I find it daunting to write a book review for The Lord of the Rings, one of the most revered books in the world and in the history of literature. The reputation of Tolkien’s masterpiece is of such great magnitude that after I finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring, I was indeed hesitant to write a review for the book. I wondered whether my review could do justice to this epic story. I have toyed with the idea of writing the review for quite some time, ultimately deciding to write this review and share my thoughts about this timeless piece of literature.
Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Publishing Date: 2012, First published in 1954
Genre: High Epic Fantasy
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which takes readers on a journey of the middle-earth with Frodo Baggins and his companions. Most would be familiar with the storyline, thanks to the superb movies. This book is divided into two parts, Book One and Book Two. Book One starts with Bilbo’s birthday, followed by the possession of The Ring by Frodo, and then Frodo’s journey with his hobbit friends- Sam (his gardener), Merry, and Pippin- to Rivendell (the realm of the Elves). Book two begins with the formation of The Fellowship of the Ring (always referred as the Company in the book) and Frodo’s journey from Rivendell to the Land of Mordor to destroy The Ring in Mount Doom. Along the way, the Company (the hobbits, Aragorn (a.k.a. Strider), Gandalf (the wizard), Gimli (the dwarf), Legolas (the elf), and Boromir (the warrior from Gondor)) encounter treacherous adventures, until, Frodo sets off for Mount Doom with Sam, leaving the Fellowship.
I had seen The Lord of the Rings movies a couple of times and had absolutely loved them. Hence, as I set out to read this novel, my expectations were soaring. I wondered whether this book would be as fantastic as the movie. Prior to reading this book, I had read very contradictory reviews of this book; some claiming the book to be a masterpiece, while, some calling it a really boring read. I personally feel The Fellowship of the Ring stands somewhere in the middle; there are chapters that are highly interesting to read, and then, there are bits that dragged on. Nonetheless, this book turned out a very pleasant one and is sure to delight any fan of High Epic Fantasy novels.
The main reason why I found certain bits of the book boring is the fact that I already knew the entire story, thanks to the movies. Knowing the complete storyline beforehand lessened the intriguing factor. When you already know the whole story (the movies are so detailed), you can’t be greatly intrigued to know what’s on the next page because you already know who survives, who dies, what’s going to happen next, and what would be the fate of every character in this book and the two sequels. Also, I felt that there are segments in the book that are far better and far more exciting in the movies. For example, I think the movies have got a better version of Frodo’s flight from Shire to Rivendell, the encounter with the Ringwraiths, and the Elrond’s Council.
The element that lessened the excitement in the book is the time span in which the story takes place. In the movie, things happen pretty quickly- Frodo leaves Shire right after Bilbo’s birthday, the journey from Shire to Rivendell is quick and perilous, the stay at Rivendell is short, and so is the stay at Lothlorien. However, in the book, the Ring stays with Frodo for 17 years before he comes to know of its sinister nature from Gandalf, following which, after months of preparation he leaves Shire for Rivendell. Moreover, the journey from Shire to Rivendell is quite long and the stay at Rivendell & Lothlorien are also much longer. Hence, compared to the movie, things in the book take place at a much slower pace, which lessened the excitement. The other weak point is that Book One has far too many lengthy descriptions and few adventures. There are elaborate and confusing (sometimes) descriptions of locations, the wild, and the woodland. At times, these make up for paragraph after paragraph, with nothing interesting happening for pages. Furthermore, the names of the places and the landmarks are quite confusing.
On the bright side, the story is very pleasant to read. There is great character development and I soon grew fond of the characters. I liked every member of the Company, but, my favourites remain the four hobbits. The story picks up pace from Chapter 9- At the Sign of the Prancing Pony and gets exciting thereafter. The best segments of the story are the following (I think, compared to the movie, these are far better in the book):
– The night at the Prancing Pony and the introduction of Aragorn a.k.a Strider
– The flight to the Ford- quite intense
– The escape from Caradhras
– The entry into Moria- the password guessing business was amusing
– The journey within Moria.
– Great scene- When the trolls and orcs attack the Fellowship in the Chamber of Mazarbul
– The encounter between Gandalf and Balrog
– The mirror of Galadriel
– Frodo’s confrontation with Boromir
– Frodo and Sam leaving the Fellowship
The best chapter of the book is The Bridge of Khazad Dum and it is stirring to read the powerful confrontation between Gandalf and Balrog. It was an immense delight to read about the budding friendship and growing fondness between the members of the Fellowship. Contrary to the movies, Aragorn is portrayed much more sentimental, understanding, and gentlemanlike in the book. Even the character of Boromir isn’t evil in the story. The final chapter is very sentimental. It is touching to read how every member of the fellowship, except for Boromir, is willing to do all they can for Frodo. The book ends on a sentimental note.
This book is a must read for all High Epic Fantasy fans. The story starts slow and most parts of Book One does feel boring. But, the beautiful camaraderie amongst the characters, several superb scenes, and Tolkien’s beautiful writing will definitely keep your spirits up and make you long to read the sequel.