Growing up, I never read The Lord of the Rings. It was not that I did not enjoy fantasy, for I did. I just never got around to it. For this, I am deeply ashamed and also deeply thankful. Ashamed because it and The Hobbit are practically nerd prerequisites. Thankful because of what it has come to mean to me.
When I saw the first of The Lord of the Rings movies, it was December 2001. As a country, we had only a few months prior been dealt a suffering, crippling loss. There was more on the horizon for me. When my wife and I saw this movie, she was over eight months pregnant with our daughter. At the time, it was a movie that I wanted to see but not one that I was dying to see. My wife and I sat in that theater, glued to the majesty of The Fellowship of the Ring and did not move until the film was over. (While that is not a huge feat for me, keep in mind, my wife as really pregnant.)
A month after seeing the movie, I still wanted more. I wanted to finally read the books. I casually mentioned this to a good friend of mine, Steve, one day. It was about this time that my daughter was born, and it was one of the happiest days of my life.
My happiness soon turned to fear. Five days after giving birth, my wife suffered congestive heart failure and was in a coma for a week. I would not have survived that long week without my friends and my family. Even though I could not do anything at the hospital, I did not leave. I stayed in the ICU waiting room the entire time, leaving only for meals, to shower, and to bond with my newborn child. The doctors did not have good news for me. At first I was told that she would not recover. (Relax. She recovered and is fine.) I have never been lower. It was during one of these low moments, that I was given a gift. The aforementioned Steve had bought me the books. He came up to the hospital and gave me a box containing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It was wonderful to have something to take my mind off of what was going on.
After she got out of the hospital, I continued reading the books. Only now, I would sit in the rocking chair in my daughter’s room and read to her as she slept. There she was, a little infant, as I read her one of the classic tales of our time. I doubt that she remembers this…but I do.
As time continued, we went to see the rest of The Lord of the Rings and then The Hobbit movies. We have a tradition in my house that every Thanksgiving, the three of us try to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy special editions. It’s just one more thing that I have to be thankful for.
Tonight, I got the honor of seeing the last of The Hobbit movies. (It was fantastic.) It was not only getting to see the movie that meant so much, it’s that I got to go see it with my daughter. While I am certainly sad to see the series of movies end, I am thankful for what they have meant to me and that I did not experience the books when I was younger.
They provided my family and I a common experience. These movies gave us something that we will always share. (Not to mention that we can’t have mashed potatoes without over-pronouncing the words the way Samwise did.) The books gave me comfort and solace when I needed it. (Of course along with family, friends, and faith…but we aren’t really talking about them right now, are we?)
So if J.R.R. Tolkien can read this in the afterlife, or if Peter Jackson happens to stumble across this: