I don’t think I’ve read Lord of the Rings as an adult. Nineteen does not count. So it was interesting to re-read it and see what I’d spot for myself this time around.
I was a little bit disappointed in Aragorn, who used to be my great favourite as a teenager. Teenagers think more simplistically, but to my current self, Aragorn was just too full of himself to make him entirely likeable. He is clearly modelled on the great epic heroes of the past, but to a modern reader, these great epic heroes seem implausible, self-important, narcissistic, sometimes morally dubious (not the case with Aragorn, but look at the heroes of some myths and legends). Aragorn had self-doubt, determination, strength and he was a good person, but he was also self-important. That scene at Theoden’s palace where he refused to put down his sword was very unflattering. As a guest, you obey the rules of the host, not go into a tantrum and talk about what a special sword you got and how you are not leaving it behind the door like people with inferior swords have to. There were other instances where he used his status unflatteringly in the “Do you know who I am?!” style. Yes, that is the epic hero style, but I couldn’t fully admire him because of this.
Instead, I ended up admiring Faramir. If I had to choose an ideal king, I’d choose him. He had the strength and wisdom of Aragorn, but also he was humble and gentler. Many might mistake this gentleness for weakness, as had done his father Denethor, but I’m not that sort of a person. Gentle + strong is like my absolute ideal of (male) humanity.
Denethor I either disliked or did not think much of upon first reading, but now I found myself feeling a lot of sympathy for his tragedy.
I felt rather ambivalent about him and sometimes found myself agreeing with Denethor or Saruman in their assessment of Gandalf’s activities. He seemed to be able to know or quite strongly guess how things would turn out. So then, why would he send Frodo to Mordor, knowing full well it would destroy him so he could never live in the Shire again? There just was something disturbing in how he used others as his pawns. Yes, it was done with good intentions to save Middle Earth for future generations, but he also orchestrated who and what gets destroyed in the process….If he had not guessed the outcomes and the bad stuff just happened, while he tried his best, it would be different. But to knowingly sacrifice? If Tolkien had described Gandalf’s self-doubt and disinclination to do it, he’d be fully redeemed in my eyes. Because sometimes all you got is rotten choices and then you just choose the greater good and try to cause minimal harm to your pawns, but there was none or little of that in the books. He did end up destroying his own power in the process as well, but I think Gandalf was not really of Middle Earth anyway, so him leaving it felt a lot more natural than Frodo leaving it.
I really liked ents. I liked them just as much as the first time around and those chapters were among my favourites.
Frodo I came to understand in a more nuanced way. He’s an INFP like me.
I also very much enjoyed orcs and uruks bickering with each other. They function like comic relief in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Loved those chapters.