Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

Title:  The Fellowship of the Ring
Author:  J. R. R. Tolkien
Pages:  390
Genre:  Fiction, Fantasy
Source:  My bookshelf (we have a beautifully bound copy of the trilogy compiled into one book).
Why I picked it up:  Something about summer makes me want to revisit the series!
What you'll love:  Rich descriptions, well-developed characters.
What will bug you:  Nothing bugs me, although I remember the languages and backstory being a lot to take in the first time.

I love this series.  I decided to start a re-read this summer because it's been awhile, and I was really in the mood for it.  I read it for the first time during the summer, so I think that has a lot to do with my seasonal craving.  I actually completed it a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first time I've had a moment to breathe and write.  Sigh.

I'm not going to be too careful with spoilers - not only because this is a pretty well-known story, but because the movies were so popular.  So, if you don't know anything about the story and want to be surprised, you may want to come back after you read the book.

The writing is so beautiful.  I'm always amazed at the rich detail Tolkien provides; as a reader, you are really transported to the scene he is painting.  I love all the descriptions of Hobbiton, the Barrow Downs, Rivendell, and Lothlorien.  The first time (okay, maybe the first two times or so...) I read this book I was not only younger, but a less "seasoned" reader.  I found the descriptions and huge blocks of text to be hard going.  I no longer feel that way, though.  I find myself craving the descriptions.  Not only are they beautifully done, but they are so unique.  I'd urge anyone who feels intimidated by the vast descriptions to just sit back and enjoy the scenery.  I think that during my first few runs of this book I was so focused on the dialogue and advancing storyline I didn't appreciate the background, and it's well worth it!

As amazed as I am when reading the descriptions, I'm even more amazed at the depth of backstory and lore that Tolkien has created.  This isn't simply the story of Frodo and the ring; it's a story of how Frodo and the ring fit into a vast expanse of history.  This contributes to the "wordy" nature of the writing, but once again I think it's well worth it.  There aren't any aspects of the story that just appear.  They are explained fully.  If I'm being truly honest, I'd have to admit I like the way the movie handles this.  In the book, the reader must wait until about halfway through before really getting history on the ring, how it came to be, and how/why it must be destroyed.  I thought that in the movies this was handled nicely because there was lots of backstory given at the start.  This helps the viewer to understand the full scope at the outset.  I think this is part of why the more I read these books the more I appreciate them.

The are potentially even more impressive than the lore.  I won't spend a lot of time on it, but I find it amazing how each race (elf, dwarf, orc...) has a distinct language, and each really fits the race - both visually (in the books) and aurally (in the movie).

And when we really come down to it, but most amazing part of this book is the characters.  When people ask me what the book is about I answer "It's an unbelievable story about bravery, goodness, and friendship."  When Frodo offers to take the ring to Mordor, it's such an emotional moment to see how the rest of the party pledges to stand by him.  Merry and Pippin are unwilling to be left behind.  There are so many moments that show what it means to be a friend, and to be a pursuer of what is good and just. 

I'm happy to be re-reading!  It's like visiting an old friend.  See you at the end of book 2!

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