Review: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Those of you who have seen my book haul earlier this month may already know that I’ve never read Lord of the Rings before. I’ve never seen the movies either, though I have watched all three Hobbit movies.
When one of my guy friends found out about this, he basically reprimanded me for not having read the series, told me to get the books, then spent several months yelling at me to read the books. And by yelling, I mean he gave me looks of disappointment whenever I said I hadn’t gotten the books yet. Then he would say my name pityingly and disapprovingly, and tell me to hurry up.

Which led to me buying the boxset on The Book Depository and starting the series after finishing Anna and the French Kiss.
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I’m actually not going to write a synopsis for this book, because I feel like this is one of those books that everyone already knows about. Also, I don’t really know how to summarize the book into a synopsis. Even if you don’t really know what this is about, I think it’s actually a great way for you to go into the book, not knowing much.
Publication Date: 1954 (my edition: November 3, 1997)
Synopsis:
N/A because I can’t summarize it and you’re better off going into it knowing as little as possible.
Rating: 5 stars

Thoughts:
When I started this book, I decided that I would read the parts that included the history of publishing these books and how each edition had misspelled words and needed further revision. That wasn’t a great idea, because it got repetitive after the third edition was published by four or five different publishers. So I skipped the rest and went on to read the history of the hobbits, which I found a lot more interesting. I especially liked it when the different kinds of hobbits were explained and I tried matching Bilbo to the specie I thought he was.

Within the first chapter or two of the book, I realized just how many character names there were and I had a bit of trouble telling them all apart. It became especially confusing when Bilbo’s extended family was brought into the mix and all their names were added to the already long list of people I was confusing with others.

I also realized that while the chapters weren’t necessarily lengthy, the font was pretty small and made it harder to read. I had already been told that skimming the book wasn’t possible because skimming even one descriptive paragraph could mess up your understanding of something later in the book. And while I do really like Tolkien’s lengthy and detailed descriptions and exposition, I did think that some parts were harder to get through. Especially when he would describe things for a page or two before going into a two-page expository section, then including dialogue after that. However, the further I got in the book, the easier it became for me to read it. I figured out that I was actually able to read it faster and retain the information given to me, without feeling bored with all the descriptions and exposition. There is a certain ease to the way that the words flow, even if it isn’t something that I flew through.

One thing that I noticed pretty quickly was that hobbits ate a lot. And by that, I mean they eat massive meals of really great food and always had pantries that were stocked to the brim. At least, that’s how Bilbo and Frodo’s pantry was. I didn’t actually realize that they loved food so much, and reading about them eating these lavish meals always made me hungry. Which was bad, because I would be in bed at midnight with a rumbling stomach, scolding Frodo in my head for eating yet another beautiful meal and making me jealous of the fact that hobbits can eat as much as they want and not put on weight as easily as humans do. Yes, I was jealous of their ability to eat and of their food. Oh, especially when that chapter about mushrooms came about and I had a sudden craving for an entire plate of mushrooms. Yeah, that was past midnight and I went to sleep feeling hungry and sad that I couldn’t have mushrooms then and there.

Not long after the 200 page mark, I started reading faster. I felt like the story picked up more in terms of action and new characters made things more interesting. I became a lot more interested, and this was when I started to figure out how I could read through all the information that Tolkien was giving me, while keeping at a slightly faster pace than when I began.

As I got further and further into the book, I started to feel more involved in the story. Things were beginning to click, and I finally understood a LoTR meme that I’ve seen since memes came to be. I also began to pick up on Tolkien’s foreshadowing and was able to make a guess about something that was later confirmed by the characters. And because I was able to understand more about it, I got more and more excited to finish the book and continue with the series, which led me to be able to read faster.

There were a couple of really big twists that happened in the second half of the book that I totally did not see coming. I was surprised that it was able to catch me by surprise, considering how long the books have been out and how much is already out there in the world. I thought that I would have known so much about the premise that nothing would shock me, but then I realized I was completely wrong.

I didn’t realize how much I really didn’t know about the book. I thought that because I had heard so much about it, that there really wasn’t anything that could ever surprise me. There was so much that I didn’t know, so much that I did not realize about the story itself, and just so many things that I was wrong about. But I liked that. I liked that I didn’t actually know as much as I thought I did and that I didn’t have it all down as I thought I did.

In the end, I enjoyed it so much more than I had expected. It was just as great at my friends made it out to be, and it has given me some really nice quotes to memorize and use in the future.

Characters:
Okay, so I was told that it would be really easy to picture the characters, and with some of them, I was able to picture them in the way that they were depicted in the movies, especially in the case of Gandalf and Legolas. I wasn’t actually able to picture Frodo as he was in the movie, instead I imagined him as this short, middle-aged man, with a belly and a bit of a beard. Which is nothing like what he is supposed to look like in the movie, nor what he is really described as in the book either. But for some reason, I can’t see him as more than a middle-aged hobbit.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really like Frodo. From the beginning, I found him to be indecisive and too…malleable? It was so easy to make him think different things and to make him do whatever you want him to do. I felt like he made none of his own decisions, that other people made them for him all the time. For the most part, Gandalf made decisions for him, or Sam did. Then other people would make Frodo’s decisions for him and it just felt like he wasn’t capable of doing anything for himself. And because I’ve seen the Hobbit movies and Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo, I kept comparing Frodo to movie-Bilbo, which is unfair, but I just felt like Frodo was so…weak as a character. Even as the book progressed, I didn’t think that he developed all that much. His actions in the final chapter were…well, I didn’t understand his reasoning after everything that had happened during the whole book. He is actually a source of confusion for me because I liked everything about the book except that Frodo was the main character. And when I finished the book, I spent quite some time trying to figure out how I would be rating this book because of Frodo.

I think I liked Sam the best out of all the characters, and definitely out of all the hobbits. He was so sweet and thoughtful, the way that he treated Frodo and was so loyal throughout everything. He could have chosen to leave at any point in the journey, but he chose to stay and to continue on with Frodo. He had this ability to understand and make decisions that no one else in the Company could. He was discerning and smart and such a great character to read about. His loyalty, friendships, and kindheartedness made him one of the best friends I’ve read about. He is definitely something special.

Time to admit something here: for the first few chapters, I got a little confused and thought that Merry was a female hobbit. Um…yeah, don’t tell him that. I did finally get it right and remember that he was a guy though. And I have to say, I don’t really know how I feel about Merry and Pippin. Sometimes I felt like they got in the way more than they helped, but they were often the slight comic relief that the Company needed. Most of the time, they didn’t really have a lot of dialogue or play a big role in the story, but I did admire their loyalty to Frodo, even if they did complain now and then about going on the journey and get into the occasional bit of trouble.

Gandalf, oh the sass that comes out of his mouth is priceless. There were so many times where he said absolutely perfect lines and had so much wisdom and sass at the same time. I loved him so much throughout the book and I just thought that he needed to say more wise, sassy things and play a slightly bigger part in the story. I’m actually quite excited to see what role he plays in the next book.

I did like Strider, though I’m a little confused about how I feel about him right now. He’s really wise and a great leader, and there’s definitely a lot of things about him that are absolutely great. But right now, I don’t really know how I would describe him.

Legolas is basically a boss at everything in life. Nothing else needs to be said.

I recognized the name Gimli, though I don’t remember where or when I heard it before. He was really nice to have in the Company and I thought he was actually quite a…cute character, I suppose. As cute as a warrior dwarf could be.

I don’t like Boromir. Never did. Ever since the beginning, I just felt like there was something off about him and I didn’t know what it was. I just never really liked him that much.

Overall:
In the end, I’m rating this as a 5 stars. I can’t rate it lower because I loved the book, and despite how much I dislike Frodo, I just can’t bring myself to lower my rating because of him.

If you’ve never read this before, or if you think that you won’t like this, I encourage you to pick it up and give it a try. I’m so glad my friends persuaded me to try this, and I think that no matter your like, dislike, or preference for books, this is something great that you should experience for yourself.

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