Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Now that I think about it, it's kind of funny that I was reading this book at this time of year because it's now around 9 years since I read my first Tolkien book, Return of the King, while spending Christmas at my sister's house in Florida. But that's neither here nor there. At one point in my life, I was a fairly serious fan of Tolkien's, and I would not count myself less so now, but it has been some three years since I last read any of his books. Thus, it has been an interesting treat to reread the book that I love so much. And in some ways, it feels like the story has grown with me, unfolding new depths that I missed when I was a thirteen year old nerd who couldn't turn the pages of her Silmarillion fast enough.

The plot, as ninety percent of the population knows, concerns one Frodo Baggins, who inherits a magical trinket only to discover that it is actually the much sought after One Ring belonging to the dark lord Sauron who needs it to complete his master plan of dominion and terror over Middle Earth. He must travel from the idyllic Shire to lands unknown through perils unheard of with friends the likes of which few hobbits could ever have dreamed of- except, of course, for Bilbo, but he is unique among them.

It's refreshing to read the books after having only watched the movies for a while. Though Peter Jackson did well enough (in some areas, surpassing expectation, in others... well, let's just say that I have a friend who created a hit list just so he could put Jackson's name on it...), Tolkien was a master in ways that cannot quite be transcribed onto Blu-Ray. For instance, Elves are seen almost purely in their mystical, otherworldly element, but the laughter, song, and even worldly flaws of the Elves are missed in favor of angelic choir soundtracks and the fading gray of twilight. I (selfishly?) like knowing that they too can do wrong, perhaps explaining my greater love for The Silmarillion with proud, doomed Feanor and his sons, the grasping and greedy Elu Thingol who must have had some redeeming qualities if he had such a wife as Melian the Maia who would leave her home in Valinor to be with him, but also the nobler Beleg, Glorfindel of Gondolin, and Finrod Felagund.

It's hard for me to say more than that about such books, so I apologize if my few remarks give little insight into Fellowship, only I hardly know where to begin. For some, it begins a journey that basically defined the genre of fantasy, for others, it is a plunge into a deep world of symbolism, meaning, and purpose that reflects more than a little of the world around us, and for still others, it's the synthesis of so much legend and myth that it can barely be called the work of one man so much as hundreds. However it is approached, I always find myself traveling a new and unique path with each rereading of this treasured classic.

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