Lure of the Rings - My Generation

The Tolkien books have been a cult favorite for nearly half a century. With the new movie, hobbits will be bigger than ever. So what's all the fuss about?

(Thanks to barky on our Messageboard -- who contributed to this article -- for bringing this to our attention.)

By Gary Hoenig

At last it was mine.

On the cover of the thin packet was a picture of Adam Sandler sitting on a park bench, wearing an oversized down jacket and framed by his usual crop of bad hair. Without the friend's note that promised the true treasure inside, there was no reason to expect anything to pop up but a DVD of Little Nicky, a bomb so forgettable that owning a copy would by itself mark you as...well, strange.

But all that is gold does not glitter.

There remained a final test. I slipped the disc into the DVD player. Now I had to navigate through the Little Nicky universe, where no doubt few had gone before. One wrong move and the dreaded movie itself would begin. Finally, I discovered a hidden menu, one where, I'd been told, the treasure I was seeking would be revealed once a halo appeared above Little Nicky's head. Go left, the note said. I hit the button again and again, and yet again. And there it was! A halo--or was it really a glowing golden ring? I pressed enter and...

felt it instantly: a sharpened sensitivity to the wonders of Middle-earth. Hideous orcs marching off to war in the thrall of the Dark Lord. The Company of Nine trudging up the treacherous slopes of grim Mount Caradhras. The Elven Queen Galadriel, imparting the wisdom of the ages to a wide-eyed hobbit. And the glowing ring itself, engraved in that strange elven script, a totem so powerful that it bound together not only all the characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's universe, but millions of others in this one as well. So strange and yet so familiar to see real images of things that had been present only in the mind's eye for so many years.

One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

Not a bad metaphor for a multiplex.

In the 30 years since I discovered it, I've read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings countless times, certainly more times than I would have willingly revealed had anyone asked. I kept my passion for it a secret, except among certain trustworthy young people to whom obsession with fantasy can actually seem charming.

I often returned to it when my supply of optimism dwindled in the face of a wrong turn in my life, or when I seemed on the verge of succumbing to the comfortable cynicism that soured people around me. The trilogy never failed to revive me, but I found that very fact embarrassing, that an eccentric English academic's 1,000-page escape into a fantasy world of elves and goblins and rings of power could exercise such a hold on me.

Please click on the link below to read the rest of this article.

Add New Comment

Latest Forum Posts

Join the Conversation!