This is a hard thing for me to review, as it’s a story so close to my heart. This is the first time I’ve gone through The Fellowship of the Ring since I read it last, when I was 9 – just before the film arrived in 2001. Obviously that was far too young of an age to fully appreciate the novel, but the perfect time, as a child, to enjoy immersing myself in, what would eventually prove to be, the Star Wars trilogy of my generation. I remember enjoying the book at the time, having loved reading The Hobbit previously, but it was over my head mostly.
The first thing that jumped to mind while reading this is (or listening to it rather): wow, this is almost verbatim what happened in the film with far less of Aragorn’s love story and way more Tom Bombadil. That’s fine. What works in books might not translate to film, and vice versa.
But let’s talk Tom Bombadil, as he’s truly the greatest deviation from novel to film. In fact, he’s not in the film altogether. But why? He’s lovable, jolly, he’s got a hot wife, and he’s an entity older than anything else on Middle Earth. Oh, and he loves his music. That said, his portion of the story is perhaps the greatest drag. It breaks up the tone of the novel, an oasis amidst all the drama that derails all the goings on thus prior. It makes perfect sense why Peter Jackson removed the character from his film, although he thoroughly upset a 10 year old me at the time.
The music in Fellowship is something to, in equal parts, relish and roll ones eyes at. It’s amazing poetry, and adds a depth to the world that many authors neglect nowadays. Each race has a distinct style of poetry. The elves sing about beauty and timelessness. Hobbits sing about their day to day lives. Dwarves are more materialistic in their songs. Tolkien gets into the mindset of his races in ways no other author can do quite as well. But there’s so much of it. Too much. You’ll find over 25 songs scattered about this first novel alone. Some of the songs span several pages in their length. Although it adds much to the history of Middle-Earth, they occur so often you’ll find you don’t fully pay attention to the tales the tell.
I enjoy that this book is told from one perspective, until the very end. It’s Frodo’s story, until the last chapter, where it becomes Sam’s briefly. Both characters are among the greatest characters in fiction, in my opinion.
Ultimately, this is the quintessential tale about a quest in the face of impossible odds. What Tolkien does by placing Hobbits at the forefront of his story, instead of some extraordinary warrior who’s qualified to do everything, is that he gives them nearly every disadvantage. Hobbits are such an unassuming race that their plight becomes all the more treacherous and imperiled. But their size and cunning give them one advantage: surprise.
But that’s what The Lord of the Rings is all about; overcoming a seemingly insurmountable enemy. About finding courage despite nary a chance for success. And it’s about hope, that good will usurp evil before all is lost.
With the Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien sets the stage for one of, if not the greatest fantasy tale of our time. His world feels real, populated, and dynamic, with languages, dialects, and a history that spans many, many years of hard work on his part.