Time to talk about another classic from my childhood!
I have mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, it is easily one of the greatest pieces of fantasy literature ever written. On the other, you have a story that is bogged down by overly extensive descriptions and more than a few pointless scenes. I have a hard time deciding whether or not I actually enjoy this one as much as I used to. It is an incredibly odd novel, one that has simultaneously aged well and poorly.
So, how does it fare? Is it still worth reading? Or should you just go and watch the movies again? Let’s find out!
Frodo Baggins is a young hobbit living in the Shire, a peaceful little village isolated from the rest of the world. But when his father figure Bilbo departs from the Shire, he leaves Frodo a mysterious magic ring. Years later, the wizard Gandalf, an old friend of Bilbo’s, returns to the Shire with grave news: that ring belonged to Sauron, the dark lord that once nearly conquered Middle-Earth. Thus, Frodo and his friends are sent away on a grand adventure to Mordor in order to destroy the ring and protect the Shire!
First, let’s get the negatives out of the way. First and foremost: the pacing.
This story is paced like a poorly designed rollercoaster. First, it’ll spend a while slowly building the world and characters. Then the plot will rush ahead, making a ton of progress in just a few chapters. Then it’ll reach another hill and slow down again! It is wildly inconsistent from chapter one to the very end!
It doesn’t help the pacing that a good number of the scenes in this story are practically pointless. No, I’m not just talking about the overly detailed descriptions that Tolkien was known for, although those certainly don’t help. Some of these scenes could just be cut out of the story and it wouldn’t hurt anything! I feel that I don’t need to say Tom Bombadill. But I’m going to say Tom Bombadill.
I’m willing to bet none of you movie-only fans know what I’m talking about. Consider yourselves the lucky ones.
So the pacing is pretty bad and numerous scenes are unnecessary. That’s a pretty big issue. Luckily, the rest of the story is fantastic!
The stand-out aspect here is the characters. In my review of The Hobbit, I criticized the story’s lackluster supporting cast. As much as I loved the dwarfs, they did lack in the personality department. They all blended together, to the point where the story would be practically unaffected if you cut some of them out altogether. This time around, however, I have very different thoughts. Much more positive thoughts.
Admittedly, this is mostly driven out of nostalgia. But I adore every character in this story! Aragorn is one of my favorite characters in all of fiction! Gimli and Legolas are both excellent supporting characters. Sam, Merry, and Pippin are some of the most likable characters in the entire story, with some of the most engaging character arcs I’ve ever seen! All of these characters, and all those that I hadn’t mentioned, will undoubtedly stick with me for my whole life!
I mean, they kind of already have. But that’s beside the point.
I’ll admit this book hasn’t aged well in more than a few respects. There were more than a few times where I felt the urge to stop reading (cough cough Tom Bombadill). But every time it did, I thought ‘Oh, but that part is coming up and that part is great!’ and kept going. It has its flaws, yes, but it’s still an incredibly gripping piece of fantasy!
While it is a bit rough the first time around, I’d still recommend reading Fellowship of the Ring. It is a classic that any fan of the genre should read, flaws and all. It may not be the most exhilarating, especially compared to its modern contemporaries. But it set the groundwork for the genre as it is today!
With a little help from the other two books. But I’ll get to those another day.