Monday, January 19, 1998

The Fellowship of the Ring

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The "authorized" edition, with a brief foreword by Tolkien about the book's success. Everyone told me to read this classic fantasy, so I have, perhaps late in life. My feelings toward it are ambivalent: while I admire the detail and the craft of the vivid, exceptionally fantastic world and the history Tolkien created, the story didn't blow me away. I feel that the book (500 closely printed pages) gets bogged down at times by geography and obscure genealogy, and is at times a little too caught up in its own wonder at the breathtaking, aloof majesty of Elves and such. While enough happened in the story, and the dialogue was fine, I didn't get a great sense of drama from the book, odd considering the earth-shattering importance of Frodo's quest. When the action did get going, however, it was enthralling. The cliffhanger ending had a lot of drama, for example.

three stars


  1. The cliffhanger ending is not the ending. Tolkien never intended The Lord of the Rings to be a trilogy but one book with one narrative. As for geography and obscure genealogies, I would argue they provide what fans love most: the illusion of a whole other world to get lost in -- one with its own history, languages, ideologies, etc . But then, I was raised on that book. And I've been enjoying flipping through your archives since finding your site on Languagehat. Nice work!

  2. Thanks for the comment, jamessal! I agree with you; I know the detailed world-building and backstory are exactly what most fans find so enthralling in LoTR. It just isn't for me. As we both note, it may be that I simply encountered this saga too late in life for it to make a deep impression on me.

    Thank you for the kind words! I'm flattered and appreciative. Reviewing books is a sort of vocation with me; I'm glad you've enjoyed at least some of my ramblings.