HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 November 2013
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.