Sunday, December 18, 2011

ReView of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (part 1 of 3) ; overview, reflection on life

 The Fellowship of the Ring is a continuation of The Hobbit.  In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds a magic ring deep in the underground tunnels of the Misty Mountains, whose owner is Gollum, a creature so old and so miserable as a result of what the Ring has brought him.  The Fellowship of the Ring picks up where Bilbo realizes that sixty years have passed and he doesn’t look much older than when he initially found the Ring.  Herein, Gandalf, the great wizard of the lands, manages to persuade Bilbo to pass on the Ring to his heir Frodo Baggins who is to carefully guard the Ring and finally take it to its destruction.  Frodo accepts this responsibility, and embarks on his journey to the fires of Mount Doom where the Ring has originated and created.

Only here can the Ring be destroyed, and it is only here it should belong since the evil power of the ring is neither to be hidden from the evil Sauron nor used against it.  The journey is long and perilous; it is epic and beautiful.  The Fellowship of the Ring concludes with the formation of the Fellowship to deliver the Ring to the fires into which it was first created and to be destroyed, but also with the disembodiment of the Fellowship as Frodo and Sam become separated from the Fellowship and each party continues their journey in hopes of rejoining and defeating the great evil Sauron by destroying the Ring most sought after.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy came out in 1954.  Long since, it has become a PHENOMENON.  The first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, being the only one I have read so far, has far more reaching effects for the reader than can be talked about in a paragraph above.  But that is the gist of the story.  The layers and depth of the story, though, is what keeps the reader to this book until it is finished, or for some why it is actually interrupted and never picked up again.  The reader becomes entrapped by the journey described in the pages.  What was responsible for that?  Mostly importantly, it was the link between the journey and the landscape through which it takes place.  The two are so closely in sync that you become pulled in, captured by it, and many times mesmerized by the detailed and thorough descriptions of who the characters are, what is happening, and the minutiae of all things past, present and future.  It's easy to get lost quickly if you are not fully present in this novel, everything is too important for the story as it unfolds that you can't afford to miss too much otherwise you miss the journey altogether.  And even so, Tolkien has managed to possibly safe-guard the reader from that by giving recaps of historical events of the story, or reviewing the story line with other characters.  Here is one great quote that links the journey and the landscape, their surroundings are constantly reflecting the mood of their journey, and their journey is consistently reflecting their surroundings:

"After that the hobbits heard no more.  Almost at once the sun seemed to sink into the trees behind them.  They thought of the slanting light of evening glittering on the Brandywine River, and the windows of Buckleburry beginning to gleam with hundreds of lights.  Great shadows fell across them; trunks and branches of trees hung dark and threatening over the path.  White mists began to rise and curl on the surface of the river and stray about the roots of the trees upon its borders.  Out of the very ground at their feet a shadowy steam rose and mingled with the swiftly falling dusk."

This theme does not stand on it its own. Few sources praise Tolkien’s use of words and description to bring the journey to life.  One is in an article  ‘The Hero is a Hobbit’ by W.H. Auden who says “ Mr. Tolkien is fortunate in possessing an amazing gift for naming and a wonderfully exact eye for description; by the time one has finished his book one knows the histories of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and the landscape they inhabit as well as one knows one's own childhood.” Another is in an article ‘Middle Earth Enchants a returning Pilgrim’ by Kathryn Kramer “and it goes on like this, not for 15 pages, or 50, but throughout the trilogy, more words in English to describe place than most of us use in a lifetime.”  

Additionally, The Fellowship of the Ring can be inspirational in every day life.  There is much wisdom reflected in one's own life while I was reading the book.  Having that bridge between two completely different aspects of life – a fictional story from many decades ago being relevant to my real current life which is totally irrelevant to the plot – is one of the most impressive aspects about the book.  There are many times in the book where you stopped and feel as if you have discovered something deep about your own self.  Here are some examples:

"But if you look for a companion, be careful in choosing!  And be careful of what you say, even to your closest friends!  The enemy has many spies and many ways of hearing."

"advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill."

"A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for friendship."

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those that wander are lost."

"'Yes, fortune or fate have helped you,' said Gandalf, 'not to mention courage.  For your heart was not touched, and only your shoulder was pierced; and that was because you resisted to the last."

"Don't adventures ever have an end?  I suppose not.  Someone else always has to carry on the story."

"You will hear today all that you need in order to understand the purposes of the Enemy.  There is naught that you can do, other than resist, with hope or without it.  But you do not stand alone.  You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world.  The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies?  That is the doom that we must deem."

Additionally, here is a FOREWORD by the AUTHOR himself.  He says in there:

"The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them."

"It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, or to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved."

.....speaks very truthfully, it is so.

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