Date of Publication: Published in three volumes, 1954-1955
Number of Pages: 1178 (in one-volume edition, including appendices and index)
Synopsis: Four hobbit friends leave their beloved Shire on a quest to destroy the Ring of Power, bequeathed to Frodo Baggins by the famous Bilbo. They are helped along the way by the wizard Gandalf, a mysterious stranger named Strider, an Elf called Legolas, a Dwarf named Gimli, and Boromir, a powerful warrior from Gondor. They are met by tragedy and loss, unexpected friends and good fortune, and always adventure throughout their long journey. Finally, they are separated, and three groups must go their own way. Strider, Legolas, and Gimli come to the aid of the Rohirrim in their struggles against the wizard-turned-evil, Saruman. The young hobbits, Merry and Pippin encounter a mysterious race of beings deep inside Fangorn Forest, and unwittingly play an important role in the war against the dark forces. Frodo and his extremely loyal servant, Sam, go on their own to the land of Mordor, to destroy the Ring, which is slowly strengthening its hold on Frodo, in the fires of Mount Doom. They are followed, and sometimes helped, by the creature Gollum, who is obsessed with the Ring, which he once possessed. Each member of the Fellowship goes into the unknown, but finds in himself the courage to face it. None of them emerge from their adventure without being changed forever.
Review: I have to start out by saying that this is my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it multiple times, I’ve studied it, I’ve written a paper about it, and I’ve read books about it. For some, this can be one of those life-changing books. The first time I read it, I was astounded, not simply at the story, but the incredible beauty of it. Tolkien started his long writing career by trying to create a mythology for his beloved adopted country of England. He created two languages, Sindarin and Quenya, and made up stories about the people who spoke them. The Lord of the Rings is the result of over 15 years of work and a demand for a sequel to his classic, The Hobbit. When you read the story, you can not only see the landscape and recognize it, but you believe that it’s real. You feel like you’ve discovered some long-forgotten manuscript, written by a vanished race, something that must have existed.
Many people ask me how they should go about reading The Lord of the Rings. My answer is simple. If you’ve read The Hobbit, great, if not, read that first. Then you can move on to the more difficult The Lord of the Rings. If, after that, you find that you want to know more, then you can read the true work of Tolkien’s heart, The Silmarillion. Some people object to The Lord of the Rings, saying that it’s too long, it’s too dense, there are too many characters and songs, or that it’s too religious. I say that these people are too closed-minded. Remove any expectations from your mind, and take it for what it is: a work of heroic fantasy, inspired by the legends of the ancient Norse and Anglo-Saxons. Accept the songs and poems as relics of a forgotten age. Allow yourself to become absorbed into the story, and it’s an experience you can never forget.