My lovely readers, I’ve a confession to make: I caved. I caved like a dwarf in a mithril mine. I did not finish the four other books I was in the middle of before starting The Fellowship of the Ring after being so entranced by The Hobbit.
Having put off Tolkien’s books for so very long after that aborted attempt at the tender age of 12, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the world he created; with Middle Earth. In the end, and despite every intention to finish the list of books I was already reading, I was unable to resist starting the next book. Plus, I had bought these gorgeous editions (picture to the right) of the books and really wanted to get started on them. I am so glad of it.
For anyone reading these books having grown up with or seen the movie trilogy, there is a very high expectation because we have already been taught to love Middle Earth, to love the Fellowship and the enormous cast of characters from the books the Peter Jackson so faithfully brought to the silver screen.
Obviously, I was worried about the intricate detail of the book from the very beginning, because that was what put me off as a child. I needn’t have concerned myself, as it turned out. As an adult, the intricacy that once drove me away from the story pulled me in and utterly captured my attention and my heart. Throughout the course of the novel, I learned to value and appreciate just how much Tolkien put into this work.
More than with The Hobbit movie trilogy (which made three films from one book), I found that the movies truly could not have shown even 80% of what is in the books because there is just so much information, so much detail. You probably could have made six movies from the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings epic. In saying that, the important parts of the book very much made their way into the film; the plot of the first movie is very much faithful to the plot of the novel.
The most immediate difference, for me at least, was the astonishing compression of time effected in the films compared to the novels. There are actually years in between Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday and the beginning of Frodo’s quest, and this sense of time is something the pervades the entire first novel. Obviously this was necessary to actually be able to make these books into films, but it was really astonishing for first-time reader to discover what was missed despite the marathon length of the films. Of course, these details are not always happy ones. I learned what betrayal really felt like reading this book. And it was Frodo that caused it. I don’t want to spoil too much, but……really, Frodo?! The Sackville-Bagginses?!
I also really, really enjoyed the poetry that the novel is laced with, and found myself even more in awe of Tolkien’s way with words. Truly, I don’t think there is another writer that I would hold up as Tolkien’s equal when it comes to turn of phrase. The possibilities for tattoos are just endless!
It was actually very emotional to read this book, more so than I had expected that it would be. Particularly after having read The Hobbit, reading about the Fellowship’s journey through Moria was utterly destroying. I cried to find out the fates of Balin, Oin and Ori. My heart broke to know their fates, even though at the back of my mind I remembered at least the fate of Balin from the films. I’m watching the film (again) as I write this review, and seeing Gimli, realizing that it was his uncle (Oin) and distant cousin (Balin) among the dead of Moria just shreds my heart.
There is no doubting the effort that Tolkien put into these books, the many long years of careful and detailed creation and development of characters, cultures, languages and plots. The respect I have for him as an author is deep, and I imagine will only grow as I move my way through the last two novels in the trilogy. I can tell you I won’t be stopping there, though. There’s a whole world of Tolkien literature out there, not least of which is the most recent release, Beren and Luthien. These books have created a Tolkienite out of me, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Five star read, and if there was a higher rating I would give it. If you never read another author I recommend, please read this one.
Featured image credit: My own photograph of my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring from the set I mentioned purchasing.
Body photos: again, my own photos of my books.