Not What J.R.R. Intended

by Overlithe, with responses

I, for a long time, have realized the theraputic value of LOTR, the book for years was an escape and an inspiration. The films intensified that for me being a very visual individual, it brought it all so much closer to my heart. Now anyone who knows anything about me knows that Frodo is hero both of Middle Earth and of my own heart. With that being said...

What is it about LOTR that draws those who have suffered, not "only" those who have suffered but there are so many who have. That is where LOTR therapy comes in. Unconventional you might say or think, but the stories are too many to be denied. There are characters that endure, inspire and sometimes expire....but they are always there to show us how to carry on in the face of daunting odds, they show us that together we can get through this present darkness, we can make it!

Frodo is of course my inspiration...If he can suffer all that he did and more that is only implied or surmised...if he can do it and continue on than so can I ...he is flawed, he falters, he views himself a failure and yet he is a survivor...He only finally leaves his home behind to save his friends and family from watching him fade and die.

My own abuses are not nearly so overwhelming as some, but enough to have left emotional scars that lay hidden for years...I have come to recognize them now and deal with the legacy left behind. And of course that in itself is a day to day learning experience and battle.

So what I have to say is simply that irregardless of what JRR wished his work to become,no matter what PJ wanted his interpretation to become... It is a haven, a safe zone and an inspiration to live to push through and past the darkness to the other side and find love and life... and be here in this place and this time together.

Response from sarahstitcher:

I too have found LOTR inspirational and therapeutic. I wonder if writing it was that way for the Professor...

Response from Veline:

I don't know if that's what JRR intented, but what Im sure of, is that this is the best achievement for any work of art. Everything you said is true, and these are the reasons why Tolkien's book is and will always be timeless and inspiring for so many people.

Response from Frodosmiss:

LOTR is profoundly inspiring to so many and brings with it an emotional healing power of sorts. I'm glad that it has been a light in some of your dark places.

Response from Vison:

Tolkien said several times that he wanted to write the kind of book he liked and I suppose on one level that was true. However, as our dear Varda has said many times, an author isn't always the best source of knowledge about his own work.

I think Tolkien was certainly "writing out" some of his wartime experiences. The descriptions of battles in LOTR often echo the descriptions I have read of the real war we call World War One but which was known to Tolkien as The Great War. He didn't have "Huns" for the enemies of the West, but created Orcs and the Valar and Maiar gone wrong in Sauron and the Balrog, etc. Remember the melee in Ithilien, where Sam's first sight of man killing man was so awful? I think for Tolkien men killing men was awful, too, and so he made up creatures it was hard to empathize with. (Still, he left plenty of man against man, since his war had to seem real.)

He also "wrote out" about fatherless men like himself. Aragorn was fatherless, and Frodo. Tolkien's father died when he was very young.

And the women, too. Tolkien's mother died young. So did Aragorn's mother, and Frodo's. Arwen's mother essentially died, leaving her daughter motherless in Rivendell. Eowyn and Eomer were orphans, raised by their uncle. (Also, with Theodred's death, Eomer took his place as the "proper" hero of HIS part of the tale, a nephew is always the heir in these tales as he was in real life. A man's heir was his sister's son, not his wife's.)

In short, I think Tolkien, whether consciously or unconsciously, dealt with the devils in his memory throughout LOTR. We are told that he regarded the Silmarillion as his major work, more important than LOTR. But it lacks the emotional impact of LOTR, aside from any other "flaw" it might have.

Response from Varda:

Thanks Overlithe, and I have always believed that it is this ability of The Lord of The Rings to relate to us in times of great stress in our lives that makes it a masterpiece. I don't know if that is because as Vison says the book itself contains a working out of Tolkien's own demons. Lots of writers work out their demons in fiction and the results are rotten fiction. It is not enough; creative mastery and imaginative synthesis and that other, elusive touch of the muse are needed.

My low point in life came after our family business, after a hundred years, went bust. We lost homes and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. My mother's health collapsed and basically it was a long living nightmare.

Then I got a job in a shop, and I thought it was my salvation. But in the shop there was this hideous manager and even more hideous old battle-axe of a cashier. They made my life unbearable. But I distanced the torment by dubbing them Gorbag and Shagrat.
'Gorbag calls....' I would chant when the cashier screamed 'Floor! Floor! I want staff on the floor!'
And when the manager made me carry 80 litre bags of peat up the stairs I would mutter.
'Shagrat, beloved of The Eye, may you find peat everlasting....'

And so on. There was an assistant manager who was tall and willowy and handsome, so he was an Elf. One day he said;'why not do the electric light bulbs, V? I name you Mistress of the Bulbs'

After that things got much better. I was out of the power of Gorbag and Shagrat. In my little kingdom of the bulb store, I was Queen Galectrical and that was my Lightlorien. I made friends with the other staff, till there was a little Fellowship of the Hardware Store.

So yes, Overlithe, it is not literary sources which make this a great book, but how it fits to our own experience. As you say, it rings true in life, and that is the mark of the greatest art of all.

Response from modelnut:

Tolkien's books are the ultimate comfort food for the soul. And for some reason I always feel the need to read them soon after Bilbo's birthday. The books just work better for me in the Fall --- or what is supposed to be Fall, in Georgia (USA) Fall doesn't come til Winter.

Anyway. The Lord of the Rings puts me in an Autumn mood and I like that.

Response from Agape4Rivendell:

I think the books are more about death than suffering. It flows like the river Anduin through each moment of it. Everything and everyone is dying. Each chapter has some aspect of death about it - whether it is the Entwives (who I think perished on the Emyn Muil when it was overrun by Sauron), the trees of Mirkwood (as the bitter poison of Sauron crept forth from Dol Guldor), the men, women and children of Rohan and of Gondor, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, Orc, Easterlings, Elves, Haradrim, even conies.

For myself, the therapy comes from reading JRRT's vision of death and knowing that there is something beyond death. But even more so, reading fanfic from right here - right on these boards - gave me the courage and strength to look at the deaths that have been in my life - and be able to face them and write about them and heal from them. (Letters from Faramir and more)


Response from Ladyhawk Baggins:

 I also find the story to be very therapeutic. It safely opened doors I was afraid to face alone. Tolkien knew what it was to struggle and and hang on and the importance of not just being alive but of living. He considered being passionate about something reasonable and desirable and a vital part of life. The world has become more cynical about passion, redefining it to fit in a very tiny sphere. Now it is considered fashionable to be yourself as long as you fit in the 'mold.' In a world that says there is no such thing as evil, just someone making different life choices, and good is whatever you think it is, Tolkien would be considered woefully out of step with the times. And how grateful I am for that. Like you, Frodo is my hero, and if he could endure, so can I. I learned about friendship, how to make friends and how to behave like a friend. Better still, I'm still learning from the Professor. The timeless truths he shares, without hitting one over the head with them, are able to cut to the quick and heal like a balm, but only if one's heart it open to the possibilities. Tolkien was brave enough to share his creation. I think sometimes I don't fully appreciate just how much courage it takes to share a part of one's self, but Tolkien is educating me. Thanks Over for reminding me.

Reply from Overlithe:

I've said it before though the words are inadequate, I love LOTR simply because it makes me "feel". To Feel the pain of others and know that none of us are alone in the world unless we make it so ourselves. To look inside myself and then see that very pain reflected in me. Weeping over characters that I know are (not real) in the flesh anyhow.

Empathy courses through the veins of LOTR, daring us to care or not...It hammers out a pulse of life driving friendships and love and of loyalty. It gives an example of what I should be wiling to give, to do, to sacrifice. It breaths of everyday life, and yet is punctuated by the outside horrible happenstancesmaking it all too real and relateable;and so reminding me of those who are sent to fight and defend while others stay home and live a normal lifesafe secure and completely unaware.

Life and death, sickness and health, vitality and frailties... it is the stark realities of the fiction that bring it to life and keep it in our so many ways it is so very real and it is this realness that our hearts recognize and relate to....We know it is much more than a work of is a work truths.

Response from Ltheanine:

I know it has helped me through some very tough times now and in the past. It was a form of therapy, a way to learn to deal with some hurts.

I have always thought about Frodo and Celebrian both of whose hurts run too deep and had to change their lives and start over so they could feel happy again.

Response from Lindorie:

I found LOTR in the midst of one of the darkest periods (if not THE darkest) of my life. It was New Year's weekend, 2001/2002 and I was in a deep depression, almost unable to function. This had been going on since the end of August when my then 11 year-old son had decided to stop living with me and move in with his father, his new wife, and three step-sisters. To say that I was devestated is a huge understatement. I had thought about suicide, but could not leave Adam thinking that he was at fault.

Within three weeks, 9/11 happened and I was overwhelmed with the happenings in the outside world as well as the disaster in my own life. By December, I could hardly leave the house.

It was up to my friends, who never gave up on me, to decide to drag me to the movies that weekend. I had never read the LOTR books because when I was in school, everyone was reading them, and I didn't follow the crowd with anything. I avoided them. I didn't read fantasy.

That first viewing of FOTR was incredibly difficult for me. I didn't just cry, I sobbed through large portions of it. I begged my friend (who HAD read the books) to tell me if anyone else died as I could not bear to see or read anymore of the stories if there were any more losses. She assured me that the rest of the Fellowship would make it to the end of the story, but would tell me no more.

I bought the books within a day or so and drove to Portland to see the movie again. I wanted to share it with my son, but needed to see it once more, myself, first.

The stories were cleansing for me, somehow, and supported me through the darkness I was going through. Sauron had entered my life, but could be defeated. I had a Fellowship to support me and guide me through the darkness. A real one in my friends, and the book Fellowship to give me inspiration and hope to sustain me.

Maybe Tolkien didn't intend for his book to have this sort of place in our lives, but I'm sure glad that they do.

Response to Lindorie by Veline:

((((Lindorie))))  We are all so glad that they do, indeed...

Reponse from Texas Hobbit:

For the past 11 years of my life I have watched the family I once knew almost be completely destroyed and I'm only 28. Film and music have been and always will be a very powerful motivation for me to see myself through the darkest times. Since 1995 I have been watching my parents be torn apart by a past that seems like it will never die. My brother and sister do not want any part of my Mother's health problems Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and most recently her heart troubles with open heart surgery and even now angiograms/angioplasty. My sister believes that my Mom is too young to be sick. My Mom is only 61. My Father is not doing very well either - he is loosing way too much weight. I am watching my parents deteriorate before my eyes but I always try to find hope that things will be better somehow.
In 2000 I discovered Russell Crowe and his band through a fan website after I saw "Gladiator" ( a film as dear to me as LOTR)- I was getting close if not the closest to the darkest time in my life to the point of almost going down that dark path that none return. I went to one of the concerts on August 18th and he and the band (TOFOG) performed a song that made me rethink the dark path I was about to choose. Russell introduced the song with what inspired him to write it - the suicide of a friend/fellow actor who had a heroin addiction problem and laid himself in front of a train. He wrote the song after hearing the news as a memoriam for his friend but also a reminder that Life is the most precious thing there is and to hold onto it no matter what comes at you.
It is through the friendship of fellow fans of TOFOG that I discovered a couple of fans of LOTR and they told me to give the stories a try.
I discovered LOTR through one of the absolute last showings of the FOTR- I had taken my Mother out to a movie to "defuse" one of the uproars at home and FOTR happened to be that film. I have always been a fan of epic films and this one captured my heart that night. Sadly I did not pick up the books until close to the opening of ROTK. As with the films , as I read the books I identified most with Frodo, having endured all he went through yet still quite resilient to the power of the Ring. One Ring after another kept coming into my life but I pushed on enduring whatever came from each one's wrath. I began writing poetry- have written only seven for different characters from LOTR so far and "The Rage and the Ring" - poem for Frodo was the first one. Whenever I read that poem I intro it with "This is for all Ringbearers whatever your Ring may be." Being a fan of the films and the stories has brought me to a circle of friends and the Fellowship of dear Ringers which I do not know where I would be if were not there. I find a strength, a safe haven, and courage that helps me get through the days. I also reach out to others with my poetry/writings- many have found inspiration through the poems "Eowyn", "The Rage and the Ring", and "The Heart of Aragorn King" and have expressed it to me after my readings. My costuming has also brought me a lot of joy and memories such as Alan Lee donning and signing my Frodo Orc helmet!! and a little lass who walked up to me while I was in full Frodo Orc Armor and said "I saw you today, Can I have a hug?" I said "Sure" She then hugged my furry leg, looked up at me and said "Thank you!"
The most powerful gift the books, films, and ya'll have given me is hope.
That is something mere words can never express thanks for in this world of ours because much like in Middle Earth - the world we know is in so much peril yet like dear Sam said to Frodo " That there is some good left in this world and it's worth fightin' for." Indeed there is good left. It continues on to this day as I hope each day will get better.
Take care beloved Ringers
Sincerely,  TexasHobbit

Response from Frodosmiss:

If JRR only knew.... His characters and stories capture our hearts, speak to our souls and plant seeds of hope in our minds. If YOU only knew...The stories of your own more personal journeys to LOTR do much the same. Well, now you do! Thank you for sharing.

Response from Avondster:

When I was a lonely child without friends, the magical world Tolkien created in 'The Hobbit' helped me, making me escape a world I was afraid of and enter one that already seemed familiar when I first stepped into it.

When I was a scared and confused teenager thinking she was all alone in the universe with no one to understand her, I read LOTR and realised that the world I had escaped to as a child could still offer me comfort now that I was older.

Then a little later on when I was only nineteen, the works of Tolkien helped me find a bunch of people that, for the first time in my life, made me feel like I belonged somewhere, somewhere other than in Middle Earth with Frodo and Merry and the others.

Quite honestly, I have no idea what would have become of that nineteen-year old girl, had she not once upon a time opened one of her father's books because the cover looked interesting. I do not like to think of it, really.

I don't think Tolkien would have had any idea that he would have such an impact. But I'm grateful anyway.

Reply from Overlithe:

We are bound, all of us, not becaue we were forced, not because we are desperate, but because we share this...The inexplicable touch of Middle Earth has taken us and left us better for the journey. We share pain that comes from many places some darker than others some deeper than can be comprehended but we have what Tolkien has given...a place to escape, a place to find comfort and and to me the most amazing thing is the friendships found in the most unlikely of internet message board.

We are the fellowship now, along with the original nine we too have taken this journey and the comfort lies in knowing that indeed the road does go ever on and on. Our lives our problems with all the hurt and pain are no longer dark and hidden they have been outed into the light of companionship where we need never bear them alone again. Thats what I feel here in this place in this time. The books, the films, the characters and the experience will always be there to fall back to; to find that inspiration again...And with any luck WE will all be here too, to be that fellowship for eachother so that none of us goes back down that darkest of roads of despair and hopelessness.

Sorry.....I am feeling very sentimental about this whole thread...Love all of you...Like Frodo our healing has begun.