The Fellowship of the Ring, by J. R. R. Tolkien

January 16, 2011 at 13:32 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , )


It is difficult to write a brief review of a book that is so clearly only a small part of a greater whole. As a component of Tolkien’s majestic creation, The Fellowship of the Ring makes for an admirable introduction, and contains some of the clearest writing in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with a strong cast of characters and a masterful blend of ancient rhyme and romance retold, all a part of a meaningful and rich progression. The narrative style before the breakup of the fellowship is also considerably easier to manage, and there are fewer moments where the pace falters.

While criticisms of the single component inevitably imply judgement on the whole corpus, as a stand-alone book The Fellowship of the Ring is sadly lacking in meaningful female characters; and despite Tolkien’s grand effort in constructing an elaborate home for his heroes to live in, and despite fifty years spent in the Shire at the outset, Middle Earth tends to go by in a blur. There are cascading and massive outcroppings of intricate description and mooning over mighty mountains and historic veldt, but little that endears us to the place, apart from a strong (almost tragically romantic) desire to linger – just a little longer! – which, of course, drives the urgency of Frodo’s quest to begin with.

The conclusion of this first installation is somewhat unsatisfying, with open storylines reaching like tendrils into the next section. This is, of course, the intention, but it does make The Fellowship of the Ring feel just a little hollow, and a vehicle for its sequels rather than a story in its own right. These failings and shortcomings, however, cannot hope to challenge the simple fact that Tolkien is an intensely focused and agonisingly diligent writer, with a warm and reverberating style and a mystical nobility that instills every slightest trail of the quest with gravity and vigour. The freshest and most accessible volume of the best adventure story in the history of literature.

Related reviews:
The Silmarillion
The Two Towers

1 Comment

  1. Pieter Collier said,

    Thanks for the lovely review… I’m certain you will love the second volume! The Two Towers is my favorite of the three…

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