We're taking Oldest to see Return of the King on Saturday, the grand culmination of several weekends spent on the couch together working our way through the extended edition DVDs of the first two movies. Oldest, you see, is a Type-II viewer.
I should explain.
There are three types of Lord of the Rings viewers.
Type-I: Grew up loving the world of Middle Earth or fell in love with it some time before the movies came out. Spent a great deal of time leading up to their debut fretting and checking up on Peter Jackson's credentials as a director and saying things like, "These films had better not suck." Felt great relief when Fellowship did, in fact, not suck. Rushed home after each film to re-read the books with renewed enthusiasm.
Type-II: Had not read the books prior to seeing the first film. Was immediately drawn in by Peter Jackson's visual re-telling of the story and captivated by the characters and epic, mythological landscape. Either rushed right out to read the books, or eagerly anticipated the next film.
Type-III: Think that Orlando Bloom is so hot. So very, very, very sexy hot hot HOT! Oh my god, look at his sexy, twisted Elf ears. Bet Elves are magnificent lovers. P.S. Arwen is too fat to be an Elf, and think Frodo and Sam are gay. But nevertheless!
Husband and I, of course, grew up with the books. On opening day of each film, we stood in line outside the theater in the miserable December cold, holding hands and nearly jumping with excitement like the dorks we know we are.
In line for the final film, at the earliest showing in the city on opening day (excluding the midnight shows – I mean, we have kids and all), I looked around and wondered how many of us were that kid in school. The kid who wrote secret messages in runes and named pet fish Legolas and Gimli. And here we all were, taking our bent, worn copies of The Hobbit out of hiding and looking around at other kids who, just like us, would have loved to take it apart and point to precursors, themes, symbolism, and the sheer, wandering majesty of the world of Middle Earth.
In a way, it's kind of sad that now it's a phenomenon, and that there may come a generation of kids who think that the books are based on the movies. But we'll set them straight. Oldest is reading my beat-up copy of The Hobbit. Each night she shows me what chapter she's on with an excitement in her eyes that I recognize, and I peer over her shoulder and get swept up in the adventure all over again.