"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Divided into three ‘books’ - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King - The Lord of the Rings is a multi-layered, epic story about courage, friendship, good and evil, and a plethora of other themes. The one ring has been left to a hobbit named Frodo Baggins, and it is up to him to destroy it before the dark lord Sauron finds it and becomes the most powerful being in Middle Earth. Hence, Frodo must venture upon an epic journey to Mount Doom in ominous Mordor to throw the ring into the fires of the mountain, along with numerous vibrant characters such as his fellow hobbits Samwise Gamgee, Merry and Pippin, the great wizard Gandalf and slinking, villainous Gollum.

I nearly didn’t write a review on this because it’s so well known, but I thought I would do in order to encourage those of you who haven’t read this epic masterpiece yet to overlook its daunting size and give it a go. Despite The Hobbit being one of my favourite novels, I never got round to reading LOtR; I had heard mixed reviews from friends and family, I didn’t much like the film adaptations, and, the ultimate deciding factor - it’s so long! My copy is more than two inches thick, over 1,000 pages and the writing is tiny, so it’s more than understandable why so many people delay reading this doorstop of a novel. Nonetheless LOtR, for me at least, didn’t feel as long as it looks at all. Although it’s very long, it’s not bloated: it’s well paced and there’s almost always something interesting happening - there are a few chapters which are laborious (such as The Council of Elrond), and I thought some parts of the Two Towers were a bit slow and dull, but the meat of the story is exciting, enthralling and a real joy to read. Tolkien’s writing is skilful and engaging, and the world he has created is rich, imaginative and immersive. My favourite of the three ‘books’ was probably The Fellowship of the Ring: it is mostly introductory in nature and so is more light-hearted and more reminiscent of The Hobbit than the later two books. I love the quaint descriptions of the beautiful, cosy shire, and the fun but simultaneously perilous scenes at the Prancing Pony, shortly after Frodo has embarked upon his journey.

There is plenty to love about The Lord of the Rings - the exquisite writing, the gorgeous fantasy world, the numerous fantastical and dangerous adventures, but for me the highlight was the many wonderful characters. I really loved Frodo and Sam’s relationship, and Gollum is dark and interesting due to his inner conflicts. 

The novel becomes more grim and dangerous for our protagonists as it progresses: they encounter a vicious Balrog, hoards of Orcs and stumble across the lair of a giant man-eating spider named Shelob, all of which are but a few members of the fantastical bestiary found within the book. The adventures Frodo and his companions encounter are full of peril: there is a very real threat of danger looming which makes for an intense and thrilling read.

I was pleasantly surprised by LOtR, and it is a novel I would urge everyone to read at least once. Tolkien truly understands language, and weaves a spellbinding story full of legend, myth and folklore, with a vast array of amazing characters in a beautiful fantasy world.

Rating: 9/10

My other J. R. R. Tolkien reviews: