On the Benefit of Things Unseen

Over a decade ago I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the second time.  There was some urgency to my enterprise, as I wanted to accomplish my task before the films came out that December.  I loved the story, the writing, and the characters…and I wanted to experience them one last time as Tolkien intended them before my imagination was definitively altered by Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

Make no mistake: the Jackson films are epic triumphs that do great justice to Tolkien’s work.  But….and here I must be honest: I’m not sure that I’ll be able to picture anything in the books the same ever again.  Gandalf is now Ian McKellan.  Galadriel is Cate Blanchett.  The list goes on.

The effect is the same for any multimedia presentation of the written word. While entertaining, these adaptions of material–fiction, factual, historical, or otherwise–can cloud our vision in ways we can’t avoid.  This is true whether we’re talking about Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Bilbo Baggins, or Abraham Lincoln.

And so, with less than a month to go, I look forward to re-reading a book I haven’t picked up in many years: The Hobbit.  The goal will be the same as my approach to Tolkien’s trilogy all those years ago: to spend one last moment with a book that will soon be forever changed.

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2 comments on “On the Benefit of Things Unseen

  1. wcosnett says:

    Well, you can always watch the animated Lord of the Rings movies, then at least your mind will conjure up not Ian McKellen, but an amalgam of Ian McKellen and low budget 80’s animation.

    I’m also not sure the Hobbit will have the same effect, because I’m reasonably certain the movies will depart much more significantly from the source material then in the Lord of the Rings movies.

    • You know, those animated films came to mind (and the story book I had as a kid) when I was writing this post. Perhaps I’ve never looked at the characters with “clean eyes.”

      Jackson is sure to do a LOT of adapting in this trilogy, which might just make things even worse in post-film re-reading (i.e. forgeting what happens in books vs. movies).

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