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33 of 34 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

versus
7 of 7 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


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5.0 out of 5 stars "Lord" rules, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Hardcover)
Though Tolkien was not the first or most critically-acclaimed fantasy writer, he remains the most beloved and influential, even though "Lord of the Rings" is decades old.

Now with the epic movie trilogy based on this book, new waves of readers are discovering the unique power of the "Lord of the Rings." It has quietly created the fantasy genre as we know it, set the tone for most fantasy ever since, topped many "best book" polls, and helped spawn such entertainment phenomena as "Star Wars."

Following up on events in "The Hobbit," "The Fellowship of the Ring" stars the quiet, good-natured hobbit Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a golden Ring that allows its user to become invisible. But his friend, Gandalf the wizard, informs Frodo that the Ring is really the Ring of Power, a tiny invulnerable token that the demonic Dark Lord Sauron has poured his essence and power into. And if Sauron can regain the Ring, he will be able to conquer Middle-Earth. Aghast, Frodo joins a fellowship of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and a wizard, to go to the one place where the Ring can be destroyed: Mount Doom.

"The Two Towers" begins directly after "Fellowship," after Frodo Baggins flees with his friend Sam into Mordor, with no one to protect them. His cousins Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by orcs from the renegade wizard Saruman. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli begin a frenetic search for the hobbits, and receive unexpected help from unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the Ring weighs more heavily on Frodo, as he is forced to get help from one of the people he most despised: the Ring's slave Gollum.

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to an action-packed, slam-bang and ultimately poignant finale. Sam barely rescues Frodo from Sauron's orcs, and the two resume their journey to Mount Doom, barely escaping Sauron's forces. As Aragorn leads the desperate battle against Sauron's armies at the city of Minas Tirith, Frodo falls increasingly under the seductive spell of the Ring.

"Lord of the Rings" is indeed a powerful book, speaking to virtually everyone who has read it. J.R.R. Tolkien drew from legends and myths, ranging from the ancient Norse mythology to more recent legends, mingled with his love of the British country folk and his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Though there are no direct linkages or lessons in the trilogy, Tolkien probably drew on his experiences in World War I for the ravaged battlefields and breakneck action sequences. His beliefs are equally misty but present: they fueled the ethics of the good guys, the fall of formerly-good wizard Saruman, and the themes of temptation, redemption, evil and good that run through every character.

Frodo Baggins is an everyman hero, who dreams of adventure but begins to treasure the simple, boring life that he had once he is deprived of it. His deteriotation is saddening, all the more so because he is aware of it. The equally vibrant cast also includes Gandalf the crabby grandfatherly wizard, Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener, and a variety of kings, elves, dwarves, and more lovable little hobbits.

Tolkien's writing is evocative and descriptive, though not to extremes; Mordor, for example, is best described through the way that Sam and Frodo react to it. The dialogue can range from goofy and hilarious to solemn and archaic, or to some combination of the two. And the pacing is gradual but necessary -- readers with short attention spans won't be able to handle this story. If they can handle sprawling, epic tales, then probably they can.

Even after all the years, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" still rules the fantasy genre and has become an integral part of modern literature. It's an epic for all ages, and few books have even come close to equalling it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The king returns, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
"Return of the King" is the worthy climax to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga, the fantasy that created the genre as we know it today. Now, as the blockbuster movie adaptation is over, many readers are checking out the dramatic story that ends Tolkien's masterpiece and life's work.

The story opens where "Two Towers" left off. Gandalf has ridden to the city of Gondor with Pippin (partly to keep him out of trouble), where the forces of Mordor are attacking. There is upheaval in the city itself, as the steward of Gondor is going nuts. Merry pledges his service to King Theoden of Rohan, not knowing what is ahead for the king and his relatives. And Aragorn is seeking out allies to fight Sauron on a military scale, even if they can't defeat him unless the Ring is destroyed. His search will take him to tribes of forest-dwellers, to Gondor -- and even to summon an army of the dead.

In Mordor, the unconscious Frodo has been captured by Sauron's orcs, and taken to the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Sam is desperate to free his friend, but knows that he can't take on an army, and that Frodo would want him to finish the quest. Sam manages to free Frodo from captivity, but they must still brave more dangers before they can come to Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. As they travel Sam sees Frodo slipping further and further into the Ring's grasp. Will Frodo be able to destroy the Ring?

Usually, the climax of an epic adventure is a disappointment. "Return of the King" succeeds in almost every way, wrapping up each individual storyline, one by one. The ending has a feeling of finality; this is one story that could never have a sequel; Tolkien shows that in a war like this, there is no true "happy ending." Even if the good guys win, there will still be scarring, and death, and haunting memories of what once happened. And even if a person survives, he will never be the same.

This is the grimmest of the three books in this trilogy. Frodo and Sam are stuck in the vividly horrific Mordor, while the city of Minas Tirith is on the verge of completely crumbling. Tolkien does a phenomenal job of exploring the madness, despair, rage and sorrow that accompany a war, and the way it can affect even the idyllic Shire. And he doesn't forget the slow period of healing that follows -- for people, for civilizations, and even for nature.

Though a section of the book near the end descends into near-biblical prose, which changes post-Gondor, Tolkien does not waver in his ability to evoke emotion. One of the most touching scenes in the book is when Sam finds Frodo naked, unconscious and being beaten by an orc. Others include Merry's farewell to Theoden, Eowyn's slaying of the Witch-King, and of course the bittersweet final scene.

Speaking of Frodo, this trilogy's hero is almost unrecognizable in parts of this book. The bright, naive young hobbit of the first book has been worn down to a pale shadow of himself. As he grows increasingly attached to the Ring, we even see him doing what seems unimaginable: threatening Sam with a dagger. Sam has come a long way from the shy young hobbit who couldn't say a word around the High Elves -- now he's attacking orcs and carrying Frodo to Mount Doom.

And the supporting characters are not neglected either, with the younger hobbits being exposed to the horrors of war, Aragorn breaking fully into his role as the future king of Gondor, and passionate war-maiden Eowyn affecting the war as nobody else could. Some much-loved characters are lost, and others will be permanently changed.

The story doesn't really end on the last page; for more background, especially on Aragorn and Arwen, readers should also read the appendices at the end of the book. Another good addition is "The End of the Third Age," in which the unpublished epilogue of this book can be found. Though this is probably not canonical, it nicely concludes the story and is a heartwarming look at what happens in the years following "Return of the King."

It's difficult, once the story has finished, to accept that one has to say goodbye to Middle-Earth and its enchanting inhabitants. But as Gandalf says, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The story continues, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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.

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, like 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. "The Two Towers" starts heading into darker territory, and will leave readers panting for more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Lord" rules, March 4 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
Though Tolkien was not the first or most critically-acclaimed fantasy writer, he remains the most beloved and influential, even though "Lord of the Rings" is decades old.

Now with the epic movie trilogy based on this book, new waves of readers are discovering the unique power of the "Lord of the Rings." It has quietly created the fantasy genre as we know it, set the tone for most fantasy ever since, topped many "best book" polls, and helped spawn such entertainment phenomena as "Star Wars."

Following up on events in "The Hobbit," "The Fellowship of the Ring" stars the quiet, good-natured hobbit Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a golden Ring that allows its user to become invisible. But his friend, Gandalf the wizard, informs Frodo that the Ring is really the Ring of Power, a tiny invulnerable token that the demonic Dark Lord Sauron has poured his essence and power into. And if Sauron can regain the Ring, he will be able to conquer Middle-Earth. Aghast, Frodo joins a fellowship of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and a wizard, to go to the one place where the Ring can be destroyed: Mount Doom.

"The Two Towers" begins directly after "Fellowship," after Frodo Baggins flees with his friend Sam into Mordor, with no one to protect them. His cousins Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by orcs from the renegade wizard Saruman. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli begin a frenetic search for the hobbits, and receive unexpected help from unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the Ring weighs more heavily on Frodo, as he is forced to get help from one of the people he most despised: the Ring's slave Gollum.

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to an action-packed, slam-bang and ultimately poignant finale. Sam barely rescues Frodo from Sauron's orcs, and the two resume their journey to Mount Doom, barely escaping Sauron's forces. As Aragorn leads the desperate battle against Sauron's armies at the city of Minas Tirith, Frodo falls increasingly under the seductive spell of the Ring.

"Lord of the Rings" is indeed a powerful book, speaking to virtually everyone who has read it. J.R.R. Tolkien drew from legends and myths, ranging from the ancient Norse mythology to more recent legends, mingled with his love of the British country folk and his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Though there are no direct linkages or lessons in the trilogy, Tolkien probably drew on his experiences in World War I for the ravaged battlefields and breakneck action sequences. His beliefs are equally misty but present: they fueled the ethics of the good guys, the fall of formerly-good wizard Saruman, and the themes of temptation, redemption, evil and good that run through every character.

Frodo Baggins is an everyman hero, who dreams of adventure but begins to treasure the simple, boring life that he had once he is deprived of it. His deteriotation is saddening, all the more so because he is aware of it. The equally vibrant cast also includes Gandalf the crabby grandfatherly wizard, Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener, and a variety of kings, elves, dwarves, and more lovable little hobbits.

Tolkien's writing is evocative and descriptive, though not to extremes; Mordor, for example, is best described through the way that Sam and Frodo react to it. The dialogue can range from goofy and hilarious to solemn and archaic, or to some combination of the two. And the pacing is gradual but necessary -- readers with short attention spans won't be able to handle this story. If they can handle sprawling, epic tales, then probably they can.

Even after all the years, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" still rules the fantasy genre and has become an integral part of modern literature. It's an epic for all ages, and few books have even come close to equalling it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The story ends, Feb. 25 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Return of the King (Paperback)
"Return of the King" is the worthy climax to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga, the fantasy that created the genre as we know it today. Now, as the blockbuster movie adaptation is over, many readers are checking out the dramatic story that ends Tolkien's masterpiece and life's work.

Gandalf has ridden to the city of Gondor with Pippin (partly to keep him out of trouble), where the forces of Mordor are attacking. There is upheaval in the city itself, as the steward of Gondor is going nuts. Merry pledges his service to King Theoden of Rohan, not knowing what is ahead for the king and his relatives. And Aragorn is seeking out allies to fight Sauron on a military scale, even if they can't defeat him unless the Ring is destroyed. His search will take him to tribes of forest-dwellers, to Gondor -- and even to summon an army of the dead.

In Mordor, the unconscious Frodo has been captured by Sauron's orcs, and taken to the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Sam is desperate to free his friend, but knows that he can't take on an army, and that Frodo would want him to finish the quest. Sam manages to free Frodo from captivity, but they must still brave more dangers before they can come to Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. As they travel Sam sees Frodo slipping further and further into the Ring's grasp. Will Frodo be able to destroy the Ring?

Usually, the climax of an epic adventure is a disappointment. "Return of the King" succeeds in almost every way, wrapping up each individual storyline, one by one. The ending has a feeling of finality; this is one story that could never have a sequel; Tolkien shows that in a war like this, there is no true "happy ending." Even if the good guys win, there will still be scarring, and death, and haunting memories of what once happened. And even if a person survives, he will never be the same.

This is the grimmest of the three books in this trilogy. Frodo and Sam are stuck in the vividly horrific Mordor, while the city of Minas Tirith is on the verge of completely crumbling. Tolkien does a phenomenal job of exploring the madness, despair, rage and sorrow that accompany a war, and the way it can affect even the idyllic Shire. And he doesn't forget the slow period of healing that follows -- for people, for civilizations, and even for nature.

Though a section of the book near the end descends into near-biblical prose, which changes post-Gondor, Tolkien does not waver in his ability to evoke emotion. One of the most touching scenes in the book is when Sam finds Frodo naked, unconscious and being beaten by an orc. Others include Merry's farewell to Theoden, Eowyn's slaying of the Witch-King, and of course the bittersweet final scene.

Speaking of Frodo, this trilogy's hero is almost unrecognizable in parts of this book. The bright, naive young hobbit of the first book has been worn down to a pale shadow of himself. As he grows increasingly attached to the Ring, we even see him doing what seems unimaginable: threatening Sam with a dagger. Sam has come a long way from the shy young hobbit who couldn't say a word around the High Elves -- now he's attacking orcs and carrying Frodo to Mount Doom.

And the supporting characters are not neglected either, with the younger hobbits being exposed to the horrors of war, Aragorn breaking fully into his role as the future king of Gondor, and passionate war-maiden Eowyn affecting the war as nobody else could. Some much-loved characters are lost, and others will be permanently changed.

The story doesn't really end on the last page; for more background, especially on Aragorn and Arwen, readers should also read the appendices at the end of the book. Another good addition is "The End of the Third Age," in which the unpublished epilogue of this book can be found. Though this is probably not canonical, it nicely concludes the story and is a heartwarming look at what happens in the years following "Return of the King."

It's difficult, once the story has finished, to accept that one has to say goodbye to Middle-Earth and its enchanting inhabitants. But as Gandalf says, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Towering, Feb. 25 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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. "The Two Towers" starts heading into darker territory, and will leave readers panting for more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever, Sept. 6 2004
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
The Lord of the Rings has a different view of life than its prelude, The Hobbit. The Hobbit is very comical and features an adventure, while The Lord of the Rings is very serious and features a quest.
The Lord of the Rings is a great story, but some of the parts may seem a bit boring and confusing to those who have not read The Simarillian.
The best part of the book (which the movie dosn't really show) is the "Moralistic" parts. Without friendship,freedom, trust, pity and hope the story would have ended tragicly.One part that made me think was how Men envy the Elves' immortality , while Elves envy Men because they hate to see all that they love fade. This contridicts a lot of people's thinking.People who have watched the movie will also note many wonderful characters and scenes never even shown. Also, although there is a bit of love between Arwen and Aragorn, the whole story is not about their love!!!! ( the movie also leaves Eowyn and Faramir at loose ends while they fall in love in the book) The violent war scences depicted in the movie THE RETURN OF THE KING do not take up half of the story, either.
The Lord of the Rings is my favourite book, and I think that it would be wise to devout a few hours of your time to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Audio Adaptation of Tolkien's Classic, April 30 2004
By 
Neil Leslie (Charlotte, NC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Audio CD)
I admit it. I'm a Tolkien addict. I've read the LOTR books at least 4 times, seen all the Peter Jackson films, and I have listened to this radio adaptation more times than I can count. In fact, as good as the films are (and they are, for the most part, very good) this radio version is in many ways superior. True enough, it lacks the stunning visuals of Jackson's films, but this leaves listeners free to imagine the fantastic creatures and landscapes of Middle Earth for themselves--to create theater for the mind.
One of the many strengths of this production is its extended running time--13 1-hour episodes for the radio series versus three 3-hour movies. This allows for greater character development and, more importantly, greater fidelity to what Tolkien actually wrote. The producers rearrange, compress, and eliminate certain events to make for a smoother narrative flow on radio, but they do not omit anything essential to the plot and, unlike Jackson, they DO NOT add anything to the book. Jackson adds an extended bloody battle with Wargs and a dream sequence to "The Two Towers" that are not in the original. As a result, he has to change the ending of the film, and, in my opinion, lessens its emotional impact. The producers of the radio version wisely avoid this kind of tinkering.
The producers of the radio version use more of Tolkien's original dialogue, which has a much higher and more exalted sound to it than most of Jackson's phrases. Ian Holm's radio Frodo is much more robust than Elijah Wood's film version, seeming to discover a nobility and courage that not even he knew he had. Wood's responses to crises for Frodo seem to be limited to screaming, passing out, and falling on his backside. The radio version treats Merry (Richard O'Callaghan) and Pippin (John McAndrew) with the respect and affection they deserve, rather than simply using them for comic relief, as Jackson seems to do. Other standout cast members in the radio production include William Nighy as Sam and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum, both superior to Sean Astin and Andy Serkis, their film counterparts. Michael Hordern gives Ian McKellen a run for his money as the radio voice of Gandalf. Only Robert Stephens, the radio voice of Aragorn, comes up short compared to the movie's Viggo Mortensen. Unlike the movie's conflicted and self-doubting Aragorn, Tolkien and the radio version portray Strider as absolutely sure of his identity and destiny, and give him an air of supreme self-confidence. Unfortunately in Stephens's performance, what is meant to sound like regal self-assurance and a kingly air of command come out dangerously close to pomposity and arrogance. Mortensen's more restrained, quiet Aragorn who rises to greatness as a result of his trials, is a welcome improvement.
In short, if you want a real Tolkien experience, read the books, listen to this audio version, and see the movies, in that order. You can listen to the audio version while doing the dishes or driving to work. Doing those things while reading the book or watching the movie could be dangerous :-).
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5.0 out of 5 stars The grandfather of all fantasy, April 25 2004
By 
Amanda S. Killgore (houston, tx USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
Without the Lord of the Rings, we wouldn't have any great fantasy; not Star Wars, Thomas Covenant, or the Shanarra books. Reading the trilogy, you see how Tolkien has been borrowed from by so many of the great authors. The range of emotions encapsulated herein are far and wide. There is the warmth of the Hobbit's hominess, the nobility exhibited by most of the characters; Aragorn, even Boromir, and yes, the Hobbits. The power of evil is great, but in the face of such love and courage, it is rendered nothing, and all the sadness becomes untrue. Even if you have seen all the movies, you can't say there's no point in reading the books. While Peter Jackson's films are magnificent, they are not the books. The books have unusual turns of phrase and poetry, insights into the characters that film just cannot convey. See the movies and read the books both. While in most cases, the only way the movie can equal or surpass the book is if the book merely adapts the movie, in this case, the two are equals, complementary to one another.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A World of His Own, March 19 2004
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
I have come late to Tolkien's works, despite (or rather because of) the fact that they were cult reading when I was at school. One of my classmates, then aged about sixteen, proudly boasted that he had read the entire work about fifty times, and ever since I have tended to associate Tolkien with obsessive fanatics. I was, however, eventually persuaded to read the books by Peter Jackson's excellent trilogy of films.
The plot of "Lord of the Rings", a novel of well over 1,000 pages, is too complex to be summarised here in any depth. At its centre is a magic ring (a motif Tolkien seems to have borrowed from Wagner). This ring can give its owner immense power, but can only be used for evil purposes. At the beginning of the work the ring is owned by the elderly hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who acquired it many years before (the story of how he did so is told in "The Hobbit") and has no idea of its power. He is warned, however, by the wizard Gandalf that the evil Dark Lord Sauron, who originally forged the ring, is trying to regain it in order to enslave Middle-Earth (the imagined world in which the story is set).
The story has two interlocking themes. Firstly, there is the journey of Bilbo's nephew Frodo to destroy the ring, something that can only be achieved by casting it into Mount Doom, the volcano in which it was eventually forged. (During the early part of his journey, Frodo has a number of companions- the "Fellowship of the Ring"- but only one of these, his faithful servant Sam, stays with him to the end). The second is the war that is waged by Sauron and his allies against the peoples of Middle Earth- humans, hobbits, elves, dwarves and ents (walking trees)- and of their courageous resistance.
The book is much more than a fantasy adventure. Many have tried to read hidden meanings into it, both religious and political, even though Tolkien explicitly stated that it was not an allegory. Certainly, it is not an allegory in the sense of "The Pilgrim's Progress" or "Animal Farm"- a book where every detail has a symbolic meaning or can be related to an actual historical event. (Sauron, for example is not simply another name for the Devil or a disguised portrait of Hitler). This does not, however, mean that there is no symbolism in "Lord of the Rings". The main symbol is the ring itself, which represents evil and its power to corrupt the human spirit. The heroes such as Gandalf and Frodo do not dare to use the ring against Sauron because they fear that if they do they will be corrupted by its power and become as evil as he is. The various races who people Middle Earth also have symbolic functions, especially the Elves and the Orcs. The former, in Tolkien's world, are not small fairy-like creatures but an ancient race, beautiful, wise and noble who represent the higher, spiritual side of human nature. The brutal and aggressive Orcs, by contrast, represent its lower, bestial side.
The theme of good versus evil is one that is capable of either a religious or a secular interpretation, but Tolkien himself was a devout Christian, and some of the themes of the book seem to be directly related to Christian ideas. There is no single Christ-figure, but three of the heroes have Christ-like attributes. Frodo, the ring-bearer, symbolically bears the sin of the world. Gandalf the wise and benevolent sage rises from the dead after dying in a struggle with an evil adversary. The final part of the book is entitled "The Return of the King"; this relates to the reappearance of Aragorn, the lost heir to the throne of the kingdom of Gondor, but can also be taken as a reference to the Second Coming.
So far, I have discussed the work in largely abstract terms, but it is not principally a book about abstractions. What sets it apart from many other fantasy works is that Middle-Earth is brilliantly imagined in all its concrete reality. It is a world that is in some respects a familiar one. Its geography, climate, flora and fauna are closely based on those of Europe. The hobbits, for all their small stature, hairy feet and habit of living in holes, are also reassuringly familiar; conservative and phlegmatic by temperament, they seem like the Middle-Earth equivalent of tweedy, pipe-smoking Englishmen. In other respects, Tolkien's world is highly exotic one. He spent many years of his life developing his ideas about the races who inhabit it, working out full details of their cultures, their histories, their mythologies and (most important from his point of view as he was an academic philologist) their languages. Many of these details are set out in the Appendices which, although they do not form part of the main story, are nevertheless a fascinating part of the work.
Against this background, Tolkien creates a cast of characters who, even when they have a symbolic function, also come to life as individuals. (Something else that sets him apart from many other fantasy writers). Besides those mentioned above, I should also mention Sam, Frodo's loyal and steadfast servant, Saruman, a former colleague of Gandalf who was tempted by cynicism and self-interest to throw in his lot with Sauron, and especially Gollum. Gollum is the mysterious creature from whom Bilbo originally won the ring, and whose life is dominated by the desire to recapture it. He is vicious and treacherous, and yet at the same time capable of arousing pity. He both desires the ring and fears its power; at the end he will play an ironic yet vital role in its destruction. From evil, good can sometimes spring.
Having read the work, I can now understand why it has such a fascination for many people, even if I have no immediate plans to read it another forty-nine times. In some literary and academic circles there may be a prejudice against the heroic fantasy genre, which is regarded (with some justification) as tending to produce shallow, one-dimensional works. The miracle of "The Lord of the Rings" is that Tolkien has taken this unfashionable genre and used it to produce a rich, multi-layered work, one which has taken its rightful place among the masterpieces of twentieth-century English literature.
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The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien (Hardcover - Oct. 21 2004)
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