This book has long been on my to-read list, much longer than it should have been! Why did I ever delay reading it?! If you haven’t read this yet, and have been ‘meaning to’, do yourself a favour and take the plunge! I grant you, it may seem slow at first, but I am embarrassed that I ever thought so.
My first attempt at reading The Lord of the Rings was five years or so, when I idly picked up my father’s copy. Although I loved the movies, and loved The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, and loved everything about Tolkien (I have admired immensely his writing, his invented languages, his mythopoeia for a long time before even reading a word of his magnum opus), my entry into LOTR itself was not smooth. Sadly. I am embarrassed to even type these words! I lied in conversations where I gushed about my admiration for Tolkien, trying to hide the fact that I still hadn’t read his greatest works.
So. On my commute in the fall, I got into the habit of listening to an audiobook of The Hobbit, narrated by Rob Inglis, on the two-hour bus ride twice a day, a few days a week. Although an audiobook is a slow way to ‘read’, it was the perfect activity for a long, tedious bus ride. When Bilbo had gotten home again, I moved straight into the same narrator’s telling of The Fellowship of the Ring and, for the first time, ‘read’ the book.
Now, around Moira, my father told me that an audiobook was no way to read something for the first time, and so I turned to the only other version I had at my disposal, an e-book. Sad, I know! I missed the delightful and distinct voices that Rob Inglis gave to each character, and the wonderfully haunting songs he sang — for the first few days afterward, I would switch back to the audiobook whenever a song cropped up. But I did enjoy seeing the words before me, although I disliked reading it on a cold computer screen, lacking the tactile perfection of a paper book.
Finally, a few days ago, I managed to capture one of the elusive, much-sought-after library copies and have it now beside me, a pleasingly thick, worn paperback, with the yellowed pages and strange, personalised smells of a book which has been carried about and read by many different anonymous people. Who were they, who loved this book as I do now? The spine is broken between pages 188 and 189, at the point where Tom Bombadil rescues the hobbits from the Barrow-wights.
Wake now my merry lads! Wake and hear me calling!
Warm now be heart and limb! The cold stone is fallen;
Dark door is standing wide; dead hand is broken.
Night under Night is flown, and the Gate is open!
And so I am happy to say that this book is more wonderful than I hoped it would be, more engrossing and engaging than I expected, and every bit as perfect, detailed, and encompassing as I had been told. Please read this, if you can stomach words — for the detail is great (it takes a hundred or two pages for them to leave the Shire at the start, and there are many pages of discussion for every 4-minute clip in the movie). As Gimli says in the book (this is not in the movie), upon leaving Lórien and Galadriel: “Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! … Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy… Alas for Gimli son of Glòin!” (497)
Read this book, read this book, read this book. If you are a lover of fantasy, of myth, of humanity, of the movies, of books, this is one to read.
I will say more when its two companions are added to this list.