The Sins of a Fan of Fantasy Lit

Okay, I’ve had this one written for a while, but up until now I hadn’t dared to post it. You see, I am about to confess to what amounts to a sin for a fan of fantasy literature, are you ready: I am not a big fan of The Lord of the Rings (and by that I mean the books, not the movies). Oh, I’m not denying their importance as one of the foundational works of the whole genre. In fact I freely acknowledge that it is probably the most influential work of the twentieth century. I know that without it I probably wouldn’t be here, or rather that I would not be writing the things I write, and I realize that it is very well crafted, but even though I have read it a couple of times hoping to develop a taste for it, I just can’t seem to get in the spirit of things. I enjoyed The Hobbit, but when it comes to its big brother I have a number of problems:

Problem the first: the books seem to suffer from a severe case of acute adjectivitis, one that at times seems to have infected the whole genre. Blame it on my short attention span or whatever, but I don’t subscribe to that rule of fantasy literature that says that each and every noun must necessarily be preceded by no less than three adjectives (though to be fair neither did Tolkien, he seems to have been convinced that five was the absolute minimum).

Problem the second (and closely related to problem the first): if I want to watch a movie I can do so, thank you oh so very much. When I read a book I like to have at least some details left to my imagination. Double this one when it comes to battle scenes.

Problem the third: until the movie Lawrence of Arabia came out a little more than eight years later, The Lord of the Rings probably held the rather dubious honor of having the fewest relevant female characters of any major cultural achievement in the twentieth century. Yes, Galadriel is great and all that but this is still a bit of an issue as far as I am concerned.

Problem the fourth (though this is mostly my problem): even under the best of circumstances I’ve always had a hard time telling the difference between poetry and pottery, and I could really do without the songs and poems. Sure, I love the idea of the different languages, at least in theory, and I know Tolkien was one of only a handful of authors who could possibly hope to pull it off, but at times I do feel that he got a little too carried away with the whole thing.

Problem the fifth (and this one is most definitely not Tolkien’s fault): yes, I freely acknowledge that The Lord of the Rings is a superbly crafted book and a well-told story that is appealing enough, but at the same time the reverence in which it is held makes me feel as a sort of heretic when I say that I don’t like it as much as I should –actually just the fact that there is a ‘should’ in that statement, that I feel compelled to like it, whether I want to or not, is a problem as far as I am concerned– and that is not something I appreciate. It reminds me of one of my lit teachers who openly told me that if I ever wanted to write a negative book report about one of the books on my reading list I would have to work twice as hard to justify my reasoning. What can I say? I’ve always liked sacred cows… their steaks are unusually tender.

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