Over the long winter vacation, I was able to pass some restful evenings by returning to several of my favorite media comforts.
My husband had recently finished reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the first time – I’ve been through it at least twice – so he and I watched the BBC version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. We delighted in the witty language, the haughty self-imposition of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the progression of the central characters to the triumph of true love.
Another day, we took the whole brood to see The Hobbit, as we have long been fond of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I confess I found this movie wearying, but enjoyed seeing a subset of LOTR friends up onscreen once again. Inspired by The Hobbit, some of us were moved to revisit the LOTR trilogy, where we could bask in the deviousness of Gollum, admire the noble simplicity of the hobbits, and furtively enjoy the charisma of Viggo – oops, I mean, Aragorn.
These vacation activities put me in mind of two LOTR-related experiences I had some time ago and share with you now.
Name That Character
For a good while after we first absorbed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we used to play a little game that we called “Name That Character.” Here’s how it worked: someone would quote a line from the movie, and the kids would try to name the character who had spoken the words.
Since I was the last member of the family to fall under Middle Earth’s spell, apparently my quotes were never challenging enough. Also, the game was often played at bedtime and by then I’d be hard-pressed to come up with my own name, nevermind esoterica from the Third Age. But, I gave it my best effort with the hope that we would all soon be asleep.
The girls would wait patiently, while I’d think for a minute. Eventually, I’d offer some phrase I’d managed to wrestle out of my bleary memory.
Here’s how one game went:
“‘Before you came along, we Bagginses were very well thought of.’ ”
“FRODO!” the girls squealed. “Another one, please.”
My mind was a blank. Then:
“ ‘The battle of Helm’s Deep is over; the battle for Middle Earth is about to begin.'”
“GANDALF!” they cried. “Too easy,” they said. “Try again!”
It was getting late, and I was spent. Somehow I dredged up:
“ ‘The Beacons of Minas Tirith are lit – Gondor calls for aid!’ ”
This time, there was a pause. Then: “Aragorn!”
“I don’t think you can stump me,” Julia said. “Maybe Daddy can, but not you. The game ends when you come up with something I can’t guess.”
“Got one,” I said. “ ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’ ”
“Good night” and “Love you,” I said, running out of the room.
Moms can be tricksy too.
Mr. Darcy vs. Aragorn
This incident combined LOTR and Pride and Prejudice. What could be better?
It involves the “which would you prefer” game. You know the one I mean, you probably play it with your kids too: “Which would you prefer: vanilla or chocolate?”
“Chocolate, of course!” is my standard answer.
“Would do you prefer Winter or Summer? . . . Halloween candy or Easter candy? . . . The first snowfall, or fireworks?” You get the idea.
In any case, at a gathering with some lady friends of mine, the conversation touched upon many of the usual topics – raising kids, recent books we’d read or movies we’d seen, etc. Then we somehow launched into a version of the “which would you prefer?” game ourselves.
I asked my friend Kay (who, like me, has devoured both The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice): “Whom would you prefer: Colin Firth or Viggo Mortensen?”
She paused. “Could I choose from Mr. Darcy or Aragorn?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Oh, Mr. Darcy, then. Definitely Mr. Darcy.”
“Mr. Darcy?” I repeated incredulously several times. “Mr. Darcy?” (I was beginning to sound like Mrs. Bennet.) “Mr. Darcy over Aragorn?”
“Well,” Kay said, “Mr. Darcy is quite rich.”
“Aragorn,” I blurted out, “is King of the free people of Middle Earth. He’s rich and powerful.”
“Well,” our friend Marie chimed in, “Aragorn’s hair is greasy.”
Kay came to his defense before I could. “Well, Marie, he’s traipsing around Middle Earth, he can’t stop and shampoo.”
“I don’t care,” Marie said. “It’s still greasy. And I’d go for Mr. Darcy too.”
“IT’S A WIG!” I asserted.
“Wig or not,” Kay said, “my pick is Mr. Darcy ... Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet ... ” She smiled and sighed a great big sigh.
Mr. Darcy over the Heir of Isildur? Mr. Darcy over the King of Free Men? The slayer of orcs, wraiths, black riders, and wargs? The friend of elves, wizards, and dwarves?
“Let them have Mr. Darcy and Pemberly,” I thought. “I’ll take the King of Gondor any day!”