Like I’ve said before, I don’t put the ‘Mormon’ in The Geeky Mormon very much, but last week in one of my Sunday meetings we had a discussion on people in the scriptures who play supporting roles. The message was that the part that every person plays in God’s plan is important, even if compared to others’ parts it appears minor. I went home and thought about characters from my favorite books, movies and TV shows that play important supporting roles and, perhaps, deserve a little more credit than they normally get. If most of these heroes have been recognized by their fandoms, then they are worth mentioning again. The characters that speak to our hearts, no matter how big or small a role they play, are the ones who make a difference.
Here’s a short tribute to the saddest deaths in some of our fandoms, to the ones who die without being likely to come back. None of these are necessarily in order, and I don’t have time to discuss the hows and whys of all their deaths today. But see if you can make it through this post without crying. Also, spoilers for just about everything.
Part of this essay is based on a term paper I wrote for my English 333 class at BYU
This is mainly about The Hobbit but I cite Steve and Bucky as an example because Civil War is still on everyone’s minds.
Steve: Remember that time we had to ride back from Rockaway Beach in the back of that freezer truck?
Bucky: Was that the time you used our train money to buy hot dogs?
Steve: You blew three bucks trying to that stuffed bear for a redhead.
Bucky: What was her name again?
Steve: Dolores. You called her Dot.
Bucky: She’s got to be 100 years old right now.
Steve: So are we, pal.
I grew up hearing that The Lord of the Rings films were actually pretty close to the books. When I finally watched them, however, I found out that the films were actually quite a bit different. True, there were some things I liked better, and some of the changes were understandable or more interesting, but on the whole, I liked the books better.
That’s actually all I’m going to say about LOTR for this post, but it serves as an introduction to an important discussion. I am a book geek. I have been since the first grade. I will be until I go blind in old age. But that doesn’t mean I a hundred percent hate movies that are based on books. I don’t always read the book first, but I am the kind of person who prefers to. This is the case especially when I’ve heard good things about the book as well, for instance, Life of Pi. On the other hand, sometimes I refuse to read the book because the film/television version I grew up watching is completely different and I don’t want to tarnish my feelings for the film (a lot of Disney movies I like are this way). But if the movie is based on a book that I have read and liked, then I am going to hold it to a certain standard.
(I’m writing my Christmas post now because my next post is most likely to be my reaction to The Force Awakens)
This is a bit of my OCD talking: I’m a skeptic when it comes to mixing sci-fi and fantasy with Christmas. I was raised in a family where the religious side of Christmas was always observed, and I’ve continued that in my adult life. Mixing Christmas with Disney princesses or superheroes or so forth can make me a little uncomfortable. Holiday specials featuring these characters can get a little on the cheesy side so I tend to avoid those. Storm troopers in Santa hats? I’ll have to tell you no. If we’re talking fan art, I might be a little more receptive. Yes, I believe that Christmas is “magical,” but I don’t like to mix it with other people’s definitions of that magic. Christmas should be about Christmas! I’m not a total purist, I’m just really picky.
As promised, here is my next Holiday gift guide. This time we will be looking at 10 gifts that are perfect for the special LOTR or Hobbit fan in your life. Just like the previous gift guides, if you see something you like, click on the picture and it will take you right to a site where you can purchase the item. I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of the sites, so I gain nothing from this, just here to help. So, let’s start our journey, our gift giving journey through Middle Earth.
1. The Precious
It’s a pretty hot item in Middle Earth. Everyone seems to want to get their hands on it. Now it can be yours. Granted, “One Ring” replicas have been around for a while, but if your favorite LOTR fan doesn’t have one, they probably want one. This particular one is available on ThinkGeek.com for $99.99 and is made of tungsten, plated in gold and available in various sizes. Beware: If you get this for a loved one, you may become only the second most important thing in their life, as this will obviously be number one.
2. Map of Middle Earth
If you don’t know where you are going, you could end up anywhere. This map will help if you ever find yourself in Middle Earth and you need to find the shire. The truth is, one of the coolest things about fantasy novels is the maps that are almost always included in the book. Like everything else in the Fantasy genre, Tolkien set the standard for this. Now you can have a version of that map to hang on your wall at home. This particular one is available at ThinkGeek.com for $39.99 and is already mounted on wood, and would like nice on any wall.
3. The Lord of the Rings Card Game
Folks who love fantasy books and movies are also usually folks who love board games and card games (not like Uno or SkipBo). When you can find a game that combines both, you usually have a hit on your hands. This is the Lord of the Rings Card Game. It is a cooperative game in which 2 players work together to win the game. A great game for game night when the kids go to bed. One where one side won’t feel bad because the other side is just so extremely smart and good at everything she does so there is now way I can ever beat her at any game, EVER!…I mean, generally speaking, and of course not from experience. This is available from Amazon.com for $31.95 and is prime eligible.
4. Gandalf and Saruman Salt and Pepper Shakers
Nothing says “I am a really big fan” like having Salt and Pepper shakers modeled after what you love. These are great. The cooler schemes work out perfectly, because obviously this was when Gandalf was still the Gray (he’s the pepper) and Saruman was the White (Salt). They are also magnetic. I suppose this keeps them in this stance when not being used. These are available on Amazon.com for $19.50 and are Prime eligible.
5. Gandalf’s Pipe
Now I don’t condone smoking of any sort, but if I did it would be pipe smoking. There is just something more refined about it, and it smells better. This is a fully functional pipe, so if you would like to use it for that, you can. It also makes a great conversation piece for any LOTR collector. This is available from ThinkGeek.com for $64.99, and Bilbo’s pipe is also available.
6. Lord of the Rings-50th Anniversary Edition
Bringing the 3 volumes together into one volume, just as it is intended to be read, this beautiful edition of the Lord of the Rings would be ideal for any fan of the movies or books. This is a hardbound copy with a nice slipcover. It contains all 3 volumes of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship, Two Towers, and Return of the King. It is available on ThinkGeek.com for $79.99 (which would include free shipping!)
7. LEGO The Hobbit Video Game
If you have not yet tried out the LEGO video games yet, then you are missing out. They are hours of good clean fun. Once you play through the story, then you need to go back and keep playing the levels until you have unlocked all the characters and secret sets and so on. It is a lot of fun. Plus, they are well-known titles like Marvel and DC and LOTR or Hobbit, so your kids will be into them too, and you won’t have to worry about too much violence or sex or language. This title is available on Amazon.com and ranges from $15 to $30 depending which platform you purchase it for.
8. The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition
You might think it is a little overkill to turn a single novel into 3 really long movies. If you think that, then you might think it’s a lot of overkill to then release extended version of those movies on home video. But for fans of the franchise, it is just more Hobbit to love. Just in time for the final installment, this extended edition comes out. It is available from Amazon.com for $19.96 and is Prime eligible. You can also get it through their video streaming.
9. Arwen’s Pendant
I always really liked this love story from Lord of the Rings. Aragorn needed Arwen and she needed him, and their love would out live either of them. This pendant symbolizes the love between them, as she gave it to Aragorn and he wore it proudly. Now you can give it to your loved one for Christmas and let them know that your love is as eternal as theirs. This is available at ThinkGeek.com for $199.99.
10. Thorin’s Key
Now you can have your very own key to adventure and treasure. This is a great replica of the key that started the whole adventure. If Thorin hadn’t had this key, he would have never gone after their treasure, so they would have never needed Bilbo, so he would have never found the ring, and then given it to Frodo, who would have never needed to go to Mt. Doom. This key is the key to the whole adventure. Available at ThinkGeek.com for $29.99.
That will wrap up our Middle Earth list. Join us again, later today for our next gift guide: Star Wars. Also check out our first list, Doctor Who. Share this list with others that might be looking high and low for some great geeky gifts.
The other day my family and I were at our local public library (if you don’t find yourself occasionally at a public library you need to examine your geekhood), and my wife was looking for a new book to read. She is an avid reader, and has kind of taken an interesting turn in what she reads. When she was growing up, she didn’t read any kind of fantasy or SciFi or anything like that. If it couldn’t really happen, she wasn’t interested. To the point that she refused, REFUSED, to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In her mind there was no way that you could go to the back of a closet and end up in some fantastical land called Narnia. She preferred historical fiction, grounded in reality and actual events. Fast forward a few years, and somehow she ended up marrying the biggest geek she had ever met. I only read fantasy and SciFi. Ok, maybe not exclusively, but that is my first choice. I have attempted to open up her world a little bit, and have made some promising progress. I have gotten her to read the Narnia books, and she enjoyed them. I think now that she’s older she understands more of the symbolism. I also helped convince her to read the Harry Potter books, and she finished the sixth just in time to wait anxiously for number seven. We almost had to buy two copies so we could read it at the same time. Lately, she has been reading a lot of young fantasy- Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, etc. I have been waiting for the right moment to try to get her into the hard stuff. The good stuff. I have been thinking a lot about that as I have been reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (I am only on the 4th book, which feels like an accomplishment, until I look at how far I still have to go). So, in this situation we find ourselves at the library and she is looking for a new book to read and she has no idea what to read. I jump at the chance and search high and low for the perfect book to introduce her into the world of Fantasy. I know exactly what I am looking for, I just have to hope the have it and I can find it. Don’t get me wrong, I can find my way in a library, but they try to classify everything so much nowadays. At first I couldn’t find it, and I was disappointed, but then I looked in the “teen fiction” section, and bingo, there it was. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. There is no better way to introduce someone to the world of Fantasy Literature than Tolkien, the man who practically invented the genre. I felt like The Hobbit was a good place for her to start. It is a small book, not intimidating at all. It’s not part of some extremely long series and can stand alone if she decides she does not want to read further. More than that, it is well written. It wasn’t written to be a bestseller, appealing to the lowest common denominator of any given group. It was written the only Tolkien could write, as a masterpiece.
As I suggested the book to her, I was almost envious of her reading it for the first time. Experiencing Middle Earth for the very first time. It would be an amazing thing to find a way to recapture that. Amazing, but impossible for me, so I plan to live now vicariously through my wife. As she began reading it, she read part of the introduction aloud to me. It was discussing how there are spelling errors in the book, like the term dwarves. At the time, the correct spelling was dwarfs and dwarfish, but when describing the dwarves in his book, Tolkien purposely used dwarves. My wife was confused by that. “Isn’t dwarves right?” It is now, because of Tolkien. Think about, the best example I have pre-Tolkien is the Disney masterpiece, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. That’s the title. For your convenience, you can click here and go to the IMDB page and see for yourself. I always thought that was funny to me. Was Disney just trying to be cutesy? Turns out, that was the correct spelling pre-Tolkien. Now though, dwarves seems to be more common, if not more correct. We say dwarfish, not dwarfish. Was that all really started by Tolkien? Why not? The man practically invented and cemented our modern images of dwarves, elves, orcs, hobbits, wizards, etc. Where would we be without Tolkien? I wouldn’t be in the middle of the Wheel of Time series, or really be interested in fantasy very much at all. HBO wouldn’t have a huge hit with Game of Thrones, so they would have to find some other way spew forth gratuitous sex and violence (somehow, I think they’d manage). Salt Lake would not have just had their first successful FantasyCon. Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom may still be waiting for their big breaks, while Elijah Wood and Sean Astin would be remembered only for the younger roles (like Huck Finn and Goonies respectively). No one would have ever heard of Peter Jackson or Weta or New Zealand. I might even go so far as to say that the Fantasy Genre as we know it would not exist.
Why was Tolkien so amazing? Why would his books be the first ones I run to in order to introduce my wife to Fantasy literature? I think Tolkien did more than just tell a story. He created a whole world. A world full of history, full of ancient myths and stories, many of which have never been published, but he knew them. A world full of languages. Dwarvish, Elvish, the dark tongue or Mordor. He created them all. It wasn’t enough to just throw in an occasional word or rune here and there. He made them real. When you read his books, you find references to other stories and myths and characters and histories that may only be mentioned, but with such authority that you know that Tolkien has them written down somewhere. He knows the legend or the myth or the story. There is a completeness to his stories that aren’t found in many other series. All of that makes Tolkien’s work superb and wonderful.
More than that, his stories were real. Not real in a “they really happened” sort of way, but real in a “I really identify with what this character is feeling” sort of way. That was the real genius of Tolkien. I remember reading The Return of the King for the first time. I remember the way I just felt hopeless, like there was just so much evil in the world and the men were so outnumbered, and Sam and Frodo were on their own, and there was just no way they would overcome everything and make it out. How many of us feel that way personally sometimes? How many of us can look at the world today and say, “there’s just too much, we can’t win.” I heard once that that was the reason Tolkien set out to write what would become the Lord of the Rings series. He wanted to define what evil was. He and Lewis and others he associated with had all experienced darkness and evil firsthand as they survived WWII. They all lived through the air raids and the constant fear. The war that was fought in Britain was very different from what we experienced here in the U.S. He wrote this story to come to terms with what he saw in the world. I can imagine that there were times when it all seemed hopeless, like the light would never come. Like Frodo and Sam would come so far, only to collapse at the foot of Mount Doom, and not make it any further. But they did. You feel the despair, but you feel the hope that is always there sometimes. Even in the darkest of times, there is always a little bit of hope. And the hope wins out. In the end, the darkness fails, light prevails. I always loved Sam. Merry and Pippin were funny and kept things light. Frodo was all of us, the regular guy thrown into the middle of everything unexpectedly. Aragorn was just really cool, and unattainable (he may have a little bit of a Messiah complex going on). But Sam, Sam was my favorite. He was the hope. He was always there. Even when he went away for a while, he was not really gone. He is the embodiment of hope, and without him, Frodo would not have made it to the end. I love the works of Tolkien, because I felt it all. I know that we don’t live in a world of wizards and magic and giant eagles, but we do live in a world with Sams out there. I want to be one. That part was real, as real as anything else I have ever read. Tolkien took this idea of Fantasy and elevated it above just fairy tales and made it real and deep and worth reading.
So I envy my wife. I envy that she eta to experience all of that for the first time. I hope she will understand why I love the realm of fantasy so much after she is done reading it. I’m sure she will. If Tolkien can’t win her over, no one can.