The Lord of the Rings (3 volumes with slipcase) (Folio Society)

by JRR Tolkein

Hardcover, 1998



Call number





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, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. On his eleventy-first birthday Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest --- to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. THE LORD OF THE RINGS tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard, Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member yolana
The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien

I cut class for the first time when I was 9 years old. As my class was marching off to music I slipped out of line and headed to the girl's bathroom. To read a book. I was taken away to Middle-Earth and I have returned once a year every year since,
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and while how I read the book has changed, my love for it has not. I know that many people simply don't like this book, particularly since the movies came out and brought along a new group of fans who were dismayed to discover that movies and books are entirely different entities. I consider myself lucky that I discovered the book first. I had read The Hobbit and was stoked about continuing the story. I've always been a sucker for a quest, whether is was The Phantom Tollbooth, Huckleberry Finn or the Odyssey. Once I started I couldn't put it down. I loved it unreservedly.
One of the strongest complaints about the book has been Tolkien's prose. He loved language and words and his prose reflects this. I pestered my parents and after they had had enough, the school librarian about these new words, words like weregild, bane, dwimmer, abyss, wroth, etc, words that blew my 4th grade mind wide open. And old ones used in new ways, how could something be fell and not lying on the ground for example. There are passages that move me incredibly to this day because of the language used to write them. For example in writing about the arrival of the Rohirrim led by King Theoden to the siege of Gondor: “... the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the battle of Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered and lo!it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them and they fled, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them.”

A lot of people are also put off by the amount of poetry in the book, this is blasphemy probably but I'd say skip it if that's the only reason to not read it. Tolkien himself slyly recognizes that the poetry could be a slog when he has guests at Bilbo's party sit dreading the possibility that Bilbo would break into verse. I've read all of the poetry and enjoyed it but it's not really necessary to understanding the book. The only possible exception would probably be the poem about Beren and Luthien and even that just deepens the story but wouldn't ruin it if you skipped it.

I've also heard and agree with the complaints about the inherent racism of the books. However I don't think it's as straightforward as it's been made out. It is true that to be noble in Middle-Earth you must be very tall and very pale unless, of course, you are one of the literally down-to earth hobbits and if you were evil you were likely dark skinned, short and from the south. But even while he calls the men of the east and south lesser he admits that they have more sense than the nobility who sit longing for a time that will never come again (the elves) or let themselves dwindle in a search for immortality (the 'high men of the west'). It is no accident that the ring wraiths themselves were 'high men'. But of course many books are filled with racism (and all sorts of other isms) sometimes deliberately and maliciously (Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries) sometimes to make a point (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harry Potter) and I still read them if only to know my enemy, and despite it's lack of political correctness I still read this one, because the story itself is simply too good to give up.

At it's most basic this is a story about a group of friends who want to save the world. The whole quest rests on friendship. That between the four hobbits themselves and between them and people they meet along the way people that they become willing to die for. Gandalf and Bilbo and Frodo, Merry and Theoden, Aragorn and all four hobbits, Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn and Eomer, the list goes on and on but of course it's the friendship between Sam and Frodo that saves the day. I admit that Sam is my favorite character (along with Merry, Gandalf and Faramir). He manages to get Frodo to the top of Mount Doom and he does it while eating less, drinking less, sleeping less and, to be honest, complaining less. I like Frodo but he does become a little tiresome by the time the ring goes into the fire. This is also a book about just getting on with it and enduring even without hope, even when it would be easier to lay down and die, which is as relevant today, maybe more so, than when it was first published. I can't wait to read it again.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
The first thing I should say for those unfamiliar with it, is that The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King aren't self-contained books, three in a trilogy, but volumes of what was conceived as one novel. Thus expect an abrupt ending to Fellowship of the Ring and an
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abrupt beginning to The Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings is a "must-try" for anyone who likes fantasy if not a must-read. Not everyone I know who has tried it loves it (some of my friends greatly prefer the prequel The Hobbit), but as someone who has read widely in the fantasy genre, I can tell you no novel is more influential in post-World War II high fantasy and there are authors, particularly Brooks and Jordan, whose fantasy novels come across as cheap imitations. The work repays second and third readings because of the depth Tolkien gives his world of Middle Earth. According to the introduction, Tolkien had worked out an entire history for Middle Earth before he'd ever written the first volume and it shows. Other made-up worlds seem like painted trees on a drape--Tolkien's trees have roots. At the end of Return of the King, there are appendixes containing notes on language, maps and family trees as well as an extensive index.

This is my third time reading The Lord of the Rings and each time I find more in it. I remember reading it for the second time right after the first film of the trilogy came out, in the wake of 9/11. Lines had a new resonance for me then. Lines like:

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Tolkien denies in the introduction that The Lord of the Rings is meant as allegory or topical; he specifically denies that it's inspired by World War II even though it was begun soon after The Hobbit in 1938 and the first volume published in 1954. He wrote he despises allegory and declared we confuse allegory with "applicability." Indeed, that is where I found the power and timelessness of the story--its applicability to my own times where we feel the shadow of history passing over us.

Some complain of Tolkien's style. I had remembered finding his prose stiff, although this time I was mostly impressed with the readability and the glints of humor in Fellowship of the Ring. But when the fellowship splits after the first volume and especially whenever the hobbits disappear from the narrative, Tolkien often goes into heroic saga mode. Gimli challenges those who impugn "his" lady's honor like a knight out of Mallory. Out of his and others' mouths come out words such as: verily, alas, forsooth, ere, aught, oft, nay, yonder, thee and thy. This only increases in the first book of Return of the King much of which reads like the love child of the King James Bible and Beowulf. I think that is what contributes to the reputation of The Lord of the Rings as tedious.

There are antique touches even in Fellowship of the Ring--like Gimli's adoration of Galadriel and how female characters are depicted--notable, especially Goldberry, for their beauty than any other quality. (Although Galadriel is certainly more than a pretty face.) I'm glad the film strengthened Arwen's character by giving her Glorfindel's role. By injecting some heroism in her character it gives us a reason why Aragorn would love her so much beyond her loveliness.

But then there's Eowyn. According to the index at the end of the last book, she can be found on 44 pages of this thousand-plus page novel--and that's more than any other female character other than Galadriel (at 52 pages). At first she shapes up to be a kick-ass heroine. Aragorn asks her what she fears and she answers "a cage." She wants to fight--to do "great deeds." And she does. Certainly when she faces an enemy who tells her no living man can hinder him, at her answer, "But no living man am I. You look upon a woman," my inner feminist wanted to cheer. But in the end, her ambition and daring is seen as a sickness, and she's "healed" by the love of a man and declares she "will be a shieldmaiden no longer" but a healer. Goodness knows in this novel war is shown to do damage--and those words wouldn't be out of place having come from Frodo's mouth. It could be seen as healthy to turn from death to life, from war to peaceful pursuits. But something in the context, of an ambitious woman now "tamed" and made whole by a man's love, made me gag--maybe all the more because Eowyn is the only female character with a heroic dimension.

Not everything is equally engrossing. Generally, I liked the choices of cuts and compressions the films made. My eyes glazed over at the frequent songs and I skipped over them. The expositional prologue I could have done without. So yes, I have my share of criticisms. But so much shines in this novel--not all of which riches you're going to get by watching only the movies: the prodigious imagination, the moving and believable friendships--and that "applicability" of experience.
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LibraryThing member jhevelin
I've read all three volumes (including the appendices) every two or three years since the original paperback publication in the United States (1966?). A magnificent literary achievement!
LibraryThing member MissBrangwen
It is hard to write a review of a book that means so much to me, so I won't attempt it.
I first read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" almost exactly twenty years ago, shortly before the first Peter Jackson movie came into cinemas, and they swept me away. I had loved fantasy books -
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especially Narnia - before, but nothing came remotely close to this.
I was fifteen years old and became what today you would call a total nerd. Since then, the books (and other writings of Tolkien) have provided me with refuge and solace and are one of the few constants in my life, and a huge influence as well.
So what now - what did my sixth read of the book that started it all bring?
Once more I was drawn into the story, was moved and touched, and I laughed and cried, admired Tolkien's words, discovered things I hadn't seen before, and, maybe because I am a little older, I enjoyed the language and the literary crafting even more than before. I felt at home and it felt indeed like coming back after a long time.
But much more than this I took hope from the book. Because sometimes I feel like we are going into dark times right now, times that I would never have expected just a short while ago, with a pandemic, right-wing movements on the rise, the climate crisis, so many things changing that I would not have thought possible. And in these times the story of the hobbits gave me courage and brought me light. We have to look at the good that is left in the world.
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LibraryThing member rjabpab
One of the best stories ever written. Stands up to being read over and over again. Tolkien asks...and answers many of life's deep moral questions and shows us clearly the results of following after evil, or trying to use evil means to obtain good results as well as the rewards of the simple life
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and the courage found in doing what is right, taking care of your neighbor as well as yourself, and surrounding yourself with godd and honorable friends.
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LibraryThing member KELL4772
I am sixty one now and I first read 'The Lord of the Rings' when I was sixteen in 1968. No other book before it revealed to me what reading what I consider to be a good book can do. I will never forget the relief I felt when Frodo made it to Rivendell, free of the threat of the Black Riders, the
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wonder of meeting Treebeard for the first time in Fangorn Forest, the joy of seeing Gandalf return as Gandalf the White, the awe at witnessing the fall of the Dark Tower, and sharing the sorrow of Sam, listening to the waves breaking on the shores of Middle Earth. I will always be grateful to J.R.R. Tolkien for inspiring me to read Beowulf, The Elder Edda, the Icelandic Sagas, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Le Morte D'Arthur, The Kalevala, Anglo Saxon poetry, Norse myths, Gilgamesh, The Illiad and The Odyssey, and for showing me that a good story, however simply told, is what makes a work of fiction worth reading.
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LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
This edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings presents all three volumes of that legendary work in a single edition with illustrations by Alan Lee.
Tolkien's work stands on its own as a masterpiece of epic fantasy, unparalleled even to this day, so I need not write what others have written
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before, though new readers will undoubtedly enjoy the ease with which they may flip between the appendices and the story in this edition. Lee's illustrations capture the scope and grandeur of Tolkien's words and nearly every chapter includes its own illustration. It's no wonder that Lee served as a concept artist during the making of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
As to construction, the spine is reinforced to bear the weight and the pages are printed on glossy white paper for ease of reading and longevity. This same paper allows the illustrations to stand out even in dim light.
Those looking to read The Lord of the Rings for the first time will find this a welcoming volume while long-time fans will surely love adding such a gorgeous edition of this beloved work to their book collections.
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LibraryThing member jennaelf
This text is extremely rich, in a deeper-than-surface reading.

If you've considered picking it up, but you've been warned away by someone complaining about the landscape descriptions... don't let those warnings hold too much weight. The landscapes are important representatives of things happening in
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the story. The setting is a character. Pay attention to it, instead of thinking it is there for filler, and it will be more rewarding.

However, forewarning - this is not a breezy-easy read in the way, say, a Dragonlance novel would be.

I found myself significantly slowed while "doing a reading of" this text for a course.

Rereading it - after 20 years, and after all the films - I was reminded of the ways film can drop the ball on certain things. For good or ill.
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LibraryThing member silva_44
Absolutely fabulous! The movies don't even come close to capturing the timeless beauty of such a masterpiece.
LibraryThing member JoeBrennan100
Quite possibly my favourite book of all time. Sure there are plenty of things which are a little off putting and the ending is completely overblown and drawn out. But the proses is fantastic, the story epic and nothing I've ever read can absorb me into another world quite so well and after all
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isn't that what reading is all about?
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LibraryThing member EmreSevinc
The sheer literary pleasure of this masterpiece is something I'll miss for a long time. I don't think I can add much to one of the most reviewed book of all times but I will always keep in mind what Ursula K. LeGuin wrote about it in her "Rhythmic Patterning in The Lord of the Rings" article, that
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"It's a wonderful book to read aloud or (consensus by the children) listen to." and that "... it wants the living voice to speak it, to find its full beauty and power, its subtle music, its rhythmic vitality."

After the end of this literary journey, I have a strong feeling, an inner sound that tells me I have yet to face many events that will be tied to LOTR in some way. This may well be the echoes of my past reading, and sometimes reading aloud; but even if that feeling is illusory, and the sound is void, I have to thank to Tolkien for having created such a repercussive narration. If "art is a lie that makes us realize truth" as Picasso said, then LOTR opens the gate to many beautiful truths.
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LibraryThing member SMG-RLieschke
A brilliant set of books made into fantastic movies.

The books are full of adventure, Drama, Horses, fighting, chaos and brilliance. Read them if you like dark and light winning. Don't read them if you don't like elves, hobits and un-realistic beings.
LibraryThing member chriskrycho
The greatest book written in the 20th century. Period.
LibraryThing member wordygirl39
The ultimate fairy tale isn't it? I love this book. My brother gave me these books when I was 12 and I didn't know I would love them until years later when Jackson made his films. I saw the first one and went immediately to the bookstore for another copy (I'd give the old ones away long before).
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I've read this whole book every December since then and it has become one of the most important stories in my collection for all the reasons you already know. What I love most, though, is that we experience the quest with Frodo and Sam, line by line, word by word, until we are as used up and as sacrificed as they.
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LibraryThing member hermit
The mythic trilogy takes place years after Bilbo Baggins great adventure but its origin is that of his magic ring of invisibility. A fellowship is formed in order to perform a task for the good of their world. And the evil will do all it can to stop them from their task. Great detail went into the
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creation of Middle Earth and this story will grab any teen’s attention and make them wish to read it in its entirety.

Many over the decades have tried to either correlate the story to World War II or as a Christian story. Even though J.R.R. Tolkien was a staunch Roman Catholic that affirmed his faith in the One God who created the universe his mythical God stopped creating before the work was finished, then turned the rest over to a group of lesser gods or "sub-creators." In other words, Tolkien invented a hierarchy of deities that defied the Biblical God's wise warnings concerning both real and imagined idolatry. Of course the Lord of the Rings being a myth, its meaning and story changes with the imagination of each reader and the generation that is reading this series.

I have read that Tolkien, himself, assured us that he didn't intend to teach Biblical reality through his mythical fantasy. Yet still many Christians argue that Tolkien's spiritual hierarchy does indeed parallel the Biblical account. Then in contradiction to his denials, Tolkien has also compared parts of his myth with corresponding aspects of truth. But the obvious similarities tend to confuse rather than clarify Biblical truth.
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LibraryThing member afterthought
Bought the book after I watched the first of the trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring), and finished reading only after watching the final installment (The Return of the King) together with extended versions of the first 2 due to other commitments..LOL guess saved my brain from having to squeeze out
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imaginations to accompany my reading.

Amazing book, amazing trilogy. The book is so much more detailed in describing each event, scenes and the characters but apart from the slight deviation, and some events omitted, the movie was excellent too. Stunning effects that one might even believed that such events could really have taken place long, long ago, when wizards, sorcerers, mosters, among other creatures, walked the Earth. Sounds far-fetched? Well, I'm more of a believer of things in the past compared to science fiction of the future, maybe coz it's yet to happen =P

Anyway, sounded like I'm reviewing the movie LOL but well, without the book, there would NEVER have been the trilogy in the first place so two thumbs up! ;)
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LibraryThing member frut02
This book is masterpiece! I have never read anything where i am completely engrossed in the world that is developing around me. The whole story of Lord Of the rings is truly magical and reading it sometimes i found it hard to put it place. However there were a few areas that i almost
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switched off at but i kept going and i wonderfully pleased with the conclusion of the book. i haven’t watched the films for some time so am now going to watch them. The fact that the hobbit starts this tale off make all 4 books a great read, and i would recommend it to anybody who wants to disappear into another world for a few hours.
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LibraryThing member charlierobinson51
This is *the* fantasy trilogy. Tolkein defined the format that other fantasy authors have tried to follow ever since the publication of The Lord of the Rings. The richness of detail has never been duplicated, nor is it ever likely to be. This work reflects a lifetime of scholarship and dedication,
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and has spawned countless imitators and analyses.
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LibraryThing member jveezer
The Fellowship of the Ring is a special book in the Lord of the Ring trilogy. For me it was the bridge between the less "serious" narration of the hobbit to a more worldly view. In a kind of Joycean manner (a la Portrait of the Artist...) the narrator is growing up. Bilbo has written his memoir of
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the trip to the Lonely Mountain from the "young" perspective of 50 years, whereas he is much more mature at the time of his contributions to the Red Book that is the fictional source of the material. Of course Frodo, a much more "serious" hobbit, was a major contributor as well. Anyway, enough of that. (I'm writing this a few days after Bloomsday so I had to tie in Joyce somehow.)

The Fellowship introduces us to many new characters that are tied to the ringbearers destiny, while elaborating on those we met in the hobbit. I mean, who knew that the Master of the Last Homely House was the son of Earendil the Mariner and the great-grandson of Luthien? Hey, isn't Aragorn his nephew 64 times removed? He seemed like just an elf in The Hobbit. And that Gandalf was one of the Istari, sent by the Valar to aid the peoples of the Third Age in the darkening times? In the many times I've read this book I've had different favorite characters. Frodo, of course, but I was also fascinated by the developing friendship between Legolas and Gimli despite the obvious initial "racial" distrust. I loved the development of Strider and the loyalty of Sam.

As far as the fairer sex goes, you have to love Galadriel. She is the one character (other than Sauron, I guess) who has seen the whole history evolve and set in motion in the First Age. I love Liv Tyler as much or more than the next guy and I know Hollywood loves a love story; but Arwen got blown way out of proportion in the movie.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
I first started to think I should read The Lord of The Rings when I came across a book by Peter Ackroyd called 'Albion: The English Imagination.' Ackroyd referred often to Tolkien's work, but placed it rightfully amongst the early classics of English literature. Surely this work is more closely
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related to the tale of Beowulf and Grendel than it is to most other tales told in the 1950s.

It took me only nine days to read the whole of the trilogy; I admit, I was swept away, finding Tolkien's prose to be far more accessible than I had even hoped. I was aided by the film series, of course, which helped me to visualise the settings more clearly, but I now admire Tolkien's creation for what it is as much as how it is beheld by others.
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LibraryThing member cestovatela
Saying this is blasphemous, but I preferred the movies. JRR Tolkien seriously needed an editor and a thesaurus.
LibraryThing member weedlit
As a young man Tolkien, like Hemingway, witnessed firsthand the awful slaughter of WWI. Like Hemingway he survived, but by 1918, according to the preface of The Lord of the Rings, all but one of his closest friends were dead. He wrote the trilogy in the period from 1936 - 1949, which may help to
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explain the work’s dark, often apocalyptic tone -- as well as its “good versus evil” subject matter.

The truth is that unlike his other famous book, The Hobbit (first published in 1936), The Lord of the Rings is not really meant for children. Certain children do devour it though, as I did when I was eight or ten. It had a major impact, opening my eyes to the power of literature as no other book had. The Shire and Mordor, Fangorn Forest, Moria, Rivendell and Lothlórien; I regret that the movies have blurred the vivid landscapes of Middle Earth in my mind, replacing them with the crisp silver-screen versions filmed on location in New Zealand. New Zealand is highly photogenic and fairly well-suited to Tolkien, but screen images are incapable of evoking the same magic or carrying the same emotional charge as fictional landscapes, especially those you read as a child.

The fact is -- and this is a powerful counter-argument to the lament that the novel is dead or dying -- film simply can’t accomplish the things with landscape that literature can. Well-drawn literary landscapes become rooted in your soul, instead of washing over in blasts of music and awe-inspiring, computer-enhanced cinematography.
I picked up the books again several years back, partly because I had the time (at over a thousand densely-printed pages it’s not the kind of thing you can read in single afternoon), and partly because I wanted to revisit it before Hollywood stole my primeval memories of hobbits, wizards, and the detours and byways of Middle Earth. I was not disappointed. It really is a terrific story, in some ways even better than I had remembered.

I was tempted to go on a mission to revive the books’ standing among the MFA set, but then it’s not as if the Tolkien estate really needs my help. Those who love the trilogy will always love it despite the commercial hype, and it will continue to be difficult to explain to those who have avoided it or haven’t been able to get through the first hundred pages (and there are many) what it is that’s so wonderful about it. The uninitiated reader will have to simply take it on faith that The Lord of the Rings provides an unparalleled example of how a fantasy novel can express an extremely true and compelling vision of human existence.

I won’t bother to summarize the plot too extensively. It’s a straightforward quest story, with the twist that the quest is not to retrieve the grail but rather to destroy it. Over the course of the book Frodo Baggins and his fellowship make their way ever eastward, from the bucolic backwater of the hobbits’ Shire to the seething darkness of Mordor. On the way the party experiences many setbacks, as the reader gradually becomes aware of a miasma of apocalyptic evil that is settling over the novel’s world.

They stop over in some very nice places on the way, however, Eden-like way-stations populated primarily by elves, in which the travelers long to remain but cannot. These way-stations are what concern us, because they stand out in the story like islands of light in a rising sea of darkness. They are outposts of a detailed, magical world that has already been lost.

Rather than quote at length from these chapters I’ve selected a few nearly random passages to give you something of the flavor:

"Slowly the hall filled, and Frodo looked with delight upon the many fair faces that were gathered together; the golden firelight played upon them and shimmered in their hair."

"The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name."

Tolkien was an Oxford professor, deeply absorbed in his studies. His main areas of focus were early Nordic and Anglo-Saxon literature, and during the course of his writing life he made up an entire world that was inspired by and in many ways based upon, these bodies of myth. There’s a great deal of verse scattered throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, much of it in Elvish, a complex language that Tolkien, a gifted linguist, ambitiously invented out of whole cloth. I have a feeling that most people simply skip over the verse to get on with the story, but that’s a mistake, because the verse is important to the underlying mood of the books -- the tip of the iceberg, if you will, exposing the vast and emotionally charged lost domain dwelling beneath the story, scaffolding it, and bestowing its unique inner power.

As Frodo’s party makes its way steadily eastward, between and sometimes even during their sojourns in way-stations of light and Bardic poetry, the evil in the world begins to assert itself with ever greater force. Terrifying ringwraiths assail the party and wound Frodo with a clammy blade; flocks of crows and other flying creatures careen menacingly through the sky above their heads; orcs pursue them through the abandoned mines of Moria, and a powerful monster drags the wizard Gandalf down into the abyss. Meanwhile the dreadful penumbra encroaches upon every quarter of the sky, and it is apparent that even fortresses of light such as Rivendell and Lothlórien must eventually succumb to the rising tide of Evil.

This image of a world gradually drowning in darkness buttresses the dramatic tensions inherent in the quest story; it is at bottom an extremely dark tale. Frodo’s journey is from one pole to another -- from the pole of light to the pole of darkness. Early in the quest, soon after they’ve left the last outpost of the known hobbit world, Frodo tries to sleep:

"He lay tossing and turning and listening fearfully to the stealthy night noises: wind in chinks of rock, water dripping, a crack, the sudden rattling fall of a loosened stone. He felt that black shapes were advancing to smother him . . . He lay down again and passed into an uneasy dream, in which he walked on the grass in his garden in the Shire, but it seemed faint and dim, less clear than the tall black shadows that stood looking over the hedge."

And much later, as he and his faithful servant Sam slog along through the swamps on the outskirts of Mordor:

"Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers. As the day wore on the light increased a little, and the mists lifted, growing thinner and more transparent. Far above the rot and vapors of the world the Sun was riding high and golden now in a serene country with floors of dazzling foam, but only a passing ghost of her could they see below, bleared, pale, giving no color and no warmth."

The Lord of the Rings is full of such bleak, frightening images; the prevailing mood is one of fear and dread. What saves it from being merely horrifying or depressing, however, is the potential for redemption. It’s always there in the background. Sometimes it bleeds through, like rays of sunlight appearing through a break in a low overcast.

You can’t have true darkness without light to offset it; you need one to comprehend the other. Fear and dread open the possibility for uncomplicated joy, just as the presence of light gives extra power to the encroaching darkness. To put it in more mundane terms, the “reason” for the elegiac passages -- the “islands” of festivity and light -- is to make the encroaching evil more real and more threatening, and the overwhelmingly dark tone of the story as a whole causes the “islands” to burn that much more brightly.

It is a well-known fact that fiction about happiness is untenable; less well-known, perhaps, is that fiction based solely in realms of darkness also comes too easily, and is by nature incomplete. Evil is indisputably a part of life (although perhaps not in the simple-minded terms put forth by neoconservatives and certain heads of state), but so is love. This is the wisdom underlying Tolkien’s work. His novels enact this truth compellingly and on an epic scale.
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LibraryThing member HobbitGirl09
Favorite. Books. Ever. This classic story has remained popular for good reason! One of the (if not *the*) foundations of epic fantasy storytelling, to say the least. Its scope astounds the imagination and its morals touch the heart. It is nothing short of an awe-inspiring masterpiece that can never
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be overlooked.
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LibraryThing member kitten-1981
Another great Fantasy collection. Well written and equally well read!!
LibraryThing member thudfactor
Once I got used to the high-epic language, I enjoyed the series... but I sincerely wished Boromir had shut up about the freaking horn of Gondor well before someone shut him up for me.


Hugo Award (Nominee — 1966)
Chesley Award (Nominee — 1992)
BILBY: Books I Love Best Yearly (Older Readers — 2002)
Kid's Choice Award (Nominee — 2004)
Locus All-Time Best (15 — 1975)
The Guardian 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read (Science Fiction and Fantasy)


Original publication date

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