Thursday, July 28, 2011


I try to cry when I’m moved to cry. I decided to do this when I was very young, for a few reasons; I’ve only seen my father cry once—when our dog Sandi went to sleep one last time. He has only ever admitted to crying one other time—at his mother’s funeral when he was 16 years old. But also, I wrestled with gender expectations when I was a kid, and for the better and the worse, I decided to be a person before being a man, mostly because I figured that women and men could live more freely with common social expectations. Part of being a person is crying. (Part of being a person is also accepting your own gender, and I certainly suffered and struggled with becoming a man, but that is a different story.)

I’ve cried every time I’ve read The Lord of the Rings. The interesting thing is that each time I read it, I’m moved to tears at a different point, and looking back to see what parts of the story resonated the most for me at different parts of my life.

The first time, I cried when Gandalf fell in Moria. I was just out of High School. Gandalf was immortal in my eyes. He was powerful both in capability and personality. I wanted to be like Gandalf, so watching Gandalf fall presumably to his death was a great hurt to me. I was barely able to read on and all through Lothl√≥rien and beyond, I keenly felt the fellowship’s loss.

The second time, I cried as Frodo was carrying the ring through the tumbled plains of Mordor. I was at Cal Poly at the time. Forget my airs and pretense for a moment; graduating from college was very difficult and even in the last week of it, any of three things could have protracted it to the point I would not have had the will to carry on. I was in the shadow of heartbreak for two years and it took a total of seven for me to complete junior college and then university.

The third time, I cried at the very end, when Sam came home and said, “Well, I’m back.”. I had finally put my feet in the shoes of a supporter instead of a leader.

I just finished reading the series a fourth time, moments ago. It had been some time since I had last watched the movies. I attempted to distance my mind from the memories and pictures from the film, so that I could experience the books again from my own imagination, and with the added insights into Elvish and the maps from working on It seems that I’ve gone back to Frodo. This time, tears came to my eyes as Frodo is spirited away to Valinor. The words here of Frodo’s experience approaching the spiritual realm accessible only to the Elves are the same words that Gandalf uses to describe heaven to Pippin on the walls of Minas Tirith in the film.

“The grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

Frodo takes Arwen’s place on the ship that bears her father, Galadriel, and Gandalf back to the land of the Valar “who have been called gods by men”, thus Heaven in a sense, because the burden of carrying the ring has left him with wounds that do not heal. It is then that Sam returns home, back to his mortal burdens and mortal love.