Thursday, November 01, 2007

One Ring to Bind Me


One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

Well, the ring certainly held me bound this week as I raced to finish Lord of the Rings (hereafter LOTR) by Halloween. I chose it as part of my book sandwich for Peril the Third, which involved reading two weighty tomes with a shorter qualifying book in between. Note to self: read the long books first! Since I saved LOTR for last, I really had to sprint to complete it before the R.I.P. II Challenge closed. Luckily, it was an absolutely mesmerizing book; in fact, it had me rising early and staying up late just to see what happened. My obsession had my husband seeing green - our divorce papers would have been the first to declare "J.R.R. Tolkien" as a reason for dissolving a marriage!

So much has been said and written about this book that I'm sure I won't be saying anything new. Still, there may be someone out there who doesn't know the story, so here goes...The Lord of the Rings takes place in Middle-earth, a world inhabited by diverse creatures, from the gentle Hobbits in the Shire to the fair Elves to the fearsome Orcs of the darker regions. This story, as Tolkien notes "is concerned mostly with Hobbits" (1), in particular one Frodo Baggins. Frodo is the young cousin of Bilbo Baggins, a "very rich and very peculiar" (21) creature whose adventures are told in Tolkien's earlier novel, The Hobbit. LOTR opens with Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday party, at which Bilbo mysteriously disappears leaving most of his worldly possessions to Frodo. Although it's rumored that Bilbo has wealth untold, Frodo finds no riches, only a mysterious ring of which Bilbo spoke very little. Frodo knows the ring can make one disappear, but until Gandalf the great wizard delivers a warning about its power, the hobbit has no idea of its true importance. Gandalf explains: Long ago, magic rings were forged by Elven-smiths, rings which had various powers and strengths. The Great Rings, however, contained powers so irresistible that mortals became enslaved to them. Of these, there was One ring created to rule all the rest. To Frodo's dismay, he realizes that not only does he now possess the One, but also that the Dark Lord (the epitome of evil) will stop at nothing to have it. The young hobbit knows he must undertake a dangerous quest to take the ring to the dark lands of Mordor, and cast it into the Cracks of Doom, where lie the only fires hot enough to destroy it.

With three comrades, Frodo sets out on his secret quest. As they travel, they gain more friends until the "Fellowship of the Ring" is formed. The Fellowship consists of seven bodies - Frodo; his servant Sam; the hobbits Merry and Pippin; Gimli the Dwarf; Aragorn, a brave Ranger; Legolas the Elf. Gandalf also rides wth them when he can. The group moves through Middle-earth seeing lands beyond their wildest imaginings, lands filled with "Orcs, and talking trees, and leagues of grass, and galloping riders, and glittering caves, and white towers, and golden halls, and battles, and tall ships sailing." (955) All of their adventures bring them, finally, to the dreaded Land of Mordor. Ruled by the Dark Lord, Mordor is filled with darkness and enemies at every turn. With the rest of the Fellowship engaged in war, Frodo and Sam must make their way to Mount Doom and its fiery Cracks. Hungry and weary, the pair trek up the mountain, their every footstep tracked by the wily Gollum. The burden of the ring wears heavily on Frodo, its power drawing the stout-hearted hobbit inexplicably to its evil master. Still, onward they go until Frodo stands at the edge of the Cracks, where he must struggle to rid himself of the ring which holds him in its power. The fate of Middle-earth rests in his small hobbit hands.

I won't give away anymore, but I have to say that LOTR is the consummate adventure tale. It combines so many elements - danger, romance, humor, war - into a rich story about good vs. evil. Tolkien goes into incredible (and sometimes tedious) detail about all the life forms in his book, which makes his whole world live and breathe. I wept through the last fourth of the book because I cared so deeply about the characters and their individual fates. After reading 1131 pages, I was ready for the story to end, but I truly regretted closing the door to this incredible, magical story of a hobbit and his quest to save the world.
Grade: A+

5 comments:

  1. Finally . . . but I am impressed that you read that book in less than 5 days

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  2. I still consider this one of my favorite books and the description of the birthday party is as vivid as when I first read it.

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  3. I'm looking forward to reading this one myself next year. (It does qualify for the Cardathon just so you know. And I'm also hosting the mini-Tolkien/Lewis challenge.)

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  4. I'm shocked and appalled you hadn't read this before last November (forgive me looking back in time at older posts--I'm still catching up on your blog). This is what my mother read to us when I was too young to read such long books myself. We would beg for just one more chapter! This trilogy sparked my life-long love of fantasy. I re-read it in late elementary school and again a couple years ago. Please tell me you've read The Hobbit. (I checked and it's not blogged about.) If you haven't, repent immediately!

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  5. I know, I know, Robin, but I was never much of a scifi/fantasy fan as a kid. Even as an adult, LOTR was very intimidating. Until I actually read it. I was actually surprised that I liked it so much.

    Don't worry, I have read The Hobbit. It's been awhile, though. I think I read it when I was a teenager, so I should probably re-read it. You know what they say - so many books, so little time!

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