The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Digital Audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis
Published by Recorded Books on October 9th 2012
Series: The Lord of the Rings #1
Genres: Adventure, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction Fantasy
Length: 398 pages or 19 hours, 7 minutes
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Continuing the story begun in The Hobbit, this is the first part of Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, featuring an exclusive cover image from the film, the definitive text, and a detailed map of Middle-earth.
Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
I think this book is much easier tackled in audiobook format. The story is interesting, but the departures into detail and lore can be distracting and tedious – not because they’re boring in themselves, but because they are frequent. Nonetheless, the book is worth a read to anyone who enjoys adventure or epic stories.
One thing I had immense difficulty doing as I read this is separating Gandalf from Sir Ian McKellan, Merry from Dominic Monaghan, etc. I have so much more exposure to the films than the books that their characterization takes prominence. That said….
I think the characters are, individually, a lot stronger in the books in matters of personal usefulness, but they aren’t very different from one another. Frodo has a bit more strength of character, but his personality reflects the same as Merry and Pippin – in fact, the only one who really feels different is Sam. Aragorn and Boromir, as well, feel very similar as people. Elrond and Celeborn and Legolas all feel the same. However, the characters who stand out do stand out. Galadriel is lovely and fearsome. Sam is sweet and suspicious. Gimli is hard and brave. Gandalf is wise and protective. Tom and Goldberry are magic personified. These are the characters worth watching.
Tolkien is a master world-builder. Middle Earth is intricately plotted. It is a fierce character of its own right. The Fellowship stop in many places that bear a weighty history, and Tolkien shares the right amount of these stories to distract the reader from the trek. This world is absolutely alive and the reader can feel it in every cloud, stream, forest, and mountain.
It’s difficult to judge the journey of the Fellowship and still be fair to it, one way or the other. Fellowship of the Ring is a travelling story, an adventure story, and a story discussing the balance between good and evil. It doesn’t feel “original” in any of these places, but the reader must take pause because Tolkien helped create this genre. Other books have copied him. That in and of itself is just about the greatest compliment a story can get, if it has inspired thousands of other tales.
Aside from that, Fellowship can feel a bit bumbling to the reader. I personally like it best of the trilogy, because I like the series of miniature adventures. The barrow wight, in particular, I had forgotten and I adored that scene. Moria, too, keeps the reader anxious for the group.
Writing / Narration
Here’s where the story loses some points from my personal taste.
On some level, I feel like Tolkien doesn’t want to be writing this book. At every opportunity, he wanders off the path of the story usually to talk about the plights of the elves, or Gondor, or the history of the ring, or to just generally be talking about lore and not the quest. It makes me impatient to get back to the story.
Also, the book must have been 20% poetry or song. Mostly the unnecessary or distracting kind.
Which brings me to Rob Inglis, the narrator. Save for the occasional foray into using Merry’s voice for Frodo and the such, he did a truly excellent job with his pacing and characterization. I think he did and excellent job reading the book, but the poetry, the songs? There’s be an awkward pause before each one, and if anyone save Sam was singing it, the transition would be awkward. He sings the songs in a deep bass that doesn’t match any of the characters and it was just plain weird.
I think that overall, this is a well-told tale, despite my personal grudges about its telling. I know many who would argue the importance of every word in this story, and any tale that ignites that sort of passion deserves respect. Overall I think I would revisit this book, because I do like the hobbits. I like the idea of the stories a lot and all the while we have Gollum following which, alongside with the “what happens next” is definitely enough to get the reader to pick up book two.
“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”
Some of My Favorite Quotes
“I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and if By life or death I can save you, I will.”
“Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen.
The countless stars of heaven’s field
Were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say.
For into darkness fell his star;
In Mordor, where the shadows are.”
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
“And now leave me in peace for a bit! I don’t want to answer a string of questions while I am eating. I want to think!”
“Good Heavens!” said Pippin. “At breakfast?”
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
“You cannot pass,” he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”