The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Digital Audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on September 5, 2003
Series: The Lord of the Rings #1
Genres: Adventure, Classics, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction, High Fantasy, Magic
Length: 398 pages or 19 hours, 7 minutes
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In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
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.--back cover
What to say about a timeless fantasy?
I actually reviewed The Fellowship of the Ring a couple of years ago, so I want to keep this brief and concise. My review in 2017 covered a lot of my technical concerns, so if you’d like to read more of a breakdown of the book, I’d suggest heading to that review. As the technicals are covered, much of this review is going to be reactionary.
As I mentioned in a recent post, Lord of the Rings is a classic. Anyone who loves fantasy should read it – doubly so if you enjoy epic fantasy. However, it is an absolute chore and I found myself struggling with it. It doesn’t matter how much your read, you have to be prepared for The Fellowship of the Ring as the journey it will take you on as a reader, not just within the story. There are layers upon layers within this tale – epic poems and songs to commemorate notable points in history scatter throughout the story. You learn about famous kings, about ring lore, the monsters of the deep. You learn Gollum’s history, Saruman’s fall, and fate of Balin. All these things happened years and miles away from the story at hand, and while they are all a glimpse into the vastness that is Middle Earth, the reader must have some patience while the story itself drags on.
The asides aren’t all bad – one of my favorite moments in this first book lasts only a few pages. It’s before the hobbits have fully left the Shire, and they are called into the barrows. While it was completely unnecessary to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed the brief aside, and in that way, I have patience for Tolkien’s expounding about the world, because I never know what he will offer.
Except for one thing:
I detest the inlaid poems and songs.
Other than to show a depth of culture – which is not lacking anyway – these are entirely unnecessary and I find break up the flow of the story. More so for those of us listening to the audiobooks, because the songs are actually sung. It’s funny, actually, how in the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring the hobbits whine and moan about Bilbo going on and on at his party and inserting all sorts of unnecessary bits that they didn’t care to hear. Perhaps Tolkien was portraying himself a bit in Bilbo.
Still, I respect that Tolkien’s mastery built epic fantasy as well know it today. And while Frodo fails to impress, I still find that Sam, Galadriel, Gandalf, and Gimli are all remarkable characters. I actually went back to my last review to see which characters stood out then, and these four stood the test of time. I haven’t read The Two Towers in nearly twenty years, so I’m interested to see how the story holds up with the fellowship divided.
I guess at the heart of it, my review is this: I was bored, but I still think you should read it. There are gold nuggets tossed into the dirt, and these are worth finding. Additionally, once you’ve read Lord of the Rings, all other epic fantasy will be a breeze. 😉
Have you slogged through stories you aren’t enjoying? I want to love these books so much and I have friends who delight in them, but the struggle is so real. Let me know about the times you’ve suffered but succeeded in the comments!