Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fellowship of the Ring is an epic fantasy set in Middle Earth starring hobbits, dwarves, elves and even a few men.

I love this story. I remember the first time I read it, at twelve. It took me three days to get through the Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. All I did was eat, sleep, and read.

I remember the chills that ran down my spine as Frodo and Sam first hid from the mysterious black riders (Ringwraiths) as they raced through the Shire and later on the road to Rivendell. The simple ring of invisibility (from The Hobbit) having taken on a dark purpose and the formation of the fellowship of the ring to take it into the very heart of Mordor captured my mind and drew me on.

The characters, the places and the enemies are what make the story so memorable to me. So I wanted to list each below with a brief description (most are spoilers if you haven't read this before, but probably not that bad if you've seen the movie).

The fellowship:
  • Gandalf the Grey, powerful wizard who still suffers the self-doubt and worry that plague all mankind. 
  • Strider, mysterious ranger who both fears and desires to take on the responsiblities cast upon him by his sires. 
  • Gimli, dwarf from the Lonely Mountain on a personal quest to discover the fate of Balin and his crew who disappeared into the Mines of Moria never to be seen again. 
  • Legolas, the woodelf from Mirkwood, who comes to Rivendell to report the loss of the prisoner Gollum. 
  • Boromir of Gondor, who sees in the ring a chance to turn the tides against the darkness in Mordor. 
  • Merry and Pippin, Frodo's dear friends who conspire to join him in his quest before they know what it is, simply because he is their friend. They come as a pair until their paths diverge in the later books.
  • Sam Gamgee, Frodo's gardener and loyal companion who is determined to help his master succeed in his quest and make it back to the Shire alive. 
  • And, of course, Frodo Baggins himself, Bilbo's heir, who volunteers to take the ring and destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, "though he doesn't know the way," although he does know there is every chance he will not survive the attempt. 

The places:
  • The Shire, the ideallic home of the hobbits, neverchanging, peaceful, and pure.
  • The Old Forest, borders The Shire and home of vindictive willow trees with mesmerizing voices, but also home of the jovial Tom Bombadil and his lovely Goldberry, the river daughter, who help the hobbits reach Bree in one piece.
  • Bree, an outpost community where hobbits and men live together in peace, where the Butterbur, the forgetful barman, redeams himself.
  • Rivendell, home of elves and the Lord Elrond, half-elven, and his daughter Arwen Evenstar (recently arrived from Lothlorien), the last homely home.
  • The Mines of Moria, deeply delved, filled with orcs and something much, much worse.
  • Lothlorien, the golden wood, home of the elves and the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. The Lady keeping secret one of the three elven rings of old. 
  • The Great River, Anduin, the last road of the fellowship before it is sundered for good or ill. 

The enemies:
  • Ringwraiths, nine ancient kings of men who were seduced by the power of their rings under the One Ring. They are no more than shadows of their former selves, though the beasts they ride are real enough.
  • Sauron, the ancient enemy who gained power under the dark eaves of Mirkwood before being driven out and returning to Mordor to cast his shadow over the entire world.
  • Gollum, scrawny, pathetic former owner of the ring who desires and fears it more than anything else. 
  • Saruman the White (Saruman of Many Colors), the leader of the white council who studied the darkness too closely, becoming it's servant.
  • Birds, ominous clouds of fowl who spy for the enemy. No place open to the sky is safe from their piercing eyes.
  • Wolves and Wargs, minions of Saruman who hunt the fellowship and drive them into the Mines.
  • Orcs and Trolls, dwellers in dark places and servants of the enemy, they are numerous and foul and always seem to turn up at the worst times.
Besides the awesomeness, there are a few things to consider (though they don't change my rating):
One, the songs are lengthy, numerous and everywhere. Not too bad in print because you have the option to skim past (though I think it worth it to read them all at least once), but I hear you have no choice but to listen to all of them in the audiobook. However, I do have a favorite among them: the longform version of Hey Diddle Diddle, which I believe comes along in the town of Bree.

Two, this is a long book, purposely so according to the note from Tolkien in the frontmatter of the book. His goal was to write a long book, and he succeeded. But he did it well, so that doesn't bother me. Considering some of the epic fantasies written since whose individual books are longer than the entire combined Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I don't think they're too long.

Three, there is no three. I like everything else.

I recommend this to anyone, preferably in print. If you find you can't tackle the book, go see the movie. It's not an exact match, but it definitely channels the best of Tolkien in a format most can enjoy.

Missed my reviews of the other books in this series?  Check them out here:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Have you read this series?  Let me know what you thought in the comments.

View all my reviews