The Lord of the Rings is timeless, it is a story of epic proportions which can transport you to another world and can appeal to any age group – just as long as you’re willing to settle in for the ride.
In reality, this is a big book! But don’t let the size of it put you off because every page is worth it. J R R Tolkien poured his soul into this masterpiece and you can see the care and attention he dealt out in every word. From the first sentence he draws you in with a charming description of Bilbo Baggins’ adventure told to us in another story – The Hobbit -which I’m sure you are aware of. Not one hobbit’s opinion is left to the imagination, you meet several lesser characters in the first few pages who have their own ideas about the events from Bilbo’s adventure which happened about 60 years before the start of the book, and already have their suspicions that young master Frodo Baggins, the protagonist in this tale, may already be following in his uncle’s very odd, hairy, footsteps.
After much description of the lands and main characters we are introduced to a few more including the loyal Samwise Gamgee and the mysterious Gandalf. As the journey begins we meet more vital characters and begin an expedition filled with turmoil and strife.
The level of detail in these books is unrivalled to anything I have read myself, the author ensuring that every place visited and every object seen is put wholly inside the readers imagination. Some may find the vast descriptions tedious and unnecessary but it really adds to the story and makes you feel everything just that little bit more. The movies, made famous by Peter Jackson in the early 2000’s, are extremely close to what Tolkien envisioned. There are obvious changes with certain plots and sequences, such as the lack of Tom Bombadil – a bizarre sort of fellow who sings far too much in the forest on the outskirts of the shire – and a few small disasters the hobbits fall into very early on but for the most part Jackson must be applauded for his beautiful version of this unique book.
I will admit there are parts of the book, during the fellowship of the ring in particular, which I feel did not need to be as long as they were. The council of Elrond, although it does cover a lot of backstory and history you wouldn’t know otherwise, is an extremely difficult chapter to read. Some of the information perhaps would have been better suited for the appendices rather than the main story as it does distract a little from the plot however I do understand its relevance to the situation as it informs both the readers and the characters why the ring is so important and why everyone is needed to destroy it. It is an extremely important section of the book because it is the point where the real adventure begins but I almost feel myself drifting when I reach this point. A little shorter and it would be perfect for me, but that is just personal pereferance.
The book as a whole is extremely well thought out, every twist and turn is written to perfection and the style of writing is very different to anything else in that genre. The book, which is actually split into 6 parts – two for every part of the trilogy – focuses in on different things, so let’s talk about that.
Book one follows the early adventures of the Hobbits as they try to find their way through unfamiliar lands on their own to find Rivendell and meet Elrond, the Half-elven Lord who also happens to be the father of Arwen, the lover of Aragorn or Strider as he calls himself when the hobbits first meet him in Bree. Together they make their way through various perils, almost dying a few times on the way, until they eventually reach the ancient elvish city. The first book is used mainly to set the scene, introduce us to some of the main characters and really play with their personalities. The hobbits are the characters which show the most growth through the series, literally in Merry and Pippin’s case, and it is nice to see them as innocent halflings still full of hope and simply wanting an adventure. We grow close to the characters and as their stories go on you can really feel your heartstrings being tugged at.
Book two sees the company being formed and the details of the plan are laid out. Nine companions agree to team up and journey across middle earth together in order to reach Mordor and destroy the dark Lord Sauron. From the start of this adventure there are dangers at every turning and the company lose Gandalf the Wizard in Moria, much to their displeasure and they must continue alone. After much travelling and debate about which way they should go Frodo and Sam leave the others and set out on their own. Considering how much detail is in the book as a whole, in part 2 it should perhaps be pointed out that much of the description is in places of import, there is a great deal of getting from place to place and although you are told where they are at all times I feel like it loses the itricacy – possibly because of the great distance they travel and also due to the amount of characters being dealt with. If every character had a moment to describe what was around them we would never reach the end of the book and more important plot points could easily be missed.
In book three we follow the adventures of the Hobbits Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peragrin Took who have been kidnapped by orcs, and the three musketeers – Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas – as they try to get them back. We run into some old, and unexpected, friends and make some new ones who fight alongside our heroes to stop the oncoming storm. This book takes us all the way to the Return of the King but before we are allowed to continue we are pulled all the way back to the start from the point where Frodo and Sam left. The separation of the characters really adds to the feeling of loneliness and fear, no characters know what is happening elsewhere and it adds a nice dynamic to have no inclination of the doings of others because it puts you on edge and helps you to sympathise, a decision well made.
For book four we follow Frodo and Sam who we have not heard from in some time. They of course meet the rather unsavoury character of Smeagol, or as he is more commonly known, Gollum. He has been referred to on several occasions before now as he has spent a fair amount of time tracking the company but this is the first time we meet him properly. He leads the hobbits right up to the walls of Mordor, all while plotting to take the ring for himself, and even manages to get them into the country before his downfall and the end of The Two Towers. Much of their story takes place in dark holes and hiding places as the enemy wait nearby. You can feel their frustration and even when they end up falling into the hands of Gondor you hold your breath in anticipation of what may come next.
The start of book 5 leads us once again into the lands of Rohan and Gondor as the stories merge together and lead into the final stages. In a way you get 4 or 5 different stories all leading in the same direction. We see different realms and different stories unfold until which reach the final stage of the journey. It is very cleverly written as you are unsure which path you prefer or what will happen next, when it switches characters you find yourself wanting more so you read on and become engrossed. I applaud thee Mr Tolkien, you know how it’s done!
Book six. The end of the dark lord, almost the end of the hobbits, the end of all the wars with evil and when they finally get home the scouring of the shire. This last section of the book is something which is sadly left out of the films and is a really interesting piece to read. The victorious hobbits return home to find their beloved town in flames. Sauruman, who dies in the films early on, travels from Isengard and takes the shire for his own – hiring the notorious Sackville-bagginses as his minions of destruction. We watch as the hobbits fight for their home and win once more against this villain before they settle down in peace and eventually travel out to the Grey Havens. It’s a true “happily ever after” moment which is also filled with sadness and regret from several characters and we say farewell to a book cherished by so many around the world.
The story is impeccable, the characters are vast and it is impossible to put it down once you start. I understand why people struggle to read the book and don’t like this very in-depth style of writing, however I cannot fault Tolkien on his masterpiece because there is so much thought and history that goes into every page I cannot help but fall in love with his imagination. I don’t think I will ever read a book with this level of intrigue and exploration, and for that reason I will continue reading it every year until I die.