I first read The Lord of the Rings over the Summer school holidays when I was about 13 years old. I was staying at my grandparents' house, and there was very little else to do. I remember feeling that it was such a hugely long book that it was very intimidating. It also felt like a huge slog, especially the middle section when the Fellowship are separate and there are a lot of battles going on. I found the section with Tom Bombadil to be especially excruciating -- annoying and pointless. I did manage to make it to the end though, and I did love the book. I related so hard to the Hobbits. I even have a Hobbit-themed tattoo, but that's a story for another time.
I decided to re-read it finally, this Winter. To see if my impression of it had changed, but also because I'd always wanted to return to it, and it was high time. I purchased a box set which included the The Hobbit, but Husband and I already both had copies of some of Tolkein's works. So that means we now have two (or three?) copies of The Hobbit, three copies of The Lord of the Rings, and two of The Silmarillion. I think we also have e-book copies of all three. Never mind, in some ways it's good to have a 'working' copy of books as epic as these -- one you can scribble notes on.
I felt less intimidated by the length of the book, perhaps because this time the three parts were divided into separate books, so it didn't seem as hefty. While I was determined to read some every day, I didn't give myself a time limit or pressure myself in any way. I was also familiar with the story already, having of course read it before and seen the movies a couple of times. I was less likely to get confused by the story or lose track of things, so it felt a bit more comfortable.
Being older and more learned (if I do say so myself), I was able to appreciate Tolkein's use of language -- the evocative descriptions of landscape which fired up my imagination, and his surprisingly skillful handling of dialogue. The many songs and poems added to the text rather than seeming like a hindrance. There were some that I couldn't even help reading out loud to better appreciate them.
I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed the section with Tom Bombadil this time. I used the full force of my imagination to bring his realm to life, and it was quite lovely. Of course, his character is meant to be enigmatic, and I was better able to grasp the nuances of that. It's heavily implied that Tom could fix the whole business with the ring very easily if he wanted to, but he chooses not to. When I was 13, I found that stance to be incredibly annoying and frustrating -- if only he'd stop being a jerk and help it wouldn't be such a long book! This time though, I was able to look at it from a more mature perspective. It can't be that easy. Hardship must be experienced and sacrifices made for the quest to be truly worthwhile.
I was also happy to report that I didn't get the same feeling of hard slogging through the centre of the book, or at any stage. Perhaps it was because I already knew the general story, though I'd forgotten many of the details. There are scenes in the book that aren't in the movies, or are different to the movies. These details helped to keep me interested.
I felt the emotion of Frodo's struggles very keenly. His ongoing trauma after completing his quest -- which some scholars have suggested is PTSD -- was something I would not have been mature enough to understand at the age of 13. His inability to lead a normal life again, and his need to emigrate with the elves to find peace was very moving.
And yes, I actually cried at one point, though it wasn't the point you might think. When Sam plants the strange seed that Galadriel had given him, and it's revealed to be a mallorn tree, growing so fast, I shed a few tears. The older I get, the more I learn about what humans are doing to the earth, and the less optimistic I am. But the tears were ones of hope.
I was proud of myself for re-reading such a long and (some might say) difficult book. Putting aside the problematic aspects for a moment, I enjoyed it very much and will definitely read it again. I love the idea of reading seasonally, and it seems like such a good book to read in Autumn/Winter. I'm easily distracted from reading these days, and I find listening to ambient sound or music helps. There are LOTS of videos on Youtube, but two channels I like are:
☁ ASMR Rooms. It has ambient noise set in many different fandoms from Harry Potter to My Neighbour Totoro. The accompanying visuals are beautiful and relaxing cinemagraphs from several different independent artists.
☁ Ambient Worlds. It has ambient noise, but with gentle music from the movie soundtracks mixed into it. (The music helps if you need extra distraction-blocking power!) It features many other movies and video games as well.