It took me quite a few aborted attempts to finally find the words I was looking for. Yet, they are not really what I want. They are just makeshift sentences to describe the alternate periods of thrill and gloom that I felt during my journey through one of the most amazing stories ever written. I shall not call this a review, because it does not even pretend to be one. I am just trying to express my incredulity and admiration of the talent and the research that must have gone into this creation.
At first sight, it appears like a confounding maze of unearthly names and maps of places that do not exist. However, the characters soon become familiar and their world opens up, revealing ambitions and traits much like ours.
This is the world of Middle Earth, immortalised by JRR Tolkien in the three volumes of ‘The Lord of the Rings’- The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Perhaps the entire story can be summed up as the traditional fight between good and evil, but there is something in its execution and charm that sets it apart from other tales of fantasy. I must mention that I have not read the Harry Potter books, and so there is no room for comparison here between Tolkien and JK Rowling, or their works, as is probably expected when talk veers around books involving magic and wizardry.
The Lord of the Rings is believed to have been influenced by Norse mythology. It follows the story of a hobbit, Frodo Baggins, as he sets out to destroy the Ring that threatens the existence of Middle Earth, should it fall into the hands of the evil Sauron. Frodo is accompanied by eight others: hobbits, men, a dwarf, an elf, and a wizard. They stand by one another during their arduous journey to carry the Ring to its destruction. They are stalked by evil in the shape of the nine ring wraiths, Sauron’s slaves who fell victim to his designs, and the wicked Saruman. Over-ambition also claims the life of one of the Company, splitting it apart and sending the travellers in different directions, but all with a purpose. All ends well, with the Ring meeting its doom in the fire, burning away Sauron’s dreams and restoring peace to the inhabitants of Middle Earth.
That is the gist of the story, but it’s not just the plot that matters. Tolkien weaves beautifully the characters of the various ‘people’ that the Company meets on the way. They all play a role in their own way, helping or hindering the progress of the travellers. My favourite part in the book? Hard to say. The appearance of the Nazgul, shrieking eerily in the dead of the night, forming shadows across the moon, was creepy. I greatly enjoyed reading about the Company’s walk through the forests, over hills, meeting wonderful characters like Treebeard and Tom Bombadil. The Battle at Pelennor was thrilling, while Frodo and Sam’s journey through the Dead Marshes with Gollum sent a shiver down my spine.
I cannot say which character I liked best. Galadriel is mysterious and Eowyn intrepid; Sam is loyalty personified; Gandalf is all wisdom, Aragorn a mix of courage and tenderness. Endearing or loathsome, they all stay in the mind for quite a while after the last volume is done. It is like a journey coming to an end, and while there is a sense of relief that everything is over at last, it is accompanied by the inevitable feeling of regret that comes with the closure of a good, solid story. I must confess that there were moments when I thought the book got a little too slow for comfort. When I came to the part about Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mount Doom, accompanied by Gollum, it really became extremely gloomy (which says much for Tolkien’s powers of expression, and the magic he creates). And as the exams were upon me then, I couldn’t quite take the dual tension, so I decided to give it a break (and read Jane Austen instead; what a difference!).
I am glad I was talked into reading LOTR by a friend of mine (thanks!), and I definitely would like to read it again. I haven’t attempted the movies as yet, but I mean to. The journey through Middle Earth sure is one incredible experience, crafted with much ingenuity by a splendidly talented writer.