This week I celebrate/mourn the end of an era. I list both because I’m still not sure which it is yet. But just like the Harry Potter fans of 2011, I have reached the end. It is the end of the era of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. There will be no more films to anticipate, no trailers to seek out, no more endlessly painful yet blissful waiting to be plunged back into the magical world of Tolkien brought to life on screen.
I finally saw the last movie in The Hobbit series last weekend and, as with the release of each film before it, I had waited in antsy anticipation all year to see it. Despite the excitement and anticipation, deep down I knew that I was on the brink of the end of a 14-year era of my life.
Back in 2001–I was a senior in high school then–my friend Eric and I ventured to the movies to see the first Lord of the Rings movie. We both loved Fantasy and Science Fiction and saw numerous films together throughout our school days before we parted ways and headed off to college. I remember tingling with excitement to see these epic books turned into movies and Eric was just as excited as I was.
My experience with Tolkien starts way before the release of the first movie. I first read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit back in 6th grade and actually, I think I read them in the opposite order that Peter Jackson made the films: The Hobbit first and then The Lord of the Rings. My dad had given me his copies of the books to read. They were old paperbacks, already yellow even though they were only from the 1960s.
I read those books over and over again and for Christmases following the beginning of the 14-year movie series, I received fancy copies of Tolkien’s work complete with watercolor artwork pages and DVDs of the movies as they released. Just like Harry Potter fans, I was hooked.
The final Hobbit movie came out at the end of 2014, as I’m sure you know. I went to see the film with a very dear friend and fellow writer along with her husband and father. All three of us are Fantasy nerds and though the film veered exponentially from the path we followed in between the cover flaps, we were ecstatic to be sitting in the theater once again. The three hours flew by and, all at once, it was over. The credits rolled and that was it.
At that moment, I had the dire wish for more. I wanted another movie, another story. More beautiful landscapes. More passion. More epic battles and friendships forged and lost on battlefields. Also, I began to understand the art of fan fiction and fervently wished that Peter Jackson would announce another movie to go along with some secret book that had never before been released to the public. Alas, those dreams were not to come true.
Traditionally, I despise Hollywood’s decision to drag out stories into 7+ films. They only do it to make money, not so they have enough canvas to do a story proper justice. Though, I may not be able to say the same for Peter Jackson. At least not completely. I’m sure it was part of the reasoning. But in this case, I didn’t mind it so much.
Along with expanding the story of The Hobbit, Peter Jackson made a number of changes to Tolkien’s works along the way. A lot of them I actually liked (which is a rarity for me), particularly when he chose to give expanded roles to female characters. This leaves the stories less than Tolkien-pure, but I think with the way society is today, it would have hurt the success of the films had they not chosen to add some responsibility and agency to the female characters.
When we stepped out of the theater, I took off my 3-D glasses and tossed them into the collection bin and I felt two things. First, I felt awed by the story I had seen unfolding before me. It reminded me that my love of Fantasy will always exist, no matter how old I get. I was awed by the production capabilities of films today and was happy that I was privileged enough to live in a time period when we have such amazing technological capabilities (and I say that even as a writer with the most purist of storytelling sensibilities). Secondly (as I’ve said), I felt sad because there won’t be another epic tale to sit through. There will be no new Tolkien magic to anticipate. Of course, I can always go back to the books and reread them. And believe me, I will.
But, there is hope. I know that my boyfriend’s nephew loves Fantasy and there aren’t any other Fantasy connoisseurs in his life who can introduce him to the genre and suggest books for him to read. All he knows of Tolkien is what he has seen in the films. He has not yet read the stories that were crafted by Tolkien himself and were inspired by his time in the trenches during WWI. He doesn’t know that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends and writing buddies. He doesn’t know the magic of reading the stories and imagining the adventures in his own head (though this may be ruined because he has seen someone’s interpretation in the films). And I can introduce him to all of it. If he’ll let me.
As for me, you may be asking me what’s next after finding myself at the end of the Tolkien road. And actually, I do have a plan. I think I’m going to seek out the Anti-Tolkien, Michael Moorcock. He has some 70 books which I have never read, and, to be quite honest, I hadn’t even heard of him until my friend JR Boles sent me this recent New Yorker article about him. Perhaps it seems strange to go from Tolkien to the “Anti-Tolkien.” Some people seem to have negative views of Moorcock because of the critical way in which he challenges Tolkien’s work. But I have always been a pretty indiscriminate reader and I’m sure there’s much to learn about writing, storytelling and the Fantasy genre from this new perspective just as there was from Tolkien.
Regardless, Tolkien and his characters and their epic battles will always remain with me and I hope that someday, I’ll be able to share their stories with another generation of Fantasy readers.