Lord of the Worms

Several people have contacted me already about the opening scene of “Return of the King,” which features an earthworm being impaled on a fishhook. Worms don’t get featured in movies much, so I guess my friends all knew what a big event this would be for me. But what about the larger symbolism behind that opening shot? Film critic Scott Foundas put it best when he wrote that the image of the worm was “definitive of the sustained interplay between things intimate and grand, organic and computer-generated.” Right on, Scott. I can tell that you totally get it about worms.

His words remind me of an enormous earthworm anatomy poster from the fifties that hung above my desk while I wrote the book. It depicted the life cycle of a worm from cocoon to maturity and featured a cross-section of a nightcrawler that exposed its five pairs of hearts and intricate system of ducts and veins and nerves.

I feel a little silly quoting from my own book, but there’s a connection between what Scott Foundas had to say about worms and what I was trying to say about them. I described the poster in a chapter on worm anatomy and said that “when I lead people up to the attic room where I write, they stand transfixed in front of the poster, as if they are seeing for the first time a map of the stars, or a photograph of the ocean’s floor. There is wonder in something so vast, but there is wonder in something so small, too.”