7 of 25: The Lord of the Rings

There are many reasons why we read books or watch films or plays or television. Sometimes, it’s in order to learn something new, or to engage with the cultural zeitgeist. But other times it is to escape, whether that be to escape the humdrum banality of daily life, or to escape from the stresses and strains baring down upon you. A big part of why we tell stories is for the sheer pleasure of escapism, and for me, my perfect way of achieving this pleasure is by watching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings films had a big hand in shaping my childhood. I remember seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema, mostly with my hands covering my ears because the Ring Wraiths’ screams utterly terrified me. Yet, every year I would wait eagerly for the next film to be released. The films also came out at a point in my life when my imagination got the most exercise in the school playground, and many a lunch break was spent with my friends re-enacting sequences from the films. I always ended up playing Gandalf or Gimli in these little schoolyard vignettes, which, while at the time was mortifying for a girl who desperately wanted to be Legolas, perhaps lay the groundwork for my future acting career; I am apparently a go-to when it comes to casting grotesques, hags and villains. Not that I’m complaining – I’d much rather play a dragon than a damsel in distress.

But The Lord of the Rings isn’t just a spark of playful nostalgia for me – these films hold a lot of emotional significance for me and my family. These films were a restorative escape while my mother battled with cancer during my childhood. When we watched these films together, we would be transported to Middle Earth. From the tranquil valley of Rivendell to the rolling barrows of the Shire – The Lord of the Rings were an escape from the harsh realities my family faced for a time.

Fortunately, my mother beat cancer, defeating it just as Eowyn vanquishes the Witch King in what is for me one of the most satisfying moments in cinema history. And here’s the thing – The Lord of the Rings films have left such an indelible mark upon my family that we are constantly making references. You can’t say the word ‘potato’ in our house without repeating it in Samwise Gamgee’s affected intonation. In my opinion, they are the films which have had the most influence upon my family, from our little family in jokes to our taste in decor.

Even now, 17 years since the first film’s release, they are still astounding pieces of cinema. The battle scenes are as gripping as they were when I first saw them, and the story telling is so emotionally impacting that I still burst out crying when Sam describes the wonders of the Shire to Frodo on the burning remnants of Mount Doom. The Lord of the Rings will always have a special place in my heart, and if ever I am in need of a bit of escapism on a cold and dreary day, I know what I’ll be watching.