Chris's Reviews > The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Mar 22, 15

it was amazing
bookshelves: jrrt, favorites, lit-fiction-english, fantasy-high, 1001-list
Read from December 02 to 10, 2012

Do you have an old, worn piece of clothing? Perhaps that sweat shirt that you can’t wear anywhere except to bed or walking your dog? Perhaps it is an old blanket, a pair of shoes, maybe it’s a stuff animal. Regardless of what it is, every time you touch it or smell it, you feel peace, warmth, or perhaps, even home.

Know what I’m talking about? Good, that’s how The Lord of the Rings feels to me. I don’t how many times I’ve read the trilogy itself, let alone each book. I do know that I had to buy another edition after I wore out my first. (Technically, if you count my borrowing my mother’s copies when I was kid, I’ve had three editions). To me the whole story is like that worn out piece of clothing.

The Lord of the Rings starts with this book The Fellowship of the Ring. Even today, after I must have read the series at least twenty times, I opened the book, and I’m there. I’m in Middle Earth with Frodo and crew.

This is strange because I know, on an intellectual level, that LOTR is not a perfect book or series. In fact, all the flaws are on heavy display in this first part. It’s true, that the story does meander. That the pacing at times is slow. It is also true that Terry Pratchett is correct when he says if you believe the LOTR is the best written book ever, you haven’t read enough (I’m paraphrasing that).

And yet, it is one of three works I return to year after year.

Because it is the THE LORD OF THE RINGS!

At the very least, if you like fantasy literature, you should attempt to read this. Regardless of how one feels about Tolkien’s style, he is highly influential in fantasy literature. Some writers, such as Brooks and McKiernan, have “ripped off” the series. Other writers, such as Tad Williams and Marion Zimmer Bradley, have written in reaction to him.

But influence doesn’t explain entirely the attraction of this work. And this is supposed to be a review of The Fellowship of the Ring, so I best start (and finish at this point) with it.
The Fellowship sets the stage and is told in two parts. The first part of the book deals with the flight of Frodo and his friends to Rivendell. The second tells the story of the Nine Walkers as they set out to destroy the one Ring, a device of evil, a power that corrupts. The destruction of the Ring will stop the Dark Lord (No, not Voldemort. This is where Rowling got the idea), and save the land of Middle Earth

The heart of the story, the bulk of this book, is the friendship and courage of the Hobbits. It is the Hobbits that in many ways allow the reader access to the story. There is a very simple reason why.
Hobbits are normal. True, they are normal in a big hairy feet kind of a way, but they are far closer to those of us in the real world then elves, dwarfs, wizards, or even, the men that inhabit Middle Earth.

It is from Tolkien that most fantasy derives its treatment of elves. In The Fellowship the reader is introduced to a great many elves (most of who seem to have names starting with the later G). The reader is told a great many things about elves, like the fact that they can run on top of snow and have good eyesight, as well as living forever. Dwarves too have they strangeness, being long lived and short. Even the men, such as Strider and Boromir are different. Boromir is far closer to your everyday human than Strider, who lives long and has a rather interesting family tree. But even Boromir isn’t quite real.

The Hobbits, despite their age and hairy feet, are. Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Samwise are all templates of people the reader might know. I watched Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood at an extremely young age. Therefore, any being that uses a bow is the most awesome creature ever. I like elves. I could marry Legolas, even in his Orlando Bloom incarnation. Yet, I identify more with the Hobbits because they are not warriors. Because, outside of Frodo, they go on the quest for friendship. Not for glory or because the quest is the right thing to do, but because the quest is the right thing to do because of their friendship with Frodo. That is something wonderful. Too often in modern novels the quest is undertaken for an encompassing reason, a save the earth reason. And this is true of everyone who takes it up (outside of the odd twit who goes to get the guy to notice her), but Sam, Merry, and Pippin do it out of loyalty. A friend is in trouble and they want to help. It is this desire, this trait that makes people human. It is one of our most basic instincts, and it is not a bad one.

The Hobbits are also attractive because they are little people in a big world and who doesn’t feel like that sometimes? Unlike The Hobbit, the superior tone of the narrator is not present. The Hobbits could quite easily be overwhelmed by what they encounter, but they are not. They plug away and keep going. There is something human about that. Not a Cunclucian against the waves type of feel, but a life feeling that one does get from the other characters. They are the everyday people in the quest. The everyday solider in the war.

It is also important to remember that The Fellowship is in the tradition of a saga. While The Hobbit seems to be designed to be read aloud, LOTR seems to beg to be told over a fire with a tankard of ale in hand. The style resembles that of the Old Norse sagas and tales that Tolkien draws upon. There is no large of amount of hand wringing, or deep discussions of feelings. It is a quest, and it reads like one. While it is not necessary to have read these old sagas before starting The Fellowship, it does help, at least for older readers, to keep in mind this influence.

Like the Old Norse legends, Tolkien seems to be dealing with the concept of Raganork. While the quest is one to save Middle Earth, it is also a quest with a coast. As the reader reads the book, sentences appear about how so and so will never be in X again. There is the leave taking of the elves. The idea seems not only to be the coming of the Age of Men, but also the presentation of a quieter, gentler end of the world. In some ways, The Fellowship prepares the reader for death in all its raiment’s.

Despite this fading, the world seems real. Not only do the Hobbits, Strider, and Gimli believe in their world, but so does Tolkien, and he paints it so that the reader sees it as well. It is true that the beginning of The Fellowship is little more than a description of Hobbits, but after this, Tolkien world builds and does it extremely well. There are references that the characters know, but the reader doesn’t. Yet, this is done in such a way that the reader doesn’t feel stupid or left out. It is done as it would occur in reality.

There is much to be said for this level of description.
It’s more than Tolkien’s world building. In parts of the book there are wonderful sentences that convey want, loss, truth, and love – all in one sentence. Not only that, but in a sentence that works wonderfully well, that doesn’t bang itself over the head of the reader.

It’s also true that in this book, there are not many women. In fact, there are two. And one of them doesn’t say anything. But the one who does. Galadriel rocks! And she has more than one of those wonderful sentences.

The overwhelming theme of The Fellowship is, in fact, Fellowship. At the heart of this book is a wonderful portrait of friendship and sacrifice that moves the reader. It is a rebuke against the idea of a man or a people as an island.

Amended 12/7/12 - Butterburr is the best barkeep!

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Quotes Chris Liked

J.R.R. Tolkien
“I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is an outstanding review, Chris! I agree with you whole-heartedly. I wish I could have said it so well myself.


message 2: by Kipi (new)

Kipi To me, David Eddings's Belgariad and Malloreon do the trick. :-) I didn't really enjoy LOtR as much as I had hoped. Great review though!


Chris Thanks!


message 4: by Je (new) - rated it 5 stars

Je Browning Superb review Chris. You have picked out the concepts brilliantly. LOTR for me is about the feeling it conveys and the overwhelming love the fellowship have for each other and their ways of life.


Chris Thanks Je. When the movie came out, I really enjoyed that scene at the end where Frodo is leaving and Merry and Pippin see him. Merry knows what Frodo is doing, Pippin doesn't get it and wants to go with him. Not because Pippin wants the ring, but because he wants to help his friend. I thought that was a really good touch in the movie.


message 6: by Je (new) - rated it 5 stars

Je Browning I love the films but sadly I think in some ways they have spoiled the books for the modern generation who simply can't cope with pages of description and the slow pace of some of the chapters. Towards the end of the Return of the King the language Tolkien uses is a little too grand and biblical even for me, but there are very few authors who can create a world so detailed and believable. It is the purest of love stories with a beauty in the style that has influenced my own writing and my own passion for honour, justice and loyalty.

The film captured the spirit of the books beautifully and the actors chosen, thankfully, mirrored my own concept of them - the crux for me being Viggo as Aragorn, who was always my favourite character.

I will forever be grateful to my wonderful dad(RIP), who always reminded me of Bilbo Baggins, for reading me the Hobbit and the whole of LOTR when I was at primary school. He opened up the world of epic fantasy for me, and I have not looked back since :-)


Shay Wow. Your review was amazing! I personally did not like The Fellowship of the Ring, but I don't blame that on Tolkien, it's just not my taste. However the love for the books that you portray in your review makes me want to give it another try! Nicely done!


Chris Thank you. We all have different tastes. One of my closest friends couldn't finish it.


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