So Dr. Phil won’t be dedicating a show to post-LOTR syndrome, but many of us Tolkienites are feeling the beginning of the end of the LOTR craze.
It’s been a part of my life now for three Christmases – the anticipation, the questions. What will orcs look like? Will Arwen be in the fellowship? How will he make the hobbits the right size? When the word of the trilogy’s creation was first leaked over the internet, I was uninitiated into the land of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was living half a continent away from my family and my boyfriend, now my fiancé, working in schools and national parks as an AmeriCorps member. I was on my own quest. To help me deal with my homesickness, my boyfriend read “The Hobbit” chapter by chapter and sent me the audio tapes. Andy Serkis will never replace the voice of Gollum that my boyfriend Dave performed. I was moved by Bilbo’s quest and the plight of Thorin, but I was mostly struck by Gollum’s grief at the loss of his Precious. Later, I worked through paperbacks of Lord of the Rings during breaks at Point Reyes National Seashore, the site of my last project as an AmeriCorps member.
I became an initiate. Then an expert. I watched the downloaded trailers for clues. I sat through three hours of “A.I.” and two hours of “Thirteen Days” because of the trailers at the beginning. I jumped off my feet when commercials were shown on T.V. I watched late night talk shows to get a glimpse of the cast. Then, the Fellowship was released. I was tense. I didn’t know if I trusted these people to do this work justice. Only after seeing it something like seven times did I finally stop worrying. Despite the radioactive Gladriel scene, the books I loved were in good hands. I was working as a teachers’ aide in a middle school and my Tolkien knowledge immediately increased my standing with the kids, particularly the boys.
Since then, I’ve been to Oscar parties. I’ve eaten many Burger King meals to get the collectible goblets. I’ve chased friends around the aisle at Wal-Mart brandishing a plastic Sting. I’ve done bad Gollum imitations, quoted the movie line-by-line, stood at the local Wal-Mart at midnight to get the DVDs, dressed as Eowyn at Halloween. In short, I have enjoyed this three-year foray into the heart of pop culture.
Now, I am a Masters student and teach college classes. One of my students asked me why almost all of his professors, especially his English professors, are so excited about Lord of the Rings. I gave him the standard answer: Tolkien was a literature professor like I am training to be, he invented languages and mythology, this is why we admire him. I realize that my explanation was only part of it. For three years now, I have been part of popular culture in a way that I am usually excluded from. Movies have never meant much to me. Oscar night – irrelevant and boring. Now suddenly, people are talking about books that are important to me. Kids are buying action figures of characters I care about. Something that I love is not an exclusive club – I am part of a phenomenon.
Others may grumble about the bandwagon effect. And they will be right. This craze will pass. There will be other movies next Christmas. Other action figures on the shelves. I will wait in line to buy the DVDs from ROTK and then it will be over for me. That’s fine. The mainstream isn’t a place a lot of Tolkienites are comfortable in. But I will miss it – miss gathering like minded fans wherever I happen to be the third week of each December; miss the anticipation, the wind-up, the surprises. It’s sort of a grief many of us are feeling as Frodo rides into the Grey Havens in the last scene of the movie. The trilogy, at least in theatrical form, is over. I feel a little like Sam as he returns to his life and says, with a little sadness, “Well, I’m back.”