Almost two years after beginning the trilogy we have finally come to the end. Reading them outloud to my wife has been a wonderful refresher for me and a beautiful new experience for both of us. Sure, I remembered all the big things from when I read them in the 5th grade, but so many of the shorter scenes, smaller details, and the scenes that weren’t included in the movies (most of the best scenes) had slipped away. But now the stories have been brought back to life and, as a result, I will never be able to really enjoy the movies again. Oh well.
Summary: The journey is coming to an end as the armies of men race to defend Middle Earth against the powers of Sauron. Prophecies will be fulfilled, friendships and oaths shall be tested, and the weak will find the strength to be heroes. But the powers of men can only delay the onslaught of Sauron’s forces. All hope now rests with Sam and Frodo as they make the perilous journey across the wasteland of Mordor avoiding the armies of orks, overcoming hunger and thirst, and staying on guard against a creature who’s only desire is to stop them from destroying his precious.
This is my wife’s favorite book in the trilogy. I’m still up in the air: it’s a debate between The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King, but “The Scouring of the Shire” is my favorite chapter in the series, so who knows.
My wife also really liked the appendix where it gives a chronology of what happens to the remaining members of the fellowship after the end of the book. I had never read any of the appendixes before but had heard about some of the stuff that was included and enjoyed finding it and reading it for myself. Actually, this time reading was by far the most enjoyable time I’ve read or had the trilogy read to me. My wife was a fantastic audience, asking questions, expressing her frustration and excitement, worry at the right times, and generally expressing her enjoyment for the books as I read. So although it was a long process to get through the journey of the fellowship, it was worth it.
The only real argument I have heard against Tolkien’s work is that he’s too descriptive. And at times his descriptions can go on and on, bogging down many an interested reader. My argument in favor of his descriptions (to a point) is this: they are part of the story. I don’t know J. R. R. Tolkien or why he chose to write the way he did, but if I had to guess I would say that he was proud of the world he created and wanted everyone to experience the beauty of Middle Earth that he experienced while planning and writing his books. Sometimes I skip ahead to get to the more exciting parts, but there is something peaceful and relaxing about reading the beautiful descriptions of landscapes and events. It may have gotten slow at times, but I never found myself wondering what the world looked like or what was happening.
As an after thought about Tolkien’s descriptions: if you go back and read other books published in the same era you will find similarities I discussed before when reviewing The House at Pooh Corner, namely that authors during that time relied more on description than action to move the story forward. This can be a struggle for those reading it today, but I will say that reading it outloud, or listening to someone read it aloud is a much better way to approach this book for the first time.
One thing that drives me crazy when talking to people about The Lord of the Rings is when they haven’t read the book because they don’t want it to ruin the movie. In essence they are saying they want to continue enjoying an inferior story because they don’t want the to discover its inferiority. How does that make sense? I may not fully understand what people mean when they say this, and it may be because I’m quite defensive of the books and was disappointed with the movies for removing my favorite scenes and either removing or ruining my favorite characters (Ex: Tom Bombadil, The Scouring of the Shire, and Faramir to name a few). For those of you who love the movies and are thinking that I should go stuff my head in a dark place, I understand and hope you can be as understanding with the ravings of an eccentric fan.
I’ve said this to friends and people I don’t know well: if you are a fan of fantasy than you need to make sure you’ve read The Lord of the Rings. He may not be everyone’s favorite, but his work in the genre has inspired hundreds of other writers and his world building is some of the best I have ever seen in regards to history, detail, and culture. If the idea of reading the whole trilogy is overwhelming than start with The Hobbit and see where you stand from there.