The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
You would think such a prominent piece of fantasy literature would belong in a “My Foundations in Fantasy” segment instead of a Recent Read Review. However…
My father had a beautiful red leather-bound book with gold inlay in his collection that fascinated me when I was younger. It was The Lord of the Rings Westmarch Collector’s Edition. Having held that stunning tome in my hands, I couldn’t help but wish to seek out a copy for my own collection someday. (Especially considering the lore significance of the Red Book of Westmarch that I recently learned from the forward sections of The Fellowship of the Ring.) Yet, despite this long-held wish, I’ve never read The Lord of the Rings completely.
I feel like I should be shunned as both a fantasy fan and author for this revelation. Although, I encourage everyone to partake of the books they want and not force themselves to read something they dislike because it’s expected. (Here’s to you “The Great Gatsby” high school required read.)
Anyway, I read the Hobbit around nine or ten years old, and because I had looked longingly at it for years, I gave that big red book a shot immediately after. I never made it beyond Bilbo’s birthday party.
I tried again in my mid-teens. Circumstance hindered me from escaping the Shire. I haven’t attempted since, until now.
I knew the story from my father and the cartoons when I was a kid. Like nearly every fantasy fan, I watched the movies. Honestly, I’ve used a LOTR marathon as background noise for writing more times than I can count. But it is time for me to experience the full story.
While I haven’t invested in the Red Book yet, I recently purchased my own collection. Thus, I set forth to Middle Earth on a quest to destroy the one ring. So begins my review of The Fellowship of the Ring.
I did not lose interest after Bilbo’s birthday, I escaped the Shire, and I’m thrilled that I gave it another shot. From the very first pages, I found The Fellowship of the Ring rewarding.
One oddity I encountered was a sudden desire to desecrate the book. I know, unthinkable. But as I read through passages thick with lore and poems with striking similarities to familiar adages, I couldn’t help but want to mark them to return later. I almost grabbed the highlighter several times. I may still. This is the set I bought to read, after all. I have every intention of seeking out one more… precious?
Did anyone else feel this desire to mark passages when they read Tolkien? Or any other author?
Wow, this man loves Hobbits. He thinks elves are beautiful and enchanting but to be beheld from afar. Dwarves, he offers reverence and respect for their strength. And the humans he cheers for while struggling with the many faults he perceives as inherent in them. But Hobbits, he clearly loved and cherished.
While mildly petty at times, Tolkien depicts Hobbits as profoundly above the many weaknesses of man when it comes to greed and power. They are a race capable of peace and harmony, something to this day that can only be found in fictional literature. I can only imagine that if Tolkien were to ever have encountered those Facebook posts asking which would you be, I believe he would undoubtedly choose a Hobbit.
I will never meet half the branches of hobbits described or encounter them enough for the numerous details to matter, yet I know it, and I’m thankful for it. I can envision the Shire in a way I never could before. Truly. I used to think Hobbiton was the entirety of the Shire. Oh, how wrong I was.
Warning to all who tread here! The beginning chapters are full of quite blatant info dumps. Recitations of Hobbit family trees and customs and the history and progression of the Shire over generations. While quite a bit might seem overdone and dragging, I believe there is some purpose to it. I discovered that the chapters beyond the Shire, while descriptive, were not presented in the same cataloged manner.
A good example would be Lothlorien towards the end of the book. The breathtaking nature of that place emanated from the flow of the words as if told by someone transfixed by its beauty, not by a Hobbit trying to include every detail he thought pertinent to introduce his home of many decades.
The story, as told in the story, is written by a Hobbit. Hobbits, by nature, are fascinated by Hobbit history, lineage, etc. Nowhere else in the book have I found the details lain out so deliberatively, and I suspect that it is because those later descriptions are experienced differently for the Hobbit than the rudimentary details of his home.
No matter Tolkien’s intent, this is the kind of in-depth exploration of a people and their land that I fell in love with reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and many other epic fantasy tales. I love to gain a feel for the people, cultures, history, and reasons why they are that way. The Fellowship of the Ring provides. Not just lore pertinent to the story but hints and fragments of other tales and legends of Middle Earth and the Elder Days that make me want to seek out more.
I have only finished the first book in the trilogy, and I’m already considering exploring the Silmarillion.
Sidenote- I find Tom Bombadil’s character intriguing. I can see why there is a fandom behind him. It is another scene that, while not pertinent to the plot, is rewarding and enhances the journey. (And would likely get edited out of a book in today’s market. Ha! It certainly didn’t make it into the movie.)
Speaking of the movie!
Why can’t more book to tv/movie transitions be made with as much respect to the material? Yes, they left out a few things, and there was nowhere near as much history or poetry recited. But, wow, the movie was exceptionally close to the book. I could only wish for the crafters of the Shannara Chronicles or the Wheel of Time series to have given as much consideration to the author’s original vision instead of playing what if. (We’ll get back to that Wheel of Time Amazon series in a later post. Trust me.)
I won’t go into the entire plot, as I imagine most people know the tale from one format or another. But the book version was enjoyable. It was a bit drier than I expected, though not as pretentious as I had heard. I didn’t feel as much connection to the characters at first, and many parts tend to feel a bit too academic. But I noticed that as the story progressed, that seemed to vanish as if even the scholarly author got caught up in his own story. I am told the later books are different from the first, perhaps a continuation of this pattern.
If nothing else, this read is an interesting glimpse into one of the fathers of modern-day fantasy. But I feel like this journey has so far been rewarding, and I cannot wait to begin The Two Towers.
Keep following for my next Recent Read Review- Book Two of the Lord of the Rings.