Name: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1)
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Number of Pages: 432 (Kindle)
Published: First published July 29, 1954
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 Elven-smiths, 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 Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a book that needs little introduction. It’s the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the beginning of an epic quest, a tale of good and evil, and a group drawn together with the shared aim of seeing that evil cannot triumph.
We’re told from the off that there’s a lot about hobbits, Concerning Hobbits, and it’s true. Hobbits know how to party – they can throw grand and extravagant parties, they’re generous with gifts – and the story begins with one such party as Bilbo Baggins marks his Eleventy First birthday before promptly disappearing in style.
Hobbits also know how to eat, and they know how to sing. In fact, they have a song for every occasion. Walking-songs, bathing-songs, songs to bring a curious inn full of people to rapt attention, songs about people and events in history. There is no end to what hobbits will sing about, and many of those songs are included throughout this story. It’s not just hobbits either, as throughout the tale other characters reveal various details through song and verse too.
The first part of the book has a real cosy feel – the hobbit community, the friendships, the rivalries, the dislikes, the general business of life in the Shire. The opening then, from the setting to the local characters and intrigues reminded me a little in tone of an Agatha Christie novel, and now I cannot un-imagine a hobbit-detective going about their business in Hobbiton and solving local mysteries.
Peace is only disrupted after Bilbo’s final disappearance, when Frodo Baggins realises that part of his inheritance from Bilbo may actually put everything and everyone he holds dear in great danger.
So, there’s another thing about hobbits – they’re brave. Once Frodo learns just how much trouble could come to his community via certain parties travelling in search of a certain ring, or even Ring, in his possession, he doesn’t hesitate, and decides he must leave, to keep everyone safe.
Frodo inspires great loyalty in his friend Sam, who, after being caught eavesdropping, is enlisted to accompany Frodo on his journey. It’s clear by the end that Sam would literally follow Frodo to the ends of the earth and beyond, and this friendship, the lengths Sam will go to (it’s only Frodo after all who is committed to going into danger), really gives the story heart. Merry and Pippin, two other friends who go along on the journey also show the same loyalty and bravery, carrying on even when things start to get dangerous. And they certainly do become dangerous. For all the cosiness of the opening chapters there is plenty of peril and danger that awaits further on.
The hobbits do not undertake this journey alone, they’re a part of the Company – those who will accompany Frodo and his friends. Drawn together from various places and various peoples, all know how important it is to protect the ring-bearer and see that the ring doesn’t find it’s way back to the one who made it. There are Men, Elves and Dwarves, each with their own skills and reasons for helping, and the group form tight bonds as they travel through the unknown and into danger together, despite in some cases having reason to potentially be adversaries.
Then there’s Gandalf, the wizard who first makes Frodo aware exactly what it is that Bilbo left to him, and why it is so important. He’s the one who draws it all together, who sets the Fellowship off on their path and accompanies them on their journey, all whilst dealing with other threats and foes.
There are some marvellous locations throughout the travels, although I wasn’t always so keen on various descriptions of the general landscape and direction of travel, which seemed rather drawn out at times and made the initial stage of the journey feel a little slow.
Rivendell, the house of Elrond and The Last Homely House East of the Sea, sounds beautiful, and in this place the wanderers are made welcome. They enjoy safety, hospitality and songs and stories told by the fireside. What a lovely location, and the perfect setting for a reunion. I almost wished the group could linger there for a while longer.
Lothlórien, another of the Elf realms, has the same feel, of magic, and a certain amount of safety. There’s something ethereal about the place with it’s beautiful golden-topped trees and the air of secrecy surrounding it. Such wondrous places, how difficult then to leave them behind, all the while knowing that danger and trouble lies ahead. And yet the group do not falter, and on they go.
At the opposite end of the scale – the Mines of Moria. Dark and abandoned (or are they?), with rumours of things disturbed long ago. It’s a forbidding place, and not one to venture through by choice, but when their alternative route proves impassable, will the group have any alternative?
And looming somewhere far away, a threat for much further on in the story, the dark land of Mordor, the place where evil may well be gathering again.
I cannot wait to begin the second book in the trilogy.
For all the early meandering moments, the wandering through the country landscape, there are moments of horror, action, adventure and excitement on this epic quest of a tale. The dangerous confrontation at Moria made for exciting reading, and was a total contrast to the peace and pleasantness of the Shire at the beginning of the story.
There’s also a vast history alluded to throughout, which I found fascinating, the things and people that have gone before, and possible foreshadowing of the things yet to come.
There is much more I could say about The Fellowship of the Ring, but this review is already far longer than I thought it would be, so I’ll just conclude by saying I’m glad I finally decided to try the first book in this trilogy. I’m looking forward to picking up The Two Towers and spending more time with Frodo & Co in the near future, because I cannot imagine not carrying on and finding out what new adventures, dangers and horrors lie in wait. Onwards to Mount Doom…