That is the story of how I began reading the greatest fantasy/magical/epic adventure tale ever.
It took longer than I expected. The world of Tolkien has a whole new reality – not the reality of another world, but a new reality of the world we live in. He has sketched a whole history and made it plausible to assume that Middle-earth’s history naturally led to the realm of men – here and today.
I never really appreciated the movie until I read the book, and vice versa the book was enriched by the movie giving it an extra depth – especially The Return of the King. In today’s world, despite globalisation, stories of valour and courage are less heard and remembered. We may have become a global village but the stories pass out as quickly as they come, and courage and loyalty is not revered as it used to be. The Lord of the Rings is just that – a story of courage and freedom and the lives that went into the building of a new world. Nowadays, one could wish for such a story that linked the people across Earth and unified us in such a way.
While reading the book, I was amazed at the amount of detail Tolkien put into each and every character’s history, lineage and culture. We see how the legends of the Elves, their songs telling of a time long past, and Aragorn’s history as King converges naturally with his love for Arwen, and his journey to “The Path of the Dead”. All the little pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place as we read along. Throughout the novel the role Gollum is to play is emphasized although none of us see it until his role is fulfilled. Nothing seems as if it were added on a whim, and the history flows so naturally that we can’t think of it as anything but that – history.
Frodo’s journey to Mordor, Aragorn’s and Gandalf’s journey to the Black Gate, the journey through The Paths of the Dead, the journey through Fangorn; that’s what the whole book is, a series of desperate, life-threatening yet necessary journeys all to destroy the ring and stop the rising power in Mordor. Every step of the way is excruciating because the fate of Middle-earth depends on it.
The ring. That is what lies at the center. Forged in the crevices of Mount Doom by Sauron, it heralds the power of evil. It beckons and calls out the worst in all and no man can command it but Sauron.
But that is the story of a time long ago. Since then Sauron has lost the ring. Defeated in battle he vanishes. But soon he returns again, and now he seeks the ring. It is rumoured that it has been found – by a Hobbit. Frodo Baggins becomes the “Ring-bearer” when he becomes the heir to his cousin, Bilbo Baggins. As of yet no one knows of its true power. Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, suspects and fears its true origin. Convincing Frodo they set out with a group of travellers that become known as “The Fellowship of the Ring” to destroy the ring in the place that it was forged. It is the only choice they have because no living man can resist its allure and yet none can wear and control its power.
The books follow the journey of the nine men of the fellowship: Gandalf the Grey their leader, Aragorn son of Arathorn a Ranger, Legolas an elf, Gimli a dwarf, Boromir the son of the steward of Gondor, and the four hobbits Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. Frodo must travel into Mordor, the realm of the enemy, and under his very nose throw the ring into Mount Doom. The burden of the ring is heavy and no one knows whether his quest will succeed, yet the men of the West must fight Sauron and his allies if only to give Frodo the chance to do his task. At the brink of ruin will Man succeed? Whether he does or not, the time of the Elves is over, and they must give place to the Third Age and the rise of the dominion of Men.