Aragorn in the Living Room


I am currently working on a really hard chapter of The Saltwater Twin – hard because it kicks up all kinds of not very pleasant emotional turmoil. Also, my wonderful, wonderful pooch is getting old and facing illness. Also, it’s winter. In order to face these difficulties, I have been shoring myself up with hot chocolate, carrot cake and The Lord of the Rings.

I read Tolkien’s trilogy for the first time in fifth grade – I had to take breaks because the Ringwraiths gave me nightmares. Last week I looked for my copies of the books; I felt that hot chocolate/carrot cake/LOTR breaks at regular intervals would be very beneficial in navigating the difficult emotional terrain of writing this chapter and taking Levi to vet appointments. But I must have given away my yellowed paperback copies in a book purge at some point, because they were nowhere to be found. So, I ordered them on Amazon, and rented the movies to tide me over until they arrive. And I have to say, they hit the spot. It is so satisfying to spend time in a world where good is gloriously good and evil irredeemably evil, and they’re so comfortingly and clearly delineated. Good is Liv Tyler on a white horse with a gleaming silver sword, and evil looks like an orc.

Watching the films, I was also buoyed by some very fine encouraging speeches. Gandalf has a bunch, as do Aragorn and even Sam Gamgee. When Aragorn rallied the troops outside the Black Gate, I really wished he were my next door neighbor and could ride his charger through my living room brandishing his sword and shouting that no matter how many Uruk-hai are gnashing their hideous fangs at me, I must muster my courage for the battle ahead.


In doing life and art, I think, finding solace (even carrot cake) is helpful, but mustering is also key. I started thinking about mustering – pep talks and rallying cries and how they can spur folks to achieve remarkable things. Turns out, there is a standard pep talk formula. You must acknowledge the difficulties, define the stakes and the opposition and single out the moment as historic. Note, for example, Kennedy’s inaugural address or Shakespeare’s Henry V’s speech at Agincourt. Another of my favorite pep talk purveyors is Coach Taylor. coach taylor

Friday Night Lights, anyone? Clear eyes, full hearts, makes me want to play football.  Anyone else have a favorite inspiring speech – from history, film or literature? Please share in the comments. Mustering is key.

4 thoughts on “Aragorn in the Living Room

  1. YOU give the best pep talks Maia! My favorite one is too personal to share here, but I was literally just telling my therapist about it in my session yesterday.

    I also remember one you gave me when a decision to get my financial life in order got off to a rocky start. My first big decisive action was to return a coat I’d just bought, but didn’t need, to Target. I double parked (in front of a hydrant), raced inside and up 3 flights of stairs to grab the coat and receipt and back down 3 flights of stairs in less than 3 minutes. A parking ticket – that was equal to the price of the coat – awaited me. I was devastated. You gave me the mother of all pep talks and even got me to laugh about it…eventually.

    I think what is special about your pep talks is that you have a great way of getting me to see another option. You ALWAYS see and come up with great options. Several of them! Suddenly having options – when you feel like you only have one and that this one and only option is impossible to face – is like air…or a cool breeze… or like waking up from a nap (the refreshing kind…not the ones where you feel like a truck hit you). You no longer feel stuck or trapped. Things may still be really, really hard, but you now have choices.

    Oh gosh! Funny that I should mention my therapist. I just remembered that a few years back, when I first wanted to see a therapist, I had no idea where to start. The prospect felt overwhelming and daunting…not to mention cost prohibitive. I called you for a pep talk. You did some research and called me back with several options. Several avenues to investigate further. I chose to pursue 2 (my favorite, plus a back up) of the 3 you suggested and bing, bang, boom – I now have a therapist.

    Thank you!

    We few…we happy few.
    Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone


  2. Love this. I had a similar experience last week, re-watching the final two Harry Potter movies. The powerful sight of mothers, teachers, and friends risking everything to save their dearest companions from a force that is so undeniably evil.

    Then there is the fantastic dream sequence in which we get this nugget of Dumbledore wisdom: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

    All this, tail-ending into Harry’s question: is this moment real, or is it all happening in my head? And the perfect response: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


    1. Oh, yes, I feel so grateful to J.K. Rowling for giving us such a brilliant and satisfying story-world to get lost in. Thank you, Jacob! Maybe I will go on a Harry Potter bender next.


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