Or There and Back Again.
What started as a delightfully charming tale of adventure for children in The Hobbit has, in the pages of The Fellowship of the Ring and the following two volumes, evolved into an epic and dark fantasy; full of corruption, betrayal, deceit, courage, loyalty and love.
The Fellowship of the Ring chronicles Frodo the Hobbit inheriting Bilbo’s belongings, which reluctantly includes the Ring. Gandalf’s suspicions about the Ring were peaked when Bilbo lies and argues with him about leaving it behind behind. Sadly for Frodo, after years of research Gandalf’s proves his intuition correct. Sauron is seeking the ring, to be reunited with it, just as the Ring is seeking Sauron. Gandalf warns Frodo of the severity of this, and the indescribable horrors that would befall the inhabitants of Middle Earth if this reconciliation occurred.
As a character I find Frodo much harder to like in comparison with Bilbo and the other characters in the tale. He didn’t seem to heed Gandalf’s warnings of the severity of the situation, he takes 5 months to leave The Shire – insisting on having a birthday party before hand. Him and Bilbo share the same initial reluctance to start the adventure, however the thrill of the unknown quickly sways Bilbo to change his mind. I guess maybe stealing from a dragon is a less scary proposition than destroying the One Ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron, however at this point in the tale all Frodo had to do was safely take the Ring to Rivendell. I say all – its a big job to do, especially with the nine Nazgûls giving chase, but maybe he should have left sooner…
Or maybe Tolkien used the hesitation of Frodo to his advantage, not only to allow us to fall in love with the Shire, but to use it in contrast to the other more darker places steeped in magic that he visits. The Old Forest for instance, where we meet Old Man Willow, filled with hatred for all that walks on two feet. Or the cold, grim, dangerous Mines of Moria, infested with foul Orcs. For if Frodo does not succeed in his mission, the Shire is sure to be lost. Lost to the same misfortune, malice and dark magic that has infected a lot of Middle Earth. By spending much of the beginning of the novel in the Shire, and through reminders from the Hobbits of how much they love and miss it, we as an audience fall in love with it too. It’s similarities with our culture, apparently the Shire is based on England, ensure this is more ingrained in our subconscious – making us understand how great the loss would be.
The tone of the story is much darker than its predecessor The Hobbit, we are shown the frightening and lasting effects that possession of the ring has had over Bilbo. We also see more of the hatred and strife between the different races that populate Middle Earth. However, through Tolkien’s exquisite descriptive powers we are able to see the beauty of Middle Earth, not just in the locations like Lothlórien, in the songs he creates, but in the characters like Tom Bombadil and Bill the horse.
The Fellowship of the Ring, as with everything J.R.R. Tolkien writes, is utterly beautiful and offers an enjoyable escape into a deeply thought out world with a vast and varied history. If you’ve never read it, it’s completely worth it. If you have read it, its such a wonderful universe to revisit.
Favourite quotes from the book:
Even in the light of the morning he felt the dark shadow of the tidings that Gandalf had brought.
The night was clear, cool and starry, but smoke-like wisps of mist were creeping up the hill-sides from the streams and deep meadows.
“Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill…”
They were on an island in a sea of trees.
Their way wound along the floor of the hollow, and round the green feet of a steep hill into another deeper and broader valley, and then over the shoulders of further hills, and down their long limbs, and up their smooth sides again, up on to new hill-tops and down into new valleys.
The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow.
For a breathless time they sat there, silent and alert, with their backs to the wood-fire, each gazing into the shadows that encircled them.
“…This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and councils of the great…”
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.
Before them the mountains frowned…
“Fool of a Took!” he growled. “This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance…”
Frodo felt that he was in a timeless land that did not fade or change or fall into forgetfulness.
“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”