Discovering Middle-earth: Part I

The long”-ish” tale of how I began to admire and enjoy Tolkien

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– It all begins with me and a particular dislike …

I’ll be outright and honest – I shunned fantasy. The very idea of fake prosthetic costumes glaring at defenceless mortal beings in some wacky skirmish (encompassed within even more phony sets) made me feel both uneasy and simply appalled.

There was something about the whole genre that put me off and didn’t appeal to me. It felt too surreal and “distanced” from the real world. I’ll be honest, however, and admit that I enjoyed watching a fantasy-oriented TV series (like Xena: Warrior Princess & Hercules … come to think of it, I actually really used to like those), rather than specifically going to the cinema and see a fantasy film.

– The first step

It was therefore not my best of days when I was dragged by my family to “try-out” the much appraised release of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ in 2001.

I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the novel right before the release of the first film and Imagewas completely oblivious of what the story was all about: except something about a wizard, a young hero and a bunch of ugly-looking creatures (for I didn’t know that they were called “orcs” either).

Actually, the day I found myself walking inside the cinema to see the film was sometime in March 2002. The first thing that struck me was how on earth it could still be in theatres- considering that locally, it wouldn’t have lasted more than two months.

So with reluctance and trepidation I sat in front of the screen and waited …

(and who’d have known then, that from that moment onward I would embark on a journey that turned my life upside-down?)

The prologue of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ was being projected in front of me and although occasionally wincing at a couple of orc close-ups during the battle of the Last Alliance, I was still pretty impressed with the conflict itself (the portrayal of large-scale battles on screen has always fascinated me – fantasy or not).

My interest levels increased exponentially with the gradual unfolding of the narrative. Being Imageexposed to such varied races and the strong sense of historical authenticity within both the environments and the characters themselves, made it for a much more acceptably “real” fantasy. Something which I had never felt would be possible.

As I watched the progression of the adventure, fraught with toils, dangers but also fascinating themes of friendship and self-sacrifice, I was reproaching myself at having stereotyped the fantasy genre so much.

(I’ll be honest though … my doubts quickly returned during the frightening Bilbo-lizardy-dash towards Frodo – but they were soon part of a long-forgotten nightmare) 

The film eventually reached a climactic stage and the intensity of such a concluding sequence could be felt even within the most ardent of non-fantasy followers – me.

So much so that once the screen faded to black and the credits sequence started, I was honestly disappointed at having to wait another two years until seeing the rest of the story. I actually couldn’t believe my own feelings towards the film itself.Image

How could something like this be enjoyed by someone like me? Then again, what Peter Jackson (the director) did, was something special and beyond mainstream.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to ‘The Two Towers’ – only 9 months away. Mind you, I slowly forgot about the second film within a few weeks until the release date approached; however, I had now taken the first few feeble steps in the fantasy genre and the thrilling and fantastical qualities that lay hidden within.

December 2002 was just moments away … (so to speak)

(Note: I’ve purposely avoided any spoilers for anyone who has yet to see the films)

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