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Sarah Deel: Seeking Refuge in Middle Earth

There are so many pieces of Tolkien iconography in my head that I cannot watch the movies without knowing things already.
Gandalf, Bag End, pipe weed...
I am not a die-hard fan, or anything close to it.
Eowyn? Arwen? Which is which again? Couldn’t he have made those names sound a little more different?
What I already know, the impressions I have, colors what I see in the movies. I can never hear the story for the first time again, or even imagine what it would be like.

My strongest images from the books are of the places and people that are incredibly powerful and incredibly good—those people and places that seem magically out of reach.
I am happiest when Gandalf is with us, when we are with the elves in Rivendell or with Tom Bombadil in the forest.
I love being immersed in the historically, environmentally, culturally rich world of Tolkien’s creation. In some ways I resent the undercurrent of the plot which drives the stories.

The movies force me to deal with this in a brutal way; the refuges that I use to mark my time in the books are brief or edited out.
I know if we can just get across the ford where the river horses appear it will be okay for a while.
Tom Bombadil doesn’t make the cut, and Faramir and his hideout behind the waterfall are not safe for us.
Can’t I just hang out in Rivendell for a while longer?
I appreciate that the movies have a different arc and purpose than the books: there is an intense need to move the story along.
The only thing harder than selling a five hour movie? Try selling a five hour movie with a poky plot.
I love what is there: Rivendell is phenomenal, and the Ents are exactly as they should be.

As I watch the movies in the comfort of my own home now, I am coming to the startling realization that some of my needs for refuge are sated by the bonus material on the DVDs. I am looking for an enriched sense of place and deeper understanding of what is motivating the characters, without adrenaline churning my stomach.
Let me just savor the architecture of Minas Tirith without worrying about orcs, okay?
The books have it all. The movies are the stories which bring the characters to life and serve as a record of the history/plot of what happened when to whom.
I finally can keep Eomer and Eowyn straight now.
The bonus DVD material gives me the insights into place and character I love.
Look, they actually built Edoras: for a while, it was real, here in our time and place!
The DVDs allow me to learn about Middle Earth from people who have studied Tolkien’s work intensely. Their stories of creation (of sets, of characters) inform those impressions I carry with me about Middle Earth.
Gandalf, Bag End, pipe weed...