Joseph R.'s Reviews > The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Feb 24, 14

bookshelves: read_2014
Read from January 14 to February 24, 2014

The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy novel published in the 1950s. It was published in three volumes and is often (understandably) mistaken for a trilogy. It is one continuous story and is available nowadays as a single volume.

The story follows the adventures of Frodo Baggins, nephew to Bilbo Baggins, the title character from The Hobbit. In that book, Bilbo found a strange magic ring that made him invisible. In this book, he reluctantly passes on this treasure to Frodo. They are both friends with Gandalf, a wizard who passes through their home town of Hobbiton every now and again. Gandalf suspects the ring has more to it than the hobbits know; through research he discovers it might be the one ring forged by Lord Sauron in Mount Doom to give him power over the other races of Middle Earth. The ring was lost for hundreds of years after Sauron lost a battle to an alliance of men and elves. Something must be done with the ring now, so Gandalf sends Frodo on an epic adventure to dispose of the ring.

The novel is an amazing work of world-building. Middle Earth is a vast expanse populated by a wide variety of races who all have distinct histories, qualities, and languages. The history of the land is long and bits of that history keep coming out as the adventurers continue their journey. Middle Earth is a fully-realized other world.

The moral imagining of the world is also impressive. Though God is never mentioned, the characters (especially Gandalf) often note the providential nature of events. When Frodo arrives in Bree to meet Gandalf, the wizard is not there. In stead, Frodo meets Strider, a northern ranger, who helps them on their way. Gandalf had left a note to be forwarded on to Frodo instructing him to hurry along but it was never delivered. Gandalf is kidnapped right after leaving the note. If it had been delivered, Frodo would not have found Gandalf or Strider. It's a case of dumb luck or divine providence. The characters acknowledge providence even if they never mention God.

The morality in the book is deeper and more complicated than it is often given credit for. Characters struggle to choose the right thing to do and sometimes they choose wrongly because of their own personal flaws or doubts. Boromir, one of the fellow travelers with Frodo, tries to take the ring to use it as a weapon against Sauron. That choice causes a lot of immediate problems (including dividing the group just as a band of orcs attacks). He realizes his mistake and valiantly dies fighting the orcs. He has a moment of redemption. Few characters are irredeemably evil or perfectly competent.

The Lord of the Rings is a triumph of narrative fiction and is, in my opinion, the greatest novel ever written.

For more commentary, listen to the A Good Story is Hard to Find Podcast discussion, which also has a second part.
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Reading Progress

01/14/2014 marked as: currently-reading
01/14/2014 page 146
12.0% "Rereading this since it will be discussed on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast next month. I may not finish in time for the podcast but it won't be spoiled if I listen before I finish."
01/22/2014 page 434
36.0% "Boromir is dead and the Riders of Rohan are around...exciting times in Middle Earth."
01/27/2014 page 536
45.0% "Helm's Deep is behind us and the march to Isengard is afoot!"
02/03/2014 page 688
58.0% "I forgot how awesome Faramir is in the book. They need more men like him!" 1 comment
02/13/2014 page 1008
85.0% "I finished the main story of the book just in time for the first part of the Good Story is Hard To Find podcast. I'm debating if I should read the appendix or not." 1 comment
02/24/2014 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Julie Davis The greatest novel ever written ... yes! :-)


Julie Davis I also meant to say that this is a beautifully written and complete review.


Joseph R. When I posted the review on Amazon, I qualified it "Greatest Novel of all time (at least so far)". I guess someone could write a greater novel, but it is hard to imagine it happening. Thanks for the kind words (and the awesome podcasts)!


Julie Davis I concur. I can't imagine a greater novel ...

I am so glad that you liked the podcasts. We had a wonderful time, obviously! :-)


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