24 - Lord of the Rings
An ancient ring of enormous power thought to be lost for centuries turns up in the possession of a small “hobbit” named Bilbo. The wizard Gandalf discovers it to be the One Ring of Power and urges Bilbo’s nephew Frodo to destroy it in the distant, enemy-held fires of Mt. Doom. Frodo’s odyssey stretches across director Peter Jackson’s three epic Lord of the Rings movies: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, lasting 11 hours and 21 minutes in the Extended Edition.
But every minute is spell-binding to those of us who grew up captivated by Oxford University myth-spinner J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy. What an incredible hero is this “halfling,” described to the banished Riders of Rohan by Aragorn, self-exiled king of Gondor, as “but a child in your eyes,” and played by former child actor (Free Willy, Radio Flyer, Huck Finn, Forever Young, The War) Elijah Wood.
And such memorable companions: Sam, played by former child actor Sean Aston (The Goonies, Toy Soldiers, Rudy), fearlessly willing to sacrifice all; Gollum (Andy Sirkis), their slimy 1,000-year-old, loincloth-clad computer-generated guide, twisted and warped by the ring, which he lost, but lusts after and longingly calls “My precious”; Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), the feisty, medieval axe-wielding, warrior dwarf who battles evil alongside Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the fearless archer elf prince. Together, they charge fearlessly the most malicious of opponents in haunted swamps, corpse-filled mines, treacherous mountains, enchanted forests and seemingly doomed citadels.
Tolkien’s fantasy world, Middle Earth, is filled with goblin-like “orcs,” lumbering tree-like “ents,” giant spiders, massive trolls, 10,000 fearsome uruk-hai fighters, airborne dragons, undying wraiths, rescuing eagles – and unspeakable malevolence serving a great, all-seeing eye – the dark lord, Sauron, who desires to impose his evil on the world.
Oxford legend has it that C.S. Lewis, Tolkien’s fellow professor, poured over his friend’s 20 notebooks of fantasy and encouraged him in the 1950s to develop one short tale of a evil ring discovered by childlike creatures lacking guile or malice. Tolkien first wrote a children’s bestseller, The Hobbit, then the darker three-book classic that Jackson turned into one of the greatest films of all time – of good triumphing over evil and of greatness achieved by a modest and unassuming hero.
~ Rob Kerby