Best of The Lord of the Rings: Setting

Forgive me for almost missing the deadline in this one. I’ve been busy these few days, what with tests coming up next week. I hope I somehow manage to put up posts next week. Anyway, let’s worry about that later. Today I shall continue to explore my favourite series, The Lord of the Rings, and talk about the one place I loved more than the others (Don’t worry, this post will be small). Every reader knows that setting is very important to a story, especially in the fantasy genre. This series has extremely complex world-building and not only is it detailed, it is exquisitely beautiful. There were several options to choose from – the white towers of Minas Tirith, the quaint and simple Shire, the dangerous mines of Moria, the dwellings of Elrond in Rivendell… well, you get the picture. [Once again, please note that since this is a book discussion, the post may contain spoilers.]

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Best Setting: Lothlórien

Ah, fair Lothlórien! Even as a reader who has only experienced it through the eyes of fictional character I have not escaped ‘unscathed’. The movie fails to do justice to this beautiful creation of Tolkien’s. I didn’t think much about it the first time I watched. But the first time I read it, I was entirely swept away. If I had to pick my favourite place among all the books I’ve read so far, I would still choose Lórien. My love for this place that is not even real has only increased the immense respect I have for Tolkien, for I have never so badly wished for any other fantasy realm to exist just so I could visit it someday.

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The first we hear of it is from Legolas, who says:

That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yet this is exactly what the Fellowship needs (and the reader as well) to regroup after their trials in Moria. The Elves here are of a different sort – they live in the trees, building platforms high above in the branches. They also speak a different language and have strange customs. It is a different world altogether, one that has been painstakingly preserved through time. The magic here lies within the land itself – in the fair trees, in the voice of its people, in every other living creature in Lothlórien. It seems like the perfect safe haven. That is, until, Boromir raises an objection:

Against my will we passed under the shades of Moria, to our loss. And now we must enter the Golden Wood, you say. But of that perilious land we have heard in Gondor, and it is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed.

This raises a suspicion in the back of our minds and although Aragorn allays Boromir’s fears, everything is perhaps not what it seems.

Lothlórien provides the brief respite that the story needs, yet it drives the story forward through subtle changes in the characters. It is is easy to view it just as a beautiful place that would have been the most sought-after retreat in Middle-Earth in better times, but it is so much more. The danger is ever-present even after they have left Moria far behind, be it through the company of Orcs that followed the Fellowship or the sneaky Gollum. It is here that Boromir discovers his desire for the One Ring and it is also here that Sam and Frodo get a glimpse of the consequences of their decisions. Aragorn is troubled as he faces the full extent of becoming the leader of the group. Gimli, of course, has a definite change of heart concerning the Elves. Where there was once enmity, there springs great love, and as the story progresses, Gimli and Legolas develop a friendship like no other between Elf and Dwarf. Also, we meet the famous Galadriel, who is mentioned at great length in other texts. Sam describes her (to Faramir) as:

Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and merry as ant lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime.

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It is essential that the Fellowship passed through Lothlórien, for otherwise their quest would have failed. Frodo begins to understand the nature of the Ring and this helps him make the decision at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. The glass phial given to him by Galadriel turns out to be invaluable. The Elven cloaks play a prominent role as well and so does lembas, the Elven waybread. Sam also receives essential gifts here – the seed of the only Mallorn tree outside of Lórien and, of course, rope! They are also given good advice and wise words to help them along the journey.

I shall leave you with the paragraph that made me fall in love with this place:

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile in still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear-cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for the summer or spring.

Here we must part ways with this fair land, that is so much more than what meets the eye. Which is your favourite place in Middle-Earth? What are your thoughts on Lothlórien? Can you imagine the story if they had not passed through here? Which place, in your opinion, was so beautifully described by an author that you wished it were real? Let me know all that you think in the comments section below.


6 thoughts on “Best of The Lord of the Rings: Setting

  1. Ah, Lothlorien. I agree that it’s an enigmatic, beautiful place. I think Pages Unbound had asked me where I’d want to go if I wanted to Middle-Earth, and I don’t remember my answer off-hand… But the truth is, I’d want to see all of it. Maybe not Mordor, but most everywhere else.

    *sighs* If only a tour of Middle-Earth existed…

    Liked by 1 person

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