Reviewing the work of a legend, who single-handedly uplifted the fantasy genre into mainstream status, and his magnum opus would not be the right thing to do. So, I’ve decided not to review it but write down an extract of the experience I had reading the book. By this way, you might come to know of my taste and also enjoy the fact that it is ‘spoiler-free’.
The Sunday Times famously said thus: “The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them.”
Some months ago, I belonged to the second category of this classification. The huge following that this book has gained over the half-a-century after its publication made me buy an edition which also included ‘The Hobbit’.
Wanting to go chronologically, I started with ‘The Hobbit’. I did toil reading it, mainly due to Tolkien’s style of writing, particularly his penchant for pedantry.
However, I went ahead and started with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ since it was said to be more serious and mature.
You can find my review of ‘The Hobbit’ —–> here on my blog.
The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring:
The beginning chapters of the first Volume of LOTR, ‘The Fellowship of The Ring’ (remember, LOTR is a single book in three volumes and not a trilogy as most people believe), felt surprisingly engaging. But, by the time I was halfway through the book, I had taken much more time than I’d taken for any other book – two weeks. I did not want to go further at all. Since I’ve never stopped a book midway and because of the belief I had in LOTR’s following, I continued. By the end, the book had gained sufficient momentum and I started liking it. There was, however, this one tragic incident, for the Fellowship, which as I had expected, did not turn tragic later. The company’s choice of words gave away the twist. I specifically liked the ending of the book, which came as something completely unexpected. That was what I’d later go on to realise as a typical Tolkien ‘blue-bolt’, which one simply does not expect due to the preformed notion that Tolkien doesn’t bring anything into the story more dramatic than the waxing of the moon or the blowing of the Middle-Earth wind.
And then, I wrote a review of the book —–> here on my blog
The Two Towers:
Then I made the biggest mistake of my ‘reading career’ (This, I had assumed halfway through). I picked ‘The Two Towers’.
For an unbiased reader, going by goodreads.com, this books is a bit better than the first one (2% better approx). I couldn’t but take weeks and weeks reading it. The book takes a serious and much grimmer turn to bring in the mood for battle. I could see a few hundred pages passing my eyes without even the slightest bit of comprehension. By the time Book 3 (first book of ‘The Two Towers’) was over, LOTR was gaining momentum on me once again.
There was a sole bright spot in this Volume (for me) which was when Gimli says, ‘Where on ‘Middle-Earth’ is this place?’. Well, that might not impress every reader but it did impress me. That reminded me of the entire canvas of Tolkien’s narration and the depth to which he had imbibed the story (some places make me wonder if he actually went there or something). The ending again was just fantastic, again a ‘blue-bolt’. This was when I realised that all those seemingly meaningless things that took place all the while in the beginning, actually, had some motivation and substance.
The Return of the King:
I did not know even then that this book would go on to become one of my all-time favourites. The phrase, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ can be modified to suit LOTR as ‘Don’t judge a three-Volume book by its first two Volumes’. ‘The Return of The King’ literally changed every bad thought I had on the book and its storytelling. It was the pinnacle of Tolkien’s characterisation, heroism, fantasy and unpredictability.
There was this mind-blowing part in this Volume, where a Hobbit gets saved from the brink of death and the first thing that he says is, ‘I’m hungry. What time of the day is it?’ I started laughing there. Every word that a Hobbit utters happens to match Tolkien’s description and our mental idea of Hobbits, or any other Middle-Earth species for that matter. People might have found a few Hobbits, a couple of Elves and a dozen Dwarfs had Tolkien’s research-and-reference material for the book been checked. I mean… that is where he stands, that’s what defines him: The originality, the novelty in characterisation that a whole lot of writers can only dream of achieving.
There was also another impressive moment where Gandalf faces something terrifying and Tolkien narrates the morning crowing of a cock matching the sound of blazing horns. Another Goosebumps moment.
The actual end of the book comes half a hundred pages after the reader guesses the story is over and it is just the homecoming remaining. Tolkien also makes the climax point to the rise of Men in Middle-Earth (i.e. Earth of some thousand years ago).
The ending might sound predictable, unpredictable, out of the world, catastrophic or nonsense depending upon the reader’s taste and anticipation. I certainly did not think it was out of the world or bad either.
A few days after reading it, today, I wish something had gone terribly wrong, costing a few more important lives here and there. That thought, however, did not cross my mind when I was reading, which was possibly due to the tense and troubled setting that the story was in.
Depends whether you agree to this question: All’s well that ends well?
The names, the family history and the languages are discussed after the end of the story which I gladly skipped. However I did find a timeline of events that extends beyond the end of the story and explains how the Fellowship actually left Middle-Earth, which you shouldn’t miss. The Appendices of the book can give you an edge if you wish to become an authority in one of the numerous fan clubs that this book has all over the virtual and physical world.
Summing it up, I’d say:
“An experience of a lifetime awaits you!
Just get yourself your bottles, a few days’ time and some food to sustain the most epic of battles!
One Book to rule them all!”
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