Vic Sautter: Week 1

Let VIC transport you into her fantasy world…

I love fantasy, I love Sci-Fi, I love pretty much everything which involves surreal elements. It’s a good thing I mention this now because if there is one thing you’re going to need to know about me over the next few weeks it’s that one defining fact. Well, I have OCD as well, but we’ll come to that in another column.

As an avid fantasy/sci-fi adventurer I spend most of my time trying to relate my life to the TV shows, films and books I love. On this mission I have stumbled across a comparison that I feel all finalists can relate to. For we are all Frodo.

Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

I confess I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings books. Maybe I will someday, but I haven’t yet so don’t yell at me. This comparison is going to be film-based.

The final year of Cambridge is like Frodo’s journey. Mount Doom is the final exams, and the ring is that agonising exam stress we carry with us for the rest of the year, and it follows as such.

We start with a party, freshers week, everything’s going well. We meet up with our DoS (Gandalf) and we’re all having a whale of a time with our friends.

Then someone disappears.

Maybe into the UL, maybe into the fac, maybe just into their own bedroom, but this is the first indication that the shit has started to go down. Because, when this person disappears they (and your DoS) pass on the RING to you.

Then of course your DoS disappears, promising to meet you later in the term, and you’re left to flounder by yourself, fighting off Ringwraiths, and generally wondering how on Middle Earth it came to this. The only way you get through this stage is with the help of your friends, your Merry and Pippin to keep your spirits up (even if they occasionally get you into trouble by lighting a fire, or convincing you to go out to Cindies). You’ll also have your Strider, that friend who keeps you focused, and drags you out of your lowest points by forcing you to work, you know, like when you get stabbed with a Morgul-blade in week five.

Christmas Holidays: Rivendell. Heck, there are even elves. This is a happy time. Perhaps you meet up with that friend who disappeared back in freshers. But you always have the threat of exams and dissertations hanging over you. It’s time for action, and foolishly you decide to carry the ring on a little further. You regroup with your friends and you set out together to face the next term. You have formed your fellowship.

Which lasts about two months. Come exam term you’ve been separated from your friends and you’re floundering in Middle Earth accompanied by the only thing that will stop you from panicking. Your “Sam”ity (yes, yes I know). Of course as exam term draws closer you’ll shun this samity in favour of the crazy panic of Gollum, the figure that incites you to all-nighters and pro-plus. But when all seems lost, when you’re trapped in the orc-tower you find that samity again. Or rather, it finds you and it’s time for the final push.

You reach Mount Doom, carried by the little rationality you have left. But alone, on that ledge you have to go a little crazy. The exam hall is the only time where Gollum will be useful, because that craziness that drives you to do things you would never be able to do if you were, you know, normal, is what gets you through those exams, and what, in the end, forces you to throw the ring into the fire. Before being dragged back up to the ledge by Sam.

All that’s left is to be whisked away by the eagles to May Week, be reunited with your friends, earn your recognition at Graduation (or Aragon’s coronation), and finally, on the shores of the Grey Havens, say your goodbyes as you head off to another adventure.

The metaphor goes even deeper though, because we, like Frodo, don’t really know the deal with this ring. We carry it and it attempts to destroy us, but the only reason we’re doing it is because everyone else tells us it’s important. And like Frodo, in the face of a future ultimately decided by us but seeming very much out of our control, we feel very, very small. Hobbit-sized, as it goes.

But we’re not small. And if Lord of the Rings teaches us anything it’s that just because we don’t know what’s going on, or we feel too small, too stupid, too insignificant to live up to the standards around us that doesn’t mean that we are. After all, “we bow to no one.”

And as for you first years? You’re still in The Hobbit, you’ve just picked up the ring and you have no idea what’s waiting for you. But it is one hell of an adventure.