And I am now a geek.

So this is what it feels like.

I never thought as a geek before. I never embraced geekdom. But I cannot deny it. Tonight, during the Academy Awards, while others root for serious dramatic fare — serial killers, abuse victims, lonely salesmen — I will be rooting for orcs, elves and dwarfs. I will be wishing for wizards. Hoping for hobbits.

“Lord of The Rings” geek?

Guilty.

Let me purge right here and right now: I have seen them all. I have seen them many times. I have actually purchased the short DVD versions and then the long DVD versions. I have returned to “Return of the King,” and more than once, even though it is more than three hours long.

Last Christmas, I actually purchased Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit games for my nieces and nephews. And I got in return — and you know I’m doing the full mea culpa here — a Gollum doll. You know, the little alien-looking creature who speaks like he has a fish caught in his throat, and says things like “Master has the precious!”?

I know. I know. Geek.

Go ahead. Do your worst.

Some people just have bad teeth

The thing is, I never intended to end up this way. I don’t like science fiction or fantasy movies. I don’t track creatures well. I can never remember who is on the dark side or who is in the Matrix. Vampires confuse me, because sometimes people just have bad teeth, you know? And once you get past Earth, I never know what planet anyone is on.

But there is something about the “Lord of the Rings” franchise that sucks you in, mesmerizes you and transforms you into a kid with a pencil holder in his front pocket.

I am tempted to say it’s because the heroes (hobbits) are 4 feet tall and barefoot, or that the benevolent mentor (Gandalf) is a white-haired wizard who reminds people of their grandfathers, or that the heir to the throne (Aragorn) is a moral, brooding, heroic king, or that the comic relief (Gimli) is a red-bearded dwarf who at one point actually says, “Toss me!”

But the truth is, the lure of the “Rings” is more than that. At its core, this is a story about friendship. I think that’s why kids like it. I think that’s why adults like it, too.

Beneath all the creatures, spells, cannons, arrows, dragons, elephants, caves and fires, J.R.R. Tolkien’s story hinges on one hobbit (Frodo) relying on another (Sam). Like most deep friendships, theirs is tested by greed, betrayal, by new alluring people. But in the end, it comes down to what one will do for the other.

Sam carries Frodo on his back to the fiery finish, and together they destroy the evil ring and save themselves.

No guns, no sex

OK. Wait. Did I just sound truly geeky there? I did, didn’t I? You see. That’s what happens. You get hooked on these films, so you come up with some deep-rooted theory for why you or anyone else would watch nine hours of elf subtitles.

Forget it. Here’s a simpler theory. No guns. I like that. If you get killed in
“Lord of the Rings,” it’s by a sword, a spear, an arrow or an elephant’s foot. Bullet-free cinema. Maybe that’s it.

Or wait. There’s no sex. A nine-hour drama in which nary a bare breast is seen? Even the Super Bowl can’t say that.

Here’s a theory. The bad guy? He’s truly bad. He’s not tortured, abused or misunderstood. He’s just evil. You can hate him without guilt.

Or this: The heroes ride horses. The king gets his princess? The hobbits go home at the end?

Ah, forget it. They are just good movies: good stories, good acting, good directing. And when I watch them, I feel like I am escaping to somewhere else, rather than seeing the same ugly world I left outside. If that spells geek, so be it.

But when a wizard casts a spell over the Kodak Theatre tonight, don’t come running to me.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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