Lord of the Rings

Taste is NOT the same as “critical consensus.” Taste is a visceral yes or no. It’s indisputable and personal. BUT…I get the point here. The strongest visceral reaction I have had against a work that was critically acclaimed was to Lord of the Rings. Both book and film, but film in particular, I hated it and thought it was laughable. In fact, I did laugh. But something good came out of it.

When I was in Verona studying Italian I was constantly frustrated because my teacher would correct every single grammar mistake and by the time I got my sentence out, I forgot what I was supposed to be doing! I don’t think that’s the best way to teach a language (by constantly frustrating the learner) but it’s still the prevailing method. One day, however, he asked us, “Ti piace il film, Il Signore degli Anelli?”

My Japanese classmate asked, “Che e anelli’?”

“Significa ‘rings’ in Inglese, Tomoko.”
I couldn’t wait for my turn. I would have been (had I been a kid) squirming in my seat raising my hand, going “Ooh, teacher, teacher, pick me!” But I was a cool woman of fifty-two, so such unseemly and juvenile behavior was not for my uber-sophisticated self. I actually KNOW a lot of very strange words in Italian. This comes from hanging around Italians and spending vacations with an Italian family in which all of the members have absolutely NO taboos when it comes to a joke.

I also had a very strong opinion about The Lord of the Rings. I really, really, really wanted to make this sentence WITHOUT interruption. I KNEW my teacher would appreciate it and my classmates (two Japanese women looking for husbands and a seventeen year old Palestinian boy) would NOT get what I said.I wanted my teacher to just LISTEN, not listen with an ear to correct me. He was a smart, goofy and funny Italian guy from whom I studied art history in the afternoons — he’d discovered my listening and reading comprehension abilities in Italian were FAR ahead of my ability to speak. I rehearsed my sentence in my mind until I was sure it was correct. Finally, it was my turn.

“Marta, di mi. Ti piace Il Signore delli Agnelli?”

“No, Enrico. No mi piace.”

He was surprised. EVERYONE liked that move. “Perche? E un bel film, no?”

“Forse, ma, a mio e ‘una fantasia di desiderio represso pederasta. Il uomeni cosi,” I held my hand above the floor about the height of a Hobbit… “Con i piedi pelosi…”

Enrico turned read and said, “Mi scusi, vado e torno,” and left the room. We heard him laughing outside. My classmates looked at me in confusion. I shrugged. I was pretty tired of playing the role of an older woman, too. You know, half-dead already, humorless, the pillar of conventional society.

Enrico returned, wiping tears from his eyes. “Brava, Marta. Dopo le lezioni dire Monica quello che hai appena detto. Ha la stessa opinione.” Monica was another teacher, the teacher of an advanced class, the woman who couldn’t figure out, based on my mistakes on my written entry test if I came from the United States or Mexico. Es la verdad. Hablo un linguaggio bastardo, une melange de español, italiano y francias — un Esperanto primitivo.

(Translation: Did you like the film, Lord of the Rings?

Why? it was a beautiful film, no?
Maybe, but to me it was a fantasy of repressed pederast desires.
After class tell Monica what you said. She has the same opinion)


10 thoughts on “Lord of the Rings

  1. I loved the books. I have mixed feelings about the movies. The thing about LOTR is that it’s an original. The story has been imitated again and again and again until it is trite beyond belief … but that’s not Tolkien’s fault. He did it first and no imitation has come near being as good as the original.

    • He didn’t do it first. He borrowed from lots of medieval legends, sagas and romances. I’m not going to say the work he wrote is not great. I believe it is, I just don’t happen to like it. He was also a great medievalist, one of the greats.

  2. My mom read us “The Hobbit” when I was little. Because of that, it got into my blood. My brother, sister and I read LoTR when we were in our early teens. Again it was magical. But all this happened before it was famous here, and so it was a private joy. It was one of my earliest forays into fantasy, and it was fantasy done right. It colored all of my future likes in the field. It was a beginning for me, and I think that makes a difference.

    • I don’t think anyone (not even me!) can argue that Tolkien’s work is not great. But it’s not for me. On a basic personal taste level — which is inexplicable — I just don’t like it. I liked C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles — all of them. Anyway, there really is no accounting for taste. 🙂

      • I read the Narnia books after LoTR, and loved them nonetheless. One or two of them seemed a little weak to me, but the overall scope was definitely 5 star territory. I also liked his “Out of the Silent Planet” trilogy when I was much younger. I don’t know how I’d feel now..

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