But The Lord of the Rings was mine and mine alone.
It is easy to forget that The Lord of the Rings was not a pop culture phenomenon in the seventies and early eighties. It was a fringe book (at least in North America), something that was not yet considered a part of the canon, something that was not a name on every boy's lips (even if they were just getting to know D&D) let alone every child's lips. Sure it was respected and loved by those who knew it, but knowing it was not a foregone conclusion as it is today, and its audience was almost completely genre oriented. In my little community (my school and the blocks surrounding my home), I was the first kid to read it.
And that first reading was a revelation. Sure I'd read The Hobbit, but that didn't prepare me for the breadth and depth of The Lord of the Rings. Middle Earth in its grandest incarnation.
To create a fantasy world is one thing, but to breathe life into ages of that world, to keep all the pieces together with such magnificent detail and rigour, to create character after believable character and make us care about most of them, even poor Smeagol/Gollum, that is a literary labour of Hercules. And by pulling it off, Tolkien created the single most important manifestation of Fantasy that has ever and will ever be written. The Lord of the Rings has rightly been named a classic. It is part of the canon, and it deserves its place. It is entertaining, it is weighty, and it is loved by nearly all.
Aye...and there's the rub.
Its indisputable greatness has made it indisputable.
It has become dogma among fanboys and fangirls that the bastions of The Lord of the Rings are unassailable. Criticize Tolkien's workacademically or otherwiseand you put yourself in almost as much danger as a chatty atheist trying to engage in a theological discussion in a coliseum full of Jehovah's Witnesses (how many of those folks will make it into the afterlife? Isn't there a limit?).
Feminist critics point out the lack of women in The Lord of the Rings, and that those women who are present fulfill only the narrowest stereotypes. Éowyn's strength is dependent upon adopting male gender qualities, a typical stereotype of "powerful women in fantasy," and she is alone amongst the Rohirrim as a woman who can and will fight. All other women in her culture are present as a reason to fight rather than as integral parts of the struggle. Arwen's place (in the books, at least) as a maiden waiting for the hand of her king takes the "reason to fight" to even greater heights. And the only powerful female, Galadriel as the terrible, beautiful elven Queen, is too far removed from mortality and reality to be anything more than a midtale deus ex machina, thereby removing her from the realm of women and men and making her a pseudogod whose power is allowed only because it is arcane and mysterious.
PostColonial critics have latched onto the racism inherent in The Lord of the Rings, pointing out the hierarchies between the races: from the "superiority" of the elves, to the "chosen" role of "European" Men of the West under the leadership of Aragorn, to the lesser races of Dwarves and Hobbits (the former are "lesser" because they are "too greedy" and the latter are "lesser" because they are children). PostColonialists look to the "orientalization" of Sauron's forces and the configuration of evil as an inherent quality of Orcs and "the dark folk." They point out Tolkien's family's history as a cog in the mechanism of English Imperialism, and his own birth in one of the most blatantly racist colonies of all, South Africa (while he did leave at three years old, his family's presence there at all suggests that some of the classic colonial opinions about the colonized "dark races" helped form the man who wrote these books), as possible reasons for this racism.
These criticisms further suggest, at least to me, that the archetypal source of all fantasy's entrenched racismeven those books being written todayis The Lord of the Rings. Those fantasy authors who have followed Tolkien consistently and inescapably embrace his configuration of the races (yes, even those like R.A. Salvatore who try and fail to derail this configuration) and the concepts of good and evil that go along with them, which leads to the stagnation and diminishment of their genre.
The fact is that these flaws do exist in The Lord of the Rings. They are present. They are easy to find. But few of Tolkien's rabid fans want to hear about them.
And even when the criticism is not necessarily suggesting a flaw in Tolkien's work but merely the presence of some subtext, the dogmatists react with rage and condemnation. A fine example of this is when Queer and Gender theorists point to the overwhelming relationships between men, and how the relationship between Frodo and Sam is homosocial, at least, and possibly even homosexual. The only true intimacy in the book occurs between the men, after all, and to ignore that fact is to ignore one of key components of why The Lord of the Rings is so emotionally satisfying, especially to young men.
Even faced with these ideas supported by convincing arguments, however, many fans either strive for ignorance or attack the messenger. This may have much to do with the worryunreasonable though it isthat to admit that a flaw or something uncomfortable exists in any of these books, which so many people love so deeply, is to accept that The Lord of the Rings is neither great nor worthy of love.
But this is not the case.
I love The Lord of the Rings even though I subscribe completely to the postcolonial criticism, and see the merits in both the feminine and queer criticisms, not to mention the countless other criticisms and subtexts that are floating around.
The books are racist; they are sexist. They are not perfect. And I must criticize the elements of The Lord of the Rings that make me uncomfortable and deserve no praise. But my complaints and the complaints of critics make Tolkien's achievement no less great.
Tolkien created the most magnificent imaginary world ever conceived, and, for good or ill, Fantasy would be nothing today were it not for him. The Lord of the Rings is a triumph on countless levels, but it is not the word of God, nor should it be elevated to such heights.
I love The Lord of the Rings, but I love it with reservations. I love it because of its place in my personal mythology, its genuine originality, its creativity, its power, but I love it with my mind open to its flaws, and I refuse to make excuses for Tolkien or his work.
Twentyfive years ago I'd have given The Lord of the Rings my highest possible praise. Not today. But I am still willing to admit my love. One of the greatest trilogies of all time and certainly the measuring stick to which all subsequent fantasystyle writing is compared, The Lord of the Rings trilogy still stands at the top of the stack. Its realism, the characters and monsters, the storyline, the epic battles, and the quest motif are all drawn with incredible care by Tolkien in his chefd'oeuvre. My favorite was The The Two Towers but all three are stunning. This edition, despite the awful cover art, contains all three books and the original appendices from The Return of the King. The one issue I have with this one is that the map of Middle Earth that should open The Two Towers is back in the appendices and relatively hard to find. It is also a rather large book and thus unwieldy for public transport commuting.
I wanted to use this review to address a few overall themes of LOTR: symbolism, ecology, sexuality.
As for symbolism, as described in Tolkien, Tolkien's politics are not mapped onto the characters of Middle Earth in any obvious way. The symbols he uses go back before the Germanic invasions of Britain around 1000 because his goal is precisely to recreate the mythology that existed in England, Scotland and Wales before this period of instability and wanton destruction. His theory was that there were shards of that previous system of beliefs, fears, mythologies that survived in story form in the Arthurian tales, in Beowolf, in Gawain, and other Old English remnants. Most of the transmission was done orally, so when that generation disappeared after Norman invasions of the 11c (1066Battle of Hastings) for the most part, collective memory subsumed some of these images. Tolkien's idea was to extract these and try to revive the ubermyths that they derived from. He was a philologue, meaning that he studies indepth the origins of the English language and chaired the Philology Department at Oxford for decades. Old English and its offspring Middle English owed their origins to various Nordic tongues (Old Norse, Old Icelandic) and eventually, the invading Norsemen brought their culture and religion and especially their languate ultimately fusing all of these into what became the Modern English that I am writing in now. In fact, Tolkien's translation of Beowolf is still a reference for scholars of Old English even today. All that to say that in reading the oldest extant myths in the "Old" languages, Tolkien got a sense that there was something important that was hidden just beneath the surface, and he spent nearly his entire life as a linguistic speleologue trying to find itsort of a human Dorin mining Moria to find the original stories. The Elves represent the very first humanoids to arrive in England whereas the Dwarves represent the various invasions from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland before 1000. Men are those who populated the Middle Ages and Hobbits are sort of the archetype of the middleclass, landed but nonaristocratic gentry in the villages of England.
Perhaps the one place where political events in Tolkien's own life affect the narrative is in the episode at the very end of The Scouring of the Shire. Here we see History catch up with the Idyllic and somewhat isolated Shire where violence (the sad, pathetic revenge of Saruman on Bilbo and Frodo for having thwarted his plans) rages across the land, nature is destroyed, and industrialization arises. This represents the Industrial Revolution but also the coming of age for Tolkien himself in WWI and, I would argue, the bombing of Oxford during the Battle of Britain during WWII that he experienced firsthand as well. It is interesting that this is included as a coda after the main action of the epic is already concluded, as if he had this one other thing to say before sending Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo off to Grey Haven with the Elves, thus definitively ending the preModern Middle Earth (and by extension Medieval and Revolutionary Europe) and entering into the Modern/Industrial Age.
I wrote quite a lot about Tolkien's sensibility to nature in my previous LOTR reviews (see below), but I wanted to reiterate that in these books, nature itself is a character in the saga. When Tolkien talks about flowers or herbs, his descriptions are lush in detail and even anthropomorphic as it comes to trees (Ents for example). Indeed, recalling what I said above about his pining for an England before the agricultural and industrial revolutions when the great primitive forests still covered England and all of Europe, he bemoans the loss of this environment time and time again. Most poignantly, I think, with Treebeard's sad resignation at the definitive disappearance of Entmaidens which spells certain death for his species. Sam is able to bear the destruction of Hobbiton to a degree, but when he sees the Party Tree under which Bilbo gave his Farewell Speech destroyed and lying dead on the ground, something breaks inside of him.
Nature in LOTR is a living, breathing thing and critical to the success of the mission: without the Ents, the Battle of Isengard would certainly have not been such a definitive defeat for Sarumon (another reason why he attacked not only Hobbits but trees as well in his Scouring of the Shire). The loss of communication between Man and Forest is one of the reasons for the breakdown in relationships between Rohan and Gondor as well as that between Elves and Men, thus the marriages of Faramir and Eowyn and Aragorn and Arwen are so important for reforging those bonds and replanting the forests that were impacted by the war. Once communication has been reestablished and the forests resume their role in connecting communities, peace can once again attempt to thrive.
Lastly, I would point out that this sense of the importance of ecology has completely disappeared from fantasy (and its modern derivation of dystopias) literature (at least as far as I have read). The stories of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, the Grishaverse, and so on have pushed trees and nature into a Hollywood backdrop for the most part. This is rather unfortunate because that means that the generations after LOTR did not really have a solid basis of awareness about man's intimate connection to nature making it easier to deny the grim reality of climate change and ecological destruction since it is seen as superficially unrelated to their daily lives. Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning as evidenced by the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction given to Richard Ford's excellent The Overstory.
The last theme I wanted to touch on briefly was sexuality. For the most part, the world of Middle Earth is asexual. The relationships between the paired characters, say, Sam and Frodo and Legolas and Gimli, are those of deep, intimate but strictly nonsexual friendships. In the case of Sam and Frodo, I suppose that it could be argued that Sam sometimes has a mancrush on Frodo, but it is not truly reciprocated nor acted on other than their relationship involving more hugs and handholding than other friendships in the book.
As for the Elves, we have several gorgeous women Elves: Arwen and Galadriel, but both are asexual (at least until Arwen weds Aragorn) despite provoking deep reverence in Merry, it remains platonic and more of a onesided infatuation. There is little mention of rape in LOTR even during the war, this book having originally being intended as a sequel to the childfocused The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, perhaps that plus the natural British tendency to whitewash unsightly behavior was at play.
For the most part, women play a secondary or tertiary role in LOTR. At one point, Galadriel could become a supremely powerful figure, but she renounces it in The Two Towers after looking into her Mirror and seeing the consequences. The notable exception to this is, of course, Eowyn who revendicates her status of independence from her 'cage' and who slays the King of the Nazgûl in revenge of the death of her father and both protecting Merry and saving the outcome of the battle for the good guys with her immortal: "For no man am I!" speech. That being said, she is obliged to give up her love for Aragorn and settle for Faramir, who fortunately has a good heart and seems to truly love her at first sight. What I am getting at is that Eowyn escapes her fate as a nonactor in history with her act in the battlefield, but does not escape her destiny becoming a wife to a man at the end. Perhaps in that sense, Galadriel does remain a heroic figure, if more passive than Eowyn, she retains her total independence and a modicum of power, being one of the last two Ring holders with Gandalf.
Gandalf's lack of sexuality is interesting. Perhaps folks were put off by the adage that one must never delve into the affairs of wizards because they are of short and violent humor. In any case, he is clearly not homosexual (unlike his distant cousin Dumbledore according to Rowling (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion...)). He is more an archetype of the Catholic God the Father than the sexhound Jove.
Suite et fin
Well, I hope you appreciated these thoughts about LOTR and that it will encourage you to reread this classic and be more environmentallyaware going forward. Long live Middle Earth!
Fino's Tolkien Reviews:
The Fellowship of the Ring (LOTR 1)
The Two Towers (LOTR 2)
The Return of the King (LOTR 3)
Lord of the Rings 13General Comments and Observations
Raymond Edward's Tolkien biography Considering that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular books of the last century, it's surprising to see how few reviews there are here. I get the impression that many people feel guilty about liking it. It's a phase you go through, and the less said about it, the better. I think this is unfair to the book, which, I am prepared to argue, is a whole lot better than it's generally made out to be; I don't think its huge success is just evidence that people have no taste. It's something that can be read at more than one level, and, before dismissing it, let's take a look at what those levels might be.
On the surface, it's a heroic fantasy novel, and quite a good one. It's a gripping, wellrealized story, with an interesting fantasy world as background. Under the surface story, it's also clear that there's a moral discourse. It's not an allegory; as Tolkien points out in the foreword, he hated allegory, and we certainly don't have an inyourface piece of Christian apology by numbers. None the less, the author has constructed some inspiring and thoughtprovoking symbols. The Ring confers great power, but the only way to defeat Sauron is to refuse that power, and destroy it, even at great personal cost. Frodo's selfsacrifice is quite moving. I also think that Gandalf is an unusually interesting Christfigure; sufficiently so that many people refuse even to accept him as one, though, at least to me, the argument on that point seems convincing. He comes from Valinor, obviously the Heavenly Realm, to help the Free Peoples of the West. A central part of his message is the importance of mercy, as, in particular, shown by the memorable scene near the beginning, when he rebukes Frodo for wishing that Bilbo had killed Sméagol when he had the opportunity. As we discover, Sméagol is finally the one person who can destroy the Ring. And let's not miss the obvious point that Gandalf is killed, and then returns reborn in a new shape. I find him vastly more sympathetic than C.S. Lewis's bland Aslan, and he is the book's most memorable character.
But I don't think the morality play is the real kernel either. What makes LOTR a unique book, and one of the most ambitious experiments in literary history, is Tolkien's use of names. All authors knows how important names are, and use them to suggest character; though when you think about what is going on, it is rather surprising how much can be conveyed just by a name. Proust has a couple of long discussions about this, describing in great detail how the narrator's initial mental pictures of Balbec, Venice and the Guermantes family come just from the sounds of their names. Tolkien goes much further. Most of his names are based on a family of invented languages, linked by a vast complex of legends and histories, the greater part of which are invisible to the reader and only surface occasionally.
The astonishing thing is that the technique actually works. The interrelations between all the invented names and languages make MiddleEarth feel real, in a way no other fantasy world ever has. When some readers complain that characters and locations are hastily sketched, I feel they are missing the point. Tolkien was a philologist. He loved languages, words and names, and tracing back what the relationships between them say about their history. In LOTR, he's able to convey some of that love of language to his readers. You have to read the book more than once, but after a while it all comes together. To give just a few obvious examples, you see how "hobbit" is a debased form of the word holbytla ("holedweller") in the Old Norselike language of Rohan, how the "mor" in "Moria" is the same as the one in "Mordor" and "morgul", and how Arwen Undómiel's name expresses her unearthly beauty partly through the element it shares with her ancestor Lúthien Tinúviel. There are literally hundred more things like this, most of which one perceives on a partly unconscious level. The adolescent readers who are typically captivated by LOTR are at a stage of their linguistic development when they are very sensitive to nuances of language, and programmed to pick them up; I can't help thinking that they are intuitively seeing things that more sophisticated readers may miss.
Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate the magnitude of Tolkien's achievement is the fact that it's proven impossible to copy it; none of the other fantasy novels I've seen have come anywhere close. Tolkein's names lend reality to his world, because he put so much energy into the linguistic backstory, and before that worked for decades as a philologist. Basically, he was an extremely talented person who spent his whole life training to write The Lord of the Rings. In principle, I suppose other authors could have done the same thing. In practice, you have to be a very unusual person to want to live that kind of life.
Writing this down reminds me of one of the Sufi stories in The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mullah Nasrudin. The guy is invited to a posh house, and sees this incredibly beautiful, smooth lawn. It's like a billiard table. "I love your lawn!" he says. "What's the secret?"
"Oh," his host says, "It's easy. Just seed, water, mow and roll regularly, and anyone can do it!"
"Ah yes!" says the visitor, "And about how long before it looks like that?"
"Hm, I don't know," says the host. "Maybe... 800 years?"
Writing a review of this masterpiece is impossible. I can’t do it.
There’s too much to talk about and I love it far too much to articulate my thoughts in a normal way. So instead I’ve picked one element of each book that I liked the most (taken from my list of ten on each review) and added them here. It’s the best I can do, though I know many goodreads users share my difficulty when reviewing this book.
Anyway, here’s my top three:
1.Finding your courage The Fellowship of the Ring
Not all the party have been fully tested. With them travel four young hobbits, the most unlikely of companions for such a journey. They are the overlooked, the forgotten about, the race that is casually discarded and considered insignificant in the wider world. And perhaps this has been the downfall of society in middle earth previously. The forces of darkness exploit everything they can get their hands on, from giant spiders to rampaging trolls, from dragons to orcs, from men of the east to the undead, Sauron tries to wield it all. This is something the forces of good have not fully considered until recently. Within the bosom of the hobbit beats a strong heart of fortitude and resilience.
“My dear Frodo!’ exclaimed Gandalf. ‘Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.”
They carry with them the key to destroying the dark. Bilbo showed them how he could resist the ring. The hobbits are an almost incorruptible race, and because of this they are Sauron’s doom. It is something he has overlooked.
“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam," said Frodo, "and I could not have borne that."
"Not as certain as being left behind," said Sam.
"But I am going to Mordor."
"I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I'm coming with you.”
2. Gandalf the WhiteThe Two Towers
“Do I not say truly, Gandalf,' said Aragorn at last, 'that you could go whithersoever you wished quicker than I? And this I also say: you are our captain and our banner. The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through the fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads.
Gandalf the Grey was charming and quirky; he was everybody’s friend and advisor. But he was also a great wonderer and a great quester. He was an unearther of dark secrets and mysteries. And MiddleEarth no longer needs such a figure, darkness is now on her doorstep; it is no longer hidden. So MiddleEarth needs a man (or Istari) with far sight that can unite the scattered forces of Rohan and manipulate events in order to ensure that the King does, indeed, return. It needs a methodical man of great wisdom and intelligence; it needs a stagiest: it needs a new white wizard now that Saruman has changed his colours. And he has come.
3.Girl Power!The Return of the King
“What do you fear, lady?" [Aragorn] asked.
"A cage," [Éowyn] said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
There have not been many moments for women to show their strength in this story. Arwen’s moment in the films was nonexistent in the book. Frodo was saved on the river by an Elflord called Glorfindel. So when Eowen battled the Witch King, it is the first major moment Tolkien gave to a female hero. In a vastly male dominated genre, it was great to read this scene. If I have one criticism of Tolkien, it’s that we didn’t see more of such things.
And here's a gif I like:
Who else, besides me, has the notion that the real hero in the Lord Of The Rings story is Sam? Sam is the typical accidental hero. He is the girl or boy next door, the ordinary folk. Sam is you and me and represents the courage we all have inside of us. He shows that when the going gets tough and the shit hits the fan it is the most unlikely of us that step up. Hero's are not always musclebound hunks. Not always the James Bond type character or the brilliant lawyer bringing justice to the deserving. Almost all of the time the hero is the one that does the things that go unnoticed, uncelebrated. There is a hero in all of us whether we know it or not.🐯👍
A Hobbit finds himself on a quest that will change his life
An adventure full, of peril and strife
An ancient evil is rising, to come forth again
Like a dark cancer, enveloping, causing suffering and pain
A gold ring will help Frodo on his way, make him invisible to all near by
But give away his location, as Sauron see's him, from most high
Like the all seeing eye of Lucifer, the eye from the skies
And Frodo is in extreme danger, as a dark army begins to rise
Strider, and Legolas, and Gimley will aid him and Samwise Gamgee
And Meriadoc Brandybuck, and Peregrin Took, and Gandalf, to complete the band of brothers, a family
Gollum, the sinister one, the gold ring an obsession
Gollum wants it back, from Fodo's possession
A tale of great adventure, fantasy of the highest esteem
Tolkien was a master, to me, that's all he has ever been. 👍🐯
Look at thisss, hobbitses! Not bought at flea market for ten francses. Catalogue says worth seven hundred dollarses. Oh yes, Not knows about bookses, gollum. But can't touch, can't read, she says too valuable. Going to eat fish instead, but nice birthday present, oh yes precious.
|Download ♌ The Lord of the Rings ♲ One Ring To Rule Them All, One Ring To Find Them, One Ring To Bring Them All And In The Darkness Bind Them
In Ancient Times The Rings Of Power Were Crafted By The Elvensmiths, 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 Middleearth, It Remained Lost To Him After Many Ages It Fell By Chance Into The Hands Of The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins
From Sauron's Fastness In The Dark Tower Of Mordor, His Power Spread Far And Wide Sauron Gathered All The Great Rings To Him, But Always He Searched For The One Ring That Would Complete His Dominion
When Bilbo Reached His Eleventyfirst Birthday He Disappeared, Bequeathing To His Young Cousin Frodo The Ruling Ring And A Perilous Quest: To Journey Across Middleearth, 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; The Hobbits Merry, Pippin, And Sam; Gimli The Dwarf; Legolas The Elf; Boromir Of Gondor; And A Tall, Mysterious Stranger Called Strider Three Rings for the Elvenkings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarflords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Three thousand years after the defeat of the Dark Lord Sauron before the slopes of Mount Doom, a magic ring falls into the care of Frodo Baggins, a young hobbit from the Shire. Aided by his gardener Samwise Gamgee and the mysterious wizard Gandalf the Grey, he takes the ring on a journey to Rivendell, a hidden refuge of the Elves. But evil stirs in the fell lands of Mordor, and black riders scour the countryside in search of their master’s most prized possession…
Thus begins the most legendary saga in the history of fantasy.
"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to."
I’ll kick off this review by telling a little story. A story starting, as the stories often do, with 'once upon a time'...
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who have never read a fantasy book. Thinking back on it, it does seem like an awfully sorry state of affairs. He was a devoted reader already as a quite small child, but he mostly read children’s books like The Hardy Boys and other juvenile and boyish stories like them. The one day he discovered this huge brick called The Lord of the Rings, and started reading it. It would change his life forever. There were other books at the time, for instance the immensely popular Harry Potter series, which was being published back then, but none of them could ever hope to compare to what was now the little boy’s favourite book.
The little boy grew into adolescence. He read other books, few of them fantasy. He discovered a passion for history, and started reading that. He read classics and scifi and mysteries and even religious texts. He read books considered by some as among the best books ever. And none of them could ever hope to compare to what was still the boy’s favourite book.
Later that little boy would grow up to become a man (though he probably never will grow up completely, mind you). And he started reading fantasy again. A Song of Ice and Fire was one of the first attempts, and it quickly turned into a favourite. But compared to The Lord of the Rings? Nothing. It was followed by tons of other fantasy series, among them Narnia, The Inheritance Cycle, Shannara and so on. And he loved them all. But every once in a while, he had to go back to this huge brick to remember that there existed something even better.
"Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow."
I have been struggling for years to describe The Lord of the Rings. How do you actually describe the book you both love more than any other, and also consider the best book ever written from a more or less objective point of view?
I recently dumped into the word sublime, which I’ve only heard used on a few occasions before. I knew what it meant, but not the exact definition. So I checked.
Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth.
Not to be excelled; supreme.
Inspiring awe; impressive.
An ultimate example.
And that is pretty much exactly how I would describe it. Sublime it is. I realised that I would never come closer to an actual description of The Lord of the Rings. This is to me not only the main pillar on which the fantasy genre stands, but the ultimate masterpiece of literature.
I’ll use a farfetched example to
make my love for this book sound totally crazy put my love for this book in perspective: if I had to choose between reading this book once and having unlimited access to all the other books ever released, then I would choose this. No contest even.
I am so very grateful to have been given the chance to come along on the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring. To visit so many wonderful places in a land of myths and magic. To meet so many fascinating men, elves, dwarves and other legendary peoples and creatures...
Are there any negative things to mention? No. In my mind there are none at all, but I’ll say this: Tolkien’s characters are not the best I have encountered, and the storyline of this book is not perfect. That’s the closest you’ll ever come to witness me criticizing this wondrous gem, and the only things you’ll ever hear from me about it except for fanatical ravings and unsolicited praise.
I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.
If perfection exists and is obtainable, then Tolkien’s worldbuilding is perfect. There is nothing in either fantasy or any other genre to match it. It certainly surpassed all the magical worlds that had come before it, and none created since that time have been able to surpass it in turn. Writers like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin have made their attempts, and now we’re talking about more of my alltime favourite fantasy worlds and series, but in my eyes, none of them have even come close.
I have had tons of delightful experiences while venturing into magnificent worlds of fantasy, in Westeros and Narnia and so many others. But MiddleEarth is like a fictional home. I seem to have left behind parts of my heart and soul by the waterfalls of Rivendell, the ancient trees of Fangorn forest, the plains of Rohan and the marble walls of Minas Tirith. And I do not regret that for one second.
Most of my standards for comparison also derive from this tome. I have yet to encounter a mentor character in fantasy who can compare to Gandalf, or a fictional love story that can compare to the tale of Aragorn and Arwen. I have yet to encounter a setting as detailed or writing as flawlessly eloquent as this. And those are only a few examples of aspects in which I consider The Lord of the Rings to be superior to all others.
These musings can only begin to describe how much this book means to me. It sparked my passion for reading at a young age. It made me love the fantasy genre and all that came with it. It made me start creating worlds of my own, and in the end find one in particular that I liked so much I started writing stories set in it. Why, it even made me intrigued by poetry eventually. But I have yet to read anything by any famous poet that can match Tolkien’s utterly incredible poems.
On my third and fourth and fifth reads of this book, I started looking beyond the immediately visible. And I found something more to admire: the man himself. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien went on to become my most important role model, and despite having been gone from this world for forty years, he’s been heavily influencing my personal opinions and choices for more than a decade. And not only literarily, but historically, politically and philosophically as well.
This book is definitely the one single object that’s had the most impact on me, and it’s meant a lot more to me than one should think any object could be capable of. But then again it’s not really an object after all. It is so much more. A legend trapped in words on pieces of paper. A magical gateway to the most amazing world you’ll ever see.
This is to me the apex of human creativity and imagination. The very best form of art a human mind can produce.
There have been many books that I have cherished through the years, and I expect there will be many more to come. But The Lord of the Rings will always be the one I treasure the most of them all.
It has changed me forever. As it once changed the world forever.
"I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae a han noston ned 'wilith."
So that's all I have to say for now. I'm afraid this was not so much an actual review as simply a story about my experience with and passion for this book. If you've been patient enough to read to the very end, I thank you for your attention. I'll leave you with the most beautiful passage Tolkien ever wrote, and my favourite literary quote of all time...
Authors who inspire a movement are usually misunderstood, especially by those they have inspired, and Tolkien is no exception, but one of the biggest misconceptions about Tolkien is the idea that he is somehow an 'innovator of fantasy'. He did add a number of techniques to the repertoire of epic fantasy writers, and these have been dutifully followed by his many imitators, but for the most part, these techniques are little more than bad habits.
Many have called Tolkien by such epithets as 'The Father of Fantasy', but anyone who makes this claim simply does not know of the depth and history of the fantasy genre. For those who are familiar with the great and influential fantastical authors, from Ovid and Ariosto to Eddison and Dunsany to R.E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, it is clear that, long before Tolkien, fantasy was already a complex, wellestablished, and even a respected literary genre.
Eddison's work contains an invented world, a carefullyconstructed (and wellresearched) archaic language, a powerful and unearthly queen, and a central character who is conflicted and lost between the forces of nobility and darkness. Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword , which came out the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring, has distant, haughty elves, deepdelving dwarves, a broken sword which must be reforged, an epic war between the armies of light and darkness, another central character trapped between those extremes, and an interweaving of Christian and Pagan worldviews.
So, if these aspects are not unique to Tolkien, then what does set him apart? Though Dunsany, Eddison, and Anderson all present worlds where light and dark come into conflict, they present these conflicts with a subtle and often ironic touch, recognizing that morality is a dangerous thing to present in absolutes. Tolkien (or C.S. Lewis), on the other hand, has no problem in depicting evil as evil, good as good, and the only place they meet is in the temptation of an honest heart, as in Gollum's caseand even then, he is not like Eddison's Lord Gro or Anderson's Scafloc, characters who live under an alternative view of the world, but instead fluctuates between the highs and lows of Tolkien's dualistic morality.
It is a dangerous message to make evil an external, irrational thing, to define it as 'the unknown that opposes us', because it invites the reader to overlay their own morality upon the world, which is precisely what most modern fantasy authors tend to do, following Tolkien's example. Whether it's Goodkind's Libertarianism or John Norman's sex slave fetish, its very easy to simply create a magical allegory to make one side 'right' and the other side 'wrong', and you never have to develop a dramatic narrative that actually explores the soundness of those ideas. Make the good guys dress in bright robes or silvery maile and the bad guys in black, spiky armor, and a lot of people will never notice that all the 'good guys' are White, upper class men, while all the 'bad guys' are 'brutish foreigners', and that both sides are killing each other and trying to rule their little corner of the world.
In Tolkien's case, his moral view was a very specific evocation of the ideal of 'Merrie England', which is an attempt by certain stodgy old Tories (like Tolkien) to rewrite history so that the nobility were all good and righteous leaders, the farmers were all happy in their 'proper place' (working a simple patch of dirt), while both industrialized cultures and the 'primitives' who resided to the South and East were 'the enemy' bent on despoiling the 'natural beauty of England' (despite the fact that the isles had been flattened, deforested, and partitioned a thousand years before).
Though Tom Bombadil remains as a strangely incoherent reminder of the moral and social complexity of the fantasy tradition upon which Tolkien draws, he did his best to scrub the rest clean, spending years of his life trying to fit Catholic philosophy more wholly into his Pagan adventure realm. But then, that's often how we think of Tolkien: bent over his desk, spending long hours researching, notetaking, compiling, and playing with language. Even those who admit that Tolkien demonstrates certain racist, sexist, and classicist leanings (as, indeed, do many great authors) still praise the complexity of his 'world building'.
And any student of the great Epics, like the Norse Eddas, the Bible, or the Shahnameh can see what Tolkien is trying to achieve with his worldbuilding: those books presented grand stories, but were also about depicting a vast world of philosophy, history, myth, geography, morality and culture. They were encyclopedic texts, intended to instruct their people on everything important in life, and they are extraordinarily valuable to students of anthropology and history, because even the smallest detail can reveal something about the world which the book describes.
So, Tolkien fills his books with troop movements, dull songs, lines of lineage, and references to his own madeup history, mythology, and language. He has numerous brieflymentioned side characters and events because organic texts like the epics, which were formed slowly, over time and compiled from many sources often contained such digressions. He creates characters who have similar nameswhich is normally a stupid thing to do, as an author, because it is so confusingbut he’s trying to represent a hereditary tradition of prefixes and suffixes and shared names, which many great families of history had. So Tolkien certainly had a purpose in what he did, but was it a purpose that served the story he was trying to tell?
Simply copying the form of reality is not what makes good art. Art is meaningfulit is directed. It is not just a list of detailseverything within is carefully chosen by the author to make up a good story. The addition of detail is not the same as adding depth, especially since Tolkien’s world is not based on some outside systemit is whatever he says it is. It’s all arbitrary, which is why the only thing that grants a character, scene, or detail purpose is the meaning behind it. Without that meaning, then what Tolkien is doing is just a very elaborate thought exercise. Now, it’s certainly true that many people have been fascinated with studying it, but that’s equally true of many thought exercises, such as the rules and background of the Pokemon card game, or crossword puzzles.
Ostensibly, Scrabble supposedly is a game for people who love wordsand yet, top Scrabble players sit an memorize lists of words whose meaning they will never learn. Likewise, many literary fandom games become little more than word searches: find this reference, connect that name to this characterbut which have no meaning or purpose outside of that. The point of literary criticism is always to lead us back to human thought and ideas, to looking at how we think and express ourselves. If a detail in a work cannot lead us back to ourselves, then it is no more than an arbitrary piece of chaff.
The popularity of Tolkien’s work made it acceptable for other authors to do the same thing, to the point that whenever I hear a book lauded for the ‘depth of its world building’, I expect to find a mess of obsessive detailing, of piling on so many inconsequential facts and figures that the characters and stories get buried under the scree, as if the author secretly hopes that by spending most of the chapter describing the hero’s cuirass, we'll forget that he’s a bland archetype who only succeeds through happy coincidence and deus ex machina against an enemy with no internal structure or motivation.
When QuillerCouch said authors should ‘murder their darlings’, this is what he meant: just because you have hobbies and opinions does not mean you should fill your novel with them. Anything which does not materially contribute to the story, characters, and artistry of a work can safely be left out. Tolkien's embarrassment of detail also produced a huge inflation in the acceptable length of fantasy books, leading to the meandering, unending series that fill bookstore shelves today.
Now, there are several notable critics who have lamented the unfortunate effect that Tolkien’s work has had on the genre, such as in Moorcock’s Epic Pooh and Mieville’s diatribe about every modern fantasy author being forced to come to terms with the old don's influence. I agree with their deconstructions, but for me, Tolkien isn’t some special author, some ‘fantasy granddad’ looming over all. He’s just a bump in the road, one author amongst many in a genre that stretches back thousands of years into our very ideas of myth and identity, and not one of the more interesting ones
His ideas weren’t unique, and while his approach may have been unusual, it was only because he spent a lifetime obsessively trying to make something artificial seem more natural, despite the fact that the point of fantasy (and fiction in general) is to explore the artificial, the human side of the equation, to look at the world through the biased lens of our eye and to represent some odd facet of the human condition. Unfortunately, Tolkien’s characters, structure, and morality are all too flat to suggest much, no matter how many fauxorganic details he surrounds them with.
My Fantasy Book Suggestions 494.The Lord of The Rings (The Lord of the Rings #13), J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the bestselling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold. The title of the novel refers to the story's main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who had in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middleearth. (Nineteen of these rings were made. These were grouped into three rings for the Elves, seven rings for the Dwarves, and nine rings for men. One additional ring, the One Ring, was forged by Sauron himself at Mount Doom.). From quiet beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land not unlike the English countryside, the story ranges across Middleearth, following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters, not only the hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise "Sam" Gamgee, Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck and Peregrin "Pippin" Took, but also the hobbits' chief allies and travelling companions: the Men, Aragorn son of Arathorn, a Ranger of the North, and Boromir, a Captain of Gondor; Gimli son of Glóin, a Dwarf warrior; Legolas Greenleaf, an Elven prince; and Gandalf, a wizard.
عنوانها: ارباب حلقه ها؛ فرمانروای حلقه ها؛ سرور حلقه ها؛ خداوندگار حلقه ها؛ سالار انگشتریها؛ نویسنده: جی.آر.آر. تالکین؛ (نگاه) ادبیات انگلستان؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: یکی از روزهای ماه دسامبر سال 2002 میلادی
عنوان: فرماندوای حلقه ها؛ نویسنده: جی.آر.آر. (جان رونالد روئر) تالکین؛ مترجم: رضا علیزاده؛ تهران، روزنه، 1381؛ سه کتاب در سه جلد؛ جلد نخست: یاران حلقه؛ جلد دوم: دو برج ؛ جلد سوم: بازگشت شاه؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسیسده 20 م
عنوان: خداوندگار حلقه ها؛ نویسنده: جی.آر.آر. (جان رونالد روئر) تالکین؛ مترجم: تبسم آتشین جان؛ تهران، حوض نقره، 1381؛ سه کتاب در شش جلد؛ جلد نخست: رهروان حلقه؛
عنوان: سالار انگشتریها؛ نویسنده: جی.آر.آر. (جان رونالد روئر) تالکین؛ مترجم: ماه منیر فتحی؛ تبریز، فروغ آزادی، 1381؛
سه کتاب؛ کتاب نخست: دوستی انگشتری (یاران حلقه)؛ کتاب دوم: دوتا برج (دو برج)؛ کتاب سوم: بازگشت پادشاه؛
رمانی به سبک خیالپردازی حماسی؛ به قلم «جی. آر. آر. تالکین»؛ نویسنده و زبانشناس انگلیسی ست. این مجموعه داستان؛ ادامه ی اثر پیشین «تالکین»، با عنوان «هابیت» است؛ که در همین ژانر نوشته شده بود. «تالکین» کتاب را طی دوازده سال؛ از سال 1937 میلادی تا سال 1949 میلادی، که بیشتر آن در زمان جنگ جهانی دوم بوده، نگاشته است. اگرچه کتاب در بین خوانشگران، به شکل یک سه گانه جا افتاده است، اما در ابتدا بنا بود، این اثر جلد نخستش کتاب «سیلماریلیون» باشد، که نویسنده به دلایل اقتصادی، تصمیم به حذف آن گرفت، و کتاب «ارباب حلقه ها» را در سال 1954 میلادی تا سال 1955 میلادی در سه جلد منتشر کرد. داستان در سرزمینی خیالی، به نام «سرزمین میانی»، که در زبان الفی به نام: «آردا» شناخته میشود؛ در جریان است. از شخصیتهای معروف داستان، میتوان به: «آراگورن»، و «سائورون»، اشاره کرد. «آراگورن» پسر «آراتورن»، که از نژاد «نومه نور» است، وارث پادشاهی فراموش شده ی «الندیل» و «ایزیلدور»، در «سرزمین میانه» است. «آراگورن» پس از نابود شدن «سائورون»، به عنوان پادشاه «اله سار» تاج گذاری کرد، و صلح را به ارمغان آورد. ارباب تاریکی یا «سائورون»، شخصیت منفی و اصلی اثر، کسی ست که حلقه ی یکتای قدرت را، برای کنترل نوزده حلقه ی دیگر؛ ساخته ست؛ و برای همین است که «ارباب حلقه ها» خوانده میشود. «سائورون» خود یکی از خدمتگزاران ارباب تاریکی پیشینمورگوت (ملکور)بوده، که از شخصیتهای مهم کتاب دیگر تالکینسیلماریلیوناست. کتاب سیلماریون سرآغازی بر تاریخ و چگونگی ساخت سرزمین میانی ست. سه گانه ی ارباب حلقه ها در ایران؛ نخستین بار توسط جناب «رضا علیزاده» ترجمه شد، و در سال 1382 هجری خورشیدی توسط انتشارات روزنه به چاپ رسید. هر سه کتاب دارای نقشه هایی از سرزمین میانه هستند. همچنین در ابتدای کتاب اول، و در پایان کتاب سوم، مترجم اطلاعاتی درمورد داستان، و سرزمین میانه، و نژادهای ساکن آن، زبانشان، کتابتشان و... آورده است. ا. شربیانی