Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Do You Read?

So in Clerks II there is an ongoing argument between fans of the Star Wars trilogy and Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy over which is supreme. Both Lucas's movies and Tolkien's books were formational experiences for me, so I don't feel any need to make an either-or comparison. If push really came to shove, though, I think I'd have to come down on the side of LOTR. I don't make this decision lightly, but based upon the controlling mythology of the stories. I know I'm not the first to describe them in these terms and much more has been written than this, but here's my take.

In Star Wars your hero just happens to be magically imbued with a powerful force. We eventually find out he is the son of one of the great powers in the universe. He is destined for greatness and he fights the great. The prequel trilogy only expands upon this theme. This is a battle of the high and mighty against others who were born to power. This is an incredibly powerful mythology--How awesome would it be to discover you have this great power and can do incredible things? Everyone wants that in some form. But while I can fantasize about wanting to be a Luke Skywalker, I know there is no truth in it. Finally I must accept that I am just another ordinary person and that particular fantasy is just an escape.

While LOTR may have Gandalf and destined-to-be-king Aragorn, the true protagonists are the Hobbits. They are as down to earth and ordinary as they come. They don't succeed in their quest because they are inherently great, but because they are able to find extraordinary strength of character and courage within themselves. They are you and me succeeding in a crisis situation despite our mortality and weakness. This may be called a fantasy, but it is one that we can actually put ourselves into and identify with. Ideally, it is one that can inspire us to live our own lives like courageous Hobbits and discover our own versions of greatness. It is a story that might make us better people.

And that's what I'm really looking for in a good fantasy, not just escape, but something that will help me examine my own life and come out a better person because of it.


At 9/25/2007 4:54 PM, Blogger David said...

Star Wars is better then LOTR.... who wouln't want a lightsaber?

At 9/25/2007 6:33 PM, Blogger Kitten said...

yeah what David said!!!

At 10/03/2007 1:57 PM, Blogger Lyra said...

I dunno. I haven't seen all of the Star Wars Trilogy, I've seen enough to know that LOTR has so much more depth.
Maybe that just goes with the fact that movies have to leave out so many of the character's emotions. With both SW and LOTR you put yourself in a different world, but watching a movie you kind of zone out but are immediately back in the real world when the screen goes blank.
By having to put the book down and go slowly, it gives you a chance to process each new concept in between, while still wanting to see what happens.


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