The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

ISBN: 0618153977
ISBN 13: 9780618153978
By: J.R.R. Tolkien

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About this book

The original ‘fantasy’ series, and still the greatest, The Lord of the Rings has sold over 100 million copies, been translated into more than 40 languages, and has been voted the best book of the 20th century, while The Hobbit has never been out of print since first published in 1937. If there are any works of fiction that deserve to be owned in magnificent editions – these are surely the ones.Successive generations have been spellbound by the exploits of Frodo, Gandalf and their comrades as they journey towards Mordor to do battle with the Dark Lord Sauron. There is something about the alluring world of elves, dwarves and old magic which has proved exceptionally popular, working on the imagination both as an enthralling adventure story and, at a deeper level, as 'a comprehensive counter-myth to the story of the twentieth century' – Independent. Tolkien’s treatment of the eternal struggle between good and evil, from stirring battles (‘as good as anything in Homer,’ according to C. S Lewis) to the conflict within every individual, is subtle, lyrical and profound.Illustrated by Eric Fraser, one of the foremost British illustrators of the 20th century, his images – a total of 7 full-page images and 57 head-pieces – are based on original designs by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Tolkien had seen her sketches and was so impressed that his executors gave special permission for Fraser to interpret them for these Folio editions. Covers blocked in gold and maps of Middle Earth as endpapers complete this superb edition of one the world’s favourite stories.

Reader's Thoughts

Shawn

I first read The Hobbit and the three volumes of Lord of the Rings (earlier editions, obviously)in the late summer of 1969 after being given The Hobbit by a friend I'd worked with that summer on an archaeological dig on Washington Island, Wisconsin. I'd scoffed at the idea of college students reading these (as I described them) "children's books", but when she gave me the book I promised I'd read it and began late one night shortly after, while I was staying at my parents home before heading off to start my senior year. I was just finishing when my father got up to go to work. I napped for a couple of hours until the book store opened and went to purchase the trilogy. During the next three days, I read them all, stopping only for food and sleep. I was entranced, and my parents thought I had gone insane in the course of my summer on the island.I read all of the books twice more in the 80s and 90s, and even read The Hobbit in German. Today I suppose I'd give them 4 rather than 5 stars, but at the time there's no doubt that I found them absolutely amazing. Thanks, Anne, wherever you are!

Manny

Considering that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular books of the last century, it's surprising to see how few reviews there are here. I get the impression that many people feel guilty about liking it. It's a phase you go through, and the less said about it, the better. I think this is unfair to the book, which, I am prepared to argue, is a whole lot better than it's generally made out to be; I don't think its huge success is just evidence that people have no taste. It's something that can be read at more than one level, and, before dismissing it, let's take a look at what those levels might be. On the surface, it's a heroic fantasy novel, and quite a good one. It's a gripping, well-realized story, with an interesting fantasy world as background. Under the surface story, it's also clear that there's a moral discourse. It's not an allegory; as Tolkien points out in the foreword, he hated allegory, and we certainly don't have an in-your-face piece of Christian apology by numbers. None the less, the author has constructed some inspiring and thought-provoking symbols. The Ring confers great power, but the only way to defeat Sauron is to refuse that power, and destroy it, even at great personal cost. Frodo's self-sacrifice is quite moving. I also think that Gandalf is an unusually interesting Christ-figure; sufficiently so that many people refuse even to accept him as one, though, at least to me, the argument on that point seems convincing. He comes from Valinor, obviously the Heavenly Realm, to help the Free Peoples of the West. A central part of his message is the importance of mercy, as, in particular, shown by the memorable scene near the beginning, when he rebukes Frodo for wishing that Bilbo had killed Sméagol when he had the opportunity. As we discover, Sméagol is finally the one person who can destroy the Ring. And let's not miss the obvious point that Gandalf is killed, and then returns reborn in a new shape. I find him vastly more sympathetic than C.S. Lewis's bland Aslan, and he is the book's most memorable character.But I don't think the morality play is the real kernel either. What makes LOTR a unique book, and one of the most ambitious experiments in literary history, is Tolkien's use of names. All authors knows how important names are, and use them to suggest character; though when you think about what is going on, it is rather surprising how much can be conveyed just by a name. Proust has a couple of long discussions about this, describing in great detail how the narrator's initial mental pictures of Balbec, Venice and the Guermantes family come just from the sounds of their names. Tolkien goes much further. Most of his names are based on a family of invented languages, linked by a vast complex of legends and histories, the greater part of which are invisible to the reader and only surface occasionally. The astonishing thing is that the technique actually works. The interrelations between all the invented names and languages make Middle-Earth feel real, in a way no other fantasy world ever has. When some readers complain that characters and locations are hastily sketched, I feel they are missing the point. Tolkien was a philologist. He loved languages, words and names, and tracing back what the relationships between them say about their history. In LOTR, he's able to convey some of that love of language to his readers. You have to read the book more than once, but after a while it all comes together. To give just a few obvious examples, you see how "hobbit" is a debased form of the word holbytla ("hole-dweller") in the Old Norse-like language of Rohan, how the "mor" in "Moria" is the same as the one in "Mordor" and "morgul", and how Arwen Undómiel's name expresses her unearthly beauty partly through the element it shares with her ancestor Lúthien Tinúviel. There are literally hundred more things like this, most of which one perceives on a partly unconscious level. The adolescent readers who are typically captivated by LOTR are at a stage of their linguistic development when they are very sensitive to nuances of language, and programmed to pick them up; I can't help thinking that they are intuitively seeing things that more sophisticated readers may miss.Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate the magnitude of Tolkien's achievement is the fact that it's proven impossible to copy it; none of the other fantasy novels I've seen have come anywhere close. Tolkein's names lend reality to his world, because he put so much energy into the linguistic back-story, and before that worked for decades as a philologist. Basically, he was an extremely talented person who spent his whole life training to write The Lord of the Rings. In principle, I suppose other authors could have done the same thing. In practice, you have to be a very unusual person to want to live that kind of life.Writing this down reminds me of one of the Sufi stories in The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mullah Nasrudin. The guy is invited to a posh house, and sees this incredibly beautiful, smooth lawn. It's like a billiard table. "I love your lawn!" he says. "What's the secret?""Oh," his host says, "It's easy. Just seed, water, mow and roll regularly, and anyone can do it!""Ah yes!" says the visitor, "And about how long before it looks like that?""Hm, I don't know," says the host. "Maybe... 800 years?"

Tyler

This trilogy, which really is just one book divided into 6 parts (like acts), is one of the most amazing written works ever produced. Tolkien is a genuine genius in bringing about a story that touches every genre: humor, mystery, action, fantasy, war, sci-fi, romance...it's all in there. It's beautifully crafted, very consistent, and even has multiple languages, one of which is a complete language created by Tolkien for this story. Many might think that the beginning of the story is slow, but one must read and take in all the foreshadowing that Tolkien introduces in the first two parts. The beginning is the most powerful and interesting of it all--which is saying a lot.Last, but not least, for those who think watching the films allow one to experience the story: You're wrong. While the films are rich and very powerful, the different medium does not allow for comparisons. What you will find in the written story is so fulfilling--in different ways. Do not let that deter you from picking up this book and experiencing what many others love to experience time and time again.

Kanova

I was forced to read this book. Each member of my first book club had an opportunity to choose the book we read. When one of the members chose The Lord of the Rings I was not happy. Fantasy is not my genre! But I was a good book club member and read it anyway.I loved it! There were times when I did not want to sleep because I wanted to finish just one more page or chapter. Tolkien creates whole worlds, languages, species, and histories. It is epic in its scope. Somehow he manages to entertain, make you think, and visualize the world he describes. It taught me a lesson about being open to new things, because sometimes by being open you can be richly rewarded.

Gyst

These books were vastly influential, very interesting, but they are ultimately very boring to read.

Gemma

can be summarised as: walking, walking, walking, bit of fighting with orcs, walking, walking, walking, anguish, walking, walking, walking, bit more fighting with orcs, walking, walking, walking.

Paul

J.R.R. Tolkien has received so much attention over the last several years that it is becoming a popular sport to claim a dislike for his works. The title of "Father" of modern fantasy fits him well and anyone who has such unmitigated success is bound to attract a significant number of naysayers. For my own taste I find Tolkien to be charming and delightful, the stereotypical English county gentleman. His work is well crafted, the storyline is one that easily suspends disbelief. That is provided that you are willing to believe in magic rings and elves. However, I find real genius in the work of Tolkien, the savant father amongst lesser offspring.Reading LOTR again and again I find the genius of Tolkien is in the details. Like a finely crafted antique chest, the story is dovetailed to fit the cultures of so many diverse creatures. Tolkien was a linguist which explains his fascintion for the languages of the elves, orcs, ents, and various tribes of men. Beyond the languages though are the stories. One gets the feeling that if you were to follow the fellowship forever that the goldmine of endless stories of the realm might never run out. Everywhere that Tolkien took us in Middle Earth there were stories. Many of these stories were old, some ancient, but everyone and everything had a story. The true magic is in the interconnection of all those stories, each one weaving into the next. In the realm of great storytellers Tolkien may be the one that rules over all.

Audrey *Ebook and Romance Lover*

January 11th, 2014Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien better surprise me :)Loved the movies and also the two hobbit ones that were recently made :)Its 1,178 pages...so wish me luck my friends! I know this will be a five star for me. It might take me a month at least.

Geoff

This buch was wreckomeaned HIGHLY to me by MJ NICHOLLS. He is an writer to who wrote a buch called The Postmortem Blech which I havenot read bycause I haven’t solved the maize puzzle on the coover yet. (Spoiler it’s hard!) But I sure likked this Ring trilogism. There was short people with big feet and weird people who lived in the woods and I knew who all the evil people were because they looked the least like beautiful Caucasians. What else to say? MJ Nicholls has opened my reading lifes up to so many things, like Donnald Tart’s The Goldfinch, which one book of theyear on Goodreads and is feminist I think. MJ wrote a review of that that people yelled at. Okay bye.

mark monday

not a review and there probably won't be one any time soon. i also won't be climbing Mount Everest in the near future. but here are some cool illustrations that i found and want to share. World of the Ring by Jian Guo

Dolly

I read Lord of the Rings first when I was about eleven or so, and then stayed up all night at a hip boy/girl party in the bathroom with Nathan O. ... talking about ents and elves and whether Tom Bombadil was God. Yes, I was a geeky child. However, all these years later, the story has stuck with me. First a warning: Don't read Tolkien if you don't appreciate true-omnicient-narrator-style epics. Tolkien isn't a master character builder: he leaves all that to the reader's imagination. The agony in the Aragorn/Arwen romance -- so blatant and operatic in the movies -- was a longing look on Strider's face at Rivendell, an odd comment from Bilbo, and a short no-nonsense Appendix. As with many of the themes in this work, the romance and deep character relationships must be picked from between the lines.And there is so much between the lines here. The world of Middle-earth lives, utterly lives. Instead of tugging on what-ifs, this fantasy forces readers to imagine. Tolkien's work is the fullest realization of literary world building ever penned.It is also sophisticated writing, drawing on older forms (epic, romance, tragedy). Tolkien doesn't waste time writing snappy dialogue: the story is too epic to dwindle to individual persons. However, voice shifts subtly depending on point of view: chapters dealing with hobbits contain much more dialogue and detail; chapters dealing with Rohirrim have a poetic rhythm reminiscent of extant Middle English works; chapters dealing with elves are magic and blurry and hard to wrap a mind around. These shifts in style, far from being a novice writer's oops, are intentional and serve as mass characterisation of races and groups. So, what Tolkien foregoes in terms of dialogue he replaces with style and action: a classic example of show not tell.Having just spouted all that praise, I have to admit that all the criticisms are true: the story does resound with Luddite anti-industrial metaphors, overt Christian themes of salvation and spirit, a structural decision to include songs that doesn't quite work, and fantasy tropes that are now cliche ... now that everyone else has copied them, that is. The thing to remember is that this book started the genre: everything fantasy, from Philip Pullman to George RR Martin, exists in the shadow of this opus.So, no, it isn't a popcorn read. Get over it. If you invest the time and spirit to read this work, you will be glad you did.

Joe

1985-First read when I was about 12. Thoroughly enjoyed it then.7/97-Although the battle scenes were difficult to follow, the Elven stuff sentimental and dialog of less developed characters (Legolas, Gimli) sometimes melodramatic, there were plenty of tense moments that made up for at all. The black riders in the 1st book, the tenuous alliance with Gollum and the horrifying scene with Shelob were the most exciting parts of the trilogy. The cleansing of the shire was triumphant. 2001--[Audio]. I started reading this to my daughters, but they were too young still. I couldn't put it down once I began, though, so I got the tapes so I could "read" it despite grad school and church duties. I absolutely loved the reading by Rob Inglis. His voice characterization is delightful. I don't know why I enjoyed the story less the last time. This time, I was totally engrossed. I found so much depth of meaning in the struggle of the ring bearer, Frodo. I also have decided that Sam is the most heroic character in all fiction. And his bravest moment is not when he takes on Shelob. It is when he takes the ring and makes the terrible choice to continue on alone. I can't wait for the movie!

Keely

Authors who inspire a movement are usually misunderstood, especially by those they have inspired, and Tolkien is no exception, but one of the biggest misconceptions about Tolkien is the idea that he is somehow an 'innovator of fantasy'. He did add a number of techniques to the repertoire of epic fantasy writers, and these have been dutifully followed by his many imitators, but for the most part, these techniques are little more than bad habits.Many have called Tolkien by such epithets as 'The Father of Fantasy', but anyone who makes this claim simply does not know of the depth and history of the fantasy genre. For those who are familiar with the great and influential fantastical authors, from Ovid and Ariosto to Eddison and Dunsany to R.E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, it is clear that, long before Tolkien, fantasy was already a complex, well-established, and even a respected literary genre.Eddison's work contains an invented world, a carefully-constructed (and well-researched) archaic language, a powerful and unearthly queen, and a central character who is conflicted and lost between the forces of nobility and darkness. Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword , which came out the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring, has distant, haughty elves, deep-delving dwarves, a broken sword which must be reforged, an epic war between the armies of light and darkness, another central character trapped between those extremes, and an interweaving of Christian and Pagan worldviews.So, if these aspects are not unique to Tolkien, then what does set him apart? Though Dunsany, Eddison, and Anderson all present worlds where light and dark come into conflict, they present these conflicts with a subtle and often ironic touch, recognizing that morality is a dangerous thing to present in absolutes. Tolkien (or C.S. Lewis), on the other hand, has no problem in depicting evil as evil, good as good, and the only place they meet is in the temptation of an honest heart, as in Gollum's case--and even then, he is not like Eddison's Lord Gro or Anderson's Scafloc, characters who live under an alternative view of the world, but instead fluctuates between the highs and lows of Tolkien's dualistic morality.It is a dangerous message to make evil an external, irrational thing, to define it as 'the unknown that opposes us', because it invites the reader to overlay their own morality upon the world, which is precisely what most modern fantasy authors tend to do, following Tolkien's example. Whether it's Goodkind's Libertarianism or John Norman's sex slave fetish, its very easy to simply create a magical allegory to make one side 'right' and the other side 'wrong', and you never have to develop a dramatic narrative that actually explores the soundness of those ideas. Make the good guys dress in bright robes or silvery maile and the bad guys in black, spiky armor, and a lot of people will never notice that all the 'good guys' are White, upper class men, while all the 'bad guys' are 'brutish foreigners', and that both sides are killing each other and trying to rule their little corner of the world.In Tolkien's case, his moral view was a very specific evocation of the ideal of 'Merrie England', which is an attempt by certain stodgy old Tories (like Tolkien) to rewrite history so that the nobility were all good and righteous leaders, the farmers were all happy in their 'proper place' (working a simple patch of dirt), while both industrialized cultures and the 'primitives' who resided to the South and East were 'the enemy' bent on despoiling the 'natural beauty of England' (despite the fact that the isles had been flattened, deforested, and partitioned a thousand years before).Though Tom Bombadil remains as a strangely incoherent reminder of the moral and social complexity of the fantasy tradition upon which Tolkien draws, he did his best to scrub the rest clean, spending years of his life trying to fit Catholic philosophy more wholly into his Pagan adventure realm. But then, that's often how we think of Tolkien: bent over his desk, spending long hours researching, note-taking, compiling, and playing with language. Even those who admit that Tolkien demonstrates certain racist, sexist, and classicist leanings (as, indeed, do many great authors) still praise the complexity of his 'world building'.And any student of the great Epics, like the Norse Eddas, the Bible, or the Shahnameh can see what Tolkien is trying to achieve with his worldbuilding: those books presented grand stories, but were also about depicting a vast world of philosophy, history, myth, geography, morality and culture. They were encyclopedic texts, intended to instruct their people on everything important in life, and they are extraordinarily valuable to students of anthropology and history, because even the smallest detail can reveal something about the world which the book describes.So, Tolkien fills his books with troop movements, dull songs, lines of lineage, and references to his own made-up history, mythology, and language. He has numerous briefly-mentioned side characters and events because organic texts like the epics, which were formed slowly, over time and compiled from many sources often contained such digressions. He creates characters who have similar names--which is normally a stupid thing to do, as an author, because it is so confusing--but he’s trying to represent a hereditary tradition of prefixes and suffixes and shared names, which many great families of history had. So Tolkien certainly had a purpose in what he did, but was it a purpose that served the story he was trying to tell?Simply copying the form of reality is not what makes good art. Art is meaningful--it is directed. It is not just a list of details--everything within is carefully chosen by the author to make up a good story. The addition of detail is not the same as adding depth, especially since Tolkien’s world is not based on some outside system--it is whatever he says it is. It’s all arbitrary, which is why the only thing that grants a character, scene, or detail purpose is the meaning behind it. Without that meaning, then what Tolkien is doing is just a very elaborate thought exercise. Now, it’s certainly true that many people have been fascinated with studying it, but that’s equally true of many thought exercises, such as the rules and background of the Pokemon card game, or crossword puzzles.Ostensibly, Scrabble supposedly is a game for people who love words--and yet, top Scrabble players sit an memorize lists of words whose meaning they will never learn. Likewise, many literary fandom games become little more than word searches: find this reference, connect that name to this character--but which have no meaning or purpose outside of that. The point of literary criticism is always to lead us back to human thought and ideas, to looking at how we think and express ourselves. If a detail in a work cannot lead us back to ourselves, then it is no more than an arbitrary piece of chaff.The popularity of Tolkien’s work made it acceptable for other authors to do the same thing, to the point that whenever I hear a book lauded for the ‘depth of its world building’, I expect to find a mess of obsessive detailing, of piling on so many inconsequential facts and figures that the characters and stories get buried under the scree, as if the author secretly hopes that by spending most of the chapter describing the hero’s cuirass, we'll forget that he’s a bland archetype who only succeeds through happy coincidence and deus ex machina against an enemy with no internal structure or motivation.When Quiller-Couch said authors should ‘murder their darlings’, this is what he meant: just because you have hobbies and opinions does not mean you should fill your novel with them. Anything which does not materially contribute to the story, characters, and artistry of a work can safely be left out. Tolkien's embarrassment of detail also produced a huge inflation in the acceptable length of fantasy books, leading to the meandering, unending series that fill bookstore shelves today.Now, there are several notable critics who have lamented the unfortunate effect that Tolkien’s work has had on the genre, such as in Moorcock’s Epic Pooh and Mieville’s diatribe about every modern fantasy author being forced to come to terms with the old don's influence. I agree with their deconstructions, but for me, Tolkien isn’t some special author, some ‘fantasy granddad’ looming over all. He’s just a bump in the road, one author amongst many in a genre that stretches back thousands of years into our very ideas of myth and identity, and not one of the more interesting onesHis ideas weren’t unique, and while his approach may have been unusual, it was only because he spent a lifetime trying obsessively to make something artificial seem more natural, despite the fact that the point of fantasy (and fiction in general) is to explore the artificial, the human side of the equation, to look at the world through the biased lens of our eye and to represent some odd facet of the human condition. Unfortunately, Tolkien’s characters, structure, and morality are all too flat to suggest much, no matter how many faux-organic details he surrounds them with.My Fantasy Book Suggestions

Scurra

To even attempt to review Tolkien's epic is like measuring the coastline - the deeper you go, the more there is to find (or, as the more cynical might put it, the longer it gets.)And it's because it is so many different stories and, indeed, types of story, all melded together into one (at times unwieldy) whole. So, for example, you can read it as a poetry book. Skip all the narrative sections and just read the verse. You'll be surprised at how much of the narrative structure remains intact, and how the themes of loss, redemption, love and courage are still present. Likewise, I often tell people who got frustrated with the "hobbit stuff" at the start to skip straight past that and just read Aragorn's story instead, which is far easier to relate to.So the shifts in tone and style are not signs of bad writing, they are deliberate echoes of the different mythic forms he used as his original model for creating the world of Middle Earth. And it's this underpinning that makes the book so special - his characters live in a world that has its own intricate mythos that they can casually refer to, almost as though they expect the reader to know the stories just as intimately. In the way that an author today could refer to, say, the story of Romeo & Juliet and expect the reader to know the basics, here Aragorn talks about Beren & Luthien in the same way - and we (as readers) realise that we have no idea who these people are - but that those characters do. And, more importantly, that that story has absolutely nothing to do (in plot terms) with the one we are reading (except insofar as establishing a parallelism for Aragorn & Arwen.) It's a common flaw, especially in fantasy fiction, for the world to exist solely for the story that is being told; what makes Middle Earth so special is that, for all its inconsistency and implausibility, it really does have large parts of history that are nothing to do with The One Ring.Tolkien originally set out to create a mythology for England. He ended up doing more than that - and for that we should all be grateful.

William

** spoiler alert ** This book changed my life. Before it I was a spotty 14 year old hooked on my science studies. Then I read LOTR, and, at the same time, discovered women existed and.....but thats enough of that. You want to hear about the book. By now there are few people who haven't at least heard of LOTR, and most of them have an opinion. There are the fans, almost fanatics, and there are the people who have read fifty pages or so, sometimes five or six times, but just can't get it, and don't understand what the fuss is about. I might have been one of them, if it hadn't been for an accident. I asked my local librarian to recommend a book for me as I had read all the Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov works they had. She pointed me at LOTR, and handed me what she said was book 1 of 3. It was only when I got home I found I had book 2: The Two Towers. I arrived in the story just at the point where the first film ends - The Fellowship is broken and Frodo and Sam are heading for Mordor. I think that is what made me keep reading -I had started at a point of crisis and I needed to know what happened next. Of course I had a lot of blanks to fill in, but I managed to pick up most of them as I went along , and I caught up with the first book as soon as I'd finished the third. (I bought the big all-in-one paperback, the one with the yellow cover. If you were a student in the seventies it was obligatory to have one lying about, all battered and torn to show that it had been read several times. You used to see backpackers in their hundreds on the trains going south through Europe, all with this version of LOTR falling apart in their hands.) As for starting at the begining, I believe the reason a lot of people give up is that they are expecting heroes, wizards and high magic. What they get is, in great detail, the rural goings-on of a bunch of small hairy creatures who eat and drink a lot and seem to live in an idealised version of the Home Counties. Anyone who has read "The Hobbit" will know that there is more to the Hobbits than that, but newcomers often feel cheated and give up. They don't know what they're missing. The story only picks up AFTER Bilbo's birthday party, and after the passing of his ring of invisibility to Frodo. Gandalf, a wizard, discovers the true nature of the ring. It is a magic item of great power, belonging to Sauron himself, a dark god intent on taking dominion over the world. Gandalf tells Frodo that the ring must be taken to a place of safety, to Rivendell, where the high-elves hold out against Sauron. And so the great journey starts, with Frodo and his friends, Sam, Merry and Pippin, taking the road to Rivendell. On the way they have many adventures, and the mood begins to darken with the appearance of the dark riders, servants of Sauron intent on finding the ring. The travelling band is befriended by Strider, a ranger of the north, and he helps them get to Rivendell, but not before Frodo is wounded by the dark riders, and starts to understand the power of the ring. At Rivendell, many things are revealed; the history of the ring is told, Strider is shown to be Aragon, the rightful heir to the kingdom of Middle-Earth, and a fellowship is forged, of wizards, elves, dwarves, men and hobbits. They form a band of nine who will try to take the ring to Mount Doom, a volcano where the ring was forged, and which is the only place where it can be destroyed. And so the adventure truly begins. From here on we have battles in deep mountain mines, the loss of one of the Fellowship, encounters with elves in enchanted forests, treachery and betrayal leading to the breaking of the fellowship - and we're still in Book 1! Books 2 and 3 deal with the fight for middle-Earth, with Aragon and his allies taking the battle to Sauron and his minions and Frodo and Sam trying to reach Mount Doom to destroy the ring. There are huge, stirring, battle scenes, moments of humour (especially when the younger hobbits meet the Ents), spectacular feats of high magic when the White Rider enters the battle scenes, and moments of great friendship and tenderness - I defy anyone to have a dry eye when Sam and Frodo are parted at Shelob's lair. It all builds up to a terrific climax, and the story comes full circle back at Hobbitton where we see the effect the war has had on the rural life of the Hobbits. And that is why the beginning is important - you might not see it till right at the end, but it is teaching us a lesson about the value of the simpler things in life - respect them or lose them. Tolkein's genius lies in melding these simple aspects with world-shattering events, showing how even the "little people" have their part to play in the fight against the darkness. And he also knows that the best villain is a mysterious one....Sauron hardly appears at all in the books, but his dark presence stretches over everything, and he's always there, his evil eye seeing everything. I used to have nightmares about that large, red-rimmed eye, but that was before I discovered women, grew my hair, developed a liking for Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin, and started to write fantasy fiction. I've never been the same since...... but that's another long story.

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