In my last post I said: “There are those who believe that Harry Potter is up there at the top of the fantasy pile, but believe me, HP comes nowhere even close to the amazing series that is LOTR.”
To which, Krithiga said:
“I wish people stopped comparing the two. Each has its own merit and short comings. In Tolkien’s case – it is the inability to sustain the interest of a casual reader and in JK Rowling’s case it is the some times Hollywood type sub-plots. Both are vast, have adorable characters, both are rich in terms of beings and beasts. It’s really impossible to rate one better than the other. May be the films, yes, LoTR is one of the best films ever made, but story wise it’s just impossible. So is the case with other books in the “Fantasy pile” – Philip Pullman, for instance.”
First off, let me clear up about the movies. Yes, LOTR is the much better adaptation – one of the few cases where I think the movie was almost as good as the book. Harry Potter movies, sadly, leave much to be desired. I wasn’t referring to the movies when I said HP comes nowhere close to LOTR.
Yes, LOTR makes it difficult for the casual reader to stick with it and finish reading it – sad, but true. However, I never was a casual reader, and so I can’t really sympathize with them. It still shocks me that people find LOTR “difficult to read”, when such a beautiful work compels one to read on and on. Harry Potter, on that count, wins hands down. I know a few friends who started “reading” properly after getting on the HP series.
While HP may have it’s fair share of good characters, and a wide array of “beings and beasts”, it is not vast. It isn’t, whatever people may say. It is a rather straightforward story about a boy facing a great, evil, Dark Lord. Not in it are the complex intertwining relationships where the deeds of many, big and small, finally affect the ending. Some may say that in LOTR as well, it all rested on whether Frodo destroys the One Ring or not, and that is all the story is about. LOTR is more than that. It is not just the overthrow of evil. It is also the establishment of that which is fair and good – where many wounds need to be healed and many wrongs set right, for such is the vast scope of that story.
LOTR is the product of a great imagination. To have built a whole world, and its history and mythology is definitely a lot more than a single story – however clever the plots and references made within it. LOTR encompasses many things which HP simply can’t hope to – not any longer at least, seeing as it is coming to its end. Anurag has said that HP has a lot of plots “flicked shamelessly” from LOTR. To that, I have this to say – “Dude, it isn’t that HP flicks from LOTR, it is just that LOTR has so much that very few fantasy writers in the future can ever get out of its shadow!” Tolkien simply envisaged every kind of character that can be present in any “good vs. evil” plot. Period! That is why I said LOTR lies there, right at the top of the fantasy pile.
I can go on and on about why LOTR is much better. Die-hard fans of HP would never agree, and even when they like LOTR as much, they would still say that it is not fair to compare them both. I would say it is not fair to compare them both as well. Harry Potter is a good series, no doubt. And I am glad that it grew from a pretty children’s story to a good “grown-up” (should I say?) one – makes for much better reading to those of us who are getting older. It has achieved cult status, but will not become a classic. The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, is an epic and a classic. It wouldn’t be fair to treat it on par with HP – that would be like comparing the Valar with mortal Men, Numenorean though they be! Noble they might be, but not for them the grace of the Eldar!
PS: I know that I haven’t really put forth very well why LOTR is the best. I wanted to get some things out of the way, collect my thoughts, and put in a coherent piece here. But well, the previous post had too much discussion threatening to break loose. I wanted that to continue on this post – hence the hasty post. Krithiga, I also replied on Anurag’s behalf about the discussion you wanted to be a part of in the comments for the previous post there.
Originally written – April 26, 2006.