I’ve been a fan of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) films since I was a child, but I’ve never read the books before. I thumbed through a copy of The Hobbit, but I didn’t enjoy it. Then Callum brought me a copy of The Silmarillion, the story of the origins of Middle Earth. So, I’ve decided to read the trilogy for the first time. I did attempt to live-tweet my reactions, but they felt flat when I had limited internet access after moving house. Besides, I don’t think anyone else would really want to read that!
I’ve finished Fellowship of the Ring now and I’m taking a break before picking up The Two Towers. I found it an enjoyable read, even if the beginning was rather slow. It seemed that Gandalf’s purpose in the opening chapters was to expedite exposition and that amounted to a lot of chatter from him. Still, it was interesting observee Frodo’s development as he left the comfort zone of all he knew, without Bilbo and Gandalf to guide him.
The early chapters of the Hobbits’ adventure seemed to consist mostly of ambling into danger and being saved by a well-meaning stranger and settling down with a large, sumptuous supper and a warm bed. This contrasts with the conditions of the Hobbits’ face later, when the harsh realities of Frodo’s are driven home. Over time, the Hobbits’ abandon their naivety and begin to see the dangers that lurk around them.
The Fellowship epitomises a sense of comradery in the face of adversity. Rival races and tribes come to together to cast aside old rivalries to join the common goal of defeating the forces of evil. On their journey, each character takes turns to shine and be the guiding figure.
I found that I related strongly to Galdriel’s speech when she was offered The Ring by Frodo. Sometimes, I reflect on the world and the things that I consider wrong. I suspect that if ever I, or indeed most of us, were offered absolute power that the power would corrupt us, and lead to yet more wrongs, even if our intentions were pure. After all, there is both darkness and light in all of us, with no one person being truly “good” or “bad”. My perception of The Lord of the Rings was deeply challenged; I had expected a story of good triumphing over evil and I was reading a tale of greater moral complexity, where the heroes could easily become the villains in a moment of weakness.
“In the place of a Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth, All shall love me and despair!”
The Mirror of Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R.Tolkien
The real emotional rollercoaster came during the scene whereby Gandalf engaged in battle with the Balrog. Gandalf gallantly challenged the mighty beast that would have been certain to have killed his companions, at great cost to himself. This was where Gandalf the Waffler became Gandalf the Grey for me, ironic really if you know anything at all about his later development in the Trilogy. This scene was one of Tolkein’s crowning jewels in The Fellowship, with Gandalf channelling an awesome power rivalling the Balrog’s. Tolkien showed his mastery in the execution of the emotional highs and lows, the awe and the fear, that he inspired in me. Tears well in my eyes as the Balrog’s whip wrapped around Galdalf and pulled him into the darkness.
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow it about reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
“You cannot pass,” he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. “I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.”
The Bridge of Khazad-Dum, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R.Tolkien
After years of believing that I wouldn’t enjoy Tolkien’s writing style, even if I enjoyed the story of The Lord of the Rings, I was glad that I approached this book with an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised and I look forward to reading the next instalment.