Falling in love with The LoTR & Harry Potter... Again
Ever since the Christmas holidays, I have been rereading and rewatching the classic series of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. I remember everyone talking about it when I was younger, and being the ambitious child I was, I made it my duty to finish them faster than anyone in my year.
Why Harry Potter?
When I became deeply invested with the small details that J. K. Rowling put in, I couldn't help but smile every few sentences. Even though this was about a magical school with potions classes, owls for pets, and sports like Quidditch, the whole premise was something so familiar to me. Since I have also been in the British education system for quite a while now, everything we did seemed to match up with the most basic experience at Hogwarts. Here are some similarities:
They have Houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin) just like we do (Sarah, Geomun, Jeoji, Mulchat and Noro). We started with four -- of the same colours, too -- but had to add one more House because we grew in size. While we don't have distinct qualities that are attributed to each House, all the students are quite adamant that there is something in common for the people in each House. We also have a 'spirit animal' that goes with all the houses!
We have competitions between the Houses and the sporting events can get pretty intense. Sure, we don't fly around on brooms trying to dodge balls that seem to have their own minds, but basketball and netball cut pretty close to that.
Our teachers are strict with uniforms. Let me elaborate on that -- while Dolores Umbridge is a hated character, her passion for calling students out who don't have their shirt's top button done or shirts tucked in the trousers is comparable to that of some of the teachers at my school.
In the boarding house, there are 'exeat' days where you can get out of the school to go into the city outside. This is sort of like the children going into Hogsmeade.
Hogwarts have their O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts. We have IGCSEs and the IB. (I honestly got flashbacks to my own mock exam when I saw the students taking the O.W.Ls in The Order of the Pheonix)
The way that everyone packs away to spend the holidays back home is almost exactly the same as what we do on the last day before any break. The chaos that ensues (to get everyone out and on the train back home) is also very similar.
Thank goodness we don't have trolls in the bathroom or a forest full of dangerous magical creatures (although, our school is located pretty close to a forest that doubles as a tourist attraction).
One other thing is that when I first read the books, I didn't approve of the pairings in the end (Ron with Hermione and Harry with Ginny). Back then, I had a pretty stubborn rule that the main boy character needed to end up with the main girl character. So even when I saw the development between Ron and Hermione as they grew up, and the fact that Harry and Ginny complimented each other's personalities, I wished it was Harry and Hermione who ended up together (sorry, Weasleys!). I know this is still a topic of interest for a lot of people, but I'm happy with how everything turned out in both their relationships. Ron and Hermione might have their differences but it was clear that they looked out for each other. Harry needed someone who knew what having an abundance of love from a family was like as well as a companion who was strong enough to take in his doubts and pressure.
Harry Potter gives out an important message to the readers/audience that there is always light at the end of the tunnel; sometimes it's the darkest times that this light shines most brightly. Another message that I didn't realise when I was younger was the fact that people in power can be easily corrupted (mostly due to the fact that they want more power) and may not have the best intentions in mind. I don't think revolting against every person in power does any good, either, but I've learnt that one does not have to bend to the wills of a corrupted authority if what you believe in is truly the righteous thing.
And finally, the series helped me understand that you don't have to be the 'Chosen One' or a part of the Golden Trio to make a difference in the world. Neville and Luna, who have been outsiders or were considered weird, influenced so many people around them to make positive changes. They were even at the centre of change! Even Dobby the House Elf, a creature who was not given his due, fought bravely to save the people he loved.
Why The Lord of the Rings?
I've always enjoyed fantasy stories set in great big worlds. But when I first read this series, I wasn't able to capture the wonders of the history and geography of Middle Earth as well as the characters' quirks. That made it quite a bore to read. The only reason I got through it was that I was in a friendly competition with a buddy of mine and I wanted to beat them to it. To be completely honest, I barely had any recollection of the story until I reread the whole thing.
The LoTR provide breathtaking places to imagine, with different realms and regions. Especially in COVID times where travelling has been restricted for a long time, I was at peace as I 'ventured' around the world of Middle-Earth. Although, all of this has made me dream of my very own house in the Shire (or a place at Rivendell) to come back to after a perilous journey.
Something I can't get enough of from the series is how diverse the characters are in terms of personality and their backgrounds. They essentially have thousands of years' worth of heritage and culture that have been passed onto the main characters of the story -- how they interact between themselves feel so real even though everything is essentially made up. Especially with Tolkien's amazing aptitude for writing in different styles for different characters is so funny when you can hear their voices clear in your head.
I can see that so much thought has gone into the languages and lore of the different species. I'm having a bit too much fun with the Sindarin language of the elves or learning the alphabets in Viking runes.
If there's another thing that I enjoyed in the LoTR series, it's the portrayal of male characters. They have healthy relationships with their friends and they do not hesitate to show emotion. And even though some are amazing fighters, they have their own flaws (except maybe Legolas..!) that make them relatable. This was quite different to how men were portrayed in some of the more recent movies I watched -- they were either brooding all the time or flirts without having anything else as a distinctive factor. Most times, they were heroes but I couldn't relate to their 'problems'.
But all in all, it made me realise that things aren't obviously black and white in the world. Just like how innocent and cheerful of a character Frodo was at the start of their journey to Mordor, but even he couldn't stay away from the darkness that the ring possessed. We can always fall towards the dark side if we aren't careful enough. One thing we can do would be to surround ourselves with great friends to share the burden if it becomes too much to handle it alone.
I know the LoTR section seems quite short but it's mostly due to the fact that I would sort of be repeating myself if I pointed out everything that I've noticed since the two fantastic series do share a lot in common.
It was very interesting to see how my perceptions and ideas changed over the years. I might read some more classic series/books that I read when I was young, just to see if there's anything new that I can pick up on.