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YODA

J.R.R. Tolkien

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

With the exception of possibly Charlotte's Web and the works of Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were the first books I remember reading. Like the Star Wars trilogy, which obviously pilfered many of its plot points and much of its epic resonance from Tolkien's work, the tales of Middle Earth captured my imagination as a child. Both are sweeping tales of the clash of good and evil, of bands of heroes fighting insurmountable odds, and of lands populated with magic, monsters, and myth.

That being said, Tolkien's work obviously deserves adult appreciation as well. As Tom Shippey has noted in his recent paean to Tolkien, the themes of Lord of the Rings are the same ones that have confronted the twentieth-century: the disappearance of the natural world in the face of industrialization, the seduction of technology and the banality of evil, and the capacity to find hope and fellowship in the darkest of times.

Of the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first chapter in Frodo's quest, will always be my favorite, although the whole tale, from The Hobbit to The Return of the King, are clearly worth a few reads. (Not for nothing has actor Christopher Lee read the entire trilogy every year for the past thirty years.) As readers know, the sheer detail of Tolkien's Middle Earth is staggering. A professor of philology at Oxford, Tolkien not only created an amazing backlog of history of for his realm -- he even composed the languages for his peoples, complete with grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Middle Earth was Tolkien's labor of love, and I, like readers around the globe, am indebted to his masterful fantasy epic.

Unless you've been living in a (hobbit) hole (albeit one with Internet access), you already know that Peter Jackson, creator of Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures, has recently completed a film trilogy of these classic books. Click here to see how they came out.

Frodo lives!

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