Yesterday, I went to the local indie record store, which in all honestly I mostly frequent because they tend to sell used DVD boxsets for really cheap. (Note to self: Check to see if they also buy used DVD sets. Because I have this Season 1 of Heroes that I purchased when I thought that was something I would want to re-watch, but never actually took out of the plastic). While I was there, I found all three of the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for six dollars each. (Note to everybody: whenever you see an expensive ‘must-have’ DVD set for sale, remember that it will one day be sale for $6 on a shelf in a used record store somewhere, possibly, as in this case, never having been removed from the plastic).

Now here’s the thing: I own many DVDs and DVD sets that I end up watching, approximately never. (Or literally never, which can be determined when I realize the plastic has never come off, viz a viz season 1 of Heroes). So finding a DVD set for cheap isn’t exactly that worthwhile, unless it’s something I know I am going to watch. And literally, once a week or more for the last year, I have found myself wishing I could watch something from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and not owning them, so it does in fact constitute a good buy. Once I got home on last night’s rainy, gloomy night it was really tempting to think about sitting down with those movies and watching all of them without a break. But it turned out I’m not that crazy, and by the time I was done with the first movie, it was already two A.M., so I figured I had gone far enough. But I did get through the first movie.

It’s actually been a long time since I watched any Lord of the Rings and even longer since I read the books. I think, technically, my last “reading” was to listen to the entire trilogy on audio right before the third movie came out. I have what might be a strange relationship to Lord of the Rings. I’m certainly not a capital-F “Fan” by the standards of people who consider themselves Tolkien fans. But I have read all the books more than once, and for whatever reason the film trilogy meant a lot to me when it came out. (Let’s just pretend that “for whatever reason” is not just code for “Viggo-Mortensen-as-Aragorn-is-one-of-my-fictional-husbands” though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a factor.) But the release of those movies, when it happened (winter of 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively) marked some big transitional phases in my life. Growing up, changing directions, making different choices, re-evaluating and re-framing personal and family relationships. If it seems like I’m being vague and mysterious here, I’m really not; it’s just that it’s much more of a personal journey than I can really articulate. It was that whole mid-20s crisis where I found myself asking “What the hell am I doing with myself and why am I doing it?”

So, the “for whatever reason” is a way of saying that there was something about the ring quest that I connected to in a particular way. This stands out to me, now, because re-watching last night, I realized it doesn’t have the same meaning for me now. The moral absolutes of Sauron versus Gandalf, the light and dark/right and wrong oppositions that don’t really ever get questioned don’t have the same appeal to me. I’m more interested, now, in stories that take those oppositions and mess them up a little. This isn’t, I should say, a criticism of LotR itself so much as the way that I was approaching it; I needed it to mean something, in particular, at that point in my life, which isn’t what I need my mythology to do for me now.

It’s not that I don’t like the movies anymore, so much as that I focus on different parts of it. I’m more interested in the politics of the humans rather than the purity of the hobbits. I’m more sympathetic, I think, to Boromir’s viewpoint. He’s in the story to be a human who lacks the strength to make the right choice, but from another viewpoint he comes across as the advocate for people to do what they can with the tools that are available to them. I’ve always been a little sorry that his part of the story ends prematurely, because his skeptical viewpoint seems like something that the entire arc of the story could use. Even if he is wrong in the end (and, I suppose, we have to be happy that he is).

It’s very tempting to pop The Two Towers in right now, the middle chapter of the trilogy that has always been my favorite. But I have a writing project I should be doing, and it’s occurring to me that if I don’t knock it out now I have no idea when I’ll get to it before the holidays. So, maybe a reward when I get done with a draft. We’ll see how that goes.