I recently finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring and am so amazed by it that I need to ramble for a bit.
The Lord of the Rings is one of the most gracefully written epic adventures I have ever read (at least, part one is, but I doubt I’ll think differently when I move on to the next novels). What I love about Tolkien’s writing is how self-indulgent and personal it sounds. It is very obvious that these characters, and the whole setting of Middle-earth down to the last tree mean everything to Tolkien, and we see this through the patient and affectionate narration of his world. Reflected by his lingering descriptions of the lush greenery of the Shire, the warmth of Rivendell, and the golden forest of Lothlórien is his deep care for the universe and its natural beauty. I admire Tolkien because his heart is on every page.
I can see that Tolkien was deeply inspired by various genres and schools of thought, but a prominent one I noticed was Romanticism, which I believe is part of the reason why I the novel touched me deeply; the Romantic Era is my favourite to study and read from. It makes sense, given the thoughtful and long descriptions of nature throughout the novel, and the aversion to industrialization. Personally, I find Tolkien’s creation to be so original and unassuming that I think any “inspirations” are unobtrusive; my sister had to point out the Norse inspiration behind the novel and it seemed so obvious when she did, but I didn’t realize it at all. I either need to brush up my lit, or Tolkien’s that good. Both, honestly.
*May include spoilers from this point, if anyone still cares*
These are some of my favourite aspects of the novel. Some have to do with characters, places, and/or topics.
- Tom Bombadil and Goldberry’s home in the forest
It seems as though the hobbits are transported to another realm when they arrive at Tom and Goldberry’s personal neck of the woods. The land surrounding their home is charming and full of life. The hobbits are welcomed by the feel of perfect grass under their feet, the sounds of a murmuring river and song, and the glittering sight of Tom’s home. While taking in their lodging and listening to Goldberry’s song, they “[stand] upon the threshold, and a golden light [is] all about them” (161). Magical. I wanna go. Some of the most gorgeous descriptions live in these chapters.
I’ll probably dedicate a separate post to talk about Tom and Goldberry because they’re so intriguing.
- Tom Bombadil saves the hobbits in the Barrow-downs
The Barrow-downs is utterly creepy. I have no other way to describe this place. It’s full of barrow-wights, which are these fascinating zombie/wraith creatures that almost kill Frodo and his friends. Despite knowing the ending, I felt anxious reading through this part because it genuinely felt like they were in danger. How could they possibly escape this scenario?
Of course, magical Tom is summoned and literally dances the barrow-wights away and all is well again. I loved this part because I was so nervous, and then Tom Bombadil shows up singing and dancing and these wraiths do not stand a chance. I thought it was amazing and hilarious. Tom seems whimsical and aloof, but he’s powerful and I’d even say dangerous. It’s just a shame they can’t call on Tom outside of his “borders”.
Another enchanting location where we meet new characters. I don’t think I’ll ramble about the setting too much, but suffice it to say that Lothlórien is like a gold dream.
The fellowship meet Galadriel here, who is wise, mysterious, and warmhearted. She is so welcoming towards Gimli, despite the “law” of their land that states dwarves are unwelcome. Before meeting her, Gimli is forced to walk through the forest blindfolded, and Aragorn has the whole company wear blindfolds in solidarity. Clearly, there is a lot of animosity between elves and dwarves due to their history, but Gimli was (I think) very respectful throughout the scenario, unlike his depiction in the film. By the time they are set to leave the forest, Gimli and Legolas seem to be inseparable. Aww. 🙂 I’m not going to bother analyzing anything here, because that deserves its own long post, so just from a surface level: I find the events in Lothlórien to be tender and sweet, and it would make sense that such a place would inspire these things. Gimli sobs when they are leaving.
- Sleepy and domestic descriptions
I adore the descriptions of the very “basics” of life such as eating, drinking, walking/wandering, but especially sleep. I found myself growing drowsy every time the hobbits were getting sleepy and dozing off because the detailed explanations are that comforting.
“There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid.” – Tolkien
“[I]t is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.” – Gandalf
“[D]espair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.” – Gandalf
“Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.” – Haldir
“If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadhrim[…]would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?” – Galadriel
Next on the “to-read” list: The Two Towers.
Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. London, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.