DancingDoula- yeah, I love the way so many little tiny "throw away" things turn out to be significant. Both on a personal level since I believe very strongly in the "ripple effect" (on a social and spiritual plane), but also because I feel it makes the sagas more realistic. You just never know if this act or that door or these choices will create the necessary downstream moment. And I'm a history junkie.
Read-Ahead mamas- ahhhhhhh, but the joy of a book is that you can read those bits over and over and over! No need to visit our dark haired ranger just the once! You'll have to come back for the rest of the class and share the experience again.
Actually, I have a friend who is completely, 100%, Boromir obsessed. She really only reads from Rivendell to the Falls. Everything else in the saga is just kind of there to give Boromir a place to be.
Two Towers and RoTK- those are going to be harder for me. I love and adore the Fellowship, but given a choice (and given the chapter divides in the saga) it is much too easy for me to ONLY follow the "outgoing" portion of the company while ignoring the "ingoing" portion. As a young adult I habitually skipped the chapters that dealt with Sam and Frodo, jumping directly to the chapters focused on the other elements of the company. I mean, I "knew" what was going on with Sam and Frodo so why read it again? Since I'm really going slow and forcing myself to read deeper into the saga this time I know I'm going to be a bawling mess.
Actually, the LoTR blindsided me in several ways the first time I heard it and/or read it myself. I was really really young (I'd read them on my own and read the Sillmarilion as well by the time I was 6yo, and my dad read them to us when I was a good deal younger than that) so that explains a lot of it, but I remember crying off and on for weeks after finishing the books. And checking the ending of other books for years to "see who is around at the end" so that I could avoid deep emotional attachment to characters that might disappoint me. Sort of an odd psychological revelation I know.
Evil- I totally agree that Sauron is not the be all and end all of evil in Middle Earth. If for not other reason than he was Melkor's pet for ages and ages prior to Melkor/Morgoth being cast out. And individuals like Ungoliant are nasty all on their own, no extra badness required. Gimli actually says something about Caradhras (a mountain) having earned the title "the Cruel" long before Sauron's time.... sort of reminding people that Sauron is certainly out to get them, but he isn't the ONLY thing that can kill them.
Hmmmm... I forget what book, show, movie it was, but I vaguely recall a media based discussion of that point. That yes there are big goods and evils working in the world, but more than likely you'll die by falling into a hole while not paying attention.