The Fellowship of the Ring has been on my reading list for years. Like many others, I greatly enjoyed The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. (As a side note, I saw The Return of the King in the theater five times). I have been less enamored of the film adaptation(s) of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, but I haven't lost any of my love of the original trilogy. I'm glad to have started on my own personal journey to read Tolkien's source material.
If you talk to just about anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings books they will all tell you how much they enjoyed the books and how dense and difficult they are. It's a huge barrier of entry for many readers, myself included, to explore Tolkien's world. It becomes very, very apparent very, very early on in the reading of The Fellowship that Tolkien loves the world he has created; its detail is entirely unmatched by any other fantasy book I have read thus far. It can also be totally superfluous to the story, which at times nearly brings the story to a grinding and unwelcome halt. I found myself intrigued by this fantastical world Tolkien had created with all of its geographic locations, historic monuments and events, and ages of time. It's overwhelming, and that's not always a good thing. Although I was intrigued with Tolkien's detailed world, whenever Tolkien did wander back to his story I remembered why I was actually reading the book.
The story itself is a grand, albeit simple, adventure. It's a basic but bold story of good and evil. When the story was flowing I was enthralled and entertained. Having watched the films, it was a fun exercise to identify all of the areas and elements that were changed for the film adaptation. (Most of them, quite frankly, were desperately needed; perhaps more on that later). Tolkien's dialogue feels flat but can often be profound. Most of his characters are in desperate need of time—time to speak, act, and generally be characters. With the amount of walking and waiting that goes on in the story, you would think Tolkien could have taken more advantage of the time he insists you spend with the characters to actually tell you more about them or better yet show you who they are. Instead, we’re left with brief encounters and brief explanations of motivations. It leaves characters that should be three-dimensional stuck in a somewhat two-dimensional frame.
The Fellowship of the Ring, along with the other books in the series, must be recognized for their contribution to literature and book genres in general. Tolkien created a living, breathing place, even if his characters don't do as much of those two things as they should. While reading about these magical places, I wanted to go to those places. An author can't accomplish a feeling like that without providing a commensurate amount of detail. However, there is a balance in setting a scene, creating a world, and telling a story. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien falters on the storytelling tight-rope.
I will finish The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring, but I wanted to love it. I enjoy the Fantasy genre and feel it's only right to pay my dues to the monumental books that created it. Thus far, the story has been worth experiencing even if it sometimes feels like Tolkien's secondary concern.
Other Topics of Interest:
Adaptation, Please: Mistborn
Reflections: The Hero of Ages
Reading Goals for 2014