The Fellowship of the Ring

By
More by this author
The only reason that I slogged through The Fellowship of the Ring was because it was a school assignment (I wouldn't have made it past chapter three otherwise). Here's my final review:

It's awful.

Now, of course, I need some evidence to back up my point. There's plenty of it. However, I must warn that this review contains a number of spoilers, so if you are thinking about reading the book and you haven't already seen the movie, consider carefully before reading.


First of all, the storyline lacks action. While some people might prefer that to a fast-paced story, I find it to be rather irritating because it makes the book slow… and long. I feel that a fantasy novel in Tolkien's style of world needs some action, but this book lacks it altogether. Three or four times I thought Great! There's finally going to be some action! only to be disappointed. The fight at the end of the movie version, in which Boromir dies, is absent from Fellowship but is instead at the start of The Two Towers (the only reason that I started Two Towers was to see if the series got any better). Unfortunately, Aragorn is the main character during the fight and is not present at the battle, so he (and the reader) only sees the outcome, not the actual battle. The fight with the sea monster and the cave troll at Moria are both shortened to a mere page or less. The only decent battles are the first against the Ringwraiths, although the combat only lasts a page before the main character faints, ending the scene. The other interesting “action point” is Gandalf fighting the Balrog, which is, sadly, also only a page long.

The book is also too slow for any of the non-combat action sequences to be suspenseful. As multiple chapters describe Frodo's mishaps while running away from the Ringwraiths, there is a lack of suspense because it is dragged out far too long. There are multiple other instances of such sequences of “Wow that took so long it was boring when it could have been cool.”

Hand-in-hand with the lack of action is this: the book is too slow. One important rule, coming from Strunk & White's own The Elements of Style, is to Omit Needless Words (although, I must admit, The Lord of the Rings books were written before that little booklet). While I believe following this to the letter would create some pretty boring tales, Tolkien ignores the notion altogether. Near the beginning of Fellowship are a few chapters about a little fellow named Tom Bombadil. This is notably absent from the films because it is completely unnecessary. The same goes for the scenes at the Council or Elrond and Moria, each two chapters long, but which could be easily condensed into a single chapter apiece without loss of anything.

As I had just begun to read Two Towers, my hopes that the story would redeem itself sank even lower… but that's another review.

Moving on, the characters are weak. With nine main characters in Fellowship, each character is far underdeveloped. Their interpersonal relationships feel almost nonexistent, even that between Frodo and Sam which is so evident and important in the films. There is no description of the characters' appearance except the bare minimum (that is, a description of the general characteristics of their race) required to satisfy readers.

Sadly, that didn't even mention all of the minor characters. The other members of the Council of Elrond, along with other side characters like Tom Bombadil, seem hardly realistic because of their lack of description, or the repeated description of the same thing over and over about them, making it seem like “Oh, man this one feature of this person is the only thing that sets them apart from every other person in the entire world!” It is strange, in such a long book, that there is so very little information about the characters themselves.

To be frank, if “Tolkienesque” fantasy had been developed by somebody else and these books were published today in their present form, they would hardly garner any attention in the literary world.

In summary: The Fellowship of the Ring (and, quite possibly, the entire The Lord of the Rings series) is too slow, has little if any suspense, and is much longer than necessary. If the trilogy were condensed into two books, it would probably be fine, but as it is, I think that reading any more of these books would bore me to tears.

Now, after all this, I don't want to mislead you. I greatly respect J.R.R. Tolkien for his work. He created the world that started the “fantasy genre,” and Middle-Earth isn't a bad setting in itself. It wasn't even his storyline that I dislike; it is the style. I don't doubt his importance to the genre (in fact it is my favorite genre to read and write in), but I feel there are other things I would rather spend my time reading, like the fabulous The Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore (now up to something like 15 books!). Certainly the style of The Lord of the Rings is perfect for some people; I know at least one person who is an avid fan of the series. Perhaps one day I will be among them, but that day is not now. For now, however, I can say that in my opinion, Tolkien was a great inventor of stories, but not necessarily a great writer of them.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Alpha-Lyrae said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm
I must warn you before you read any furthur, I may be one of the biggest Tolkien fans in the world. This could get a tad lengthy. Firstly, I agree that The Fellowship is a bit slow at first, however I found it a lot more enjoyable and easier to read the second (and third and fourth.....) times around. The next books are both immaculately amazing, and I think you may find them a bit more interesting (though maybe not so much the Frodo and Sam parts). In term of character descriptions, I th... (more »)
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback