Book Review: ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ by J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted: 5 January 2014 in Book reviews
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Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

When Frodo Baggins came of age at 33, he never would have imagined the adventure he would have when Bilbo disappears leaving him his home on Bag End and his treasured magic ring. But 17 years would pass before it even begins. During those years, Gandalf endeavours to discover the origin of the ring and what should be done with it. But then he disappears. Frodo, as promised, leaves the Shire to Rivendell. He sells Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, moves all his stuff to Buckland and begins his journey with Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Tuck and later Meriadoc Brandybuck.

The road to the elves is wrought with terror at every turn for the four hobbits. They are hunted by the Nazgûl, get lost and nearly killed by a tree in the Old Forest (only to be rescued by the eternal Tom Bombadil), nearly entombed by a barrow-wight (again saved by Tom), all before reaching ‘The Prancing Pony’ in Bree.

In Bree, favour smiles on them if only momentarily. Here they encounter a rogue Ranger, Strider. Unknown to most, he is none other than Aragorn, the son of Arathorn and Isildor’s heir, also confirmed by a note received from Gandalf. The next morning they find their original room destroyed and their horses gone. They are only able to acquire one horse, but from a wretched man who overcharges for it (which the beast turns out to be a much better investment than they had anticipated).

The company works their way to Rivendell, stopping at Weathertop about halfway there. Aragorn surveys the area and is dismayed to see the Nazgûl. In the night, they are attacked and Frodo is stabbed by one of the ring-wraiths despite putting on the ring (which makes their true form visible to the wearer). Frodo is lucky to be alive, but they still must hurry as he has been tainted by the enemy’s weapon. After almost two weeks, the encounter Glorfindel (an elf) upon whose horse Frodo is put. A couple days pass before the enemy finds them. Glorfindel’s horse races toward Rivendell with Frodo while the Nazgûl pursue them. When they reach the ford, Frodo exclaims that they shall have neither him nor the ring. When they try to cross the ford, an enchantment was triggered (put in place by Elrond and enhanced by Gandalf) which swept them all away as Frodo passed out.

Once Frodo recovers (after a small sliver of the blade was pulled from his wound), a council is held where various troubles are heard and the fate of the ring is discussed. It is decided that Frodo will act as the ring-bearer and that his fellowship shall include Gimli the dwarf, Legolas the elf, Aragorn and Boromir of men, Gandalf, and the four hobbits. The company departs and follows Gandalf’s lead.

Their journey takes the south towards the Misty Mountains and Redhorn Gate down into Dimrill Dell. But when they try to get there via Caradhras, they are deterred by unnatural means and must take the dreaded route through Moria. Neither Gandalf nor Aragorn wish to go that route, but any other path would cost them much time that they did not have to spare. There in the darkness, they trek carefully to avoid alerting any orcs to their presence.

They discover the tomb of Balin and are then attacked. They exit through another entrance and quickly descend into the mines hopefully in the right way towards the exit of the mountain. Just as they are nigh on the exit, a balrog appears. It is defeated by Gandalf who is then dragged down into the darkness along with it. The group is devastated. Not only have they lost a friend, but their leader and guide.

Aragorn takes the helm and leads the group further south into Lothlórien. There they are aided by another clan of elves led by the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. After a time in their care, they receive gifts and continue on their way down the Anduin river. As they journey, it is revealed that Gollum has been following them since Moria. Just before they reach the Falls of Rauros, they make camp and decide where they should go: to Minas Tirith first or straight to Mordor. Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo after the hobbit comes to his decision. He attempts to leave alone, but his plan is discovered by Sam and they leave together.

I know I disclosed the entire book, but since the movie was made in 2001 and most people have seen it, I figured it would make little difference. Now in regards to the film, I shan’t be doing a review alongside it. To do so would take ages, so I shall just highlight some of the differences. To start Frodo is 50 when they depart and much older than both Merry and Pippin and only a bit older than Sam. Merry and Pippin didn’t join the group after running into Sam and Frodo in Farmer Maggot’s garden. Pippin was already in the group and Merry joined once they got to Buckland. They never intended to go to Bree (Tom tells them to go to the inn). At ‘The Prancing Pony,’ the ring fell on Frodo’s finger as he fell while singing a song for the crowd. Arwen does not ride out to save Frodo (they stumble upon Glorfindel) nor is she mentioned directly in the book (I believe her name is said once). Those are just some of the big differences in the first ‘book.’

I really enjoyed the book. I had been told it was a challenging book, but honestly it wasn’t that bad. No it wasn’t the easiest, but I found the storytelling engaging and entertaining. I really liked having the map at the back of the book as to follow their journey. I really like when a fantasy writer takes the time to create the world and draw up a detailed map. It really adds to the overall experience.

Now the characters. The main ones are: Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Merry Pippin, Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, and Boromir. They are plenty of secondary characters as well (Bilbo, Elrond, Galadriel, etc.). The characters are very well developed and unique. Their dialogue is written in such a way that it is easy to determine them and their aims. My favourite in the films was Merry, but neither he or Pippin are like in the film. They are more serious. I think if I had a favourite in the book it’d have to be Gandalf. Legolas is pretty cool as well.

The writing can be pretty dense at times. The wording Tolkien uses is very archaic and sometimes difficult to decipher. But even then, it adds to the obvious dated content of the book. There is a ton of description, but it never feels cumbersome or overwhelming. It is just enough to develop the scene in your head and then gives you the ability to add the colour.

I really have nothing bad to say about the book. It is a fantastic book. It isn’t graphic in any sense so any age group can read it, but difficult enough that teenagers might struggle. If this isn’t one you have read, do it. I started the book in 2001 after my best friend at the time gave me the book for christmas. I left on my mission a few months later and never finished it. I wish I had. Awesome book. Enjoy 🙂

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