The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"By 17 November 1952 Allen & Unwin decided that the most economical way to publish The Lord of the Rings was in three volumes, at a price not exceeding 25s each. This unfortunately has led many of its readers to speak of it as three separate but interconnected works, a 'trilogy', though it is not such thing."

Book 1 & 2 - The Fellowship of the Ring (01/07/2021 - 04/08/2021)

The first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, told how Gandalf the Grey discovered Frodo the Hobbit had possessed the One Ring, ruler of all the Rings of Power. Frodo and his companions had to flee from the quiet Shire of their home, pursued by the Black Riders of Mordor, and able to safely reached the house of Elrond in Rivendell with the aid of Aragorn the Ranger of Eriador.

Frodo was appointed the Ring-bearer at the great Council of Elrond. The Ring's destruction has to be made at the Mountain of Fire in Mordor, the land of the Enemy himself. The Companions of the Ring were then chosen to aid him in the Quest. In this fellowship were Aragorn and Boromir son of the Lord of Gondor, representing Men; Legolas son of the Elven-king of Mirkwood, for the Elves; Gimli son of Glóin of the Lonely Mountain, for the Dwarves; Frodo with his servant Samwise, and his two young kinsmen Meriadoc and Peregrin, for the Hobbits; and Gandalf the Grey.

The Companions journeyed in secret from Rivendell in the North, through the hidden gate to the vast Mines of Moria, the Elvish land of Lórien, and down the great River Anduin, until they came to the Falls of Rauros.

It's the time for the Companions to decide whether they should turn east to Mordor or go on with Boromir to the aid of Minas Tirith in the coming war or should divide. The first part ended with the escape of Frodo from Boromir and was joined by his servant Samwise after Boromir fell to the lure of the Ring.

The foundation of the story can be summarised into a few words - a ring destruction mission. I wish it is as simple as that. I watched the three movies several months ago. Putting aside the story, I was distracted from understanding the flow of the story with the overwhelming number of characters and a series of related events, which expands to the history of Middle-earth. Despite that, I still really enjoyed the story and decided to take the courage to read the book. I have been running away or avoiding reading it all these years. If I can finish all three books, I know it would be one of the most satisfying or most successful "projects" in my life. IF I am able to finish it. I'm not sure whether my intellectual level can absorb the complexity of Middle-earth and the massive number of characters in the story.

On the first day, I wasn't even able to reach the first chapter of the book. I spent a lot of time reading the notes on the text and the revised text, foreword, preface from the book 'A Reader's Companion'. The geographical names are extraordinary, and a massive range of characters are entailed in the multidimensional history. I had to look for any particular terms from the book 'A Reader's Companion' and searched for any images on the Internet to enrich my visual imaginations. I wonder it will be even worse if I never watch the movies before reading this book.

Everything seems naturalistic such as the winds, trees, leaves, stars, sky, and etc. Their features and states were described beautifully in a mesmerising manner. Somehow, I didn't have any difficulties using Old-English words because I could still understand the definition of the word when I looked it up. However, the most struggling part is the combination of the historical richness, details of geographical features, the vast number of characters with unusual but meaningful names and a wide range of invented languages. It was tedious to read, but the prose was exquisite. I admit that I'm not one hundred percent understand some of the side stories and poems in the book, but I'm still massively adored this story. I can't deny my fascination with Tolkien's imaginations. Not only he had built a new world, but he had also constructed new languages, drew his own maps and even painted a few of the sceneries for some of the places. I am amazed by the tiny details he has to consider when writing the book to avoid contradictions from The Silmarillion and The Hobbits. One example is not revealing the details about Aragorn and Arwen in the story because the tale is based on Frodo and the hobbit's viewpoint or observation. The hobbits' knowledge of their relationship is the same as the readers. How many times in the past, I had been reading other books and wondered - how the narrator knows what happened to other characters when the narrator was not there in the first place?

ISBN: 9780007203543 (Hardcover)
Number of Pages: 456
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
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Book 3 & 4 - The Two Towers (10/08/2021 - 31/08/2021)

In the third part, Tolkien made various calculations of the length and speed of an ent-stride, adjusting both to what he felt the required distance and length for the journey. He also calculated the speed, duration of the resting time, and the number of days travelled by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli when pursuing the Orcs. The speed and the distance that the Orcs had travelled were compared with the calculations of Aragorn's group.

The song of the Ents and Entwives probably is my second favourite song after Tom Bombadil's song in the first book. Ent's sad story about the disappearance of Entwives and Entmaidens reminds me of deforestation in the real world. One of the highlights in this third part of the story is the battle at Helm's Deep, but my favourite is the confrontation between Gandalf and Saruman.

Gollum, one of the crucial characters in the Lord of the Rings, has been officially introduced in the fourth part (second book). I still prefer the story about Aragorn's group over Frodo and Sam, regardless of the version. Probably Aragorn's group encountered various characters and unexpected adventurous events throughout the journey. The fourth part focuses on Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, who acts as their guide. Their journey to the Black Gate of the Land of Mordor was slightly dull for me, but it is significant in the story. Their monotonous life was shortened when they encountered Faramir. The deeper conversations between the hobbits and Faramir had heightened the fascination of the story.

After they left Faramir, the story returned to the difficulties of their journey, and Gollum successfully betrayed the hobbits to the Shelob's lair. No one will expect Shelob's lair will be one of Sam's biggest challenges, having to make critical decisions without Frodo. This is also the biggest test for Sam so far in this journey. A test for his loyalty, character and his wisdom. From the beginning of the Quest, we know that Sam will never leave Frodo no matter what happens. But what if Frodo leaves Sam in a way that forces him to work out the entire thing by himself? Will Sam has the wisdom, reasoning, and courage to finish the Quest by himself? I'm glad to have this plot twist to bring the best out of Sam.

ISBN: 9780007203550 (Hardcover)
Number of Pages: 368
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
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Book 3 & 4 - The Return of the King (01/09/2021 - 16/09/2021)

There were several notable deaths in this last part of the story. An ironic situation existed in two different deaths during the battle of the Pelennor Fields. One has fought until the end and faced an unexpected but heroic death, and another has given up his battle and chose a pathetic death. Many crucial decisions were risked by analysing Sauron's psychological mind game.

Both the book and movie successfully displayed Sam's service and loyalty to his master which he never saw himself as a brave or heroic person. The last part of the story also showed the sense of physical difficulty and the struggle towards a clinging hope. Hopelessness but not despair. One of Tolkien's letters mentioned that Frodo was in an untenable position, in which the good of the world relied on his behaviour in circumstances that demanded a strength which he did not possess. It was doomed to fall to temptation or be broken by pressure against his will. One of my memorably favourite parts is Frodo chose to forgive Gollum because he believed that without Gollum, the Quest would have been in vain. I never thought much about forgiveness before he talked to Sam about it. Despite Gollum's greed and immorality, I always felt he played a vital role in the story. He has tied his entire life to the Ring, and the ending seems to indicate only he has the power to decide the Ring's fate, and no one else can take it from him.

Lady Eowyn seems more proud and stubborn in the book, but it has been tone down in the movie. Faramir's character doesn't display a lot of nobility in the movie. In contrast, in the book, the character has many positive traits. When I watched the movie, I didn't feel Faramir is an unforgettable character, but in the book, he possessed many good characteristics. In a different part of the story, Aragorn's coronation has more profound meaning in the book, which involves Frodo and the reason of Gandalf setting the crown on his head.

The ending of the Quest was finally a sense of peace for Frodo and Sam. It felt as if they had cast away their burdens since Frodo possessed the Ring. Ironically, I had the same feeling after I had finished the chapter - Mount of Doom. I felt relieved and lighter for the first time since I started reading the first book on the 1st of July. The remaining story wasn't a problem for me. I don't really remember the ending of Saruman in the movie. So, I rewatched the scene and felt that both versions were powerful. Both ending were the same for Saruman and Wormtongue but occurred in a different place. I can't choose which one is better or more favourable for me.

ISBN: 9780007203567 (Hardcover)
Number of Pages: 464
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
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A Reader's Companion (01/07/2021 - 16/09/2021)

This book consists of a chronological description of the numerous printed versions of Lord of the Rings, including errors and amendments. It also contains a concise history of how Tolkien came out with the story - the timeline for building the plots, the storyline, and references from some of the letters he had corresponded with his son and the publisher about his journey with the construction of the story. His tremendous effort of work in the dust-jacket design, map illustrations, glossary index, additional materials for the Appendices is also being covered in this book.

This book has also discussed the reception and critical response after the publication of the book. One critical review that struck my attention is Edmund Wilson, who wrote "Oo, Those Awful Orcs!" in The Nation in 1956. I found it amusing when he mentioned "Tolkien's 'poverty of imagination". I'm dumbfounded and unsure what we are if Tolkien was labelled in that way. Void of imagination? Barren of imagination?

There was also a detailed explanation for using certain outdated words and differences from the original version if an error exists after numerous publications. The meaning behind the characters' names and places was based on the author's reasons, involving tiny details related to the created world.

You can choose to read the main story along with this book if only you are interested in the original idea and the names Tolkien has selected to appear in the final story. If you are not curious about the history of this book or the background of the idea, you can just ignore this book and focus on the main story. For someone who has high curiosity and wants to read everything, I have to read both books (the three main books and the companion) side by side all the time. It was a bit tedious, but I really enjoyed reading it. I may not fully understand the entire content, but the revelations from this book are really fascinating with the sophisticated ideas behind this story. You will never stop being amazed by the notes and the records given by this book.

ISBN: 9780007556908 (Hardcover)
Number of Pages: 976
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
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