I love J.R.R. Tolkien, yet I’ve never read a single one of his books.
If any one of the three Lord of the Rings movies airs on cable, I immediately stop all productivity in my day and curl up on the couch. If they’re showing the entire trilogy, I lose a full day. I’ll watch them over and over and over again, never getting enough.
Since my husband doesn’t share in this love, Sunday I went to the movie theater by myself and bought a single ticket. I didn’t mind the solitude. I finally saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and loved every second of the two hours and forty one minutes spent in my seat.
The purists out there would shame me for my lack of Tolkien literary knowledge.
I respect it. They’ve taken great joy from a great imagination. A book makes a story your own like nothing else. I love books, all kinds of books. I love to read. I would love to read Tolkien.
But I can’t bring myself to.
It would take something from me...a memory I’m not ready to alter.
You see, when the spiders scream “It’s stings!”, it wasn’t the actor's voice in the movie I heard. When Smaug bragged of his strength and stature, it wasn’t his dragon tone in my ears. Even when Gollum talks so terrifyingly in the previous movies, I’d already heard his screeching done better. It wasn’t Peter Jackson who first brought all these characters to life for me.
It was my dad.
He loved Tolkien first. And when I was little, he read The Hobbit to me and my brother every night before we went to bed. We’d crawl into our bunks, my brother on the top, me on the bottom, and my dad would pull up a chair next us and make Tolkien’s words come alive.
Each page was better than the last. When Bilbo first ran into Gollum and his ring, and the two begin a battle of riddle’s, my father’s fake british accent was at it’s best. When Bilbo asks Gollum what he has in his pocket, my father shouted “HANDSEES!” as if he were a crazed creature in the dark.
Gandalf was tall and mysterious. The dwarves, ridiculous. Smaug, awe inspiring.
He spent night after night reading the whole 300 page book out loud, to two kids eagerly awaiting to hear what happened next.
When the final battle ended, the gold divided, and the book closed, this wonderful window of sobriety closed with it.
My dad would talk about reading us the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we watched the bad 70’s cartoon version together, but The Fellowship of the Ring was never cracked open. I’d like to believe he never got around to them because they were written for adults, and The Hobbit was meant for children.
But the reality is always much harder. Such is the cruelty of substance abuse.
Small moments of great love and attention, swallowed up in years of anger and ugliness.
The adult child in me now wants what it can’t have. To share these new movies with him. To hear his Gollum voice again.
Sitting there in my seat with a tub of overpriced popcorn in my lap, I was so lonely for man who’s still alive, but no longer exists.
So despite my love of Mr. Tolkien and his amazing works...I can’t read his books.
My own inner voice is but a shadow of the voice a little girl trusted, respected, loved...and then lost.