The first book is complete! It only took a month because it was actually three books. Series of books will be my bane in this project.
To break it down, for each book I’ll give you a synopsis, including spoilers (beware), and then my random thoughts. Please remember that anything I say is my opinion. If I slander your favorite book or author, please forgive me.
The spine broke half way through The Two Towers, and this section of pages got loose. H might have helped them to come out a little.
Like I said, The Lord of the Rings actually covers three books: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. You may remember these titles from a series of popular movies. Basically, what happens is that a little nobody, Frodo (hobbit), inherits a ring that turns out to be mood ring of the most evil of all evil lords, Sauron. To avoid the utter destruction of the whole world, Frodo and eight buddies go off to Sauron’s land of Mordor to pitch the ring into a volcano and destroy it forever. There’s lots of camping, and then Frodo decides that he’s too noble to endanger other people, so he goes off by himself, taking only his trusty manservant, Sam, with him. While Frodo and Sam walk off to face Hell on Earth (literally, they walked the whole way), the rest of the gang gets into some crazy adventures of their own. One guy dies, two other hobbits get kidnapped, and the rest of the crew goes off after them. Then there’s lots of slaying of bad guys and rattling of swords and defending Middle Earth from utter destruction. All the while, Frodo and Sam are walking. They get some help from Gollum, the scary creature that used to have the ring and really wants it back (if you like him, he also makes an appearance in The Hobbit coming later in the project), but of course Gollum’s split personality forces him to actually lead them into harm’s way. Despite all the odds, Frodo and Sam get to the volcano and destroy the ring. Sauron literally goes up in smoke as soon as the ring is gone and everything is pretty much peaches and cream after that.
This is an extremely abbreviated synopsis. The whole thing was 987 pages; I mean, come on! But you get the general idea. Also, just rent the movies. It’s a much better use of your time.
- Good editing could have reduced these books by at least 300 pages. Tolkien spends an inordinate amount of time telling us about each facet of the day, for many days in a row. Literally, we hear about breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, where they camped, how they slept, the weather, the scenery, everything. It was only because I knew that things would eventually pick up that I didn’t chuck the very first book of the project and call it quits.
- Building on my first point, I think that there may have been something wrong with Tolkien. I don’t mean that in a hateful way. I just can’t believe than any normal person would invest as much time and energy in an imaginary place. Not only has he come up with a fun story, there are histories, maps, family trees of many generations, all done up in not one, not two, but six appendices totally nearly 100 pages. This is in addition to the prologue all about the life of your average hobbit of The Shire. I think he must have had some form of autism to explain the focus and attention to detail required.
- Where’s the love? Now there is some serious man love, especially between Sam and his master Frodo. Sam would do anything for him in almost a scary kind of way. But I was sad to see that the whole love story between Aragorn and Arwen was pretty much an invention of Hollywood. If I hadn’t seen the movies, I would have been quite surprised when she shows up around page 900 something and they suddenly get married. Whoa!
- I do have to hand it to Tolkien that he knows how to write a cliff hanger. Both of the first two books end with horrible cliff hangers. If he were alive today, angry fans would have rioted outside his house while he wrote the sequels.
- What’s with all the poetry? Is it not enough to just say they sang? Do we have to have the lyrics? Yes, yes, we do. Several pages could also be saved by removing the songs and poetry. By and large, they do not add to the plot and some of them are in Elvish. Elvish.
- One of my favorite parts of the book was actually the mini-adventure the hobbits have when they get back to The Shire after saving the whole world. No one cares about what they did, but they're really impressed with their armor and the fact that they kick some bullies out who were trying to turn The Shire into Nazi Germany. Also, if the whole thing was written at the pace of the bit about The Shire, it would have been a smaller book. Maybe that's another reason I liked it.
- I feel almost at loose ends now that I’m done with The Lord of the Rings. I’ve spent all year reading it.
Next on the list is Jane Eyre. As a side project, I wonder if I can read everything without having to buy a book. Through the powers of the public library and the extensive collection of my English Ph.D. best friend and her English Ph.D. husband, I think I can do it.