initial experience with Lord of the Rings, how I found it slow paced and too broad after falling in love with the films. With this reread, I approached the book differently and stopped expecting it to have the same qualities as the film. I was expecting a slower pace and actually, I was looking forward to finding out all the little facts about Middle Earth and it's history that Tolkien likes to sprinkle through his books.
Most people are familiar with the story, so there will be spoilers in this post. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of Lord of the Rings, Frodo the Hobbit is left a powerful ring by Bilbo. Gandalf the wizard thinks he has an idea of what the ring is but is captured by the person he seeks advice from. This leaves Frodo and his friends with the responsibility of getting away from Sauron's servants, who want to claim the ring for their master. On their way, they are helped by a "fellowship" of creatures, most notably Aragon, a man descended from Kings. But the ring begins to cause tension in the group and ultimately it is Frodo alone who must decide what to do with his burden.
My first reaction on finishing the book was "I missed so much last time!". I honestly think I spent too long hoping for action that I missed much about the characters and messages of the book; I rushed it when really this is a book to read slowly. Although there is a story and the characters are engaging, this novel is all about the world that Tolkien has created. Reading slowly, I could picture all of the wonderful settings (Lothlorien especially) and in that sense, it was a magical experience.
There's a lot of wisdom in this book, and a lot of messages that are great to learn. Fellowship is about trying your best even when the chance of success is slim and doing the right thing in difficult circumstances. It's about accepting that life isn't fair and that even though many things are beyond your control, you can choose the right course and make the most of what you have. It's about adventure and openness and above all, being a decent human being. Some of my favourite parts:
"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." (Haldir).
" 'I wish this 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 wasn't expecting this fantasy book to make me think so much about life, but it did. It made me think about doing the right thing, about being able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and be proud of the choices and decisions I have made. The easy way isn't always the right way. So although I had some criticisms of the book (not enough focus on characters, it took too long for the hobbits to reach Rivendell), I loved the essence of it, if that makes sense? I'm very glad I picked it up again and took the time to read it properly.
But the songs - still not for me! I tried, I really did, but in the end I had to skip a few. Sorry Tolkein fans!
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1954
Score: 4.5 out of 5