Finding a fan of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy isn’t very hard to do, and I am among the multitudes who have secretly tried to learn the majestic Elvish language and memorize countless other trivia about the epic saga. (I was, for a while, #1 in Quiz–Up’s “LOTR” category on my tiny home island, Taiwan.)  Jokes aside, I do hold the trilogy close to my heart as it has inspired me in several ways.

When I was eight, my dad took me to the theaters for “The Return of the King.” Although the only part of the plot that I remembered—or, was traumatized by—was Shelob the giant spider, the movie impressed me because its characters held themselves with such honor and bravery in a world so immense and daunting.

Now, what I love most about “The Lord of the Rings” is that all of its characters are complex and have agency. Good and evil isn’t necessarily a binary distinction: Frodo began succumbing to the temptations of the Ring and nearly ruined the best of bromances in literary and cinematic history, and Saruman turned to the easier but less moral path of industrializing Middle Earth for Sauron’s questionable purposes. And even though the story is centered on Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom, much of what occurs has little to do with the hobbit’s scene–to–scene actions. There are simultaneously multiple storylines, each vital to the development of the story: while Merry and Pippin separate to serve Rohan and Gondor, respectively, Aragorn is recruiting the dead, and Gandalf is busy getting resurrected.

“The Lord of the Rings” really became solidified as a favorite when I decided to watch the movies again halfway through high school. I had learned just enough that my mind was blown by the literary genius and social commentary that the trilogy dealt with. How could something be so fantastical, yet so relatable? Perhaps fantasy wasn’t about escapism, but about framing reality in a perspective so wildly different that we might just be able to understand its complexities.

This trilogy has always instilled me a sense of wonder for what’s out there for us to discover. It has also helped me understand the complex nature of life, and that even if I am as small as a hobbit, I could still end up doing something worthwhile.

Check out our other "Living Our Lives in Film" Identity Essays:
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Rebecca Gever

Dan Spinelli

Hallie Brookman

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