38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comment on the product
While a Lord of the Rings fanatic myself, I don't see a reason to write an extensive commentary on the trilogy. If you want a review on the book there are more than sufficient amounts of widely varied opinions below my own that should satiate one's curiosity as to the virtues (or lack thereof) of Tolkien's most acclaimed work.
I feel it more important to note...
Published on Oct. 11 2006 by S. Peters
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Edition is a Disgrace!
This is not a critique of Tolkien's work; rather it is a condemnation of Houghton Mifflin's hardcover boxed set. Thirty years after first reading "The Lord of the Rings" I decided to read it again. Besides the engrossing and detailed story, I had a renewed interest in the technical aspects of Tolkien's craft and his use of the English language. I am not...
Published on Nov. 6 2000 by Robert S. Truesdell
Most Helpful First | Newest First
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars for the book under the cover, 4 for the edition....,
This review is from: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt The Lord Of The Rings (Collector'S Edition) (Imitation Leather)
....under the publisher;s constraints, in the land of Houghton-Mifflin, where the profits lie.
Most people think this superb book, which is popularly abbreviated LOTR, pronounced "Loater", is pretty darn good, a Jungian archetype in its own right. Some people criticize the slow development, and the various included songs and poetry as being archaic, and the journey through the marshes as being depressing, but they miss part of the point - this is literature influenced and honoring older styles. The MTV generation should consider learning to slow down and savour things. I cannot contribute anything particularly original to a review of this book as a literary work.
However - on the edition: One caution: The boxed red-leather bound collector's edition, (echoing the fictional "Red Book of Westmarch", the mythical preserved source of the story) has one jarring flaw. It lacks the much enlarged, detailed map, showing Gondor, Rohan, and western Mordor, normally found in the third volume (The Return of the King, ROTK) in the individual-volume editions. That map greatly aids readers in following of the events of ROTK, and it is worth one's while to have a regular hardback or paperback edition handy in order to have access to this map.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection.,
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Audiobook Boxed Set) (Audio CD)
Inglis' delivery was very nearly flawless. He also has an excellent singing voice; I was astonished to find there were so many songs written down in the books. The only major problem I had with this set is that it was finite.
I had never heard of Mr. Inglis before listening to this set. He actually made me look forward to an hour-long commute. If someone were to publish his reading of the Zip code directory, I would purchase it immediately. He's that good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A laymans review,
This review is from: Lord of the Rings Millennium ed (Paperback)
This Millenium Edition Lord of the Rings 7 volume set is amazing. It has black binding with red and gold Eye of Sauron and has JRR Tolkien's signature on the inside front page. It is by far the best version to date and very hard to find. The UK version comes with a CD which has JRR Tolkien reading exerpts from the story. Each volume binding has a letter of Tolkien's name. A must have if you can find it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction just doesn’t get as good as Tolkien,
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition (Paperback)
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is the epitome of fantasy fiction.
“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 by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.”
Bilbo Baggins of the Shire had an amazing life then retired to journey far away leaving behind the ring of power to his dear nephew Frodo Baggins.
“When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.”
Frodo forms a bond with a an amazing group of people we came to love known as “The Fellowship of the Ring”
“Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.”
In this very powerful, classical story, passion, friendship, love, loyalty, mystery, and action is masterfully blend with realistic, three dimensional characters. Tolkien’s story happens in a different world, and he makes that world palpable. There is this unspoken connection between his readers and his story, it’s as if he reaches out through the enchantment of his pages to touch our hearts and one cannot help but love his work. The adventure of his characters are epic, wrought with danger, sadness, grief and triumph. Readers appreciate the fragility of life in a time when darkness looms over the world and death was omnipresent.
Tolkien is a master storyteller and it’s almost impossible to find a very successful author today who has not drawn upon his work for inspiration, he also set the foundation for many up and coming writers.
The Lord of the Rings is truly an unforgettable read that stays with you for a lifetime, this enthralling tale is a worldwide bestseller and its regarded as insult to this great writer to not read his work whether you are a new or established writer in this genre. Fiction just doesn’t get as good as Tolkien.
5.0 out of 5 stars The alliance of the two towers,
This review is from: The Two Towers (Collector's Edition) (Hardcover)
The second volume of Tolkien's epic trilogy never even wavers. If anything, it seems steadier and more controlled than "Fellowship of the Ring," as several characters become more central and the plot focus widens to envelop all of Middle Earth. It suffers from a bit of sequelitis in places, but the overall book is just as enthralling as the first.
Aragorn finds that Merry and Pippin have been abducted rather than killed -- for what reason, no one knows. Frodo and Sam have left on their own. So Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli race to find the orcs and retrieve the hobbits, but are stopped by the fierce Riders of Rohan, and then by an old and dear friend: Gandalf, who has been resurrected in the new form of a White wizard. Elsewhere, Merry and Pippin must use all of their wits to escape the orcs, and then find a strange band of allies that no one could have hoped for.
Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam head into Mordor -- with an eerily familiar figure, Gollum, following them. Frodo subjugates Gollum, forcing him to swear on "the precious" that he won't harm him. In return, Gollum promises to guide the two hobbits through Mordor, straight to Mount Doom. But the Ring is weighing more heavily than ever on Frodo, and is starting to reassert its old sway on Gollum...
One of the most noticeable changes in this book is the shift of focus. "Fellowship" was Frodo-centric, since the narration revolved around him, as did all the events and thoughts. But with the breaking of the Fellowship, the narration falls into three categories: Frodo and Sam; Merry and Pippin; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. This triple style allows individuals to shine more brightly, when they are called on to do more than hike with Frodo.
Tolkien also presented a wider view of Middle-Earth in general. While the slow slog through Mordor doesn't really tell or show readers much -- aside from what a hellhole Sauron is the middle of -- it's shocking to see the the effects of the orcs, Saruman and Sauron on places such as Gondor and Rohan.
Changes can be seen in Frodo even in this book, and which become more pronounced in the third book of the trilogy, "Return of the King." He becomes sadder and more introspective, and the Ring's growing hold on him can be glimpsed at times. Aragorn is also changing. He is no longer merely the rugged outcast Ranger, but displays the hints of a future great king, if he can only get to his throne.
Merry and Pippin also change: these two innocent young hobbits have to suddenly Sam is more promiment in this book, as Frodo's friend and personal pillar of strength.
But where Tolkien really outdid himself is Gollum. Gollum returns, in a substantially different state. Oh, he's still addled and addicted to the Ring, but he displays a dual love/loathing for the Ring, a weird affection for Frodo (who, from his point of view, is probably the only person who has been kind to him), and displays a Ring-induced multiple-personality syndrome. Very rarely can bad guys elicit the sort of loathing and pity from the reader that Gollum does.
One noticeable aspect of this book is friendship. When the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell, virtually everyone is a stranger, with the exception of the hobbits. However, in this book we get our view of how much Sam loves Frodo and wants to help him. Sam is fully aware of how much Frodo needs emotional support, and he's quite willing to be a pillar of strength for his friend. We see Gimli and Legolas's affection for Merry and Pippin; and Legolas's willingness to kill Eomer if Eomer hurts Gimli shows how far this Elf and Dwarf have come.
This book is substantially darker than "Fellowship." Frodo is starting to stumble under the weight of the Ring, and other characters die or are seriously hurt. The scene where Pippin's mind is trapped by Sauron is a very disturbing one, as is a violent and saddening scene late in the book. But there is also some wry humor: Gandalf's joke as he hears Saruman throttling Grima Wormtongue, Legolas's snippy comments about pipeweed as Gimli and the hobbits smoke up a storm, and Sam's debate with Gollum about whether they should cook the rabbits.
Tolkien's second Lord of the Rings novel is a thrilling fantasy adventure, exploring more of his invented world than "Fellowship of the Ring" did. A truly enthralling experience.
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Things,
This review is from: Lord Of The Rings 3 Return Of The King (Paperback)
This is the third volume in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It follows The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Be sure to read both of them first.
In the final volume the two main story lines reach their common end. The hobbits Frodo and Sam have been slowly working their way toward the volcano deep in Mordor where the ring can be destroyed. The other main characters and their allies converge by diverse paths on the city Gondor, where they will stand without hope against Sauron's invading armies. No matter what the outcome, there will be some who will not see each other again.
This book is necessary if you have read the first two volumes. In fact, it would take tremendous will power not to read it to see how the story ends. A warning if this is your first time through the trilogy. After finishing this book many readers experience a lingering melancholy, a sense of loss for a time. This seems to be only partially due to the story's events. Having traveled, suffered, and grown with the characters, you may miss them. There isn't any easy way to dispel this feeling. In time it will fade.
5.0 out of 5 stars Scattered Seeds of the Fellowship,
This review is from: Lord Of Ring #2 Two Towers (Paperback)
This is the second volume in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It follows The Fellowship of the Ring and is followed by The Return of the King.
In this part of the story, the original fellowship of nine travelers is fragmented. Some seek Mordor and the forlorn hope of destroying the one ring in the volcanic fires that produced it. Others are taken captive, and pursued by would-be rescuers. As the travelers disperse, readers become acquainted with the lands and peoples of Middle Earth. We meet the independent horsemen of Rohan, the foul orcs of Mordor, the proud men of Gondor, and the shades of past oath-breakers, eager for redemption. The schemes of wizards, stewards and wraiths become more clear. The tension builds.
The middle book of the trilogy covers a lot of ground, both geographically and in character development. The characters gather their strength for war with the forces of evil. Tolkien gives his characters distinct strengths which complement the abilities of their companions. There is a growing sense that each will have a part to play in the coming conflict--a unique and indispensable part.
If you have already read volume one of the trilogy, you are going to read volume two. No choice, really.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Review of the Greatest Book Ever!!,
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Hardcover)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is so iconic, so wide in its scope, so vivid in its imagery, so unprecedented that writing a review of it is a colossal undertaking. As C.S. Lewis said, "here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a book which will break your heart."
Just the thought of it is enough to scare anyone off the job. Yet, reading over the other customer reviews, I felt I needed to step up to the challenge and write a long review, one that contained an honest opinion and a factual analysis.
This review is long, but is logical, informational, and spoiler-free, I encourage you to read it all, thoroughly.
This is that review:
LOTR [abbreviation: Lord of the Rings] is the magnum opus of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien: an Oxford professor and author. It is actually a trilogy of three books:
--The Fellowship of the Ring
--The Two Towers
--and The Return of the King
JRRT spent over 12 yrs writing the LOTR trilogy, which was released in 1954. It has since gone on to become one of the most loved, respected, and greatest novels ever written.
After a wildly successful and brilliant film adaptation from New Zealander Peter Jackson, the LOTR now has an immense fan base, a slew of parodies, paintings, and music left in its wake, and a legacy greater than any single work of fantasy in the history of writing.
The first thing I must write about is the land LOTR takes place in: Arda, also known as Middle Earth.
Middle Earth is the greatest fictional world ever created. Period.
I DEFY anyone to prove otherwise. Take it up with me in the comments.
The main works of Tolkien, from the Silmarillion to the Lord of the Rings take place in Middle Earth, and cover everything from its creation at the hands of Illuvatar, to the beginning of the Fourth Age.
Tolkien meticulously planned, invented, and imagined EVERY detail of Middle Earth. Middle Earth is so full, so rich and detailed, that many say that Tolkien was more interested in the land his characters were in than the characters themselves.
I beg to differ!--Tolkien was certainly interested in his maps and landscapes but his characters are the real stars.
There are not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to describe how mind-bogglingly detailed Middle Earth is.
Tolkien named and placed over a thousand mountains, rivers, towns, cities, fortresses, islands, and forests, so many, in fact, that encyclopedias and dictionaries have been filled with them.
In addition, Tolkien invented over a dozen languages, the most complete of them is Quenya--the Elven language. Tolkien wrote over 1,000 names, words, and phrases for the Elven languages. Tolkien is not the only author to make up a fantasy language, but he is the best. Young Christopher Paolini's attempts at constructing a language are downright laughable.
If you have time, check out the following link, which includes an Elvish Dictionary:
I am in no way detracting from other great fantasy worlds such as Westeros, Narnia, Randland, and Gormenghast, but here Middle Earth far surpasses all other fantasy worlds.
The detail adds to the LOTR by adding a sense of realism and a distinct Middle Earth-type feel. For the most part, the more detailed your world is, the more your audiences will relate to the characters.
Enough about the real world, I'll turn to the book.
--Lord of the Rings is long, over 1,000 pages. But this is not long at all compared to Eragon, Game of Thrones, Eye of the World, and the Way of Kings.
-- Plot: Thanks, to Peter Jackson, you probably already know the plot. But the movies are not the book, and here is the plot again.
It is the third age of the world, and darkness is looming over Middle Earth.
The Dark Lord Sauron has gathered to him the 20 Rings of Power, the means by which he will enslave Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Only one thing is missing - the One Ring, which has fallen into the hands of...a hobbit.
Deep in the peaceful Shire, young Frodo Baggins is entrusted with an immense task - to take the Ring and destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, deep within the Enemy's territory. So, with a Fellowship of 9 valiant members - 4 hobbits, 1 wizard, 2 men, and elf, and a dwarf, Frodo must embark on an impossible journey. One from which he may not return...
--The Fellowship: These are the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, and their races:
Frodo Baggins: Hobbit.
Frodo Baggins was the Ringbearer. He was fifty when he set out from Hobbiton. Notably he never killed anything on the quest, the most he did was stab the foot of a Cave Troll. He has been likened to a Christ figure.
He wore a coat of mithril and carried Bilbo's sword Sting. Galadriel gave him the light of Earendil.
Samwise Gamgee: Hobbit.
Samwise was Frodo's gardener, servant, and closest companion. He bore the ring in Mordor for a time. Galadriel gave him a box of earth from Lothlorien, and elven rope.
Gandalf the Grey: Wizard.
One of the five Istari sent to Middle Earth. Gandalf, a.k.a. Olorin, Mithrandir, Greyhame, was instrumental in forming the Fellowship, and played a large role in the downfall of Sauron. He also appeared in The Hobbit.
He carried a sword called Glamdring. He wore grey robes, and later white.
Aragorn son of Arathorn: Man.
Aragorn was descended from the Kings of Numenor, and was a member of the Dunedain. He was blessed with long life. He went by the name Strider in Bree. He carried the sword that was broken - Anduril.
Boromir son of Denethor: Man.
Boromir was the son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. He was the older brother of Faramir. He carried a great horn.
He saved the Fellowship's lives at Carvahall, where he instructed each of them to carry a bundle of firewood. He was tempted by the Ring.
Legolas son of Thranduril: Elf.
Legolas was the only Elf in the company. He was light on his feet, quiet, and was good with horses. He carried a bow, which he used prodigiously.
He did NOT shoot an oliphaunt.
Gimli son of Gloin: Dwarf.
Gimli was a dwarf. He conflicted with Legolas at the beginning, but became friends. He wielded an axe.
Meriadoc Brandybuck: Hobbit.
Meriadoc, also called Merry, was a hobbit from Hobbiton. His knowledge of the Old Forest was crucial to the hobbits.
Peregrin Took: Hobbit.
The youngest of the group, Peregrin, known as Pippin, was Merry's best friend, and a good singer.
My favorite member of the Fellowship is Samwise. Yeah, laugh all you want and post your little comments about "Fat old Sam". But until you've read The Choices of Master Samwise, or the Tower of Cirith Ungol, or Mount Doom...you haven't seen ANYTHING yet.
Samwise Gamgee is easily the greatest, most courageous character in the Fellowship.
Next would be Gandalf.
Read this passage from The White Rider, and tell me...
"And this also I say: you are our captain and our banner. The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads."
...that doesn't give you shivers!
Many people like to say Tolkien's characters are "black-and-white". This means that all his characters are easily divided into Good and Evil. That's not true.
Today, fantasy authors like to paint their characters Grey. Look at G.R.R.M.'s writings:
Characters like Tyrion, Jaime, Theon, the Hound, and Daenerys. Are they good or evil...Whose side are they on...What are their true intentions...?
Whereas in Tolkien's writings:
Aragorn - Good, Sauron - Bad, Gandalf - Good, Saruman - Bad, Elves - Good, Orcs - Bad. It's simple, Right?
Look at Boromir - he's fought against Sauron, yet he tried to take the Ring from Frodo. He wanted to defeat Sauron, but he opposed destroying the Ring.
And Sméagol - he was Frodo and Sam's guide, yet he wanted the Ring for himself. He led them into Mordor, yet he ------------------- (Spoiler).
Those are grey characters.
The legacy of Tolkien's works, especially LOTR, CANNOT be overstated.
LOTR has been voted "The Greatest Book of the Millennium", by Amazon.com and appears on almost EVERY list of greatest books ever written.
It is the 3rd bestselling book of all time, selling over 150,000,000 copies.
The Peter Jackson Trilogy alone has grossed over $2,947,978,376, and has been voted the greatest Motion Picture Trilogy of all time by Empire Magazine.
The three films are some of the most famous, iconic, and greatest adaptations of a fantasy novels ever made, appearing on Wikipedia's List of Highest Grossing Films, Empire Magazine's 500 Greatest Movies List, AFI's 100 Greatest Films List, IMDb's 250 Best Films list, and Metacritc's Best Movies of This Decade.
LOTR's impact on high, epic, heroic, and quest fantasy, is enormous. It revitalized the genre. No, it REWROTE the genre.
LOTR is the father of modern fantasy. Believe it or not, even today's fantasy (A Song of Ice and Fire, The Inheritance Cycle, etc) is influenced by Tolkien.
Tolkien's character's Frodo, Gandalf, Gollum and others have entered popular culture.
While Tolkien may not have invented Elves, Dragons, Dwarves, or Orcs, his vision of those creatures shaped the characters into what we recognize them as today.
Science Fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Frank Herbert (Dune) and George Lucas (Star Wars) have been influenced by Tolkien.
It is easy to see how fantasy authors are influenced by Tolkien. Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Eddings, and, yes, Christopher Paolini all ripped LOTR off.
George R.R. Martin has been called "The American Tolkien", and claims JRRT as a huge influence.
J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, is truly, a Masterpiece!
As the Sunday Times famously said:
"The English speaking world is divided into those who have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read them."
Which camp are you? If you have not read the Lord of the Rings - The Greatest Book of the Millennium, The Most Influential Work of Fantasy - do so immediately.
I'm not joking. If I haven't given you enough incentive already, how about some more:
Do you like fantasy? Do you like good, no, great books? Are you a fan of books that contain Action, Adventure, High, Epic, Heroic Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Large, Epic, Thrilling Battles, Journeys, Strong, Heroic, Likeable Characters, Evil, Hate-able, Scary, and Disgusting Villains, Thrills, Chills, Laughs, and Cheers?
Then you'll love the Lord of the Rings.
Do you like Hobbits, Elves, Men, Dwarves, Orcs, Barrow-wights, Dragons, Giant Spiders, and Wizards?
Then The Lord of the Rings is for you.
And until then, I hope you've enjoyed this review. Give it a like and post a comment. Read my other fantasy reviews.
Mára mesta, I Melain berio le.
Goodbye, May the Valar Keep You!
The Hobbit - The Enchanting Prequel
The Silmarillion - The Glorious Beginning
The Children of Húrin - The Moving Tragedy
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King Extended Editions) [Blu-ray] - The Brilliant Adaptation
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography - The Best Biography
5.0 out of 5 stars The Age Of Man Begins,
This review is from: Lord Of The Rings 3 Return Of The King (Paperback)
As the last volume of the trilogy, the reader gets an end to the story, and in fact "The Return of the King" has several places where one could end, but for those who want to continue on past the end of Sauron, past the end of the War, etc., the story continues to the end of the Third Age. "The Return of the King" was originally published on October 20th of 1955. "The Lord of the Rings" was the last recipient of the International Fantasy Award for Fiction in 1957, it was also nominated for the Hugo for all-time series in 1966, and was nominated from 2002 through 2008 for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, before winning it in 2009. As with the previous two volumes, this one contains two books.
Book V is titled "The War of the Ring" and it returns to the story of all those outside of the Ring Bearers. It starts with Gandalf and Pippin arriving at Minas Tirith to deliver the news to Denethor and takes us to the start of the battle in front of the Black Gate of Mordor. This book tells the story of a large number of characters. Only the ring-bearers are absent as characters, though they are certainly in the thoughts of those who fight the war.
Book VI is titled "The End of the Third Age", though it has also been called "The Return of the King" and similar to Book IV it is starts out focused on Frodo and Sam, with the specter of Gollum tagging along. Starting with Sam's daring rescue of Frodo, it continues with the two trying to make their way to Mount Doom. However, the changes less than a third of the way through the book, when their quest comes to an end, and the rest of the book involves all the characters again. Unlike many modern books and movies, the action doesn't end with the climax, and Tolkien takes his time telling the story of the aftermath of the war.
As with the previous books in the series when compared with the movie I personally prefer the book, though I have enjoyed the all the movies as well. However long the movies are, they are but condensed versions of the books, and if left unread, you will miss out on many significant characters and events, as well as be unaware of the changes made by those creating the movies from what was written originally. The movies were a valiant effort to bring this epic to the screen, and they honor Tolkien's overall story, but to fully appreciate what Tolkien created, you need to read the books.
5.0 out of 5 stars Water in a dry place, October 1, 2007,
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Hardcover)
Over the past several decades, THE LORD OF THE RINGS has sold millions of copies and is commonly regarded as one of the most influential fantasy novels ever published. Many first time readers have began their trek into Middle-earth with Frodo and the Company of the Ring in recent years. What they will encounter there has been loved by millions of readers before them, and if they allow themselves to respond to Tolkien and his Myth will doubtless become a loyal and ardent fan of Tolkien and those furry-footed hobbits. What's also notable about THE LORD OF THE RINGS is, for a book as long as it is, many of its readers reread the novel many times over. Yet despite its enduring popularity, Tolkien is often held in complete disregard by the literary establishment.
The real question is why? In the literary climate that is characterized by modernism and post-modernism where the twentieth and twenty first century is a wasteland why does a "series" of fantasy novels become one of the most beloved works in modern times?
It's because the power of myth over the human imagination works wonders, creating a longing and a hunger that, Tolkien argues, is met by the Christian religion. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis are the flip-sides of the same coin, with Lewis giving us accounts of the longing and Tolkien providing the books that would create that longing. And what about the longing? It's that longing for Myth, that love for those beauties which Tolkien shows us in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It's that longing that sets man apart from all other creatures in the universe: a craving for beauty and for joy. The German word for this longing is "senhsucht". In a time characterized by fast-food, cell-phones, materialism, superficiality, the account of a Hobbit working against all odds in a mythic landscape so captures the human imagination (and this is NOT hype) that an entire genre is created. It is because of how Tolkien so masterfully handles Myth that he has been so highly treasured by such a large fan base.
Still, there are a few things to consider when reading Tolkien nowadays. Looking over the reviews, it proved rather shocking to me that people have been complaining that, although it was original when it was published, much of what Tolkien has done has become cliche and that other writers are much better working with these cliches and making them more exciting than Tolkien. They complain about his "endless descriptions" of the natural world, very detailed accounts of geography and not enough "characterization." The characters are unrealistic: the "human drama" required by the book's very nature is beyond Tolkien's scope as a writer. THE FELLOWSHIP is both uneven and very weak in pacing, with so much invested in the world and its history Tolkien forgets to make us care about the characters themselves. Another fault oft cited against Tolkien is the lack of "female characters," and there have been accusations that Tolkien is racist; one of my favorite misconceptions is that Frodo and Sam are homosexuals.
Academia has no time for Tolkien, and many of our key critics have denounced Tolkien as ill-written or escapist (Harold Bloom said that THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a period piece which will simply not die but just keeps lingering on long after its relevance. This is the stance taken by a lot of professional critics with a grudge against Tolkien, and wonderfully have been proven wrong). To this day, while not nearly as openly hostile as previous decades, academia in general harbors resentment against Tolkien and everything he's done. As far as they're concerned, he's done something that is actually popular and therefore unworthy of study. It's one of those "high-brow vs. low-brow" situations, and instead of producing "worthwhile" academic research, Tolkien instead writes a "series" of novels which become one of the most established authors of this century. In recent years, academic support has grown tremendously for Tolkien, but he is still a very hotly contested modern writer, unlike some other "academically undeniable" classics such as James Joyce. Unlike the academic favorites, Tolkien highly polarizes the professional literary establishment. Fortunately he has gained some ground here though.
Much of the complaints voiced against THE LORD OF THE RINGS are both unimportant and irrelevant. Tolkien is working with literary traditions not in-tune with the modern mind, but is instead handling narrative threads of Myth. Tolkien gives us solid archetypes to work with, bringing out the very qualities of masculinity and the beauties and stark wonders of femininty, but all expressed in mythological terminology. The idea of Sam and Frodo as homosexual is both ridiculous and totally unfounded. In Myth, good is characterized and seen as "White," and the evil is dark and perverted. Those who say Tolkien is racist approach him from the wrong standpoint.
As for the modern fantasy reader, those who complain about Tolkien's originality (while acknowledging it, but that later writers do a much better job with it) is like saying Shakespeare, while a good dramatist, is not that good because other people take his principals and make them more exciting, etc. I heard a story once about a person who went to see a Shakespeare play and went away complaining there were too many quotes in the play to make it any good. Shakespeare is the source of these quotes and he did not even realise it.
Most people know that Tolkien founded modern fantasy. Tolkien laid down the template for the fantasy genre in general, and anyone who reads fantasy has been touched, directly or indirectly, by Tolkien's work. Almost all of the major fantasy authors have acknowledge their debt to Tolkien, and the shadow Tolkien casts over fantasy literature is very long indeed. Because there is fifty years separating us from the original publication, it is much harder to approach THE LORD OF THE RINGS as those first reviewers, for those who have grown up reading fantasy literature are now accustomed to Dwarves and Elves and Dark Lords and Epic Quests, but when it was issued THE LORD OF THE RINGS transformed and invented an entire new genre. It is not Tolkien's fault that his vision of a mythology was so successful that everyone else decided they would try their hand at fantasy and work within Tolkien's templates. The main problem with fantasy authors in general are they are more interested in emulation than they are in true "myth-making." Much like early rock and roll, which, because rock was not an established form of music, the early musicians relied on other forms to create a new genre, Tolkien did not have this tradition to fall back on so instead he used various literatures and epic poems to create his own vision of myth. A lot of fantasy writers do not work in the context of myth any more, but rather rely on genre stereotypes which are generally found in Tolkien. Many readers who are interested in "pulp" fantasy get bogged down in Tolkien because he takes the time to fully explain his world and its cultures, because his goal is different. There is plenty of action in LORD OF THE RINGS, but those raised on the pulp fantasy will not care for it.
Ultimately, THE LORD OF THE RINGS's criticism has shown itself to be of little importance on its durability as a major text. Ever since its publication in 1954, 1955, and 1956, LOTR has become one of the most important literary works our era has produced, highly regarded and passionately loved by an enormous amount of people. Despite the very vocal minority who despise Tolkien and his work, THE LORD OF THE RINGS has consistently topped the polls for the best book of the last one hundred years. Whatever the critics say, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is here to stay because popular imagination has grabbed hold of Tolkien's vision and ran with it. Tolkien and Lewis have been wonderfully vindicated in their belief that there is an enormous adult appetite for Myth and fantasy literature.
Tolkien's work is water in a dry place.
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The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (Hardcover - Dec 15 2005)
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