When I have books on my shelf like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I sometimes think it’s pointless to do a review because, by now, everyone has probably seen the movies if they haven’t read the books. But, I mean, I will do a review either way. Tolkien requires a lot of mental preparation before readers dig in and enjoy it to the fullest. If a reader expects to be able to breeze through this read and not invest time in learning about the world that Tolkien has created, they will not get far into the books.
Tolkien almost demands an emotional connection from a reader. He’s a demanding writer in the sense that he really wants you to believe in this world, the richness of it, the fullness. There are so many literature experts dedicated to demystifying Tolkien. This is one reason why I don’t really enjoy reviewing him. A short, one page review would not do it justice. The world he created is layered, so layered, as most people already know, that he created entire languages. A lot of inexperienced readers and film viewers could say that Peter Jackson outdid himself when he directed the adaptations, but I think he landed right on the sweet spot. In fact, I’m rather sure that The Hobbit getting an entire 3 movies was a low-blow for hardcore The Lord of the Rings fans because he really could have expanded so much more.
Anyway, this epic lands in the modern fantasy genre. Frodo’s got to destroy this blasted ring at the top of Mount Doom and a whole bunch of crazy shit happens in between. But – back it up a bit – the story doesn’t actually start with Frodo. The story starts with Bilbo, his great uncle, who, in a hobbit-savior move, goes with some Dwarfs to reclaim their kingdom from a Dragon. And, these are just the stories of the mortals, if you get really into Tolkien’s fantasy mythology, there’s a lot more including the lengthy history of the immortal elves. The Middle Earth world is a reader’s version of Minecraft, a totally emersive experience.
Now that I made it seem like a super difficult read, it really isn’t that difficult to read. It’s prose is simple. The plot is complex. But, there really aren’t any words that a normal reader wouldn’t understand. And, the words that are not understood, I can almost guaranteed are part of the languages Tolkien created. It’s action packed. And, if Tolkien manages to get a reader emotionally invested, when he kills off a character, you will cry. Ugh! I’m having a Harry Potter Dobby flashback. In any case, read these and watch the movies, in either order, it doesn’t matter because Peter Jackson was perfectly matched to create these films. Lord knows what Amazon will give us with these new adaptations they’re trying make now, but I have a bad feeling about it. We’ll see.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Ballantine Books: Del Rey, 2012.
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