An unlikely group of people make the initial journey to destroy a ring that holds an evil power.
Publisher: Harper Collins
First Published: 1954
Date Reviewed: 27th October 2010
Bilbo Baggins wants to leave his home and he entrusts the ring he stole from Gollum (chronicled in The Hobbit) to his nephew Frodo. The wizard Gandalf tells Frodo that he must take it away, so that it won’t reach the hands of the dark lord who is back to claim it. And so Frodo goes, picking up travellers along the way, on the first stage of a perilous journey.
You can probably tell by the way I wrote the summary that I really did not enjoy this book. I would like to say it was because my copy was 398 pages of tiny print, but it wasn’t only that. I found it incredibly hard to concentrate on the text most of the time, and actually, because I was trying so hard to give it a good go, I didn’t realise what the real problem was until I reached the end.
Tolkien doesn’t adhere to one of the biggest rules – he tells rather than shows. So much of the book is filled with superfluous descriptions of often minor details that no one needs to know; and then, once he’s written reams of description, he repeats himself to tell you about the place the characters just left or to tell you about a place that is nearly identical to that which they were in moments ago. Once, as a child, I wrote a meticulous account of every single pothole and electricity unit I passed when on a train journey. I would never consider it worthy of publishing, but perhaps if I’d given it to Tolkien he could have made some money on it for me.
Because to be honest I do wonder about his reasons for such needless description. If my copy hadn’t been so densely printed then the page number would have been double. Did he give himself a word count he really couldn’t reach and thus filled it with waffle?
This leads me to the writing style. Again, I’m afraid, I was disappointed. The writing is rather simple in some ways but it’s tedious, and reads as though no editor was involved. Tolkien applies to his writing the repetitive usage of he/she said. He adds onto it constant depiction that, although in this referenced paragraph is probably meant to apply humour to the scene and illustrate that Frodo was getting annoyed, just makes reading the book annoying:
…said Frodo evasively.
…said Frodo, not liking the reminder.
…said Frodo with his mouth full.
… said Frodo sharply.
The story itself isn’t bad and reminded me of David Edding’s The Belgariad (which was released years later and thus was no doubt inspired by Tolkien), and I think back to how Eddings made a similar story, of a journey fraught with danger, comic and readable.
Certainly The Fellowship Of The Ring improves when the rest of the characters come into the story, because there is more dialogue and less space for description. Tolkien even manages to evoke emotion when he talks of the homeliness of Lothlorien. He includes many different locales and weather, which when looked back on are quite amazing.
But I feel as though I’ve read all three books in the way that it took so long to get through just one. I can’t say I will attempt the other two because quite frankly I think I’d prefer to read Lauren Kate’s Torment, and we know how I felt about Fallen. I read this book because I wanted to have experienced it (the same motive for Pride And Prejudice and Jane Eyre, both I fell in love with).
If Tolkien had pondered a bit more, thought higher of his audience and their intellect, and believed in their imagination, maybe this book would’ve been better.