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The Fellowship of the Wedding Rings Is Put to the Test

Differing opinions about film reveal a startling truth: His wife's a member of the Tolkien cult.

January 17, 2002|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

During a marriage, you learn things. Over the years, you discover whether your spouse is a morning person or a night person, whether they like their sandwiches cut in rectangles or triangles and whether they belong to a cult.

After almost five years of marriage, a mortgage and two kids, I now know my wife is a morning person, likes sandwich rectangles and is a J.R.R. Tolkien cult member. But before last week, her cult status was completely unknown to me.

Her secret was revealed the day we saw the "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Because our kids are under 3 and our closest set of grandparents is 400 miles away, we sometimes see the same movie on the same day, but in different shifts. That way, we can talk about the film later and the Department of Social Services won't take our children away, which is a good thing since we're pretty attached to them.

My wife returned from the morning performance and declared she "loved" it. She was aglow and began chanting something about "All that is gold does not glitter." The display didn't concern me, and I wrote it off as normal behavior after being child-free for several consecutive hours.

In keeping with our "same-day movie" pact, she restrained herself from further discussion until I had seen the flick. When I came home later that evening, my wife's fair face shone with that same look of hopeful expectancy I see every birthday, Christmas, anniversary and half a dozen other high-pressure, gift-giving occasions. That same look that says, "Please, Lord of the Rings, don't let this be from the National Football League merchandise store." And like every other time, her hopes get chucked into the fiery volcanic pits of Mount Doom.

I had no idea I was discussing a sacred text when I began my movie review. The film had all the elements I love in a motion picture, I started. Lots of horsies, loads of foreboding weather and a respectable body count (at least 10,000 Orcs were harmed in the making of the film).

Immediately, I noticed something was amiss. Normally, after a crack like that, she'd laugh. (I think that's why I married her, she does laugh so at my quips and gibes--no, those are not Hobbit names.) Instead, she was ominously quiet.

"Middle-earth to wife, Middle-earth to wife?"

More silence. And a glare. The kind of glare I hadn't seen since Christmas morning. These must be misfires, I thought; better reload.

"What kind of wizard gets trapped on top of a tower, like a kitty stuck in a tree? And didn't this Gandalf guy realize the second he saw Christopher Lee that he was a bad guy? He'd better put down the Hobbit pipe."

"You shouldn't make fun," she said.

Normally, I make a joke about her parents, she says tell me another. I make a joke about my parents, she says tell me 10 more. Now, all of a sudden, a yuk ban?

But, like Frodo in the face of unimaginable peril, I pressed on. (Maybe this is why she married me, my Frodo-like courage.) I had one more point to make, and, by gum, I was going to make it, no matter what dangers lay ahead.

WARNING: Do not read past this point unless you want to know the film's ending. Or is that the right word? Because there wasn't an ending. It just drops off a cliff. If the title of the film were like the ending, it would have read "Lord of the Ri."

"The film ends where 'The Fellowship of the Ring' ends," said my wife.

"I know, it's part of a trilogy ..."

"It's not a trilogy," she snapped. "That was a publishing trick."

"It's a tale told in three parts--a trilogy. And other trilogies have conclusions at the end of each segment. Think 'Star Wars' before that ridiculous fourth installment. Think 'Godfather' in spite of that ridiculous third installment. And think 'Porky's!'" (From first to last, the "Porky's" trilogy is beyond reproach.)

What happened next, I can't be sure. My wife let loose with a torrent of strange words that I can only liken to someone speaking in Elven tongues. Aragorn this, Boromir that. Mordor this, Enron that.

She brought forth her holy text, a beautiful red leather-bound book with gold-letter engravings filled with detailed illustrations and maps. I was dazzled and frightened by the breadth of her knowledge of hobbits, elves and Ents. Frodo is Bilbo's first and second cousin, once removed, and so on, and on and on and on.

Finally, the winds died down and quiet returned.

I was stunned. Here was a woman who could tell you who begat whom for about a billion fantasy characters but couldn't remember to put the lid back on the peanut butter jar. Who was this person?

Then, her laugh came back. Roaring back. She laughed and laughed.

"I married you because of that book," she said.

"You were the closest thing to a Hobbit I could find on Upper Earth."

It turns out it wasn't my sense of humor that had led to our exchange of vows. No, it was my squat build, my large hairy feet and my innocent acceptance of Frodo as a pet name.

"All right, I won't make fun of your cult status anymore," I said touching her wedding band. "At least in front of you."

We both stood there for a moment and beheld the power of rings.

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