I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with fiction.
A significantly large portion of my childhood was spent being introduced by my parents to stories they’d loved at my age. My mum and I shared a shelf full of Disney films that both us and my little brother would watch, again, and again. As much as I enjoyed them, I was mostly devoted to the tales I found in books. After all, in the early 2000s, they were much more portable than any form of visual media. But when I was eleven, that changed.
We were on holiday- I don’t remember where. But I do remember it was hot, and there were no other kids to play with, and, as always, we’d brought the little book filled with DVDs to while away our evenings. I remember my dad flipping through it, and pausing, and then turning to look at my mum. He seemed concerned.
“They’ve never seen it, have they?”
“I’d grown up loving fantasy, sure- […] But this was different”
And just like that, every evening for the next six days was spent working our way through The Lord of The Rings (the extended edition, obviously. We’re not animals). I’d grown up loving fantasy, sure- at eleven, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Avatar: The Last Airbender were like religious texts to me. But this was different. I’ve always had trouble focusing, and yet potentially the longest films in the world, were able to hold my attention for hours, and hours. I remember my fear of Gollum. I remember sobbing at Boromir’s tragic demise. I remember cheering as Eowyn tore off her helmet, declaring that she was no man.
Most importantly, I remember the form. These films placed such value on every single one of their parts; the atmospheric music, the costume design, the lighting. It all stuck with me. In my childish brain, I felt the love and care that went into each ingredient, not just the final cake. I grew up surrounded by farms, and The Shire theme is a perfect encapsulation of pastoral simplicity. The shining lights of Rivendell give the audience, and our heroes, a sense of safety; the low-key lighting of Mordor promises nothing but nefarious deeds, and unseen terrors.
And something so beautiful in form could not exist without its own beautiful centre. Tolkien’s story is certainly a little white, male and Jesus-y for my personal tastes, but that didn’t stop this narrative from nurturing my now inordinate adoration for found-family tropes. The traditional tale of a group of social misfits who would never normally interact becoming kin is one that has existed for thousands of years. But this was where I fell in love with it.
“as a kid, I still felt as if I could overcome my fears, steel my nerves, and if need be, save the world”
Samwise Gamgee has always been my favourite. I related to him (I still do). Pudgy, well meaning, bumbling, but with a deep love for his friends – eleven-year-old me could not be more thrilled to see herself as part of a world-saving team. Despite the aforementioned gender disparity (an issue which is still depressingly present in high-fantasy narratives), as a kid, I still felt as if I could overcome my fears, steel my nerves, and if need be, save the world.
Formally and narratively, the Lord of the Rings film series is – in my mind – one of the greatest pieces of cinema. It’s stunning on an aesthetic and auditory level, and it has an incredibly tender heart. Essentially, it’s the film equivalent of a warm cup of soup- and it’s signified milestones for me, too. When I finished my GCSES, I marathoned Lord of the Rings. When I finished my A Levels, I marathoned Lord of the Rings. And, as I begin my final year of university, I’m watching them through again. It really is inexplicable, but these films lit my cinephile fire; so much so, that I’m not only studying film at graduate level, but applying for a post-grad to continue my filmic studies. It taught me just how beautiful films can be. It taught me how important friendship is. It taught me that just because I wander, it does not mean that I am lost.