15 December 2014
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
As I start this review, I sit and ponder if there is anything that has not been written about this all time classic work of fantasy that has not already been said by millions of people. And read by millions of people. But then I realise that is not for me to decide. My motives are clear; I choose a book, I read it, and I review it. Regardless of its status in the annals of English literature. So look out Mr Tolkien, look out Middle Earth, look out Mr Sauron, you world-destroying blaggard, and finally, look out, you God-blessed-and-totally-adorable-little-Hobbits. Here I come.
In all honesty, part one of this trilogy starts out slowly. The reader is introduced to the culture of the Hobbit, and in particular, he/she is given a run down of one of the most famous Hobbits who ever lived - Bilbo Baggins, of Bag’s End. In a rather wordy and (dare I say it) tedious chapter, We learn of his family tree. We learn of his most favoured relation, Mr Frodo Baggins, who came to live with Bilbo when he was little, and never left. And we learn of those less-than-most-favoured relations and neighbours, as well. We learn that Bilbo is about to hold a giant party for his eleventy-first birthday, and just about everyone fortunate enough to live in the Shire is invited. And what’s more, all invitees receive a gift! But the biggest surprise of the evening is planned by Bilbo who plans to make a final appearance at the party, and then, quite literally, disappear. And he does. For a time.
For those that have read THE HOBBIT, and even for those that haven’t, the meaning of the party is clear. It has been decided in conjunction with fan favourite Gandalf the Wizard, that Bilbo is to pass on the possession of the One Ring to his much loved nephew. Gandalf has spent much of his recent life researching the One Ring and has come to realise its true nature. And the danger it represents to good people - and hobbits - everywhere.
Chapter two is also quite slow but is so beautifully crafted by Mr Tolkien that it sends shivers up the spine of just about everyone who reads it. It is, quite simply, a classic chapter. Everything that is bad about the One Ring is outlined in terrifying detail by Gandalf to poor, innocent Frodo who feels as if the weight of the entire world has been thrust upon his shoulders. And of course it has. And so, too, we learn the truth (and history) of Gollum. Finally, the first true glimpse of what Gandalf really is, can be seen by those who know where to look. I can safely say at this point that he is much, much, much more than a wizard.
The pace of the book picks up considerably (naturally enough) when the true quest begins. Frodo is joined by Sam and Pippin as they embark on the first part of their quest in a bid to reach safe haven at Brandybucks. Even then, danger haunts them every step of the way when they are harassed by black riders in the look out for “Baggins”. Safe haven indeed, but only for a little while, as the party barely manage to reach the Inn of the Dancing Pony, only to meet up with yet another dangerous looking stranger in the form of the mysterious Strider. But of course even Strider turns out to be one more extraordinary character in this extraordinary book the world has grown to love like no other.
Tolkien’s writing is pure joy. If ever a work of fiction was created by the mind of God to sooth the soul of the reader, then this is it. Passages of inspiring beauty are followed by more passages of inspiring beauty, and after cascading glimpses of literary perfection the reader will find themselves in a state of semi-permanent shock at the end of chapter five of part two when a dreadful fate befalls one of the party faithful.
Read this and weep, fellow book lovers. Read this and weep.
Hearts are lifted somewhat when other classic members of the fantasy genre are brought into the story. Elves and dwarves are both beautiful to the eye and joyful to the heart. Dragons and orcs are also welcome additions, if mainly to simply balance the forces of light with the forces of darkness.
I have said enough, i think. This book is timeless, it is perfection, and it is a glorious introduction to the fantasy genre as a whole. It was written in a world rocked by war, which was beaten nearly to death by the powers of evil and yet the same world was saved by the naivety of innocents, the power of love and the strength of sacrifice made by those too young to understand what war is really about.