February 1, 2001

Ringing in the Epic

Print More

One Ring to rule them all.One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

If you’re like me, this adage may cause you to start salivating. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you soon will.

Maybe you’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings and recognize this famous poem. Or maybe you’re like Joey from Friends, and when asked, ‘Didn’t you read The Lord of the Rings in high school?” you respond, “No, I had sex in high school.”

You may be an expert in hobbit-lore, or you may be a Joey Tribbiani. But, the story will soon be introduced to a whole new generation when the first installment hits theatres December 19th, 2001.

The star-filled cast includes Ian McKellen as Gandalf the wizard, Elijah Wood as the hobbit Frodo Baggins, Sean Astin as his loyal companion Samwise, Liv Tyler as Arwyn, and Cate Blanchett as the elf-princess Galadriel.

The movies’ marketing is already off the charts. New Line Cinema invested $270 million, and opened the trilogy’s official website in May of 1999. When released on the site, the trailer was downloaded more times in the first 24 hours than the infamous Star Wars trailer. The Kevin Costner movie Thirteen Days enticed audiences by advertising that the coming attractions would include the Rings trailer.

The films are being shot simultaneously in New Zealand, taking advantage of the lavish landscapes. Director Peter Jackson notes “The technology has finally caught up to the amount of imagination that Tolkien injected into the story, so this is the time.”

A cartoon version was made for England’s BBC in the 1970’s and was narrated by the English actor Ian Holm, who will be playing Bilbo in the new trilogy. The first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, is followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King for Christmas of 2002 and 2003, respectively. So the countdown begins if you want to finish the 1500 page trilogy.

The story picks up sixty years after the prelude book, The Hobbit. It helps to have read The Hobbit, but it is not absolutely necessary. Bilbo, the famous hobbit who helped to slay the dragon Smaug, hands his beloved ring down to his nephew and heir, Frodo. Frodo learns from Gandalf the wizard that the ring is actually the evil One Ring, which was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron centuries ago. The only way to defeat Sauron is to throw the ring into the volcano pits of Mount Doom, which is in the very center of Sauron’s kingdom. Frodo sets out with his fellowship of nine on what will be the most perilous, but also the most important quest in the history of Middle-Earth.

One reason the trilogy has flourished is that it is a parable for our times. The story takes place in the “third age” of middle earth. In the first three ages, the dominant races were of elves, dwarves, hobbits and Orcs, or goblins made by Sauron. However, as the third age comes to an end, it becomes clear to the reader that man will be the dominant race in the years to come. Tolkien implies that it is time for man to take responsibility for his own actions, and to do the right thing. There are rumors that the plot and the geography of Middle-Earth mimic that of WWII Europe. Though written in the 1940s and 1950s, Tolkien always denied any links between the story and the political events of that time.

The intricate plotting is mind-blowing. There are prophesies to be filled, war to be waged, giant spiders to be fought, mountains to be crossed, and hundreds of characters that are brilliantly woven into the story. The extensive family lines that are explained will impress even the most critical reader. Each character comes from a long lineage that helps the reader understand each character’s stake in the quest.

The language Tolkien uses contains beautiful descriptions of the landscapes, and a rich imagery of the light versus darkness theme. Move over Star Wars, Scream, Godfather, and even Back to the Future. If the new trilogy can stay true to the books, it promises to be the One Trilogy to Rule them All.

Archived article by Daniel Fischer