Like most students, Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss was gifted to me at my high school graduation. The book was given to me by my girlfriend-at-the-time’s parents which was especially nice of them considering in a couple of weeks I would break up with their daughter via text. The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, great as they may be, are fundamentally books for children. On the other hand, Oh, The Places You’ll Go resonates with eighteen year olds because it touches on the limitless possibilities laid before each graduate.
However, there is another book whose central theme applies directly to grads. Giving Oh, The Places You’ll Go is a wonderful tradition, but the frequency of this gift makes it a little trite and open to be replaced by another book. Instead, the book we should be giving eighteen year olds is The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson are well made and elevated the series’ place in popular culture. Yet they leave out arguably the most important part of the books, the Scouring of the Shire. Without those scenes, people have forgotten or never knew what a core message of the books is.
The hobbits go off on their grand adventure to destroy the One Ring and Sauron because they want to protect their home. But when they return to the Shire, the land has been changed and corrupted by Saruman. With their newfound bravery, they are able to defeat Saruman and Wormtongue and restore the Shire to its old self.
Yet for Frodo and Sam, whom carry the scars of being Ringbearers, the Shire feels different. Eventually, Frodo and Sam each leave the Shire behind and depart to the Undying Lands. But the truth is the Shire never changed, only the hobbits did.
Coming back home after your first semester at college is an unsettling experience. You sleep in the same bed you had for years. You visit some of your high school friends. You drive around the familiar neighborhood streets that suddenly seem a little unfamiliar.
What changed about this place? Nothing changed; it is just no longer your home. Someone should have warned you about this disconnect. Someone could have told you about this by gifting you The Lord of the Rings.