Monday, May 22, 2017

"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review

I am reading The Hobbit to my son. It is my fourth time reading the story and his first. As such I thought I would repost my reviews of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 


I have a new personal rule. When watching a movie based on a book, I do not read the book before. I have learned that maybe outside of action scenes and emotions, the book is always better especially when it comes to character development, plot, and resolution. Furthermore, Hollywood writers, producers, and directors can rarely honor the book and the author's story because movies are expensive and the Box Office means everything.

So since the release of The Hobbit and since it will not be completely done until 2014, I will not be re-reading Tolkien's classic. However, that doesn't mean that I can't read his triology, The Lord of the Rings. I read the series in college (along with the Hobbit) before the third movie was released in theaters and loved them immensely. However, unlike most books-turn-movies, I struggle reading Tolkien's vision without seeing Jackson's art. And with the performance of Gollum and Gandalf in the movies, how can you not?

But there are a couple of thoughts I will say in review regarding the first book of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. First, Tolkien spends a lot of time in the Shire. The story moves slowly here. We are told of Bilbo and Frodo preparing for a party and Bilbo is a very old man. We are told that he is going to sneak away during the party and leave for good. He slips on the ring. Gandalf suspects. There's a long conversation. Bilbo leaves. Frodo returns too late to say goodbye. There's another long conversation about what Gandalf suspects about the ring. Gandalf leaves. He returns (17 years later!) and another long conversation pursues about the ring. They then leave the Shire.

Tolkien clearly loves the Shire and wants the reader to appreciate the world there. Throughout the books and the trilogy, the reader is reminded of this oasis-like place where simple folk live peaceful simple lives. There are family rivalries, but no wars and no fights. That is contrasted to the world of men where they are always at war, even with each other. That could be what we love most about this trilogy. It is four Hobbits from the Shire who must face down the enemy and carry the burden of the ring. The most innocent of creatures must carry the burden that is too great for fallen men. Tolkien wants us to regret having to leave the Shire and the Hobbits are hesitant to leave (Sam is even given a box of seed from Lothlorien for his garden when he returns to the Shire).

Secondly, the theme of racism this time of around was more prevalent. Gollum is hobbit-like, but we never quit figure out what he was or what he is. Dwarves and Elves hate each other. Gimli was almost not welcomed to Lothlorien and wouldn't have been if it wasn't for Elrond. Sauron is unaware, it seems, of what a Hobbit is or where the Shire is located. It is the Fellowship that is able to breakdown those barriers. It is made up of an old wizard, a ranger, a wanna-be prince (Boromir), an elf, a dwarf, and four hobbits. The mission to destroy evil once and for all breaks down those unnecessary barriers.

Thirdly, where are the women in middle-earth? Have you ever noticed that? The main women thus far are Galadriel, Aragorn's elvish girlfriend, and just a few others. I have a theory why. Most of the women in the trilogy represent peace. Galadriel, for example, is beautiful, and yet strong, heavenly and does not give into temptation (unlike Boromir, the man). Even Gimli is smitten with her (he asks for a string of her hair) and regrets continuing the mission as he wishes to remain near her and what she represents. It isn't until the third book where we meet a woman, to my knowledge, that anticipates, participates, and desires war. The characters of the story seek to return to the world that the women in the story represents.

Overall, this is a great story and a great book. You already knew that. These books have been analyzed by smarter people than me. The Fellowship of the Ring has always been the slowest of the trilogy, but it sets up the rest. In it Tolkien is in no hurry wanting the reader to experience Middle-Earth. The story picks up the pace from here.

Regarding the movie. Jackson and company made some big changes of course. Some of it might have been necessary (I can kind of sympathize with his reasoning for axing Tom Bombadil, one of my favorite characters who is quit mysterious) for a movie audience, some of it unfortunate (I like that Jackson explained the backstory of the ring at the beginning and not wait until the Great Council). In the end, enjoy the book and enjoy the movie. Its easy to do.


For more:
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
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