Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Fellowship of the Ring

by J.R.R. Tolkien
Ballantine Books, 1973 (originally published 1954).

This is at least my seventh time reading The Fellowship of the Ring. It's been about seven years since I last read it, and I'm a much different reader than I was any of the previous six times I've read it. I've read many more books, become a more critical reader, and have read especially broadly in the fantasy genre.

I'd forgotten how incredibly slow - dare I say plodding - is the pacing. One hundred pages in, Frodo has barely left the Shire. Two-thirds of the way through, he's in Rivendell and they're still debating what to do with the Ring. After fifteen years, the memory of the movies is more fresh in my mind than the first time I read the book and was waiting with bated breath to find out who or what the Black Riders were, and if they would be successful in finding the Ring. The old-fashioned, archaic language and resulting clunky dialog (how often can one think "Frodo son of Drogo" without cracking a grin or rolling eyes?) is exactly what I would criticize in books I read now.

But despite its faults, I love this series. I love the hobbits. No one but Gandalf seems to expect much of them, least of all the hobbits themselves. They love the small comforts of home, and can't imagine anything better than putting up their feet with some good food and pipeweed (amend that last to "a good book," and I'd be right there with them). And it's just because they love home so much that they do what they must to protect it. They are not heroes. They're just regular folk who, seeing a need to combat evil, do their best, even though they can't know the final outcome. It gives me hope that, if push comes to shove, maybe I could do the same. And that is why clunky dialog, archaic language, poetry, slow plot and all, I will read these books another seven times.

No comments: