What I Learned Reading The Lord Of The Rings in 2020

Today’s book review is a little bit different. As some of you may know, The Lord of The Rings has been one of my bucket-list books. I started it in January of 2020, and little did I know, this would be the year I needed to read this book.

I’m a believer that books can impact us differently depending on the season of life we’re in. This year reinforced that for me. I had no idea when picking up The Lord of the Rings in January, what the rest of this year would hold!

So here’s a few reflections from my reading journey this year.

1. You never know what the journey ahead holds.

Yes, I knew this one in my head. But sometimes, the heart takes a while to catch up.

In January, The Mister and I were headed across to the South Island of New Zealand for a two week adventure. As I was picking my reading material for our trip, I spied my copy of Lord of The Rings on the shelf.

I’d been a fan of the movies, and had a copy of the book for a long time. Unfortunately, when I first picked up the book I was a much younger reader. I started and finished with the introduction, Concerning Hobbits, and other matters.

So it was with mixed feelings that I threw my copy into my carry on. I was travelling to the home of the films, surely there couldn’t be a better time to pick up the source material for the franchise.

I was right. Reading about Frodo setting off into middle earth, when in the midst of New Zealand’s incredible scenery is a delightfully bookish moment I wont soon forget. I finished off The Fellowship of the Rings while we were away, and started Two Towers.

Then I returned home… and the rest of 2020 happened. COVID-19 was just some distant virus that people were starting to chatter about, but it didn’t personally impact me.

I carried on in my 9-5 job, while continuing to freelance write part time.

Then things got worse. Global pandemic worse.

My country went into it’s first lockdown of 2020 (We’ve just cautiously reopened from our second lockdown as I write this) and I ended up working full time from home. I resigned my retail job and was fortunate enough to have a big enough client base to take my writing and editing career full time.

I was both excited and terrified. So around March, when I got around to picking up Two Towers again, I could relate to Frodo more than I could before. The sense of responsibility, of feeling like a situation is more overwhelming than you can handle, was something myself and many others were beginning to experience.

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

The Lord of The Rings p. 50

This wasn’t the year I’d planned to take my writing career full time. It wasn’t the year I thought I’d say goodbye to colleagues, or be restricted from visiting friends and family in person. This year has taken an emotional toll at time, seeing the suffering of those in my local and global community. That’s when I found my second lesson.

2. We all need our Sams.

Samwise Gamgee is the true MVP of The Lord of the Rings. His faithfulness, courage and good heart has cemented him as one of my favourite literary characters.

Frodo couldn’t have gotten far without Sam. Likewise, I couldn’t have gotten far this year without my own personal Samwise Gamgees. I’m fortunate to have more than one.

No, these aren’t people who literally have the name Sam (though they may be for you). This year I’ve felt grateful for the people in my life who have encouraged me. Who have reminded me what’s important, and helped me refocus and continue on – even when it’s hard. I don’t think I would have had the courage to take this writing and editing gig full-time if it weren’t for my wonderful husband (and best friend) and the other friends who’ve cheered me on.

‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.’

The Lord of The Rings p.919

This year has been difficult for many. I hope you’ve had some people around you who’ve made carrying your own personal burdens a bit easier.

For me, thank you to my Sam’s who sent me biscuits. Who did zoom board game nights, who sent cards and kind texts. For the Sam’s who watched Netflix parties and made FaceTime calls. You’re all amazing, this year has reminded me just how much.

3. Sometimes it’s not about us.

As I finished The Return of The King in October, my state was still in lockdown. I hadn’t seen friends and family in person for months. But the message of hope and sacrifice at the end of the book (don’t worry I wont spoil) has reminded me that sometimes – we don’t do things for ourselves.

Yes, many of us might be “okay” if we get COVID. But there are those that won’t be. To a certain extent, wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing good hygiene and getting tested are all acts of selflessness. They protect those we know and love, as well as strangers. I’ve been generally encouraged in my immediate community to see people unified to protect the vulnerable.

Yes, this year has shown some terrible examples of separation. Of pain and suffering. But it’s also been a time when neighbours have come together in an era where that’s not always guaranteed. We’ve adapted and gotten creative in how we connect with our community (thanks zoom!).

‘It must often be so…when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’

The Lord of The Rings – p.1006

The Return of the King wasn’t an easy read. There’s pain and loss and sacrifice. But also hope.

And as 2020 draws to a close over the next two months – I’ve been thinking back to where I was at the start of this year. When I was sitting in a Jucy van, at the foot of fox glacier, my husband and I reading. I couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would mean for us. The challenges it would hold. Nor could Frodo, as he stepped out of the shire.

I’m thankful for the hopeful message of The Lord of The Rings and thankful that this was the year I finally read the book. It a powerful experience, and encouraged me far more than I ever could have foreseen. Tolkien’s faith and storytelling is something I’m grateful to have engaged with this year.

Final Thoughts

Have you read The Lord of The Rings?

What’s something you’ve learnt in 2020?

Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading today’s post. It was a bit of a different review! But in sum, I absolutely recommend The Lord of The Rings.

If you’d like to read more about my travels in New Zealand earlier this year you can check out my post Adventures in Middle Earth.

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  1. Carys says:

    I read LOTR many years ago, and I found it quite a challenge! The prose is wonderful but as someone who’s not used to reading older language, I struggled with it at times, and sometimes it just glazed over as words on a page.
    I adore the films though! Maybe I should give reading them another go.
    Something that I really appreciate tho, is the love Frodo and Sam have for each other. It’s not romantic or sexual but it is affectionate and caring, and their masculinity is never questioned despite that. I think that’s really profound. I don’t know if I really have a Sam in my life, and I don’t know if I ever will, but I hope that I get the opportunity to be a Sam for someone else.


    1. Hi Carys! Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience with reading LOTR. It’s definitely a challenging book at times. I think particularly the sections that are quite poetical. Many modern authors don’t write the way Tolkien does, which I think is the case with many classics. Our conventions of speech and writing changes over time, which is always interesting to engage with! I love the films too! Though it’s a shame there’s not as much singing as in the books! That would have been pretty amusing to see.


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