Why Peace Corps is Like Lord of the Rings

By Amy

So this year I forced myself to read Lord of the Rings. I had seen the movies and, never feeling particularly interested in them, couldn’t remember a single detail except that when Gollum was Smeagol he seemed kind of cute, and my family would get annoyed when I’d refer to Legolas as a fairy. I read the Hobbit first, and then proceeded to read all three books from the Lord of the Rings. It took me six months. Will read them in about one I think. It’s not that I’m an idiot or an incredibly slow reader…I was just reading four books in which I was not interested.

So why did I read them? For the cultural importance of it, I guess. I also read all of the Harry Potter books last year. Now I fit in with all my smart friends as well as every member of my family who tried and tried to get me to appreciate these two stories. I have since been making Lord of the Rings analogies and jokes (albeit, often mixing up Dumbledore and Gandalf…oops) and nobody seems annoyed or rolls their eyes. They laugh. They think it’s funny. Mission accomplished.

Anyway, thanks to the beauty of the Kindle, I “highlighted” a few passages that really stood out to me and make me think of my own experience joining, being a part of, and eventually leaving the Peace Corps in eight months. Let me share.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam explains to Frodo why he’s planning to go on this journey with him.

“I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, not mountains, that I want–I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.”

While our Peace Corps journey has not involved battles with orcs or evil wizard-folk, before leaving it did seem a bit daunting. It was scary leaving our life as we knew it and we got plenty of questions about why in the heck we were choosing this for ourselves. We found ourselves giving different answers at times. Maybe I should have just said:

“It isn’t to see beaches now, nor Komodo dragons, not volcanoes that I want–I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in DC. I must see it through, if you understand me.”

I also really identified with the Hobbit Pippin in The Return of the King as he arrives in Minas Tirith, a city of men. As he walks around the Citadel he gets some strange looks from the residents who have never seen a Hobbit before. Allow me to insert my own words in parenthesis below to share the similarities.

People stared much as he passed. To his face men were gravely courteous, saluting him after the manner of Gondor (Java) with bowed head and hands upon the breast; but behind him he heard many calls, as those out of doors cried to others within to come and see the Prince of the Halflings (Western Person), the companion to Mithrandir (English Teacher at local school). Many used some other tongue (Javanese) than the Common Speech (bahasa Indonesia), but it was not long before he learned at least what was meant by Ernil i Pheriannath (bule) and knew that his title had gone down before him into the City.

I feel you, Pippin.

But it wasn’t long before the Hobbits were respected by men as well as other peoples. Just as we are now not such a surprising site to those who live around us.

I can imagine that when our time in the Peace Corps draws near, we will feel similar to Dwarf Gimli son of Gloin, when we finally say goodbye to our fellow Peace Corps Volunteer friends.

“Well, farewell, my hobbits! You should come safe to your own homes now, and I shall not be kept awake for fear of your peril. We will send word when we may, and some of us may yet meet at times; but I fear that we shall not all be gathered together ever again.”

Sniff, sniff.

Then of course we’ll get back home and surprise, surprise, things won’t be just as we left them and people will look at us strange from time to time, not really getting what this big journey was all about.

Well, there you go. I finally finished Lord of the Rings and now I’m free to read other books again while enjoying references to the story in popular culture. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get my second breakfast.

He wants my precious, he does....

He wants my precious, he does….


4 thoughts on “Why Peace Corps is Like Lord of the Rings

  1. Excellent post! You inspired me to get around to reading these as well so I can be in on the jokes. Now that you are free though, I would recommend: “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” “The Orphan Master’s Son,” “Ghost Bride” (Malaysian author), “The Lowland” and “In the Garden of Beasts.” I’m keeping back copies of Bon Appetit and US Weekly for your visit!

  2. That was a REALLY creative analogy…I have read all of the above and followed you very well. Brings back similar experiences and feelings of my time in Ghana.

  3. Ha! I read all of these books this year too and also highlighted passages that related to my Peace Corps experience. Great minds. 😉

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