I thought I was a solid reader before I attempted to read Lord of the Rings the first time. Heck, I thought I was good. I had tested high on all the reading sections of my past standardized tests, I had flown through the Harry Potter series, and I was a huge fan of C.S. Lewis—I thought, Tolkien? Easy. 

But when I finally decided to actually sit down and read Lord of the Rings in middle school, I was instantly overwhelmed. I had gotten a very nice copy from some relatives that contained all three copies in minute print in a single book. It was way fatter than your average Bible—over a thousand pages. Going into it, I thought that, because I was used to book series, because I had read Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, that Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be that hard. But those series were made easier for me by the fact that they were all broken up into seven books. Here, I was presented with three very dense books packed into one very dense book. Needless to say, I did not get very far the first go round. 

The background knowledge, the prologue, the history of the Hobbits—it went on for pages and pages, so initially, I just skipped over it, thinking my knowledge of the movies would carry me through. When the book began delving deep into Hobbit history and the history of Middle Earth, I knew I hadn’t made the right choice, but I just plowed on ahead. I read through the book feeling as if I was missing something, like if I just knew something else or studied the prologue or the maps in the back of the book a little more closely, it would all just fall into place, but for now, I was just reading half-blind.

It wasn’t just the length that daunted me, but it was also the style of prose. It was heavily focused on setting and lore, with great chunks of dialogue outlining elaborate histories, myths, tales, and songs. It crafted a beautifully intricate world, vast and diverse, complex and wondrous, but at the time, it seemed just too far above me. 

I quit reading it after having almost finished the first book. Thinking it was too big of a project, I put it away, focused more on shorter, easier-to-read books, like Hunger Games and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Those richly action-packed books left my mind racing (and, especially with Hunger Games, my heart too) and gave me quick-and-easy satisfaction. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I decided to pick up Lord of the Rings again. 

At first, it seemed just as long as before. It didn’t help that I read mostly before bed, and that I often fell asleep reading these books. It didn’t help that I had suddenly become very busy, coming out of COVID, and that reading had become a last priority. It didn’t help that, every time I thought I was getting closer, I would turn the book on its side and realize just how far away from the end I was. Despite all of these factors though, I just kept reading, one page after the other. Sometimes, things would jump out at me that hadn’t before. Sometimes, I would be bored by descriptions of the setting, but sometimes, I would be enticed by the dynamic between characters. That was probably one of my favorite parts of the book—the way the characters interacted and the way they grew from those interactions. They were subtle, yet very dynamic, and it was very interesting to read about the way their harrowing adventures and circumstances changed them. For example, my knowledge of Merry and Pippin as I knew from the movies, though similar, did not capture (to the same extent) how they evolved throughout the story and became courageous war heroes and leaders. And with the setting that sometimes bored me, if I focused hard enough on those details Tolkien provided, it would paint a clearer picture than I would’ve been able to get without those elaborate details. 

When I finally finished the series a couple months later, I felt a sense of pride, more than I had when I finished any other series. I felt the pride one experiences, not only when one completes a goal, but when one feels they have accomplished something worthwhile and experienced something truly memorable, and truly difficult. Though this memory may not translate into actually knowledge of the Lord of the Rings—that is, I’m not able to give you facts or answer trivia questions about Lord of the Rings—it has really been more of something that has made me more resilient and has helped me prove to myself that, even if I think something is just not for me or beyond me, that I can do it if I set my mind to it, and can actually enjoy it in the process. 

So now I encourage you also to find a passion, or even just a project. Throw yourself into something that may seem beyond you—it doesn’t have to be a challenging book (though it can be), but it can be something you’ve always wanted to do but never tried, or something in an area you think you aren’t interested in, but sounds like it might be fun. Just see how it goes!

Though Lord of the Rings might be one of my more recent examples, throughout my life, when I have wanted something and actively gone after it, even when I didn’t feel like it, I have only grown, I have only found out something new about myself, I have only felt like I did something that was worth it. So, whatever that thing is for you, find it. Hold it tight and don’t let go. Because waiting until you get to that last page, that last moment, that final word, is always worth it.


Photo Credit: juniperbooks.com