Fellowship of the Ring: Part I

For those of you who been following along with the Lord of the Rings readalong, we’re now halfway through the second month, which is focused on The Fellowship of the Ring. Clare has a post up where you can share your progress, so do visit her at The Literary Omnivore to see some discussion starters and to check out the links to others’ progress reports.

Because the three books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are nicely divided into two parts each, my plan has been to try to read the first part of each month’s books by mid-month and write a mini-review of the story so far. Last week’s snowstorm would have ruined that plan had I not brought the book home from the office so I could get in some reading time at home, instead of counting on my reading time at lunch. But I did bring the book home and got some reading time in last week, so I’m happy to report that I did in fact make in through all of Part 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring.

The first half of The Fellowship of the Ring focuses on hobbits, particularly Frodo Baggins, nephew and adopted heir of Bilbo. Although Fellowship does not have the same narrative voice as The Hobbit, the opening chapter does have a light-hearted tone, which makes for a nice transition from the gentle tone of The Hobbit.

It doesn’t take long, however, for the story to get serious, as the wizard Gandalf tells Frodo the history of Bilbo’s prized magic ring. The ring, a weapon of great power created by the dark lord Sauron, will bring doom to all of Middle-Earth if Sauron should get it back. So Frodo must take the ring away from his home and seek the advice of the elf Elrond. Frodo is accompanied on his travels by Sam, Merry, and Pippin. The four hobbits are pursued by the black riders, servants of Sauron, and so they must take dangerous paths that have their own dangers. On Bilbo’s own journey to the same location years earlier, the only peril was a group of hungry trolls. Frodo, however, encounters malevolent trees, haunted barrows, and other obstacles. It’s obvious that he’s in for a much more difficult time than Bilbo ever faced.

One of the things I love about Fellowship of the Ring is how Tolkien eases readers into the story. We start with familiar characters in a familiar place and gradually watch the cast of characters grow. Each character is given a distinct personality. My own favorite from these early chapters is Merry, who is a fount of useful information, at least when it comes to the area immediately surrounding the Shire. He’s a planner and an organizer, and it’s clear that he’ll be a big help to Frodo. He does make one unfortunate blunder in Bree, but otherwise he demonstrates solid judgment and maintains a steady head. I like him a lot.

And the perils the hobbits meet on their journey are truly terrifying. The black riders are bad enough, but the other dangers are every bit as scary. The old forest in particular freaks me out and makes the goodness of the absurdly cheerful Tom Bombadil seem all the more powerful. I also love the scenes where we see glimmers of a history that goes deeper than that of Sauron and the rings. This story is tremendous—epic—but it only scratches the surface of the world Tolkien has created.

So far, the story is very much as I remembered it. I did forget some details, and I was really surprised at how long the journey from Bree to Rivendell took. There were days and days of tedious wandering, and that tedious wandering, while not exciting, is a miserable experience for the characters and makes the arrival at Rivendell that much more of a relief. And, of course, it’s in Rivendell where the world of the story begins to really expand, and I’m looking forward to that.

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11 Responses to Fellowship of the Ring: Part I

  1. Jenny says:

    I think I’m just about at the same spot you are – I’m excited for them to get to Rivendell! Though I don’t have at all the same reaction to Tom Bombadil as you; getting through his bits felt like work. And I’d forgotten how useful Merry was; I guess because he’s mostly comic relief in the first film.

    • Teresa says:

      Jenny, Your post on Tom Bombadil cracked me up! And yes, I remembered that Merry was a favorite, but I forgot that his practical side was there from the beginning. We don’t really see a strong contrast between him and Pippin until the last movie, but in the books, it’s there all along.

  2. bookssnob says:

    I’m really pleased to be reading reviews of this at the moment as I read the books at university for a Tolkien and Old English course and haven’t revisited since. I have forgotten a lot of details, and it’s good to be refreshed. It’s funny how long the story takes to get started, isn’t it? I remember thinking that when I first read them…I kept wondering when the battles were coming!

    • Teresa says:

      Rachel, I would have loved to have studied this in a course like that. Actually, I would have loved to study Old English, but to study it in conjunction with a Tolkien study would have been bliss.

  3. rebeccareid says:

    Oh no! I forgot I need to read this this month. Off to find our copy…

  4. trinza says:

    I’m right with you on the gentle pace of Part 1! I’ve loved it so far, it’s a leisurely sort of path through the shadows until the whole world begins to open up for Frodo.

    I can’t wait to start reading Part 2.

  5. Tom Bombadill is a pointless character who doesn’t advance the story in any real way. I cant stand him -I suspect he’s smoking too much weed. In fact his only point seem to be to demonstrate why authors need editors – even when they’re professors of English literaure!

    • Teresa says:

      Desert Book Chick: I know you’re not alone in your loathing of Tom Bombadil, but the sheer absurdity of the guy makes me smile (and the fact that someone so cheerily strange could be so powerful seems to say something about how power does not require ponderous solemnity).

  6. bethfishreads says:

    Desert Book Chick: I’m sure you are not alone, but I like Tom Bombadil and although he doesn’t advance the story he hints to a unique branch of Middle Earth history — he is the oldest one, he has long since let the the cares of world pass him by. He takes care of his own, helps those who cross his path who deserve his help, but keeps out of the business of others. And the ring has no power over him, which is an interesting bit all in itself. I would like to know more about him!

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