The Lord of the Rings is the paragon of fantasy literature. Written in 1937 by professor of linguistics J.R.R. Tolkien, it is a high-fantasy epic that is one of the most recognizable works of fantasy in the world–something that the recent
Academy Award-winning film series did much to cement in popular culture.
The Lord of the Rings is a singular book. It stands alone among 20th century fiction as the single greatest story
produced in the English language. The magnum opus of its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, it has been widely panned or
ignored by critics, but amongst those who have read it and enjoyed it, it is often considered their favorite book. I count myself in that number. And yet, it is a polarizing book which remains opaque and inaccessible to many. With its assortment of elves, hobbits, goblins, wizards, and ringwraiths, it is considered simply too odd or bizarre for many readers to even consider.
Tolkien realized this himself and composed this short verse to describe the way readers approach his work:
The Lord of the Rings
is one of those things:
if you like it you do:
if you don’t, then you boo!
So, for those who already enjoy this book, this review will potentially be superfluous and to those who are put off by
fantasy in general, perhaps unconvincing. And yet, it is, after all, my favorite book, and really, after having recently re-read it, it is high time, I think, to put my thoughts down about what makes it a book of such special magnificence.
The Lord of the Rings is a universal and all-embracing tale, a justly celebrated classic. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power, the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring, the ring that rules them all, which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo
Baggins. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
Since it was first published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings has been a book people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, its sweeping fantasy has touched the hearts of young and old alike. Written by Professor J.R.R. Tolkien and consisting of three separate books (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King) The Lord of the Rings wasfirst published by George, Allen and Unwin between 1954 and 1955.
And a magnificent achievement it is; an epic tale of friendship, love and heroism, a book that set the benchmark for all fantasy novels to come. Tolkien’s descriptive narrative beautifully depicts Middleearth and the journey that the Fellowship undertakes will remain with them for the rest of their lives. It is hard to put into words the
happiness that can be felt when reading a fantasy book as good as this and anybody who has never read it should set aside some time to do so. Is it the best fantasy book of all time? In my opinion, yes.
There’s no salvation for a fantasy fan who hasn’t read the gospel of the genre. The influence of The Lord of the Rings is so universal that everybody from George Lucas to Led Zeppelin has appropriated it for one purpose or another. Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it’s the
product of a truly top-shelf mind.
Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth’s Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance. Tolkien carefully details this transition with tremendous skill and love, creating in The Lord of the Rings
a universal and allembracing tale, a justly celebrated classic. The book is overly long. This edition includes
all three “Lord of the Rings” books, and its size indicates what a massive task was undertaken by Tolkien when he sat
down to fulfill “the desires of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story… (as he says in a foreword to the second edition, reprinted in this book).
It is a massive undertaking not just for the writer but for the reader as well. Despite Tolkien’s remark (in the same foreword) that the book is too short, one is left with just the opposite impression.
When Tolkien said the book is too short, it is easy to assume he was speaking with tongue in cheek; easy, that is, until one reaches the end of the book and sees the various Appendixes. There is enough additional information here about hobbits and the Second and Third Ages to make it clear that the author might easily have added another
thousand pages to the tale. Perhaps, given Tolkien’s prodigious imagination, he truly did feel the book to be too short.
The story could have been pared down in places without really losing much. Sometimes it seems to take forever for Frodo (the primary character or hobbit in the tale) to simply walk over a hill or go to sleep. That complaint aside, it must be hastily added that this is a truly wonderful sword-and-sorcery tale, otherwise beautifully told. A wonderful book for lovers of fantasy fiction.
That’s book because The Lord of the Rings is not three books, as many assume, but one book in three parts (each part originally published separately). It is in fact the sequel to The Hobbit.