Sunday, 10 January 2016
Book review: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien
My husband warned me against writing this review. Maybe I'm a fool of a Took, but my policy is to review every book I read on my list. This was on my list. I read it. So, here goes.
I first read this novel way back in high school and even then I only read the first half of it. My problem was that I read all the historical prologue stuff that had no appeal to me as a fourteen year old. And it was my first experience of epic fantasy, which I probably wouldn't recommend because of its depth. But now that I'm older, a bit more read, and have a bigger love of history, I can appreciate The Fellowship of the Ring all the more. ...and I've seen the movies multiple times, and I'm married to someone who is extremely well-versed in Middle Earth.
This novel is likely the origins of all fantasy novels (at least the ones I've enjoyed) and it's no wonder. It's very clear that Tolkien created a very deep, and complex world. The novel reads as though it's a true history book, like Tolkien had this secret knowledge of our world and shared it in the form of this series. This is not a story about hobbits, elves, dwarves, or of men. It is a glimpse into a time period of Middle Earth and what led up to a massive war between good and evil. Too few authors write this way, writing about a world or society that the author has already created in his or her mind.
I want to add that it actually is a novel about hobbits. I guess maybe how they fit into the grand scheme of the impending war. That's very obvious. While none seem to have much character development, at least in this first novel, there's something else there. They don't quite so much develop as they do show an inner strength and resilience that seems to be common with hobbits. Meriadoc and Pippin mention a few times that had they known how dark their travels would be, they would not have followed Frodo. But since they did, there's no going back and they really wouldn't have it any other way.
I think I love that theme of the novel. No one ever really gives up. It's the truest form of perseverance, dedication, and friendship. (Note: now my husband is playing a scene from the movie in the background....go back to the shadow...YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!) Sure, Boromir goes a bit nuts for the ring at the end, but everyone is so determined to stay together even when they are given the option of going different ways (either to Minas Tirith or Emyn Muil).
Not only that, but because Tolkien wrote about a world he had already created, it was obvious there was so much more working beneath the surface. So far we're getting hints about Aragorn's true destiny, his love for Arwen, and even hints about the inner workings with the elves, and Gandalf.
It was a pleasure to read it, although at times slow. If it's read as historical fiction, I think it's actually more enjoyable than thinking about it as a fantasy novel.