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

ISBN: 0553456539
ISBN 13: 9780553456530
By: J.R.R. Tolkien Brian Sibley

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Classic Classics Currently Reading Fantasy Favorites Favourites Fiction Sci Fi Fantasy To Read Tolkien

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

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!

Brad

Twenty-five years ago I'd have given The Lord of the Rings my highest possible praise. I came to Tolkien's masterpiece on my own, and that meant much to me at twelve. The only books that had been reached by me alone were books on mythology and horror. Everything else I read, from DH Lawrence to Hemingway to Dickens to Shakespeare (and this also included Dracula and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde because they were "true" classics), was suggested and sanctioned by my mother (for which I will always owe her deeply).But The Lord of the Rings was mine and mine alone. It is easy to forget that The Lord of the Rings was not a pop culture phenomenon in the seventies and early eighties. It was a fringe book (at least in North America), something that was not yet considered a part of the canon, something that was not a name on every boy's lips (even if they were just getting to know D&D) let alone every child's lips. Sure it was respected and loved by those who knew it, but knowing it was not a foregone conclusion as it is today, and its audience was almost completely genre oriented. In my little community (my school and the blocks surrounding my home), I was the first kid to read it.And that first reading was a revelation. Sure I'd read The Hobbit, but that didn't prepare me for the breadth and depth of The Lord of the Rings. Middle Earth in its grandest incarnation. To create a fantasy world is one thing, but to breathe life into ages of that world, to keep all the pieces together with such magnificent detail and rigour, to create character after believable character and make us care about most of them, even poor Smeagol/Gollum, that is a literary labour of Hercules. And by pulling it off, Tolkien created the single most important manifestation of Fantasy that has ever and will ever be written. The Lord of the Rings has rightly been named a classic. It is part of the canon, and it deserves its place. It is entertaining, it is weighty, and it is loved by nearly all.Aye...and there's the rub.Its indisputable greatness has made it indisputable. It has become dogma among fanboys and fangirls that the bastions of The Lord of the Rings are unassailable. Criticize Tolkien's work -- academically or otherwise -- and you put yourself in almost as much danger as a chatty atheist trying to engage in a theological discussion in a coliseum full of Jehovah's Witnesses (how many of those folks will make it into the afterlife? Isn't there a limit?).Feminist critics point out the lack of women in The Lord of the Rings, and that those women who are present fulfill only the narrowest stereotypes. Éowyn's strength is dependent upon adopting male gender qualities, a typical stereotype of "powerful women in fantasy," and she is alone amongst the Rohirrim as a woman who can and will fight. All other women in her culture are present as a reason to fight rather than as integral parts of the struggle. Arwen's place (in the books, at least) as a maiden waiting for the hand of her king takes the "reason to fight" to even greater heights. And the only powerful female, Galadriel as the terrible, beautiful elven Queen, is too far removed from mortality and reality to be anything more than a mid-tale deus ex machina, thereby removing her from the realm of women and men and making her a pseudo-god whose power is allowed only because it is arcane and mysterious. Post-Colonial critics have latched onto the racism inherent in The Lord of the Rings, pointing out the hierarchies between the races: from the "superiority" of the elves, to the "chosen" role of "European" Men of the West under the leadership of Aragorn, to the lesser races of Dwarves and Hobbits (the former are "lesser" because they are "too greedy" and the latter are "lesser" because they are children). Post-Colonialists look to the "orientalization" of Sauron's forces and the configuration of evil as an inherent quality of Orcs and "the dark folk." They point out Tolkien's family's history as a cog in the mechanism of English Imperialism, and his own birth in one of the most blatantly racist colonies of all, South Africa (while he did leave at three years old, his family's presence there at all suggests that some of the classic colonial opinions about the colonized "dark races" helped form the man who wrote these books), as possible reasons for this racism. These criticisms further suggest, at least to me, that the archetypal source of all fantasy's entrenched racism -- even those books being written today -- is The Lord of the Rings. Those fantasy authors who have followed Tolkien consistently and inescapably embrace his configuration of the races (yes, even those like R.A. Salvatore who try and fail to derail this configuration) and the concepts of good and evil that go along with them, which leads to the stagnation and diminishment of their genre.The fact is that these flaws do exist in The Lord of the Rings. They are present. They are easy to find. But few of Tolkien's rabid fans want to hear about them. And even when the criticism is not necessarily suggesting a flaw in Tolkien's work but merely the presence of some subtext, the dogmatists react with rage and condemnation. A fine example of this is when Queer and Gender theorists point to the overwhelming relationships between men, and how the relationship between Frodo and Sam is homosocial, at least, and possibly even homosexual. The only true intimacy in the book occurs between the men, after all, and to ignore that fact is to ignore one of key components of why The Lord of the Rings is so emotionally satisfying, especially to young men. Even faced with these ideas supported by convincing arguments, however, many fans either strive for ignorance or attack the messenger. This may have much to do with the worry -- unreasonable though it is -- that to admit that a flaw or something uncomfortable exists in any of these books, which so many people love so deeply, is to accept that The Lord of the Rings is neither great nor worthy of love.But this is not the case. I love The Lord of the Rings even though I subscribe completely to the post-colonial criticism, and see the merits in both the feminine and queer criticisms, not to mention the countless other criticisms and subtexts that are floating around.The books are racist; they are sexist. They are not perfect. And I must criticize the elements of The Lord of the Rings that make me uncomfortable and deserve no praise. But my complaints and the complaints of critics make Tolkien's achievement no less great. Tolkien created the most magnificent imaginary world ever conceived, and, for good or ill, Fantasy would be nothing today were it not for him. The Lord of the Rings is a triumph on countless levels, but it is not the word of God, nor should it be elevated to such heights.I love The Lord of the Rings, but I love it with reservations. I love it because of its place in my personal mythology, its genuine originality, its creativity, its power, but I love it with my mind open to its flaws, and I refuse to make excuses for Tolkien or his work.Twenty-five years ago I'd have given The Lord of the Rings my highest possible praise. Not today. But I am still willing to admit my love.

Kristin Little

Save time... watch the movies. This book can appeal only to a linguist. The underlying story is great, but it is buried under an avalance of horribly annoying songs and poems that do nothing to advance the story. They just take up space. I diligently read every last one, hoping that they held some deep meaning in relation to the story, but if there is one, it is so obscure that it serves no purpose. Also, the book is all about walking. Yes, I know they are on an epic quest, and there has to be soul-searching, etc., but the amount of detail regarding the walking is a snoozer! 45 pages of walking and 3 pages for a huge battle. AUGH! I know that this is a masterpiece, and I agree that the plot line is a beautiful tale of good and evil and power and corruption. However, reading this series was a drudgery. The only really good part that you miss in the movies is when the hobits return to the Shire in the last three chapters of The Return of the King. If you want a Tolkien fix, I'd reccommend The Hobbit.

Jon

LOTR has its faults, yes: it can be excessively descriptive; female characters (even the important ones) aren't as fully fleshed-out and realized as male characters (Arwen spends most of the books making a flag); Gandalf annoyingly and constantly points out how everyone else's decisions are wrong; the refusal to interweave chapter-by-chapter the stories of Frodo & Sam with the stories of everyone else results in literally hundreds of pages going by without mention of the majority of the main players' names; the Tom Bombadil section (as much as I like it) has literally nothing to do with the last four-fifths of the trilogy (yes, I realize it's actually a hexalogy, but most people haven't the slightest clue what that means); and I could probably go on for quite some time. Why, then, do I give this book five stars? Quite simply, it's perhaps the single most read, reviewed, and revered fantasy novel since the genre was invented. The list of authors who have been directly influenced by LOTR would stretch longer than the space given me in this text box, and it's virtually impossible to publish any novel of high fantasy in the modern era without being compared to Tolkien (try it: just go to your local bookstore and start plucking books off the shelf in the Fantasy section--I'll bet you a dollar that within thirty seconds you'll find one with a review that compares it to LOTR). Plus, it's one of the few books (I purposely group them together here for purposes of simplification--plus, my copy has all six books plus appendices in one massive paperback-bound edition) that I've read more than ten times, and every time I read it, I enjoy it more than the last. For all of its faults, I wouldn't change a word of it.

Mike (the Paladin)

The epic fantasy against which all other epic fantasies are measured. And there is reason. Beautiful, lyrical, depth, enthralling. I love these books. I've read them many many times. Really they are not to be missed. Highly, highly, highly recommended.'Nuff said!

MJ Nicholls

Those books that balloon into virulent, lethal pop-culture viruses that feast on disinterested bystanders. You try to flee them by hiding in a disused warehouse under a soiled mattress in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Frodo and his friends will find you eventually and pull you into their lair of medieval gimps called Bilbo and Bongo on an implausibly long and homoerotic quest for a misplaced ring. Did they look behind the sofa? Under the fridge? This whole quest could have been avoided! But here’s what I resent about Lord of the Rings. I have been physically, cosmically unable to avoid it. And that hurts. One thing I pride in life is my ability to avoid participating in popular culture in its many-tentacled forms. Since the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and the games it spawned I have been on countless pointless quests for rings. How many rings did I pick up in Sonic the Hedgehog? Millions. Computer programmers adopted this book as their bible, and the subsequent two decades of game innovation (which I addictively participated in) took their “plot” templates from Tolkien. When I left this world, a series of blockbusting films filled up the media pipes like fast-acting carbon monoxide being pumped into my front room year after year as the endless insufferable saga to find a missing fucking ring droned on and on infecting comedies, dramas, films and books with reference after reference after reference. How dare you, Lord of the Rings, invade my cultural happy place so brutally, you ubiquitous beardy bastard? Why can’t you leave me alone? Your ubiquity has devalued any artistic merit the books might have had for me completely. Happy now?

David

Anyway, all my nerdy friends love this book and still talk about it- 25 years later. I certainly loved the Hobbit; but my goodness, what a bore LOTR is. I felt guilty, surely I had missed something. I read again (how eager to please I am); well at least join in their animated discourse. On my second read I think i nearly got to the top of Mount Doom with Frodo when I figured: 'Enough! Be gone with you wretched book. I will not be one of many and succumb to the clutches of peer pressure.' I returned to my chamber and lived happily ever after. So I thought. Jackson appeared with clever and powerful propoganda. My friends once again rubbed their hands and chirped in excited chorus. Again, against my will, I was drawn to the power of the book that would unite us all. I did watch the 3 films. I did fall alsleep in the 2 Tower ordeal. I perservered 'the Return'. Jackson did well. He maintained the detailed boredom of the book.

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.

Sakura87

Concedetemi un po' di autobiografismo, perché Tolkien non può essere recensito.Era il gennaio del 2002 quando gli amici del liceo mi invitarono a vedere un film d'avventura. Il Signore degli anelli, questo il titolo della pellicola, e per le mie conoscenze letterarie d'allora poteva benissimo essere la biografia di un gioielliere. Andai tuttavia a vederlo con loro, entrando in sala senza alcuna idea di ciò che avrei dovuto aspettarmi.Due ore e mezza dopo, uscii dalla sala con la bocca ancora aperta.Diciotto ore dopo tornai a vederlo da sola.Avevo finalmente ricondotto il titolo del film a un volume ingiallito e dalla rilegatura scassata che vagava periodicamente in giro per casa (la storica edizione Rusconi), continuamente prestato e restituito reciprocamente tra mio padre, mio nonno, mia zia e mio zio -di chi fosse quella copia, poi, mai si è saputo con certezza- da vent'anni a quella parte. La lettura, però, dovette attendere la trasposizione cinematografica de Le due torri, quando cioè compresi che non avrei mai potuto aspettare un anno per conoscere la fine della trilogia.Sono trascorsi quasi dieci anni dall'uscita del primo film, rivisto innumerevoli volte insieme ai suoi seguiti; un'altra volta ho letto il libro dopo la prima; una copia l'ho regalata a una persona per me importantissima, riuscendo a invogliarla al mondo della letteratura e del fantastico, e quella persona importantissima a sua volta mi ha fatto dono dell'edizione illustrata che ho appena finito di leggere. Adesso la copia ingiallita la sta leggendo mio fratello minore, e dopo essere passata tra le mani di mio nonno, mio zio, mia zia, mio padre, mie, credo sia giunto il momento che vada a lui.

colleen the contrarian ± (... never stop fighting) ±

2.5And so begins my avoidance of epic fantasy.I like the story of LotR - I like the idea of it. I appreciate it's role in history, and the breadth and depth of Tolkien's world-building and involvement. (Though considering that it really is a take on Norse myth and all that, I sometimes wonder if we don't give Tolkien a little bit too much credit for creating the world.)But, anyway - while I like the idea of the story, and the gist of it, my problem comes with the telling.There are tangents and back-histories of people's father's fathers that aren't really relevant. And the poems - my gods, the poems. Written in another language that then had to be translated, taking up another 5 pages.And with Tolkien begins the overly-descriptiveness of minutae that many writers of epic fantasy seem to think is necessary for world-building, but is really just odious.Oh, I know I'm in a minority - a fan of fantasy who thinks Tolkien is not a god. Like I said, I give him credit for what he did, but I think he could've used some serious editing. Also, aside from the above, I *hated* the way the telling was broken up, where we went through a whole section of time from Sam and Frodo's perspective, and then went back and went through the same thing from everyone elses perspective. It wouldn't flowed so much better if the stories were more intertwined.I can't fathom the people who love this book so much they reread it every year, but to each their own. I can respect that. But I found it a struggle to get through it just once - and that was with a prodigous use of skimming the find the plotline when he went off on one of his tangents.Note for modern writers - just because you have some backstory, or some detail, that you have in your mind, doesn't mean it has to be written into the story. If it's not directly relevant to the plot, then let it go. Seriously. It's ok.Even some fans of the book admit that characterization is a bit thin, and perhaps that's my biggest problem. Some people get lost in the details. They become enraptured in the world via these details, so that they feel like they can see and breath the world.For me, I'm all about character. I need to empathize and care. This is my ticket into any book or movie. I ate up a book many didn't like - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - precisely because I was enthralled and intrigued by the characters from the start.But the characters in this book are, by and large, role-playing pieces in order to fit the raid, erm, story. By the way, the only reason I came back to write a review on this is because I'm so tired of reading about how you have to read Tolkien because he's sooo wonderful. I mean, great, if you love the books then I'm happy for you and I can see why people do like them - I really do, even though I struggled with them. But to act like it's some sort of blasphemy to not like them really irritates me. Which is why this is more of a half-coherent rant than a review. My apologies - but I don't think anyone is an idiot for liking the book, and I'm tired of hearing the implication that I'm some kind of idiot because I found it less than enthralling.I wish I liked it more - I really do.Anyway, it's really a shame, though, because if Tolkien had built the world and the ideas and given them to a better story-teller, then this could've been so much better. All the elements are there - it's just the telling is a drag. And, in some ways, that's exactly what Tolkien did - and perhaps that is his true legacy.That said, I liked The Hobbit. Maybe it's because he wrote it for his children, or because he didn't feel the need to cram in so much academia and minutae, but The Hobbit just reads as a better story.

Wes

It's nice to have favorites. When you have a favorite -- a favorite menu item, a favorite car, a favorite shirt -- you can enter at least one corner of the maelstrom of subjective choices that life presents to you and evaluate the choices in that corner not with respect to some external criteria, but rather with respect to one specific thing. For example, when asking oneself what the greatest book of all time is, one might first have to ask, "what makes a book great?" -- which is a question that one could spend a lifetime only attempting to answer.Instead, after reading a book, I am able to ask myself, "Which is better -- this book, or The Lord of The Rings?"The Lord of the Rings is the best story I've ever read.(Naturally, your mileage may vary -- possibly even dramatically.)A British writer posted something about The Lord of the Rings on his now-defunct website, oh, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. Paraphrasing, he said: "As a creative work, The Lord of the Rings is the work of a second-rate novelist. But if the creative work is Middle-Earth, then Tolkien is one of the very greatest artists who has ever lived." I think that's basically true. (Plus, since I'm not terribly widely- or well-read, it gives me a comforting measure of self-satisfaction.)I caught wind of the movies before filming began -- it was the sort of thing that would have cropped up in the fractions of the internet I frequented. I've come to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the movies. (stinking academy award winning...) I am thankful Jackson was able to bring them to the masses. I am saddened that in repackaging for the masses, much of what I love about the story was left behind.Why do I like The Lord of the Rings? I like Tolkien's crochety introduction. I like the depth of the invented world -- it has its own stories, its own poetry (of different meters and rhyme-schemes, even), its own languages, its own geography, it's own history. I like the narrator's tone. I like the moments of understated humor. I like the medieval fantasy: swords and monsters and magic. Most of all, I like the characters and the ways in which their actions reflect such primitive things as courage, compassion, honor, and love.Some may hold this genre to be childish, or inherently imperfect. Some time ago I began to speculate that the more straight-up fiction of the mainstream variety may be fraught with more danger, and that there is something objectively worthy even in the fanciful and simplistic. One could scan the New York Times bestseller list and/or book reviews in literary journals and pick out a work that seems well respected, taking place in an essentially real time and place -- say, Chicago, in 1998 -- with, say, a protagonist named Joe, and a Holly-Golightly-esque object of his conflicted affections. Joe and Holly-esque wander and banter and ponder; lather, rinse, repeat. Throw in some other characters. Joe and Holly-esque hit it off! or, they don't. Finis.What lesson is a reader to draw from this? Perhaps Joe and Holly-esque's drama will enter the reader's subconscious (or some such) and, over the course of the reader's life, will impact or inform the way the reader interacts with the world. The reader may come to behave toward the world based on an understanding of the world that derives in part from what the reader observed in the interaction between Joe and Holly-esque.Which, recall, is fiction.So the reader's model of what men and women are, what men and women say and think, what men and women should do, may at some level owe provenance to what some author imagined human nature to be; and this model may in turn have a real impact on real people.What happens if a reader has read The Lord of the Rings? The work might resonate with the reader, and the reader might feel it altogether right and proper to deal with the world with courage, compassion, honor, and love.I know which danger I prefer.

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!

Paul

Wow - I have just stumbled on this fantastic quote about Tolkien from China Mieville (via GR friends Traveller and Cecily!) and it absolutely sums up the problem with Tolkien - even though I read him many years ago and even though I was enthralled and read him all over again, every word here is true :"Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clichés - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.That is a revolting idea, and one, thankfully, that plenty of fantasists have ignored. From the Surrealists through the pulps - via Mervyn Peake and Mikhael Bulgakov and Stefan Grabinski and Bruno Schulz and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison and I could go on - the best writers have used the fantastic aesthetic precisely to challenge, to alienate, to subvert and undermine expectations." - China Mieville

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

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