When the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released on December 19, 2001, I was eight years old. At the time, I was far too busy with Harry Potter to care. In fact, even for years after that, my only memories of it were an uneasy feeling whenever Gollum appeared on screen and a hazy image of trees marching into battle in one of the games my brother had on his PlayStation 2.
This all changed when, one afternoon when I was 20, my brother took the executive decision to sit me down and make me watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Since then, I have devoured the trilogy written by J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as The Hobbit, the children’s tale that set the scene for the iconic story, and can no longer bear the idea of watching the approximately 3-hour theatrical editions of the Peter Jackson films, always opting instead for the approximately 4-hour extended editions.
The Lord of the Rings has undoubtedly stood the test of time. A timeless tale of good and evil, friendship, mischief, temptation, loss, and love, the New Zealand film director Peter Jackson was not exactly taking a gamble when he embarked upon the journey of turning it into a massive three-installment production, even four decades after the original books were published.
These pioneering works of high fantasy’s moving displays of sincere and vulnerable emotion from male characters some of whose primary role was that of mighty warriors, along with displays of unmatched valour and power from female characters, were inspiring, touching, and validating.
Around the world, people are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the critically-acclaimed, Academy Award-winning, generation defining trilogy: From a humorous rap song on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert featuring much of the films’ cast and a New York Times articles about millennial women’s affinity for Hobbit-themed fan fiction, to heartfelt stories of how these films were a companion to the lonely, a source of inspiration to the creative, and a soothing balm to the stressed or anxious.
LOTR is 20 years old. Still the best ever to me.
In terms of cinematography, emotional clout and even music; it maintains a quality, beauty & beating emotional heart that reigns far, far above almost every modern blockbuster since.#LOTR20 #TheLordoftheRings pic.twitter.com/IhDImE2IgX
— Gav (@miracleofsound) December 20, 2021
We asked our readers what the series means to them and what special memories they have had with it over the past 20 years.
“The Lord of the Rings reminds me of my grandfather. He introduced me to the movies when I was around eight. Great memories.” Ahmad Hesham
“I grew up on The Lord of the Rings – Dad let my brother and me watch it with him really early on and it’s been a comfort movie ever since. Every time I watch any of the movies, I manage to find something new to appreciate. Growing up with the movies meant that different situations and different characters resonated with me during different phases of my life. I still remember thinking Frodo was ‘frustrating and useless’ because of all the times he almost gave up, or had to be saved by someone else. But now he’s one of my favourite characters, and I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that his struggle isn’t visible and so it’s easier to dismiss. Anyway, this is just one of many examples. I love The Lord of the Rings.” – Nour Elrayes, 24
“[I won’t forget] the first time I watched The Return of the King [the series’ third and final installment], the ‘For Frodo’ scene! The Hobbit was the first book I read on purpose not for education and I fell in love with reading. Also, I watched [the films] during a rough period in my life, and the archetype of overcoming malice and evil gave me strength to overcome.” – Omar Oraby, 25
“The answer to what the series means to me is very difficult to sum up. However, let me share with you my very first memory of the Lord of the Rings. It was 2003 or 2004 and my parents had just bought The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD, and they allowed me to watch it with them. Suffice it to say, 8-year-old me had nightmares for 2 weeks straight about the Black Riders. [But now I associate it with] the happiest of memories.” – Ali Abdin, 25
“It was my only friend during the fifth grade, because I was bullied and just loved it with all my heart. I had this fantasy that I was Frodo and that Merry and Pippin were my best friends and every school day was an adventure.” – Nadin Fathy, 24
“It’s one of the best ways of showing men being friends without toxic masculinity.” Adham El-Batal
“I distinctly remember that I was at a wedding during high school when I heard that some of my friends went to watch The Lord of the Rings at the movies and that it was just the first of three movies, so I lost interest at the time. Then fast forward to the end of high school, at which point my aunt had gifted me the books in one sturdy paperback, and I ended up consuming it in weeks. Shortly afterwards I downloaded all three and watched them, and since then they’ve been a staple for me. They’re my comfort movies for sure.” Mohamed Mazloum, 34
“The Lord of the Rings was the most challenging reading experience for me because it was a major step up in terms of language and complexity from what I’d previously read. I was still young and anything I’d read before was written in much simpler language. It completely transformed how I read novels, and anything for that matter, because of how intricate it is. I felt so achieved when I finished The Return of the King and then I watched the movies, and they were so incredibly amazing.” – Ahmed Zaki, 22
“I saw the trailer for it in Wonderland Renaissance Cinema before one of the Harry Potter films and thought ‘This should be interesting,’ and then when I saw it I loved it, but it abruptly ended and I thought ‘That was it?’ I had to wait for every new part as I grew more and more in love. I remember in The Fellowship of the ring when Aragorn lopped off the head of the Uruk that killed Boromir, a kid yelled “Helwa!” (good shot!) and the entire theater erupted in cheers. In The Two Towers when Legolas does the horse acrobatics everyone clapped. In The Return of the King, the power went out three times. And the power went out during the multiple endings at least twice before the kiss between Arwen and Aragorn. Now my wedding band is The One Ring, and what’s written on it is a perfect wedding vow.” – Marwan Imam, 34