Saturday, 25 January 2014


When someone prompts me about Lord of The Rings or Tolkien (which happens more often lately, what with the new hobbit movies and Barahir’s ring around my neck) I often tell them I’m a huge fan, and I illustrate that point with telling said person that I read the books about once or more a year, every year, and that I’ve done so since 2005. And then people give me the strangest look. You read the same book twice or more? The look says.

To be fair with you, I don’t understand why not. But let’s delve into my past first, so we might find an explanation why exactly I do this.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t a big fan of reading books, not like I am now. I devoured comic books, but I glossed over them fairly quickly without appreciating storylines or artwork, really. If I got a gist of the movement or expression, that was enough. When I was about nine years old we got classes at school where you practiced reading fast without making mistakes, and I was put in the highest grade because I could read so fast, further training my skimming. Even now, when I read out loud, I can barely understand what I am saying.
But then I got into Harry Potter. Everyone was reading them, birthday parties were held in the cinema watching a tiny Radcliffe on the big screen (I still remember shooting out of my seat when that bigass snake shot out of the water) and every year with Sinterklaas there would be a new Potterbook in my shoe. And I read them, again and again and again. The thing with Rowling’s writing style is that she refers back to tiny details in her previous books; and skimming ol’ me would have to read everything again to understand the impact of those things in full. And when the next book came out, well… I had to do it all again of course. Because there are seven books I can say I am fairly sure I read the first book about fifty times, not exaggerating. But hey, I didn’t have that many books at that time that I could truly call my own. All my other books were encyclopaedia because I liked animals and history, and my sister liked Dirk Bracke (a writer who likes to write about emotional/physical abuse) which I was too young for, and Marc De Bel, which was amusing but it still felt wrong to me to read another person’s books. That and my sister didn’t like it when I touched her stuff. My older sister liked Jurassic Park, so yeah. Way too young and chicken for that.

I became a fan of Lord of The Rings in my second year in highschool, about three years since I started reading Harry Potter. The movies were aired on TV for the first time since they came out, and I adored them. Later that night, when the credits of the first movie rolled over the screen, my father gave me his copies of The Lord of the Rings. I’ve cherished them ever since; reading them on the playground when no one talked to me, reading them when I was upset, reading them when I was supposed to study at boarding school because they looked like dictionaries in size and print, and I could get away with it (and it beat studying). And I keep reading them because compared to Rowling’s world, which is rather mainly based in Hogwarts and a Ministry of Magic and then a few other places here and there, Tolkien created a whole world, a whole religion, and it’s there for the taking. The pockets I got from my father had a map of Middle-Earth, and because he bought them when he was about twenty, the map was old, worn and yellowed. It was fantastic. (and then I lost it, but that’s a story for another time.)
Reading these pockets was much like when I read Potter; I skimmed over tiny details in the beginning, and by the time I reached the appendices at the back of Return of The King I would have to start all over again because ohh, thàts what it was all about. Frodo’s dreams in Tom Bombadil’s house, for example, or Sam’s secure knowledge that he has to fulfil something before he can go back home again, or the things they see in Galadriel’s mirror. There are hundreds of little references scattered throughout these books, and I haven’t even started about the silmarillion.  

I feel that at this point I should mention That Other Fantasy-but-not-really-fantasy Series called Game of Thrones. Because here, again, we have a whole world filled with details that you don’t get unless you’ve read the whole thing thrice, and it’s not even finished yet.
And yet… I can’t really get into the story. Where Tolkien kept the balance between the amount of details and tension and number of storylines, mister Martin completely throws me out of the loop. There are just so many boring characters that he follows. So yeah, I know I’m going to insult some people here, but boy am I glad he’s killed most of them. The only ones (until now) that I would have minded if he’d killed was Arya, Snow (only because he’s cute in the series) and Daenaearaeanyiys. And the dwarf, maybe. But well, I have only read the first three books, so we’ll see how it goes. The fourth is on my ‘Need to read Pretty Soon’ list, so I will undoubtedly keep you posted about my opinion. (I warn you, I’ve had a recent craving for iambic pentameter, so it might take a while.)

But I am getting side-tracked. Is re-reading important to me? Yes, because I like to stay in these fantasy worlds as long as possible, and because there are so many details in them I can keep losing myself in these books.
I guess you can compare it with a cd. Listening to music gives you a certain mood, can be exhilarating or whatever you look for in music. It’s hard to find several hours worth of a certain blend of mood so you listen to some really good songs again and again – then why is it so much different if I do the same with books?
I have the same with movies, by the way. I mean, have you seen those latest Marvel movies? (I usually go for the good guys, but damn, Loki!)
But when I tell someone I’ve seen the second hobbit movie three times in cinemas so far they kinda laugh and look away. So I guess I feel sorry for those people, because I can totally get lost in these stories, even having after-effects alà ‘no one can hurt me because I’m a main character’ for the rest of the day, and it feels awesome.

And that’s the perfect word to end this tirade.

Until next time,



  1. Ok, I'll bite ;)
    It keeps being so funny to me how everything you list as the reasons why you love LotR, is exactly why I love aSoIaF. The details, the history, the lore, the sheer vastness of the universe created (GRRM created not one, but at least a dozen religions!). I also love how the books are such an intricate puzzle, stitched together from a patchwork of unreliable narrators, that on every re-read you discover new things (enter endless internet forum theories!) Never are things just told to you, the reader. You have to connect the dots and figure out the clues for yourself. So it can happen that you're in the middle of a 'boring' chapter about a council meeting, and an offhand remark about the king signing a document about a character that has been named... one other time in a different book, makes your jaw drop when it suddenly clicks what that implies. And I'm talking about something that just happened to me while re-reading A Feast for Crows, and I've already read all the books, seen the HBO series at least three times, am regularly involved on, and have always excelled at comprehensive reading. I'm not adding this last thing to sound bitchy, but you did go into how you tend to need more re-reads to get stuff, so I'm just adding it to underline that they are complex books and need to be read at least twice, even by people who don't have that problem.
    What I'm trying to say is: maybe it's not a good idea to dive right into book 5. Maybe (if you still want to) it would be better to re-read book 1-3, then have a go at 4-5. They really require a good deal of effort from the reader, but once you finally have an understanding of what really happened during Robert's Rebellion and the reign of the last Targaryens, they become a hell of a lot more rewarding. And that's not even getting into the good stuff, like the Blackfyre pretenders, all the ancient legends, the history of the Andals and the First Men, and all the prophecies, or exactly why Barristan Selmy is such a badass :D
    What I'm trying to say is: hate GRRM's writing all you want. I agree with you. His prose is dry and the man utterly lacks the gift of metaphor. But the story, the world, the characters? That's something else altogether... :)

  2. I'm not saying I dislike his world or his religions, but I do indeed prefer a more poetic style of writing :)