I finished The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a few days ago and have been letting it sink in so I can attempt to articulate my views, although I’m not even one sentence in and I think it will be the hardest review I’ve written. I loved watching the films as a kid and spent hours running around recreating it with my brother, so this trilogy was always on my reading list. I finally got round to it but I picked the worst time with third year university stress, plus a notoriously difficult book. That being said, I battled my way through it (truly feeling like I was trekking to Mordor with the Fellowship at times) and I made it out the other side, and I have to admit I did enjoy it, struggles included!
There shouldn’t be many spoilers, and I assume most of you have at least seen the films, but read with caution just in case.
For those of you who know the story, it starts magically with Bilbo’s party and introduces the main characters. It’s clearly fantastical from the first page, which had me so excited to finally read the book. I would definitely suggest reading The Hobbit before starting Lord of the Rings, as it gives you a great idea of what the story will be about, as well as easing you into Tolkien’s world and writing style. I did, however, start struggling as Frodo and his wonderful pals left The Shire. I’m a very logical person when I want to be, which often conflicted with my reading experience. Tolkien name drops ancestors everywhere, giving brief details of the past, places, families, and more. Initially it almost read like an encyclopaedia and I really struggled to make sense of all the extra information. I started to realise that I had to enjoy his amazing creation for what it was, and focus on the story at hand instead. That’s when the magic really started to happen.
The Fellowship of the Ring, and the rest of the trilogy I’m assuming, is much more whimsical than I remember the film being. It wasn’t much of a shock as songs punctuate The Hobbit, and I was reading about short, hairy humans, wizards, elves and dwarves, so how shocked can you be? I really liked these as the songs and tales were great ways of giving over information, really allowing me to visualise Middle Earth as Tolkien saw it. I was shocked by some elements, such as Tom Bombadil who didn’t make it into the film, but it was interesting and certainly added to the fantasy genre.
I’m not going to pretend reading this book was an easy ride. I know avid readers who are afraid to touch Tolkien, and I have been warned. And they were right. After The Shire I did often find the book testing, but I always came back so he obviously did something right. Sometimes the difference in language we use now was noticeable as I read descriptive words I barely knew (normally technical terminology for fields and the like, you really know your stuff Tolkien!), but in context they were easy to understand and did not put me off. Once you pushed through the exposition and started to understand the journey The Fellowship of the Ring really picked up, metaphorically and literally. I couldn’t put it down towards the end!
As someone who grew up watching these films, it was so exciting every time a familiar character was introduced and I couldn’t keep it together when the Fellowship was formed. Even tiny details such as the green capes and leaf brooch were carried from the page to the screen. The group suddenly made the book more exciting and the book was well and truly catapulted into action. My favourite thing about Tolkien’s writing is his ability to write suspense, which really had my heart racing. I constantly felt like I was being watched by some all-seeing evil, which immersed me into the book. This really hit a crescendo with the Balrog, which was by far my favourite moment. I was teased with just enough of the enemy to want to read more.
Despite struggling with The Fellowship of the Ring initially, I’m so glad I pushed through and finished it. I won’t lie and say it was easy, because this is a difficult book, but it’s also a great story. I’m so in love with the Fellowship, especially Aragorn who is even better in the book, and of course Sam Gangee, even if I was miffed by his servant-like devotion at first. Tolkien is considered a great writer for a reason, but I definitely think The Two Towers will be more my cup of tea (give me the action!). I would recommend reading The Hobbit before starting the trilogy. Not only is it one of my favourite books, but it eases you into the writing style and world of Tolkien. This may be the longest review I have written to date, but this epic tale definitely deserves it.
Let me know your experiences with the books below, and happy reading!