Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Part 1), The
J. R. R. Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in THE HOBBIT. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
Reviewed: 2016-06-24I've read this series many, many times, though it's been years since the last time. There was a period between 2001 and 2008 in which this trilogy was in the rotation of several series that I would read again and again and again. So it's pretty safe to say that this was a favorite.
But then in 2008 I joined Goodreads, and my reading habits have changed. I think about books differently, more critically, because now I review them all. And that has not been great news for this read through.
I can still say that I love it. The world-building, the quest, the adventure, the characters - but mainly the story - they are all just so epic and engraved in my mind, and I can't NOT love them. But the actual reading of the book has not held up as well for me. The descriptions are very, very detailed, and there are so many of them, that the pacing is just slower than molasses. It takes ages to have a discussion to decide that a decision about leaving is needed, let alone actually doing anything.
The first book of Fellowship (because it is separated that way) is very slow going, not as dangerous, not as dire. From the time that Gandalf is aware that the ring is THE RING, and that it is being sought, it takes MONTHS for Frodo to actually leave. Like, "Oh, you know, no rush." But the second book starts getting more dangerous, and then they STILL take their sweet time about doing anything. Orcs are patrolling the shore? We better watch for that tomorrow. It'll be fine tonight, I'm sure.
I have watched the movies many times, and though there's a lot that is left out or changed, I think that one of the biggest things that they did better than the original is the pacing. The book is like "What's the rush? We haven't even had second breakfast yet!". The movie is all "SHIT JUST GOT REAL. GTFO THE SHIRE, FRODO!"
Another thing that they got very right is the greater role of Arwen in Fellowship, and made clear the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn. It's in the book - though vaguely, and you have to know to look for it. Aragorn mentions a few times that his heart lies in Rivendell, and Galadriel actually passes along the token from Arwen to Aragorn - but if you don't know Arwen's geneology, you could literally blink and miss it. Compared to the detailed everything else, this is something of a disappointment. I love her expanded role in the movie. She actually is someone to admire and respect. She's badass, and fearless, and saves Frodo just in time. In the book, a male elf (Glorfindel) meets them on the road, and they WALK to Rivendell... Well, everyone but Frodo, who got to ride Glorfindel's horse while the rest walked. *yawn*
And considering that Arwen is one of only four named female characters in the book (not counting those we meet only through lore and lay), it's even more disappointing for her character to be so shallow and slight in this book. It's clear, again, if you know what you're looking for, that Arwen is dear to Aragorn, and that she is part of the reason he fights - but the only thing that we know about her from the book is that she is beautiful, she's Elrond's daughter, and Galadriel's grand-daughter. There is more about her in the index and appendices, but it's disappointing to see so little of her in the story itself, especially considering how LONG we hung around Rivendell.
The other three named female characters were Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Goldberry (Tom Bombadil's wife), and Galadriel. Lobelia is a greedy, nasty woman. Goldberry is beautiful and loves to dance and sing, and is the River's daughter. And Galadriel is beautiful, wise, and powerful, but for good. She is by far the best developed, and most active, female character in Fellowship, but it's unfortunate that so much of her screen time, so to speak, goes to how lovely she is.
One area I think that the movies do a disservice is in Frodo. The movies make him out to be much more of a wimp than he really is. He's definitely not a lion, but he's not nearly as mousy as he's portrayed in the movies either. He actually USES his sword in the book, not just dropping it everywhere and then standing around like a dumbass waiting to be attacked. He's definitely got more backbone in the book. He just takes a long time to get around to showing it.
For the right kind of reader, this book will be everything they could dream of. Beautiful, detailed descriptions of lands and peoples and languages and skills and histories and lore, and presented in beautiful prose, and (I'm guessing) equally beautiful verse. I don't enjoy verse at all. In fact, I pretty much hate it. So all of the lays and songs and poems are completely lost on me. Because I'm the wrong type of reader for those things. I fully and willingly admit this. I skip the shit out of them, blasphemous as it may be.
And yet, I still love this story. The story is what keeps me coming back, despite the slowness, the over-descriptiveness, the verse. The story, and the quest. It's exciting to me, and lovely, and it speaks to me. I don't come to see the trees, or the forest - I see all the stuff that lives inside it.
I'm excited to crack open The Two Towers, because that's historically been my favorite of the series. So... here's hoping that I still love it as much as ever. :)
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