Nearly Two Decades Later, Finally Finishing LOTR

Photo by Andres Iga on Unsplash

The first time I tried to read the Lord of the Rings I was in 6th grade. I had an enormous copy that was a pain to lug around and just as cumbersome to page through – like my copy of War and Peace. I never made it past the first volume. I don’t even think I made it halfway through the first volume. But I loved The Hobbit and felt that I could love LOTR too, if I just gave it time. Well, there’s been lots of time. I picked up the book again this summer, and I am thrilled with it.

LOTR has been sort of haunting me (and I’ve been running away from possible spoilers) all of my life. I know so many people who have read it and been left with a lasting, positive impression. The senior pastor of my church in NY made many a reference to the epic in his sermons. LOTR is also all over the place in pop culture; not in an overwhelming way, but enough to continue to taunt me with the mystery of the references. Then of course there are the movies. People love the movies! But I have steadfastly refused to watch them, because I knew that I wanted to read the book first.

I couldn’t just read any copy though. Whenever I went into a bookstore I’d go looking for the epic to see what the covers they sold looked like. Once the movies came out there were cinematic versions everywhere, which ruled all those out. Another quirk of mine is not liking to own books with the movie characters on their covers; you too? So I waited until new covers, or pretty used covers, made their way back onto shelves. Then I dithered over those, and the difference between some manageable one volume copies and other three volume series, and whether I was ready to commit.

Surely you’re tired of hearing of all this now. Suffice it to say I had an elaborate form of procrastination. Years and years went by, and still I wanted to read LOTR before I died. It was at the top of my two-item list, ahead of War and Peace, which I trudged through last year.

Finally, this summer I bought ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘The Return of the King’ from Strand in NY. Life is short! And it was past time, if I was serious about reading the book. They had used copies, with covers that I liked, in great condition. There wasn’t a matching one from the publisher for ‘The Two Towers’ (quirk alert!), but the kind salesperson helped me place an order for the next time that cover came in.

With that, I was ready.  It took a bit of coaxing to get me started – was there time enough left in the year to get through the whole thing? What if I wanted to take a break in between each volume and read something else? Ugh Gabrielle just.get.started! – I sighed at myself. And so, I did.

I heard from a couple of people that it was slow going in the beginning – maybe that’s why I couldn’t finish the first time – and I was prepared to push through until things got better. The heads up wasn’t necessary. I was hooked from the first chapter, and as I kept going became even more so. Now I’m frustrated with all the responsibilities that get in the way of my reading time!

I’m so happy I decided to get on with it. It’s hard to imagine how dull I found the book before, but I suppose being a child had plenty to do with it. (Although yes! I know people who read it when they weren’t much older than I was.)

I know this is hardly a review, but I’ll put this quick plug in now and say if you like epics, or fantasies, then LOTR is for you! I don’t even really read either genre, and I still think LOTR is amazing for Tolkien’s incredible vision and storytelling. Also, as a Harry Potter fan it’s very cool to see character and plot parallels between that series and LOTR.

If you’ve read the book leave me a (spoiler-less) comment! I’d love to nerd out with you about it. I finished reading ‘The Two Towers’ in the middle of the night two nights ago, and was squirming and freaking out over Shelob and that plot twist I was totally not ready for. Agghh!


3 thoughts on “Nearly Two Decades Later, Finally Finishing LOTR”

  1. in re the feeling, I know it well. The Hobbit was awesome. When I tried reading the first book of the Rings trilogy, I *could* not get through it. It was like trying to force mud though 200 sieve. The fact that my father’s copys were printed on yellowed paper with very tight kerning didn’t help.


    1. Yes, paper and font make such a difference. My whole life I had access to my uncle’s copy – that he read when he was 17 – but I knew I would never get through it as yellowed and musty as it was. Did you ever go back to it? Buy a new copy for yourself?


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