The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring – JRR Tolkien

Time for my first review of the epic trilogy (that JRR Tolkien actually wanted as one single book, but publishers said “No, who’d want to buy or read a book that was over 1100 pages long?”, well the answer is, at least 200 million people). I did a review of The Hobbit last month (in time for the release of the movie in Australia), and after becoming captured by Tolkein’s Middle Earth, I had to read more. I read LoTR (yes, Lord of the Rings) many years ago, and I had forgotten most of the details since I was quite young. Of course, I’ve seen the movies (though I don’t believe I’ve seen the extended editions, which is something I must do) and basically, who hasn’t! Peter Jackson did an amazing job of creating an interpretation of Middle Earth (and that’s what movies are, interpretations, not direct replicas of the book). But, the movies, though largely true to the story, left out a lot of details, and that was clear to me, almost immediately.

Pretty quickly you get immersed into a world, whose detail and mythology are so vast, it is daunting. And that I guess is a criticism, especially for those trying to delve into Middle Earth for the first time. You are confronted with a plethora of names, places, things that you don’t understand. And there are storylines that are referenced to, but ultimately never elaborated in this text (and instead are left to the additional, posthumous works published by Christopher Tolkien). That doesn’t mean it is a bad thing, it is just confronting for those who aren’t experts in Middle Earth and its vast history. It just means that for some people, they’ll start to get overwhelmed by all this new information, and will turn off. But for others (like myself) all these additional storylines, snippets of history and references to wars and people, just makes me eager to learn more about Middle Earth. Of course there are some, who think LoTR is enough, and once reading it, won’t continue into the additional texts, and that’s okay.

I guess the other ‘criticism’ that people have, leads on from the great depth of the world of Middle Earth, is the detail that Tolkien includes. It is a dense book (all three of them), and it takes a while to read through it all. I for one, love detail, and don’t mind ploughing through thousands of pages for a story (you might be able to tell that I am pretty verbose myself), but there are lots of people who again would be put off by just how long the story is. Which I guess is why there is a divide between the population of the world, those who have read LoTR and those who haven’t.

One final little criticism for indeed the trilogy, is the endless poems and songs that Tolkien gives us. Now, they aren’t bad, I don’t hate them, I guess struggle through them sometimes. Because, often they don’t make sense, because I don’t know what he’s talking about. Usually they are referring to somebody whose tale is in another book. And sometimes it is just hard to try and read the words, when you know they are supposed to be sung, and you try to put a melody on them, but then it doesn’t work. Which makes me frustrated, and desperate to know what Tolkien was humming when he wrote them. For Tolkien enthusiasts, these songs probably invoke deep emotion, as you can tell is their purpose, but for someone basically going in for the first time, its meaning is ultimately lost. Though, as I started to work my way through the text, I began to enjoy them more (though, they do start to get less common as time progresses, since times are less jovial).

A few things I’d like to comment on specifically about TFotR (The Fellowship of the Ring), and I’ll be commenting on the other two books tomorrow and the next day.

  • The prologue. Tolkien, why on earth did you basically spoil your entire book in the prologue! Honestly, some people would be content with just reading that. I luckily, decided against reading the lengthy prologue because I had been informed of just how much Tolkien gives away (which is why I recommend skipping straight to chapter 1, and coming back to the prologue AFTER reading at least The Two Towers, but preferably after the entire thing). But it was very interesting, and makes me love Hobbits and The Shire even more.
  • Gandalf! I love that old wizard, and I’ve heard he is immortal, but maybe more about wizards is revealed in other books, so I’ll eagerly await more on him. He is so wise, and knows so much, but even he sometimes fails (I guess like Dumbledore, and there is so much comparison between the two, with those growing up with Harry Potter most likely to love Dumbledore more, and everyone else believing they are fools). His end is bittersweet, for reasons, and he has way too many names!
  • Tom Bombadil! How I love this strange man, whose wife is the daughter of a River! Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this man, since I read a book containing his Tales, plus a few of Tolkien’s other short stories, and it was a great surprise to see him again, in the forest near The Shire. I guess that my exposure to him, made me love his quirky nature sooner than some other people would have if they didn’t know about him. I do wonder, just exactly what he is. And Old Man Willow, why are you so mean?
  • Elves and Rivendell and Lorein. After seeing Rivendell in The Hobbit, it was nice to go back there, and to see Bilbo again! Again another species that is immortal. Why on earth that is I have no idea. I think there is more about them in The Silmarillion, which I will read at some point this year. I just love Legolas, and the stunning natural beauty of their homes makes me want to be transported there immediately.

One final thing, TFofR was published in 1954 (quite a while after The Hobbit, but that was because of the War), and even though Tolkien wanted it as one single book, he did a bloody good job of the splits. TFotR is split up (as are all three ‘books’) into two books, and at the end of both books there is always a cliffhanger (which is why I am glad I have the entire edition, and I didn’t have to wait before continuing to read on). It takes the entire first book for Frodo and his friends to reach Rivendell (with the aid of Aragorn, who has so many names, just like Gandalf). Those Black Riders were relentless. And the end of book two, is where the Fellowship ends (fittingly, where The Fellowship book ends too!).

That’s it, I don’t need to say anything else, but tomorrow with be my Two Towers review. But my question for you, what did you love about TFotR? What do you wish was in the movie? And what was it like to go into Middle Earth for the first time (if you can remember)?

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