The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best stories ever told, in my ever so humble opinion. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about it – people who have read it, those who have tried and those who have never even managed to get to page one – but there are some things that they all agree on; they’d rather watch the film. I could easily create pages after pages as to why I disagree, but why make something just to cause arguments (they’re more fun in person) when I can focus closely on why I think the story and books as a whole are fantastic?
Hence, this post. I hope you enjoy it!
How would you describe The Lord of the Rings, and the Middle-earth world created by Tolkien in general? Some might say traditional fantasy, others high fantasy while many would simply say fantasy – these would more likely be people who don’t mind a bit of the genre but don’t really understand why there is a ‘high’ fantasy at all. In theory, they’re all right but I would stick with high fantasy. It follows more rules and conventions of that sub-genre than any other.
A grand and epic world, supplemented by main characters that fill that world well and leave the reader in awe in almost every scene are just one of these conventions. The quest that spans the entire story without getting old, and continues despite every problem and obstacle and a villain, who in this story we don’t see much of directly, all combine together in a fantastic way that many other writers cannot even get close to.
We are drawn to certain characters more than others, with Strider/Aragorn being one of the most obvious. While he starts out cold and distant, he quickly becomes the champion for most readers and could easily have been the main protagonist if it wasn’t for the Ring – how easy it would have been to alter the beginning and background to focus on men rather than Hobbits, and full respect for not taking that road. I like Aragorn, but he was a bit predictable at times. That was one of his redeeming and annoying qualities.
Almost every character can be summarised this way but don’t worry, I won’t go through all nine members of the Fellowship.
A lot of people who have read the trilogy, and beyond, have told me there are elements they didn’t like – Tom Bombadil in The Fellowship of the Ring being one of the most obvious. Granted, he probably wasn’t suited to film, and as such wasn’t included, but I am glad characters and events such as his existed. It provided more depth to a world where the entire focus was on one little band of gold.
Tolkien’s writing style may also have been difficult for some readers. I don’t think it’s as hard as Shakespeare, but it can be long-winded and slow at times but the change of pace is something I welcome and enjoy. It shows the world and events move differently for everyone at different times – as it is for us in the real world. Things slow down – the quest doesn’t happen over a couple of days and running at such a high pace and level of stress and tension would destroy our heroes in a matter of days, maybe weeks. While this is a fantasy world and a fantasy story, everything that relates back to our real lives forges a stronger bond between story and reader, don’t you think?
One of the most impressive things about The Lord of the Rings trilogy and world is the scenery, settings and descriptions. There is simply no other way to describe the success Tolkien has at really drawing the reader into a scene or area of Middle-earth. If you had to pick a flaw, it’s that it does slow the flow of the story (which I normally hate) but it gives you a chance to breathe and really take in this glorious world. Without such vivid imagination and descriptions, the films could look quite different and it proves that a dark story or scene can take place in the brightest setting. There are hundreds of other examples out there, but this story is one of my favourites.
As I said, I could easily go into a lot more detail about this – and maybe one day I will! A critical and reasonably academic paper could come from me at some point, but for now, this will have to do. Hopefully, I’ve explored some things to grab your interest in these epic books or inspired you to try again, read them again or if nothing else, watching the films once more.
The ending though, well not the ending-ending, but the bit before it? Oh boy…