The Lure of Tolkien's Rings
Good tale telling will prevail, whether set in Middle-earth, Neverland, Oz, a galaxy far, far away, Tara or the house next door. JAMES W. REYNOLDS Boise, Idaho
Fantasy fans love the lord of the Rings trilogy not because the stories are simplistic [MOVIES, Dec. 2]. They, as much as any other work of fiction, tap into the same universal myths as all other literature; they're just decorated in a way that is particularly appealing to us. J.R.R. Tolkien's mythical books are about the universal difficulties of humanity, both the struggles and the pitfalls. We read these tales because they tell a good story, not because we're worried about America as a superpower. EMILY WHITWOOD Wichita Falls, Texas
I disagree with the idea that fantasy is popular because it is an escape from the real world, that all fantasy is simple, black-and-white and unrealistic. The deeper meaning of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is that there is potential for evil in us all and there is also potential for good. Although the hobbit hero Frodo may have failed to resist the temptation of the magic Ring, it is the slithery Gollum--thought to be nothing more than a nuisance--who ultimately destroys the Ring. Tolkien presents these profound ideas in the guise of an old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery epic. But the characters are as real and human as we are. BLAIR HURLEY Newton, Mass.
The enduring appeal of the fantasy genre is, as you reported, multifaceted. The most compelling and perhaps least recognized reason is that it gives the reader a truly flexible medium in which to explore larger-than-life issues. The best fantasy is about much more than good vs. evil, the expression of magic or nostalgia for a simpler time. The greatness of The Lord of the Rings is in its exploration of the consequences of a great task that falls to an unwilling and unlikely recipient and the expression of inner strength and personal transformation that result. Tolkien succeeds by telling a tale that is as much about the inner person as the outer quest. Director Peter Jackson succeeds with his film adaptations by recognizing the importance of this theme and integrating it admirably into his movies The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. JOHN TILELLI Apopka, Fla.
Your story said that "on the political-correctness meter, The Lord of the Rings is radioactive," and asked, "Where are the women?" There may not be many women in Tolkien's fantasy world, but the few he depicts are strong and courageous--equal to or better than the men they interact with. The trilogy is a great form of escapism for women and men, and I would hate that people thought that it is misogynistic in any way. CHRIS BLAND Dallas
Getting Rid of Saddam
Iraqi citizens may be resigned to another military action against their country by the U.S. [WORLD, Dec. 2]. It's troubling to me, however, that Americans can mourn so deeply for those lost on Sept. 11 but have no idea what it would be like if someone launched a full-scale invasion against the U.S. Tens of thousands of innocent lives would be lost. Yet that is what is being proposed for Iraq. The gravity of this situation should not be overlooked. KEVIN HAWKINS Cupertino, Calif.