Let me start off by saying that I have been a fan of the film adaptions of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy series for years now. I’ve watched them over and over, and rank them as some of my favourites. I have also always swayed toward fantasy novels, finding some of my best reads in the genre. So imagine my dismay when I began to read The Fellowship of the Ring, only to discover that I just couldn’t get into it, or at least until the final quarter of the novel.
It’s the series that every fantasy fan, and indeed every bookworm, needs to read. Wants to read. The Lord of the Rings is a classic, an absolute colossus in the world of literature. Tolkien’s work has inspired so many authors, and brought joy to so many readers. I had started to read the series a few years ago, but I had given up after a few chapters. Back then I put it down to a bad reading environment, but the second time around it felt like something more. I couldn’t connect with the novel for absolutely ages, both with the story, and its characters. I think it was all the songs and poetry that continuously peppered the story. It became draining for me – I’ve never been a massive fan of poetry, and to me it got in the way of the story at times.
The Fellowship of the Ring is my least favourite of the films. It’s the least exciting, and exists mostly to set the scene for the series, and introduce most of the main characters. The Two Towers is my personal favourite film, and so far I’m making good progress with the novel, and thoroughly enjoying it. I don’t enjoy novels that take too long to get their story off the ground, and to me that was a major problem with The Fellowship of the Ring. Don’t get me wrong, Tolkien’s writing is commendable throughout the entire book, with some real cracking lines and pieces of dialogue in it, and his skills at creating lore and backstories are second to none. His writing style isn’t a personal favourite, but then again I’ve read plenty of novels where I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing style, but loved the story itself.
It was the speed at which he got things started that frustrated me. It felt so blasé at times, and lacked excitement for me. Their time with Tom Bombadil was particularly boring, and I was glad when it ended. I began to feel that Tolkien was spending so much time showcasing the incredible world and array of people that he had created during the first half of the novel that it slowed things down too much. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have wanted him to include the lore, just that it could have been done differently. It was only when they met up with Strider, and even more so once the fellowship set out from Rivendell, that I felt the story was beginning to pick up. In a way, it felt like Rivendell was a transitional phase, where they left behind the lazy, nonchalant attitude of the Shire, and finally moved into the bigger picture. I enjoyed Gimli as a character most of all, and found that it was very often him that pulled the story up for me, so I was glad of his arrival in the novel.
The Fellowship of the Ring definitely improved the more I read it. By the time the fellowship had reached Moria I was beginning to find myself reading it because I wanted to, and not simply because I felt obliged to finish it in a way. I actually started to look forward to any chances I had to read it, and that general feeling of has continued so far into The Two Towers.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tolkien, both as a reader and a writer. He paved the way for so many people, and created something incredibly spectacular. I know my opinion of The Fellowship of the Ring may be a rare and unpopular one, but it doesn’t take away from my general enjoyment of the series, and the world Tolkien created as a whole. Because that’s the best thing about The Lord of the Rings, it’s so strong and well-developed as a series that a little slow-moving story-telling never would have been enough to bring it to its knees. And that’s the genius of J.R.R Tolkien.