstaking care for detail.

I was also pleasantly surprised how many movie lines come directly from the book (even if it’s not the same character who says it) – including the classic “po-ta-toes” sequence! I think we can all agree that, in general, Peter Jackson nailed it.

The Magic

My only regret is that I waited fifteen years to reread the books. I fell in love—with the story, the characters, the places, the language, the richness of the life of Middle Earth to which no visual representation can do justice.

I loved the humor, the jokes, and the easy banter among the characters (particularly among the hobbits, and even from unexpected characters like Gimli and Gollum).

I loved the hospitality and its descriptions that rival those of Redwall.

I loved the friendships that start or deepen among the characters over the course of their adventures.

I loved all the celebratory feasts and the integral role of story-telling and song-singing in all the cultures.

I loved the nobility and the height of the language—both Tolkien’s and his characters’.

I loved the many places and people that offer rest, safety, and peace to the hobbits and other characters amidst the hardships of their journeys.

I loved the details that bring each place, each character, each culture to life.

I loved the resilience of the hobbits, the “little folk” who prove themselves “most hardy” from beginning to end.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The magic of the story and its storytelling delighted me, intrigued me, and impacted me deeply.

The Impact

I’ve read that Tolkien didn’t intend Lord of the Rings to be allegorical, but as a believer reading a story written by a believer, I can easily trace themes and elements of the Great Story. These elements only enrich the reading experience for those of us who recognize them.

I particularly recognized and appreciated these themes:

  • good over evil
  • the sense of community among characters (the hobbits, the Fellowship, Gimli and Legolas)
  • everyone has a role to play (Gollum)
  • loyalty (Sam to Frodo)
  • no one is too small to do big things (hobbits)
  • becoming who you were destined to be (Aragorn)
  • mercy shown to adversaries (Saruman, Wormtongue)
  • our experiences change us (carrying a ring)
  • the power of a simple life/delighting in the little things (hobbits, the Shire)

The Memories

  • Mom reading us The Hobbit on our family vacation in 2005 (what started it all)
  • Sitting on the front steps of my grandparents’ house, wading through the tiny print of my mom’s tattered paperback
  • Watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time on VHS (my sister made me close my eyes for the Balrog)
  • Playing Legos with my brother while listening to the audiobook of The Two Towers
  • Watching the extended versions and all the documentaries with my siblings
  • Finding Lord of the Rings monopoly at a yard sale and playing it with friends
  • Watching the entire (also extended) series in Spanish with my host family in Spain
  • Dad and I laughing to tears over “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard”
  • Mom recounting the dream in which she chased away a wild dog Gandalf-style with a stick and shouting, “You shall not pass!”
  • Watching the entire extended series with dear friends
  • All the quotes and allusions that still show up frequently in family conversations (if we’re discussing dinner plans, especially if the grill is involved, it’s not uncommon for Dad to say, “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!”)

Thank you for your magic world, Mr. Tolkien. I’ll be back.

How to Pray for a Writer

Recently I was talking about my writing (KJ specifically) with two people close to me, and after our conversation one of them looked at me and said, “What can we do to help?”

It took me a few days to come up with a three-part answer:

  1. respect my writing time (physical)
  2. affirm my calling (emotional)
  3. pray for me (spiritual).

But what does it look like to pray for a writer?

Here are some ideas adapted from my own prayer list for KJ. I pray

  • for the discipline to write. It takes work to write a novel, and any big project requires discipline to put in the effort and get it done.
  • for the ideas and words to come. Whether sitting down to write or brainstorming in bed at night, we can’t move forward without the “building materials” of our trade.
  • for patience with the writing process. It’s a long, hard road to write a novel, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged and want to throw in the towel. Or to just want the dumb thing done and published already.
  • for joy in the writing process. Writing is a miracle. I never want to lose the joy of putting words on paper, having my characters surprise me, or watching a scene unfold beneath my fingers.
  • for balance between writing and life. Whether it’s a steady balancing act or a choppy juggling act, there has to be some consistent give-and-take between writing and living. Routine is helpful. Discipline is needed.
  • for the resources I need in my research. Any writer hoping to write realistically needs resources: books, people, websites, etc. God can provide the information we need to best write what we want to write.
  • for emotional support. This is not a selfish request for attention. All workers (especially artists) appreciate knowing their craft is valued, even if it may not be fully understood. Morale goes a long way for motivation.
  • for God to be glorified. This is the heartbeat of my writing and I know many others’ as well. We desire both a process and a product that will ultimately glorify the One who gave us our craft.

If you’re interested in KJ and of the praying sort, I would appreciate your investment of prayers with me in this project.

If you’re a writer, you can pray these things for yourself. I prayed a lot for Trust and Deception, and those three years provided some of my favorite “God stories” of my life (Jms 4:2, Eph 3:20, Is 55:8-9).

Are you a writer? What would you add to this list? No matter your craft, how can you pray for your projects?

Meet the Project

Welcome to my Work In Progress, code name KJ. 😎

What is KJ?

I would love to share EVERYTHING with you, but I’m limited in what I can divulge. Two reasons:

  1. I want to leave some suspense for when you actually read the book. If I say too much now, I’ll spoil all the good parts. 😉
  2. Things change. In the writing process, the editing process, and the publishing process. So it doesn’t make sense to talk about something that may not exist next week or next draft.

But here’s what you CAN know:

  • Four books
  • Realistic medieval fantasy
  • Flawed characters
  • Themes and messages relevant to now
  • Swords and bows and herbal remedies and castles and horses and all that good stuff 😁

(If that’s not enough, you can go check out one of their 12 Pinterest boards.)

How did KJ start?

To be honest, I don’t even remember. My very first draft of KJ dates from 2008, when I was twelve. And who knows what was going on in my head when I was twelve. 😜 Even though I’ve gone back and looked through my journals from that time, I can’t find any suggestion of what gave me the initial idea.

(I guess that makes them orphan books — no parents, no known birth date. Kinda like the main characters . . .)

I’ve started and stopped with this project many times over the years. Some elements have stayed the same, a lot have changed. Now I’m starting again, for what I pray is the last time!

When will KJ be published?

I wish I could say tomorrow. 🙂 My hope is to finish at least the rough draft of Book One by the end of this year.

I say “hope” because I have a few obstacles between me and writing, namely

  • a wrist that currently doesn’t like typing (tendonitis)
  • some chronic health struggles that include fatigue and occasional brain fog
  • grad classes resuming in the fall.

BUT, I also have the power of prayer and lots of motivating factors to get these books written:

  • You. 😊 Many of my friends have been asking about my next book. You all have been very patient! It’s my hope to put something in your waiting hands soon!
  • Current events. Even before 2020 started, I planned to use the stories of KJ to explore themes and convey messages I’m passionate about. Recent events have reminded me how much these messages need to be heard.
  • It’s time. Imagine living with an entire cast of characters (and their whole world) in your head for 12 years. I love them, I really do, but it’s getting a little crowded in here, and other books are asking to be written. Time to kick these guys out!
  • The green light. Early this summer I agonized about whether I should start this four-book endeavor or not. God made it clear I need to just start. So I’m starting!

What are YOU working on? Any projects (writing or non-writing) you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!