Review: The Fellowship of The Ring by JRR Tolkien

LOTR1

For a long time the Lord of The Rings trilogy has been dubbed one of the best Fantasy novels.. ever. It’s been said the Tolkien set the stage for Fantasy novels, and he’s titled the “Father of Modern Fantasy”. Well, I don’t know about any of that – most, if not all, of the fantasy I read have been written after the Lord of the Rings, so I know nothing about what fantasy was like before Tolkien.

What I do know is that… Tolkien’s writing really isn’t that “modern”. (I mean, it was written in the 1940s! Of course it isn’t). I struggled a little with his language and writing style; most of his sentences just aren’t structured the way I’m used to, since I don’t usually read classics. But you kind of have to get over that if you want to finish the book, which I did, though quite slowly. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that LOTR is a much loved book, and being a Fantasy lover it’s almost socially unacceptable that I’ve never read LOTR (yet).

That said, I’m still not sure whether I really enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring, or if I’m just deluding myself into thinking I liked it because almost everyone else likes it.  Here are some issues I had with the book:

Firstly, there is a mountain of info-loading, in about almost the entire book. There are names of people: Isildur; Earendil; Luthien; (insert Fantasy-ish name) son of (insert another name), heir of (something/somewhere)……. and names of places: Gondor, Anduin, Gil-galad, this river, that mountain… and the entire “forgotten” histories of all these places…

((I had to retrieve those names from random pages in the book))

No, seriously, who are all these people and what are all these places?! I could not keep track of any of those names and half the time I was stressing out about trying to remember what all the names were referring to, the other half I was struggling to stay awake through paragraphs of background and history.

I get that all these are a huge part of world-building (which Tolkien is definitely good at), but really it’s a whole lot of spamming as well and I think the story would have been good even without all that. Or perhaps at least make the names a little more memorable and a little less complicated?

My next problem is with the characters. Tolkien doesn’t place much focus on character building and development, and basically if you swop two characters’ dialogues halfway through the story I would not have thought that the characters were not being themselves. I wasn’t attached to the characters, and as a result neither was I very attached to the story.

My third gripe is the writing, but I’ve already mentioned that, and this might just be a matter of personal preference.

 

Of course, there are things I loved in this much-acclaimed book too.

For one, Middle Earth is described really well, though I think having watched snippets of the movie before did help as well. But Lothlorien in particular was such an amazing experience to read, what with the golden leaves and elves and all. What’s great about Tolkien’s world-building is that it isn’t just a lot of random places, but each place has its own unique culture and people. I thoroughly enjoyed that because at least the places that the Frodo & friends travelled to were distinct from one another.

And the poems and songs are beautiful. I think they were my favourite parts of the book, and they really added to the cultural vibrancy of Middle Earth, because there’s a song/poem about almost everything and everywhere. Here’s one of the shorter (and more random) ones, if you’re interested:

I sit beside the fire and think

of all that I have seen,

of meadow-flowers and butterflies

in summers that have been;

 

Of yellow leaves and gossamer

in autumns that there were,

with morning mist and silver sun

and wind upon my hair.

 

I sit beside the fire and think

of how the world will be

when winter comes without a spring

that I shall ever see.

 

For still there are so many things

that I have never seen:

in every wood in every spring

there is a different green.

 

I sit beside the fire and think

of people long ago,

and people who will see a world

that I shall never know.

 

But all the while I sit and think

of times there were before,

I listen for returning feet

and voices at the door.

I also quite liked how the book ended, it made me look forward to the next book, which I’ll definitely be reading sometime in future. I’m hoping that things pick up speed in the next book though!

Overall, I’d give the Fellowship of the Ring 3.5 stars out of 5.

 

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Fellowship of The Ring by JRR Tolkien

  1. I struggled through my first reading too of The Fellowship of the Ring but only because I’m not a native English speaker and it’s written in an older style. But I’ve since re-read the book twice, and I came to love it. What to most people is dragging narrative, is fascinating to me. I love reading history so maybe that’s why 😊. I even read the annexes. That’s how captivated I was with the three books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah the older style threw me off for a while because I wasn’t really expecting it. Wow I’m really impressed that you even read the annexes! 😱 Hmm actually if you liked the trilogy, I’d like recommend The Gift by Alison Croggon! It’s the first book in a fantasy series and her writing style is quite similar to Tolkien’s, just slightly more modern. It’s my favourite fantasy novel by far and she also has amazingly in-depth appendix at the end of the series. I almost believed that the story was real (and did intensive googling only to find out it wasn’t) because of the detailed appendix!!
      BTW thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

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