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Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #209  (Vol. 5, No. 13)  This edition is for the week of March 22--28, 2004.

A special commentary on The Passion of the Christ
 by Mike Smith
"Dawn of the Dead"  by ED Tucker
There and Back Again: The Pivotal Year of 1987
 by Andy Lalino
The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien's Legacy
 by Nick King
Dawn of the Dead....The Passion of the Christ....Comics  by John Lewis
What In The Name Of God...?
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Passion Of The Python....I Love Rock And Roll....Andy Says....Check Your Calendars....Me And The Lord (with book excerpt)....Meet The Beatles, Part 10
 by Mike Smith
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Nicholas Rex

Tolkien's Legacy With the recent successes of the film adaption of The Lord of the Rings films, a great insurgence of interest in Tolkien’s books has occurred. I along with several of my friends, Clayton and Josh included, had grown up reading the books and they have become a part of the way we look at things in this world. What is Tolkien’s legacy? Is it the books and materials he left behind? Or is it the inspiration he’s given to countless millions, dare I say billions, who have read his books over the last century? I would like to give my humble opinions on these questions. I would greatly appreciate you, the reader, input on this as well.

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa before the turn of the century. His father passed away when he was exceptionally young and his mother died several years later. These traumas added to the fact that he was placed in several foster homes had a dramatic effect on his views of life in general. He became fascinated with languages, eventually becoming a philologist, or someone who studies the genesis of words. He was a decorated veteran of World War I, participating in the Battle of the Song, one of the most brutal battles in that war. It was during these stressful times that he began writing the Book of Lost Tales, the beginnings of the world he would later name Middle-Earth.

After the war, he returned and became a don, or professor, of Anglo-Saxon and Language at Oxford. The origin of The Hobbit came here. So the story goes, Tolkien was grading papers when he stopped all of a sudden and wrote on a blank page, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. Thus began the tale of There and Back Again or The Hobbit. In this book he crafted the race of hobbits. Hobbits are agricultural creatures, keeping farmlands and breweries, much like the people Tolkien had spent his childhood with when his mother was alive.

The Hobbit was a monumental success causing the publisher to ask for a sequel.

It would take Tolkien 12 years (12 years!) to complete the 500,000-word document that would become the Lord of the Rings. Due to size, the publisher had to cut it into three books instead of the one. Everything that had made Tolkien the man that he was is in those books. His fears, his pessimism, and his hopes and dreams are all present in those books.

What is it about the Lord of the Rings that makes so many people love it? If it were simply the adventure, it is doubtful the book would have reached the status that it has. Could it be the characters, those people who possess the most real emotions that we showcase everyday? No. It is my opinion that it is everything about the books that make people love it. At its most simplistic form it is a story of good versus evil. But beyond that are the different elements that Tolkien held close to his heart. Themes concerning love, betrayal, sacrifice, greed, and many others.

First and foremost of these elements is death. Countless thousands die in these books, mainly the last two books, including one of the main characters, Boromir. Each of the characters faces certain death at nearly every turn with little hope of succeeding at their chosen task. Also the Ringwraiths are at once his most vivid description of evil and his version of the walking death that populated so many Norse and Saxon stories he had read. This element of the death also comes to the Elves. When he depicts the forests of Lothlorien and Rivendell, there is a death-like melancholy that hangs over these magnificently beautiful places. The sense of loss is carried over in the humans as well especially in the realms of Rohan and Gondor. Rohan is close to collapse and Theoden King is reduced to a barely living shell. Gondor is a fading shadow of its former glory with Denethor driven mad by the events that unfold over the course of the novel.

Another key element is love and friendship. There are two such examples of this theme. One is in the servant-master relationship of Frodo and Samwise and the other is in the early prejudices of Legolas and Gimli. Frodo and Samwise are an interesting character study because it begins very simply as Samwise is the manservant/gardener of Frodo who is somewhat considered nobility in Hobbit sensibilities. As the story progresses, Frodo begins to lean heavily on Samwise for support and protection. Samwise in turn makes the conscious effort to give everything of himself to Frodo and the cause they strive for. This changes the dynamic of their relationship to the point that they become equals in standing. Gimli and Legolas are a study of contrasts in the extreme. Gimli is loud and boistrous with a rather large chip on his shoulder. Legolas is carefree at times but he is much more reserved and serious when the time comes. He is the antithesis of Gimli in manner and nature. The enmity between the dwarves and elves is documented in Tolkien’s Silmarilion (the history of Middle-Earth). Over time however they are able to see past their preconceived notions and forge a lasting friendship to the point that Gimli is one of the few dwarves who gains the title of Elf-friend.

Well enough of my ranting on this, I would like to hear what you think. Next week or the week after that I will post my next piece on The Lord of the Rings. Have a good week.

Nicholas “Rex” King

"Nicholas Rex" is ©2004 by Nicholas King.   All graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.