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It's been a long time since I reread Lord of the Rings, but it felt like time, with a lot of things reminding me of it lately. The last straw was reading about Ursula Le Guin's thoughts on it in Cheek By Jowl. Since the last time I read it, I've heard a lot of hard words about LOTR -- about the terrible writing and the terrible pacing and the xenophobia and the lack of moral grey area and all of that, and reading it again I notice faults in it that I'd never have admitted when I was younger, but I also remember all the ways I think people are wrong about it. However, an overview of the trilogy can wait! For now, I'll review The Fellowship of the Ring alone.

It starts off very slow, set in The Shire, giving us a glimpse of the peaceful happy life that Bilbo longed for so often during The Hobbit, and building up the tension slowly. Slowly seems to be the key word in this book, in fact. I forgot that it takes the whole first 'book', which probably has almost as many words as The Hobbit, to get as far as Rivendell. One thing you can't accuse Tolkien of is rushing. A lot happens in that time, really, including the introduction of the Nine and of Strider/Aragorn, which is important... but it's such a small step, The Shire to Rivendell, that some people dismiss it as pointless. I can't see as much point in the part with the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil... it feels like a digression, as if Tolkien is in love with his world and wants to show us more of it. I like that part, but I can see why people don't.

The second half of the book feels more purposeful. Frodo learns more and knows more clearly what he's going to have to do, and we learn about the Company. And then -- eventually -- they get under way. I suppose that really they don't do that much more in the second book -- in the first book there's the Shire, the Old Forest, The Prancing Pony, and Weathertop, and in the second book there's Rivendell, Caradhras, Moria, Lothlorien and the Anduin. But things feel more imperative and desperate, I suppose. And things keep speeding up from here.

I can't decide what my favourite part is. The Lorien part is beautiful, but obvious. The Moria part is dark, but I think maybe I like that best because of Balin, and in honour of Gandalf. My favourite characters are... hmm. Gandalf, Sam and Aragorn, probably, although it's nice to see Bilbo again. And I wish we knew more about Glorfindel, actually -- that he'd gone with the company, or something, because I think more could've been done with him. He appeared and disappeared quite quickly.

In any case, yes: I can see the flaws in the writing, and I'm beginning to see what's meant by the xenophobia -- I missed that, through not being a very subtle reader when I last read it, I think. I didn't look beyond the face value. But I still do love the writing -- it tastes nice, which is good enough for me -- and the rest.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-09-15 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] samuraiter.livejournal.com
Despite its faults, FOTR is my favorite book of the trilogy, possibly because it takes its time. The menace is always there, yes, but it is a series of interconnected adventures, not unlike The Hobbit, rather than the long slog that fills TTT and ROTK.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-09-15 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wilderthan.livejournal.com
Yes, and it isn't so... dark.


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