The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy was very popular in our house. Such was our obsession with all things Middle Earth that we began to take on some of the physical characteristics of its inhabitants. My eldest daughter, E, developed a Gollum-like cough, while I acquired hairy feet and a liking for tobacco. And my other daughter, L, bought a replica of Arwen’s pendant and began speaking in Elvish.
So when we decided on having a family celebration to ‘farewell’ E on her journey to Canberra, we thought a Lord Of The Rings marathon – a screening of the three movies back-to-back – would be an appropriate way to spend some of our last hours together. We decided on the ‘extended’ dvd versions of the films, rather than the cinema releases, which meant sitting through about 12 hours of television – the audio-visual equivalent of climbing Mount Kosciusko or crossing the Nullarbor Plain on bicycle.
Before commencing such an expedition we required provisions. A trip to the shop yielded several packets of microwave popcorn, ice cream, soft drink, chocolate, corn chips and an enormous bag of Burger Rings. Unwisely, as it turned out, the girls also organized pillows and blankets, transforming the sofas into long narrow beds. I was left to squeeze in between someone’s feet and the armrest, or squat on the floor.
Timing was crucial. With both E and myself working the following morning, we didn’t want to start much past midday. Unfortunately, L was delayed by other engagements, and we didn’t begin until closer to 1.00pm. The first hour passed happily, popcorn was munched and soft drink was sipped. We made it out of the Shire without much problem, but well before Rivendell we experienced our first casualty. Far too comfortable in her ‘bed sofa’, L had fallen into a deep sleep and could not be roused. E and I continued on through the mines of Moria, Lothlorien and down the Great River. By the time we reached Parth Galen, two packets of popcorn, a bottle of Creamy Soda and all the Burger Rings were gone.
We had a ten-minute break before recommencing our expedition. I tried to wake L but only succeeded in getting smacked in the face. Meanwhile, E opened the Sarsaparilla, fluffed her pillows and settled down for the journey across Rohan. By the time the first disc of ‘Two Towers’ had finished, both E and I were weakening. I was hunched uncomfortably on the floor but still managed to find my eyes closing in the latter part of the disc, and almost missed Gollum’s schizophrenic exchange in Ithilien.
It was now about 7.00pm. We’d planned a half-hour break for tea, so while I attended to pets, telephone messages and email, E prepared a nacho dinner. L had finally awakened from her slumber and was suddenly full of energy. The mobile phone came out, and she was off to her bedroom to chat to friends for most of the tea break.
We sat down just after 7.30pm with six hours of television to go. The day had almost disappeared and we were only halfway through our journey. The next two hours passed easily. The battle of Helm’s Deep still managed to thrill us all despite this being about the twelfth viewing. Another ten minute break at the end of ‘Two Towers’ enabled E to speed to the local service station for another giant packet of Burger Rings and more soft drink, the remainder of our supplies having been demolished along with the Deeping Wall.
The last leg of our journey started promisingly, everyone was sitting upright, with eyes open and minds alert. But as Sam and Frodo neared Shelob’s Lair, and Sauron’s legions approached Minas Tirith, the long day began to take its toll. There was a Sarsaparilla spill on one of the ‘bed sofas’, which caused a brief but heated exchange between L and myself; then an argument erupted over the remainder of the Burger Rings. As midnight approached, we were all a bit tired and battered.
I don’t know if any of us saw the entire final disc. Sam and Frodo’s ascent of Mount Doom seemed to take forever, and, of course, after the Ring was finally destroyed, there was the reunion, the coronation, and the Grey Havens. It was approaching 2.00am by the time I fell into bed; feeling as though I had traversed Middle Earth myself, not watched others do so from the safety of my lounge.
When I awoke the next morning, and stumbled about in preparation for work, I studied the remnants of our achievement – a pile of empty junk food containers, a row of soft drink bottles, and fragments of Burger Ring, mashed into the carpet.