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The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

26 Nov

lr-1995-12I take it that this book needs no introduction at all, which begs the question, is this a moot review or do I have something – and dare I say it, innovative – to say about this long quest?

I don’t think I do, of course I don’t but here’s my take on the well-worn subject anyway.  Maybe it will inspire people to read or reread it though, so my time will not have been spent in vain.

The immediate thing that fascinated me and was, on reflection, the facet of the story concerning the myths and legends that the story is based around.

Containing Norse and Germanic references there is a lot to look on in this work for a fan of classic literature, taking certain themes from such great works as the Saga of the Volsungs and the Nibelungenlied.

Tolkien’s scholarly background in philology – the study of written languages combining literary criticism, history and linguistics – helps the book ooze that old feeling, giving it a somehow familiar and more, well, natural quality.  Like his fellow friend, writer and member of the Inklings C. S. Lewis, he creates a world that feels epic and old and that hints at more stories and wonders than are chronicled herein.

To the backdrop of this epic quest and all round dramatic, not to mention noble nature of the characters and their enterprise, this book hints at the history of Middle Earth and it is this vast and layered feeling that makes you care for more of the cornucopia of the world’s fables than is herein told.  For more chronicled sagas check out amongst others of Tolkien’s work The Silmarrilion foremost, which coupled with the appendices of TLotR give a depth of vision that few fantasies truly capture.

The characters are polarised to either good or bad, excepting Gollum of course and it is he and the Ring’s relationship that is the most fascinating aspect of the book.  The ring, like the island in the TV show Lost, is a character in and of itself and has the distinction of perhaps being the pivotal mover – and shaker – of the plot as a whole.

There aren’t many female characters in the book which seems to be anathema these days, especially in the world of films but for the arena the book is based in it makes sense.  I find it refreshing that unlike the films there isn’t a need to tick a box just because it’s politically correct to have strong female characters.  The films did in all fairness, (and for a sense of balance), make you appreciate the beauty we have in our own world.

For the book that really threw me into reading, it does have some fairly uneven pacing due to the splitting into parts but this is offset with the stories continual and gradual, evolving of the ideas of heroism and a childish land that grows to an adult world that irrevocably and subtlety changes the characters.

On a side note, that perhaps says something about either me or life in general: it is interesting that you can get so lost in Tolkien’s tales but take less interest in some real life countries with epic tales of their own and maps…l love a good map,

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36 Comments

Posted by on 26/11/2013 in Fantasy

 

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36 responses to “The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

  1. Al

    26/11/2013 at 11:36

    Because of this, I have just purchased The Hobbit for my Kindle.

    I read nearly all of the Lord of the Rings. I used to read it every Tuesday and every Thursday when I went to either the Pain Clinic or Alexander Therapy. I was half way through the third book when my appointments were cancelled and I didn’t get around to finishing it. I believe I had reached the part where Faramir had just let Boredom and Sam head off again. I think I will read the Hobbit and then have another go at The Lord of the Rings.

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    • Ste J

      26/11/2013 at 11:50

      The Hobbit is a quicker read and less mature in its reading but no less good for it. I can’t believe you didn’t finish LotR when you were so far through lol!

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      • Al

        26/11/2013 at 12:22

        I know. It was a thing I did every week. I was on less pain killers then though, and nothing was helping. I was surprised I could even concentrate enough to read when I went to the hospital

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        • Ste J

          26/11/2013 at 13:00

          I’ll bet…hospitals have an unerring way to depress and distract and make one feel very mortal.

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          • Al

            26/11/2013 at 13:56

            Yes they do. I think I still have my Lord of the Rings book, and it didn’t go either with my ex or get left behind when I escaped the last one. Will have to check on that

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            • Ste J

              27/11/2013 at 16:15

              I’m glad you avoided losing it to less deserving people. It is such an intriguing book but then again Tolkien’s magic is worked in all the books he wrote, whether Middle Earthy or not.

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              • Al

                27/11/2013 at 22:44

                I found it … right beside The Hobbit lol. Oh well, I have a paperback and Kindle version of the two now. Incidentally, I brought six of the Doctor Who books yesterday as it was £5 for 3

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                • Ste J

                  28/11/2013 at 10:00

                  Good news all round then! You can’t have to many copies of The Hobbit…that’s the one thing I’ve always said.

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                  • Al

                    28/11/2013 at 12:25

                    Well there are three episodes of the film, so three versions of the book 😉

                    Have a good day

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  2. Eva Matson

    26/11/2013 at 12:01

    “For the book that really threw me into reading, it does have some fairly uneven pacing due to the splitting into parts but this is offset with the stories continual and gradual, evolving of the ideas of heroism and a childish land that grows to an adult world that irrevocably and subtlety changes the characters.” I agree. Nicely said.
    For the record, I enjoy maps, too. In my old house I had a plan to finish the basement with old maps as wallpaper. Of course the house was sold due to someone else’s misdeeds, but the future still holds hope for the map-lover in me.

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    • Ste J

      26/11/2013 at 12:06

      Maps are wonderful, I read a history of the Ordnance Survey map not long back and that was sadly not as exciting as I had hoped but b ti maps or the history of, they are cracking to learn about and discover. That’s a cool idea to have them as wallpaper.

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  3. shadowoperator

    26/11/2013 at 12:29

    I read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time when I was a young teenager, and read them to my 5 years’ younger brother next while we ate some not-too-sweet shortbread cookies (known to us as the elves’ “waybread”). And though I read it many times after that (I can’t remember if I’ve told you this or not), I too always missed the absence of strong female characters (the only one was the horse maiden woman, because the elven women usually just stood around and looked evocative of higher things, when they weren’t just symbolizing purity). Still, Tolkien was a fine read, and I will probably read through all the books again and again before I die. But if you are looking for a good “world” to explore and a good author to paint a set of strong female and male characters both, head to Sheri S. Tepper (the books are mid-seventies, early eighties, I think) for the 3 books of the “True Game Series,” which focus on Peter, the 3 books of a prequel which focus on his mother, Mavin Manyshaped and the shapechangers’s world, and the 3 later books on Peter’s true love, Jinian Footseer. It’s a book series which also takes up the issues of maintaining the good karma and ecology of the whole world, so it has a sort of renovated feel about it as well. Tepper has written other series and individual books as well, and she’s a very good writer, though I’m not sure whether she’s still alive or not.

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    • Ste J

      26/11/2013 at 13:04

      Well I am always up for more books to get my teeth into, so I shall add them to the list, which grows ever longer and even more insurmountable every day, not that I complain…it is better to have to many choices than to few…it guarantees me a better chance of securing a bunch of books I truly want at whatever bookshops are in my vicinity.

      I like the waybread idea lol…I may try that with steak although it won’t have quite the same look about it. I remember the elf women, they did do mystical well, I think I remember Arwen as being mentioned as sitting next to Elrond and that was it, except for the appendices. still better to have few, strong female characters than a bunch of rubbish ones.

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  4. colemining

    26/11/2013 at 12:45

    I first read TLOTR while in bed with a brutal case of strep throat- so I was somewhat ‘altered’ by the fever and the antibiotics. But wow- do I remember that world drawing me in completely as I read.

    Tolkien remains so enduring because of his knowledge of mythic themes and ability to create language- which solidifies ‘place’ as thoroughly (to me) as his carefully constructed maps. I re-read the whole shebang at least once every couple of years. The Hobbit is on the list of books for next month- in preparation for part 2 of the films.

    Great post!

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    • Ste J

      26/11/2013 at 12:58

      There is a book called meditations on Middle-Earth where people talk about there reminiscences which is pretty awesome and your comment reminded me of that book…if you want more M-E mythology the Silmarrilion and The lost Tales add even more to an already huge world.

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      • colemining

        26/11/2013 at 13:30

        Don’t I know it! I have the Sim. and many of the Unfinished Tales. Guy Gavriel Kay (one of my fave Canadian authors- will write about him some day) worked with Christopher Tolkien making sense of all the material JRR left behind. Haven’t looked at it years, mind you. But it allows some insight into his process of creation. He was truly a mythmaker- and you know I like anything that has to do with great storytelling!

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        • Ste J

          27/11/2013 at 16:17

          I did not know that about GGK although I am familiar with his name. I’m with you on the good storytelling…which reminds me I really need to read the Aenied again some day soon.

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          • colemining

            27/11/2013 at 16:51

            You should def read Guy when you have a chance. Start with Fionavar and go from there. I’m admittedly biased, but wow. He still blows me away 25+ years after I was first introduced to his writing. There will be a post about him one of these days…

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            • Ste J

              27/11/2013 at 16:52

              I look forward to it and next time I go to a bookshop which will undoubtedly be soon I shall seek this book out of which you speak of.

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              • colemining

                27/11/2013 at 16:55

                ‘The Summer Tree’ is the first part of the Fionavar Tapestry- although you can likely buy the trilogy in one volume. You can see Tolkien’s influence, yet (to me- and pretty much everyone I know who has read it) it isn’t at all derivative. Sets the stage for his more ambitious historically-based speculative fiction.

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                • Ste J

                  27/11/2013 at 16:57

                  I will have to get the all in one trilogy, because that is always better than seperates and usually works out at £1 cheaper in my experience…or rather $1.63 at the present time.

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  5. Nish

    26/11/2013 at 19:21

    The Hobbit was my first Fantasy book, and since then I have loved all books with maps 🙂 LOTR though, I like the books, but I loooove the movie. Heresy, I know…

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    • Ste J

      27/11/2013 at 16:13

      I say! Heresy indeed, although they are impressive in places…as long as you don’t prefer the Hobbit movie over the book lol.

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  6. sakuraandme

    27/11/2013 at 20:00

    I loved lord Of The Rings. 🙂 I could watch it and watch it and watch it! LMAO The Hobbit was pretty cool. When they all started singing I was like, What the? Lol But truth be told I still enjoyed it. 🙂
    Have a great day. Hugs from Oz, Paula xxxxx

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    • Ste J

      28/11/2013 at 10:12

      Watch it???? You don’t watch LotR you experience the book…which is so much vivid in its descriptions and makes you feel the world you are immersed in. The Hobbit film was totally disappointing but I thought it would be after seeing a 5 second clip round my mate Tom’s.

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      • sakuraandme

        02/12/2013 at 05:45

        Hahaha. Not a book worm like you! Lol hugs xxxxxx

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  7. anna amundsen

    28/11/2013 at 00:49

    I hate it how they misrepresented Faramir in the movies. The book shows him as the only human not interested in The Ring.. Which says a lot… A lot!
    But, no, script writers decided that such a thing is not possible so they had to make him weaker..
    And not only in relation with The Ring but with his father, too..

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    • Ste J

      28/11/2013 at 10:17

      He also seemed to be a convenient second choice after Aragorn didn’t succumb to her charms…that was a terribly manufactured storyline which nearly ruined the whole thing for me, thank goodness for the action scenes to make it better. No great book is safe from the ruination of Hollywood, if they can’t stay true to the book, they shouldn’t bother in the first place…I’m glad we are as ever, on the same wave length.

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      • anna amundsen

        01/12/2013 at 08:25

        Ah, yes! I forgot about that.. How disappointing to make someone like Faramir a second choice..
        I do understand that movies have their own laws of functioning and that directors, screenwriters cannot always stay absolutely true to books. But some decisions (as above mentioned ones) have no excuse.

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  8. tomrobinsonz

    28/11/2013 at 10:37

    Mate if you’re going to keep reviewing such esoteric niche books I think I’m going to stop reading your blog (Ahahaha! *slaps thigh*) but seriously it’s nice to read something I can identify with and i totally agree with you that the strongest aspect of LOTR and indeed Tolkien’s work in general was the world building and general sense of history that comes with the book.

    It feels like an artifact of a begotten age. I also agree with you about the plot, I think Fellowship is the strongest part and then the characters divide and the story loses focus and becomes quite muddy. I always preferred The Hobbit, it had a conciseness to its plot while still maintaining the rich texture of Tolkien’s universe. Ironic then that the cinematic translation was in many respects successful in refining a lot of the narrative meanderings of the book, coalescing characters and events into a story with momentum. Whereas The Hobbit comes across as gluttonous.

    I spent many a daydream in my youth fantasizing about Middle Earths’ nooks and crannies and whatever secrets they held. Good mention of the maps. I was never particularly interested in real ones but I regularly doodled my own kingdoms and in fact own a book of Middle Earth maps. Good times.

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    • Ste J

      28/11/2013 at 10:46

      Overly dramatic thigh slapping reciprocated with an added ‘ho ho’ just to be festive. It does make you wonder how someone can have the patience to spend a whole lifetime being God to a world and not get a tadnmiffed and destroy everything, although there are elements of that that go off in his world.

      I believe that the book had to be divided up due to financial purposes at the publishers, which would account for some of the uneveness, although i like the fact that the film mirrored this…I like to see the positives in everything wherever possible. I still thought the second film was a bit of a slog until the big action sequences, especially the Frodo/Sam/Gollum parts. The Hobbit was just wrong on every level I thought.

      Real maps can be great too, perhaps there is a half written post that will change your mind on that…which there actually is but i am saving that for my cartography themed week which will be upon this blog in a week or two…

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      • tomrobinsonz

        28/11/2013 at 10:55

        I thought the Hobbit could have been worse as films go but it is a very poor adaptation by anyone’s standards, the riddles in the dark segment was good and it was nice when everyone had a sing song and yes! I absolutely agree with you about the second film, too many people I know think it is their fave but I find it easily the worst. I look forward to cartography week. (A phrase I never ever thought I would say.)

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        • Ste J

          28/11/2013 at 11:00

          Give me The Fellowship every time as a film and will be happy, then go and play my own battle scenes, just because I can. Three films for The Hobbit is stretching it a lot much, I did enjoy the music on the end credits but I think I spent more time counting my sighs of disgust than anything else.

          Cartography week is guaranteed to not blow your mind, but may well inform and amuse.

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  9. tomrobinsonz

    28/11/2013 at 10:38

    Also I just notice you mentioned me in one of the comments above. Awesome, thanks.

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  10. LuAnn

    30/11/2013 at 11:12

    I loved this book and your review of course. It was interesting the correlation you made between the ring and island in Lost, another of my favorite TV series.

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    • Ste J

      01/12/2013 at 10:58

      I do like it when objects and surroundings have an influence or just a perceived influence on plot. It makes things that bit richer…the idea that it can all be imagined or just a plain old metaphor is always an extra layer that makes me think and I like thinking.

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