The Lord of the Rings

ISBN: 0618260587
ISBN 13: 9780618260584
By: J.R.R. Tolkien Alan Lee

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About this book

Celebrated Tolkien illustrator Alan Lee, a conceptual designer for the blockbuster films based on "The Lord of the Rings, " contributes 50 beautiful full-page, full-color paintings to this elegant three-volume edition.

Reader's Thoughts

Gyst

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

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.

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

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!

Jamey

This book got me started reading. It's the reason I grew up and got a PhD, became a scholar, and so on. I spent hours and hours on a sofa in my parents' basement reading Tolkien and listening to a single cassette tape over and over and over again: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" (Pink Floyd), "The Court of the Crimson King" (King Crimson), and the intro part of "Time" (Pink Floyd). Somehow it took me another ten years to realize that although this experience was pretty much the crucible in which my identity was formed, there was absolutely nothing unusual about reading Tolkien and listening to Pink Floyd all the time. An entire generation of people was doing the same thing at roughly the same moment. For years I actually thought this had been the basis of my individuality. That's like thinking you are who you are because you like chocolate. Surely only a handful of other people out there like chocolate... I once read a comic about a brain in a vat, and the brain grows legs and escapes from the vat, and crawls around the lab thinking "This is way bigger than the vat!"

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

Manny

Look at thisss, hobbitses! Not bought at flea market for ten francses. Catalogue says worth seven hundred dollarses. Oh yes, Not knows about bookses, gollum. But can't touch, can't read, she says too valuable. Going to eat fish instead, but nice birthday present, oh yes precious.

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.

Werner

Actually, I read Tolkien's masterful Middle Earth fantasy corpus, beginning with The Hobbit in the early 70's and finishing the Lord of the Rings trilogy almost a decade later, before this anniversary edition came out. (I also read all four books to my wife in the early 80's; she loved them too!)This body of work is, of course, the genre-defining classic of modern fantasy --especially epic, or "high" fantasy -- which popularized the genre as the publishing market force it is today, exerted enormous influence over practically all subsequent fantasy authors (including R. A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks), and set the conventions readers would come to expect: a pre-technological setting, an epochal struggle between good and evil whose outcome is determined by magical factors, and a demand for personal moral growth on the part of the characters thrust into a pivotal role in that struggle. And Tolkien's depictions of wizards, elves, dwarfs, dragons, etc. became the template for all subsequent portrayals of these creatures.Part of the success of Tolkien's work derives from the breath- taking scope of his world-building, which reflects his day jobs as a philologist and medievalist; he created entire languages and folklores for his "Middle Earth," as well as a detailed, millenia-spanning history. But more importantly, as a devout Catholic, he embodied his deeply Christian world-view in the writing: his fantasy world (though he doesn't employ the kind of explicit Christian symbolism that C. S. Lewis does) is the scene of conflict between and evil with world-altering significance, under a superintending Providence, in which the individual moral choices of both the high and the lowly have significance, and temptation is an ever-present danger.

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.

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