Lord of the Rings, Similiar Story to Harry Potter Says Susquehanna Prof

The much-anticipated movie "The Lord of the Rings" will open in theatres nationally next Wednesday, December 19, after experiencing much of the same advance hype as the recent smash "Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone." According to a film and pop culture expert at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., the similar hype makes sense since the classic stories of "good vs. evil" ARE similar - and should therefore appeal to the same type of audience.

Anne Collins Smith is an assistant professor of philosophy and classical studies at Susquehanna, where she is an expert on adaptations of book classics to film - authoring a nationally-syndicated op-ed on the Harry Potter books titled "The Harry Potter Series: A Defense Against the Dark Arts." She actually finds a number of similarities between J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories - aside from the authors having the same first initials in their names.

"This tale of good vs. evil is similar to Harry Potter in a number ways," says Smith. "There's the complexity, and the idea that although the good will triumph, it's a long, hard-fought process.

"It's also similar in that the hero, Frodo, is an everyman. He's not like Superman, but a person somebody can easily identify with - very much like Harry Potter. They're also similar in that the characters have to grow and develop to meet the challenges they encounter. They find hidden depths and abilities within themselves."

But while "The Lord of the Rings" offers a similar story to Potter, it also has much of its own intrigue. Smith finds the ring, itself, "philosophically fascinating."

"The whole concept of this ring has drawn all kinds of abstract interpretations. But Tolkien himself said it wasn't supposed to represent anything," says Smith. "There was no current political issue it represented. It's just a story.

"But if you look more abstractly, the ring represents ultimate power, and ultimate power is portrayed as bad. What I find especially unusual there is we often talk about powerful instruments being good or bad, depending on how you use them. But the ring is just bad. It will corrupt even a good user who is just using it for good."

She also finds this story set in a land with races of intelligent beings - with each having a different characteristic personality - "both exciting and troubling."

"It's exciting because of the thought that you could have intelligent life other than humans. That's a very inclusive idea, but it's come to be traditional in the interpretation of science fiction that different races of beings are maybe metaphors for different sub-races in humans," Smith says. "An example would be the prejudice against Mr. Spock for being half-Vulcan in the Star Trek series being similar to being half-black, or half-Hispanic in our society. In Tolkien's world, the people really are different. It's important not to read metaphors back into his world, because I'm sure that's not what he meant.

"You also see examples of people transcending the characteristics of their race. So Frodo becomes adventurous, while Legolas and Gimli - elves and dwarves who traditionally don't get along - become friends because they have to work together. They transcend their limitations, and that's very exciting."

Time will tell as to whether this movie can transcend the limitations of following Potter to become the same kind of box office success.

Smith may be contacted by calling her office at 570-372-4167, or her home at 570-374-8408, while her email is [email protected]. Her husband, Owen Smith, is also a lecturer in English at Susquehanna, and an expert in this story - particularly its religious and supernatural aspects. His office number is 570-372-4200, while his e-mail is [email protected].

Feel free to call us at 814-867-1963, or e-mail me at [email protected]. Dick Jones Communications assists Susquehanna with its public affairs work.


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