This is a Jan. 12, 2002 column for you from Times columnist Tim Greening, who died Wednesday. It's a staff favorite I hope you enjoy.
At Play in the Fields of the Lords of the Fellowships of the Rings
It’s only been in theaters three weeks, but The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien - has already made so much money, the late author’s family bought two more Rs to add to his name.
I finally saw the movie and it’s as terrific as everybody says. I went into it a neophyte, not having read any of the Rings trilogy, which are, in order, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Evil Sorcery for Dummies.
It’s a fable about a world called Middle Earth. It’s not as upscale as Upper Earth but the schools are pretty good.
All of Middle Earth’s mythical creatures - elves, dwarves, hobbits, wizards, Kennedys - live in their own separate neighborhoods, like a fairy tale apartheid. The hobbits have the shire district, for example, while the elves live in what appears to be Middle Florida.
The hobbits are a race of short, human-like beings who are peaceful and very good-natured. (There are a few bad hobbits, of course, like smoking, procrastinating or biting your fingernails.)
The hobbits seem very Irish, as they speak English in thick brogues. In fact, all the beings involved speak English, though the elves have their own language, “Elvish,” in which every sentence ends with “thankyou ... thankyouverymuch.”
The conflict arises from the evil Lord Sauron, who seeks to conquer Middle Earth through the cunning use of magic rings. Hundreds of years before Fellowship takes place, he distributed among the various kings a bunch of these rings, along with calling birds, French hens, turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
His plan was to make everybody crazy and jealous and fight over the rings like they were half-price DVD players at a day-after-Thanksgiving sale.
For himself, Sauron created a ring with incredible powers, enabling him to do all sorts of nefarious things, like destroy mountains, enslave men, or charge $6.50 for a large soda and a Middle Popcorn.
The ring is taken from Sauron before he can do any real damage, but then it gets lost for hundreds of years. It eventually ends up with the adventurous hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who doesn’t know the ring’s history, he just knows it looks good with his Rolex.
The ring becomes the property of his nephew, Frodo, when Bilbo Baggins departs the shire to fulfill his lifelong dream of establishing “a pub in the shadow of the Interstate of Twenty, where the Road of Old Minden meets the Road of Benton.”
However, the wise wizard Gandalf realizes what the ring is and the potential it has for evil.
“I mean, $6.50 for popcorn and a soda? Such deviltry must be stopped!” he tells Frodo.
So Gandalf, Frodo and three other hobbits - his best friend Sam, along with Sneezy and Doc - embark on a journey to get rid of the ring, either by destroying it in the fires of Mount Doom or pawning it to buy a sweet, sweet Camaro.
Along the way, they pick up a few friends to help out - forming the titular Fellowship - including two human warriors, a dwarf and the Tin Man.
Because he is apparently the only one who can resist the temptation to use the ring for his own desires, Frodo is declared the ringbearer. So they dress him in a tuxedo and have him carry the ring on a little pillow, as is the custom.
The journey proves to be remarkable adventure, but I’ll stop at this point lest I give away the ending. (Wait ... there was no ending. Still, I’m out of space.)
Anyway, it’s a great, exciting, visually stunning film that I highly recommend.
J.R.R.R.R. Tolkien should be proud.
-- Tim Greening