Saturday, September 24, 2011

'The Fellowship of the Ring' Read-Along - Part 3

'The Fellowship of the Ring' is the first part of JRR Tolkien's epic masterpiece 'The Lord of the Rings'. This paperback edition has the classic black cover featuring Tolkien's own design and includes the definitive edition of the text. In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task,. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power - the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord's evil purpose. JRR Tolkien's great work of imaginative fiction has been labelled both a heroic romance and a classic fantasy fiction. By turns comic and homely, epic and diabolic, the narrative moves through countless changes of scene and character in an imaginary world which is totally convincing in its detail. Part of a set of three paperbacks, this popular edition is once again available in its classic black livery designed by Tolkien himself.
This is the third, and final week, of the read-along for The Fellowship of the Ring. I am very happy that I managed to finish this reread. I am hoping to read the other two books in the trilogy in the following months. This is something I have been trying to do for a while now, so hopefully I can finally accomplish. I actually have to say that I probably enjoyed this book upon a reread than I did originally. I think I understand where it fits into the larger picture, so it works a lot better for me now. This is the first time I have read the books since the movies came out, too, so it is a very different reading experience.

This week Andrea came up with some talking points and told us to answer some of them. I was tempted to answer all of them, but it does make sense that every post will be different. This read-along is hosted by Andrea and Clint.

Galadriel and her Ring. She knows the Ring of power must be destroyed, but with it's destruction comes the de-powering (is that a word?) of her Ring as well. The Elves must leave Middle Earth or forget who and what they are. For her, this is a no win situation. Frodo's success effectively means the banishment of the Elves in Middle Earth. I wonder if that makes him more likely to do everything in his power to succeed, or less?
This is an interesting question. I hadn't even really thought about this larger implication before. I had even forgotten about it until I read the book. In the movies it doesn't really get mentioned, but then I was rereading the book and was reminded that her ring falls under the domain of his ring. The thing with it, though, is I don't remember it ever really being mentioned again. It was sort of like once Galadriel is out of the story, her story is largely forgotten. And, I was thinking that certain elves wait and leave Middle-Earth after the ring is destroyed, but that might be something that I am remembering from the movies and not true with the books. The elves seem to accept their fate if it means the destruction of evil, so I am not sure it really bothers Frodo at all or that he even really thinks about it.

Boromir - I didn't trust from way back at the Council at Rivendell. His conversation with Frodo at the end of Fellowship made him look like a know-it-all with a world view of colonialism and imperialism. Is this Tolkien taking a shot at the old fashioned British world view, or am I reading way, way too much into it?
Yes, Boromir always seemed a bit of distrustful. There was obvious fore-shadowing leading up to the moment when he turns against Frodo and wants the ring for himself. I think that a lot of this book is political in nature and represents the world views of the time, so I think it is entirely possible that Tolkien was using this platform to think against things he didn't agree with. It is hard to entirely judge, though, because it took Tolkien many years to actually write this book to completion and it went through many changes. I would be curious to see what his son says about this scene in the History of Middle-Earth books, actually.

After spending some time in Lothlorien, Sam realizes the Elves aren’t quite as scary or as strange as he first thought. I wonder if when he gets back to the Shire if he’ll realize the Hobbits in the next town aren’t quite as strange as he once thought. I really don’t think this is an overt “message” story, but I do wonder if Tolkien didn't mind throwing in a little message of “those folks in the next valley aren’t as different as you think”.
This is an interesting idea, too. I do believe that Tolkien is trying to make certain points. He was involved in the war, so he did see the other folk. I know that it was hard to kill people that didn't really seem all that much different than you. It is hard for his experiences to not influence his writing after the fact and this could easily be a good example of that. It also works well with Sam living most of his life in a small area and never going outside it, so he makes certain 'assumptions'. When you actually come face-to-face with the people, though, you can quickly learn that not everything you think is correct.

And the obligatory: what was your favorite part of this section?
I always enjoyed the scenes from Lothlorien. The elves and the world that Tolkien creates for them has always fascinated me. I never really felt this part of the book transformed well on the screen, so it was nice to revisit it as Tolkien imagined it.

Previous Posts on The Fellowship of the Ring:


  1. I am in the same spot that you are in that I have enjoyed this re-read much more than I did the first time I (partially) read Fellowship.

    I do like that the three rings of the elves are discussed more in the book. I enjoy having that background, including the idea that the Dark Lord does not know necessarily who actually has the three elven rings of power, since they were forged in secret. The fact that they would be affected by the One Ring does add an extra level of concern to the elves.

    I think Boromir was meant to be at least somewhat untrustworthy from the very beginning, not because he is a bad person (which I don't believe at all) but because he wasn't invited to the council but came with the self-interests of men and the power of men in his mind. He comes from a somewhat noble idea that is really more steeped in their own survival than it is in joining with all the free peoples of Middle-earth to defeat a common enemy. In many ways the character of Boromir acts as a reflection of what Aragorn fears in himself and the race of men. Boromir also acts very much like human nature would act in those situations and as such it is easy to feel unsettled by him, because he acts the way so many of us act when we have our own self-interest in mind.

    You point out stuff in regards to Tolkien and the war that I think is very right on. There is much written/recorded about Tolkien's anger about the mechanization of war and how it and the decisions of politicians pitted people who normally might not be enemies against each other, killing each other at the behest of a larger political machine.

    I think the films do a good job of showing just how beautiful the world of the elves is but that format just doesn't allow for the time to really explore the elves and their culture like the books do and that is indeed a lack. Which is why I love experience the books and films as two parts of a larger whole. Together they make up for each other's weaknesses.

  2. Hi
    I'd forgotten about Tolkien's link with World War 1 but now you've mentioned it I'm sure I remember a comparison to the Lord of the Rings and the World War? Or did I just imagine that (actually, I may have because I thought the comparisons were based on Hitler and that Sauron was based on him?) Oh, well, don't suppose history is my strong point.
    Lynn :D

  3. Yes, there is a lot of what Tolkien went through in the war present in his stories, but Tolkien was quick to point out that none of what he wrote was based specifically on anything to do with real people. He was very specific when people compared his work to events in WWII and thought he was writing work exploring Hitler, etc. He was adamant that this was not the case.

    He talked about "applicability" which is that his work could be "applied" to certain things but they were in no way meant to be allegorical or to be representative of any specific event that went on in the world.

    Which is one of the many reasons I think these books are still so popular today. You can apply the events in the story to so many different things and it has something to say about them.

  4. Great discussion post! The Lothlorien that Tolkien invented was amazing.
    I do think that Tolkien was putting messages in his books. The point you make about his being in the war influencing his writing is a good one. He was also a devout Catholic. I think that came through in his work as well.

  5. **Carl: I always enjoyed the other two books much better than this one, but now I felt I appreciated it a lot more. It was like visiting with old friends. I am happy I joined in and hopefully I can participate in the Two Towers Read-along.

    I had forgotten that Boromir wasn't actually invited. In the movie it gives the impression that he was meant to be there all along... I was surprised when I read he was never expected. Maybe I just missed something with the movies?

    I refuse to believe that Tolkien wasn't at least partly inspired by his life while writing this book. He says otherwise, but it is hard to not be inspired by your life.

    **Lynn: While I can see the same connections you do, like Carl says Tolkien always claimed that it wasn't the case. It could easily be seen that way, though.

    **Carl: I agree. These books definitely have lasting power.

    **naida: Oh, yes, the battle of good vs. evil is very apparent in these books.

  6. Well, in the extended edition of The Two Towers, I believe it is (could be ROTK now that I think of it) we see a flashback where Boromir is sent by his father to Rivendell as there is news of a great weapon being found. I never equated that to him not being invited though, but it does make sense.

    I hope you can participate in the reads of the other two books, it would be fun to have you.

  7. Hey everyone. Just wanted to come clean - I don't particularly think LoTR was based on WWII but I did remember some theory based on that and I wondered if anyone else had heard of that?? It just popped into my head when I was reading the comment about Tolkien taking part in WWI. Lol.

  8. I'm sure there were, and still are, many theories about LOTR and WWII. Considering that Tolkien was writing this all through the WWII years and that it wasn't published until well after the war ended, it wouldn't surprise me at all if early readers saw strong connections, particularly those in England whose memories of the war were still very fresh. And I have no doubt both war experiences affected Tolkien in ways that found their way into his writing.

    I think his big thing was that he wanted people to understand that fantasy is very applicable to all nature of situations and that his intention was not to be examining the rise of Hitler and Nazism through his books.

    That they work so well in doing that as well as examining all kinds of other social, political and world situations speaks to how universal these stories are and why they have a lasting impact.

  9. This is the only one of the three I haven't read! One of these days...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I am so sorry, but I turned anonymous commenting off. I have had it from the very beginning, but that is how the spam is getting by my spam filter at the moment. If it is a big deal I will turn it back on and moderate all comments. I also changed moderation from older than 14 days to older than 7.