on 3 January 2009
To all the people who've given this a low mark, and all seem to have the same gripe with it - you all fail to understand that this is not a novel in the sense we've come to understand as a fantasy novel these days, so it's not fair to judge it as such.
Tolkien was not a career author, he didn't set out to write a searing page-turner, a wizzbang tale of derring-do in 500 sizzling chapters. Gandalf doesn't hurl raging fireballs at enemies, Aragorn doesn't have a sex scene with Arwen while doing Eowyn behind her back, there's no pandering to the lowest common denominator to flog a few more copies.
Tolkien barely cared if no one ever read it. He was writing it largely for himself and his friends and family.
You're all guilty of confusing the result of Tolkien's legacy and influence (virtually every other fantasy novel, movie or game) with his actual work, and expecting to see in the father what you've seen in his unruly children.
Judge it for what it is, not for what you wanted it to be as a modern fantasy reader.
The Fellowship Of The Ring: JRR Tolkien, unabridged reading by Rob Inglis – The start of a tale that grows with the telling
First published in 1954 The Fellowship Of The Ring is the first part of the epic saga, and Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord Of The Rings. It has been a firm favourite of mine since I first read it over 25 years ago, and every time I return to the trilogy I find something new in this multilayered and deep piece of literature. I have worked my through it again recently, and with much temerity have decided to post a review of this stand out classic of classics.
In this first part of the trilogy, the Ring that Bilbo Baggins ‘acquired’ from Gollum in the Hobbit is passed to his nephew, Frodo. Gandalf informs Frodo that the ring is in fact deadly dangerous, and Frodo sets out on a desperate journey to the safety of Rivendell. There the true nature of the ring is learned, and a fellowship of elves, men, dwarves, hobbits and wizards sets off on an even more perilous quest.
It is, as the author notes in his charming foreword, a tale that grew with the telling. The early parts of the book are closer in style to the Hobbit, and compared to the epic nature and darker tone of some of the later sections these can seem still a little limited and at times almost childish, as though Tolkien is writing another children’s book. But the tale grows, Tolkien’s skill and imagination grows, and soon this is a thrilling, gripping, complex tale.
I find when reading this that it not just the plot that I love, but the completeness of Tolkien’s world. He has developed a whole history, mythology, geography and etymology for it, all incredibly detailed. The book does not describe these in detail, but has frequent sideways references to them. This is what sets it apart from other fantasies, the feeling of a complete reality in which the adventures are taking place, a rich and textured world. This adds a depth to the books which few others can match.
Again in his foreword, Tolkien mentions that there are parts of the book that some people dislike, yet others love, and that few people like all of the book. I have to agree with this, much as I love the tale, I find the early sections detailing the adventures as far as the land of Bree a little tiresome at times, and I have always thought that the character of Tom Bombadil is somewhat out of place in the book. After Bree however, the adventure kicks into high gear and I am totally immersed in the tale. This is just my opinion, I know others who will defend Bombadil’s inclusion to the death.
In all this is a great read in it’s own right, ending on a great cliffhanger that leads into the second book. It has a lot of high adventure, and Tolkien’s rich multilayered tale telling. It’s a classic of it’s time, and has to get 5 stars.
This unabridged reading from Rob Inglis is pretty good. For the most part it is excellent, though he can be a little flat in his delivery at times, and some of his voices are ill suited to the characters – Lobelia Sackville-Baggins’ deep gruff tones are a particular miscalculation. But for the most part he gets it spot on, and his Jamaican Windsor Davies voice for Tom Bombadil is a particular delight, indeed I almost like the character in the audio book, whereas I usally skip past his section when reading the printed word. All in all it’s a good reading. At 16 discs and clocking in at 19 hours 10 minutes of listening, this is perfect for the car on long journeys! I have to say that I listened to it back and forth to work over about a week, and my interest was maintained throughout, a testament to the skill of both author and reader. 5 stars all round.
on 16 September 2007
This is a beautiful boxset, with the cover designs of the incorporated three volumes of the novel repeated on the outer sides of the box. The paperback editions of the aforementioned three volumes are the latest editions (2005) and therefore contain the presently definitive text.
What can I write about The Lord of the Rings that has not already been written? It is, I believe, a magnificent novel which will appeal to many different types of reader, whether they be fans of fantasy / science-fiction / adventure or not. The only people I would not recommend this book to are those who do not enjoy reading at all. Assuming that you still partake to any extent in this sadly dwindling pastime, I suggest that although the novel can be somewhat challenging in the sheer number of locations and characters it presents, this should mean no great difficulty for adult readers. Younger readers may find it heavy-going (as I did at age 14), but as Tolkien himself pointed out, one cannot expand one's vocabulary by reading a book aimed at one's own age-group, but rather, by reading a book aimed above it. I did not myself know that Tolkien said this before reading so in the accompanying 'The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion'.
Which brings me nicely to the aptly described "definitive annotated guide". This volume is indeed a 'companion' of the highest order. It not only contains comprehensive notes on the text, but also includes the 'Nomenclature' and time-schemes penned by Tolkien as an aid to himself and others, as well as a list of the differences between the original and more recent editions (errors present from the beginning as well as those due to ill-managed reprints and revisions throughout the book's history, and the emendments made to correct these).
Never in my not-inconsiderable experience of my favourite novel have I found any guide so utterly useful and interesting.
I have but one minor gripe, being this: I assumed that the page numbers heading each of the notes in the Reader's Companion would refer to the pages of the edition it accompanies in this package. This is, however, not the case. This is no great problem, though, as the authors of the Companion had the foresight to also precede each note with the first line of the paragraph to which it belongs. Since the notes are also divided into the appropriate chapters of the relevant Books and Volumes, this does not even begin to tarnish the fifth star I have awarded this excellent set. I heartily recommend this to any reader, old or new, but most especially to those who either do not already possess the definitive text of the novel, or have yet to sample the delights of Hammond and Scull's guide to its intricacies.
on 18 March 2002
JRR Tolkien's book "The Lord of the Rings" needs no introduction. It's a timeless classic that should at least be given a try by absolutley everyone! That said, this edition is just great! I was quite surprised when I first saw this edition with my own eyes. The books are large, pages are thick, the covers and the illustrations are a feast to look at and the text is big and clear. If you are looking for an edition of "The Lord of the Rings" that is a bit more special than the cheaper ones, this is the one to get!
on 30 June 2014
It's perfect! The images became better (colours is richer) and it's more detailed comparing with the 3-book HarperCollins illustrated edition from 2002. The slipcase is cool and simple. The book came in a special cardboard box from HarperCollins. It weigt 2,410 kg and it has 1217 pages. The chalk overlay paper is thick enough. The font is clear and of a good size (neither too big nor too small). Two maps are on the endpapers (the large-scale map of Middle-earth at the end of The Third Age & the detailed map of Rohan, Gondor and Mordor) and one more (Shire map) is indise on a page of the book. This new edition features a special 3-page foldout frontispiece showing the complete version of Alan Lee's painting of a Ringwraith flying out from Minas Morgul towards Minas Tirith. This complete version of the painting has never been included before. In addition to this, all 50 paintings have been reproduced from brand new digital scans provided by Mr Lee and they look stunning. It's a really ultimate edition! I wouldn't say it's too bulky, but as a story told inside, the book is monumental outside) You will like it, I'm sure! It is of the highest quality!
P.S. And one more thing to tell. I found that the pagination is quite different from the usual (like in 3-volume HarperCollins illustrated edition from 2002). So now it doesn't fit my "The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (Hardback)" 2005 year edition (ISBN 13: 9780618642670). I can't use the LOTR references from this book. I guess if they corrected the pagination in their new "The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion" 2014 year edition (ISBN 13: 9780007556908). ADD: I found that they had not corrected it.
A new wave of readers have discovered "The Fellowship of the Ring," thanks to the arrival of the epic movie hits. And that is definitely a good thing, because this trilogy not only spurred the fantasy genre into a respectable position, but also provided the template for virtually every elf, dwarf, lost king, and medieval fantasy world since. It's also a wicked good read.
We open some sixty years after the events of "The Hobbit" -- Bilbo Baggins is older, not much wiser, substantially wealthier, and quite eccentric (one not-so-affectionate nickname is "Mad Baggins"). He has also adopted his bright young cousin Frodo, who was orphaned at a young age and had led a rather fractured life since then. On his 111th birthday, Bilbo suddenly vanishes, leaving behind all his possessions to Frodo -- including the golden ring that allows its wearer to become invisible.
Seventeen years later, Gandalf the wizard shows up again on Frodo's doorstep, and informs the young hobbit that his ring is in fact the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron. It inevitably corrupts those who have it, and most of Sauron's power is invested in it. Trying to deflect danger from the Shire, Frodo leaves with his best friend Sam and his loyal cousins Merry and Pippin. But Frodo has only the slightest idea of the hideous and dangerous journey ahead of him, that will take him across Middle-Earth to the evil land of Mordor.
Many fantasy cliches were spawned from this book (although they weren't cliches when Tolkien used them). Orcs, elves, dwarves, halflings, sprawling medieval kingdoms, dethroned kings, gray-bearded wizards and evil Dark Lords. But no one will feel that these are stale; on the contrary, they feel fresh and unused, because that is what they were when the book was first penned.
Narrative-wise, this book begins on much the same note as "The Hobbit": it's lighter and more cheerful, since it opens in the Shire. But darker undertones begin to crop up in the very first chapter, when Bilbo begins clutching at the Ring and speaking in a Gollum-like manner. The pace is pretty slow and gradual until the hobbits reach Bree, at which point it becomes darker, faster and harsher in tone and pace. The matter in it also becomes more mature, particularly in the chilling scenes after Frodo is stabbed by a Nazgul.
One of the things that Tolkien did exceptionally well is atmosphere. With a minimum of words, he conveys the menace of the Black Riders, the beauty of the Elves, the decay of the ancient kingdom of Moria, the mystery of such characters as Aragorn. In some areas, he deliberately didn't elaborate on the such things as the Balrog, leaving the visualization up to the readers.
Another strong point is a sense of epic proportions. Too often a fantasy writer TRIES to write an epic, at the expense of individual character development. Tolkien managed to balance both of them, by focusing on the individuals in the center of epic struggles.
Frodo himself is the quintessential "little guy" hero, one of the last people whom you'd expect to be on a mission to save the world. He's prone to moods of either cheerfulness or sadness, a little immature and bored at the beginning, but incredibly brave and stout-hearted when the pressure is put on him. He has no astounding destiny or special powers to help him. He's simply an ordinary person.
We also have Gandalf, who is fleshed out from the pleasantly crabby wizard of "Hobbit" -- we see more of his hidden sides and powers here. And Frodo is surrounded by a well-rounded cast of characters, including his loyal gardener Sam and his charmingly sneaky cousins, as well as a rich fellowship of ethereal Elves, mysterious men and doughty dwarves.
Tolkien wasn't the first fantasy writer, but he can rightly be described as the first noted fantasy writer, and he remains top of the heap today. "Fellowship of the Ring" is a must-read -- and then go watch the movies again.
on 11 July 2004
Then Rob Inglis will read you the best story ever written.
Story telling is a tradition that predates book writing and reading by thousands of years. These days it's a luxury to be able to listen to the story teller. I've read Lord of the Rings too many times to be able to remember but up to now, nobody has ever read it to me. Rob Inglis has remedied that sad deficit. It took me a short while to get into the unfamiliar 'listener' state of mind because listening is a different discipline, a different skill, to reading. Somehow, it takes more concentration but perhaps that's just because of lack of practise. Once the right level of concentration was achieved, Rob Inglis's voice and the images it conjured, filled my mind to the exclusion of all else. It's hard to imagine the craft of story telling being executed any better than this.
This story teller managed to reproduce the voices of hobbits, men, elves, dwarves, wizards, eagles, nazgul, orcs and Gollum - all different and all very fitting for the characters represented. Not only that but he sang each song from the book, unaccompanied and they all sounded good.
It's the best present anyone has given me and I expect to listen to it at least as many times as I've read the book.
on 5 April 2003
Tolkien's Middle-earth has changed the face of modern fantasy, and launched thousands upon thousands of budding authors on a new career in a relatively new genre. I first read "The Hobbit" during childhood, and I thought it was good; an enjoyable story for someone looking for wizards and orcs in 'go-on-a-quest' book. Then I picked up "The Lord of the Rings" and was blown away. There are so many twists, and a great depth to each of the characters, even the evil ones. The nature of evil, and how fine the line is between good and evil is one of the main themes in this book, and I constantly found myself questioning each character as they went on a physical, and mental journey. Add to that that the many of the characters are not heroes in the usual stereotypes, especially the hobbits. Sméagol, or Gollum, is one such case where the plot twists and turns around a character. Sometimes you hate him because he seems evil, other times you feel sympathy for him. The plot is, as I said, full of twists and dramatic turns, as Middle-earth unites to destroy the One Ring. There is a depth to the plot, a background of detailed history before the events in this book. "The Hobbit" was good because it had these things, but on a more simplified scale. This book takes what was good about "The Hobbit", trebles it, and puts some added detail in for good measure. "The Lord of the Rings" remains one of my favourite books of all time, and opened the door to the fantasy genre for me. I have yet to find one in the genre near the level Tolkien reached. Brilliantly told, with rich characters and intriguing plot makes "The Lord of the Rings" one of the best books ever written.
on 17 October 2010
For me, this book is reason to own a Kindle. Big and heavy enough to be used as a doorstop even in paperback editions, being able to carry it (along with everything else I have) in electronic format is a massive improvement and gives yet another reason to enjoy it all over again.
The quality of the presentation is extremely high, with maps and illustrations reproduced well, and a generally high standard of editing. It's not perfect - the maps need to be higher resolution when they're so important to the enjoyment of the story, and there are some annoying occasional lapses in the quality of proofing like characters suddenly being called by only their first initial and not their name (this is my number 1 pet hate in e-books, but it's rare enough here not to spoil things).
on 2 August 2010
Excellent purchase! Did what it said on the tin.
The 50th Anniversary edition comes with a good preface detailing what has been tweaked / updated from previous editions and charts the history of the different editions and the mistakes that have been gradually fixed over the years.
The cover (leather) is very nice to touch. The gold on the page edges looks really nice. The hard case is good to keep the book safe, in good condition, and also looks good.
The paper is ok. It doesn't feel great (not very thick) but that's because it's a long book all in one volume (which is what I wanted).
The paper isn't rubbish though (sorry, I don't know much about paper!).
It's not an edition to carry around and read on public transport, but a collector's item, to display proudly and show off to others and, for that, it does the job!
Very minimal artwork, really. I already had another edition with all the Alan Lee plates, which are great, but here it is Tolkien's text that shines.