Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: The Fellowship of the Ring

Books don't change, but readers do. I just read Fellowship of the Ring to Sam out loud. The last time through it was also out loud, to Laurie before the movies came out. A few observations this time around:

-- Tolkien's poems make much more sense when read aloud. (Look! An internal rhyme!)

-- I am no longer disappointed by the "lack" of magic. Instead, I realize that the magic is more tangible and immanent than I knew -- and it extends into our world. Elf-magic is the magic of Richmond Beach park or Mount Rainier in the sunset. Sauron-magic is the magic of smog and combustion. Of course the elves must leave.

-- Never realized before, but Tolkien spends much of his book describing the scenery with loving care. Enjoy the scenery indeed!

Compared to other fantasy novels, Tolkien's writing is stilted. His non-hobbit dialogue is the worst at this. Yet the salient details that drive the story -- Aragorn's indecision, Boromir's subtle truculence, the sadness of the elves -- are ultimately more powerful and relevant to my own choices than the choices of the characters in most fantasy novels. By "most" I mean the ones read, enjoyed, and catalogued on this blog. No one writes souls like Tolkien.

The end result is that Tolkien has unmatched depth and texture. I was excited to read it again. Other authors have their points, too, but Tolkien's world improves with age. Even if a seventh grader might not see it, a thirty-six-year-old father of four might get an idea eventually.

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