Sunday, September 25, 2011

Read-along: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien

I've decided to join in on the Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy's read-along of The Lord of the Rings.  I read The Lord of the Rings quite a long time ago and really enjoyed it.  I felt pretty good about how much I had retained when the movies came out, but when I started trying to answer questions from those who had not read the books, I realized I hadn't retained as much as I thought.

I'm excited to finally reread The Lord of the Rings and revisit Tolkien's world.  I'm jumping into the discussions at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring so I'm posting all three discussion parts at once.

There are surely spoilers to be found here if you haven't read The Fellowship of the Ring and intend to.  If you have read Fellowship or you've seen the movie and want to discuss either, please join in in the comments with your thoughts (or join the read-along!).  Discussion is very welcome.

Part I

1. Hobbits seem to have songs for everything!  I didn't realize this was a musical. . . . how are you liking all the songs?

I have a tendency to skip quotes, songs, poems, dreams,etc. when I'm reading if it feels like filler.  The first time I read LOTR, I skimmed or skipped most of the songs, especially in the Tom Bombadil chapter.  This time around I appreciated the songs for being part of the story, and I actually enjoyed reading them.

2. I love that we learn about Gollum and his past so early on. It gives a dark and foreboding (dare I say, perilous?) feeling to the whole thing. Were you surprised that the story took a dive towards the dark and scary so quickly?

I didn't know what to expect the first time I read LOTR.  I read it based on a recommendation from a friend.  I was pleasantly surprised by all of the darkness in the book.  I was hooked after meeting Smeagal.  It's been so long since I first read Fellowship, I didn't remember just how fast Gollum appeared, so it was a little surprising all over again.

3. Tom Bombadil!  what and who is he???  If you met him in a forest, would you trust him?

I still don't have a clue what Tom Bombadil is!  He's obviously something ancient, but nothing like what I would expect an ancient forest dweller to be.  If I met him in a forest without knowing anything about him, I would trust him because he was so helpful.

4. What did you think when Pippin, Merry and Sam told Frodo about their "conspiracy", and that they pretty much knew what he was planning from the beginning?

I thought it showed a deeper side to the hobbits.  They aren't as simple as they seem.

5. What's your favorite part of the book so far?

At this point the Smeagal/Gollum stories are my favorite part of the book.

Part II

1. What was your initial thoughts of Strider/Aragorn when Hobbits met up with him in The Prancing Pony? Did you think that he was linked with the Riders?

This is a tough re-read question, but I do think the first time I read this I thought he was a bad guy and yes, probably linked with the Riders.

2.What was the biggest surprised to you during this section of the Fellowship of the Ring?

Frodo using the ring at The Prancing Pony.  He set out to stop his friends from revealing too much and revealed far more than they ever would!

3.Do you like that Tolkien goes in depth and tells the readers of the history events of the war that is upon the Fellowship?

It may be a product of already loving LOTR, but yes, I'm enjoying all of the history.

4. How far do you think you would have lasted if you were Frodo and nearly becoming a Rider?

I have a pretty strong will so hopefully I would have lasted!

5. As dangerous quest unfold to become, the other hobbits want to stick by Frodo til the end. Would you sacrifice yourself and stick with Frodo til the end?

If I were willing to endure the journey to Rivendell, I think I would be willing to see the quest through to the end.

Part III

Gandalf and the Balrog, just Wow.  Just a short scene, but oh so intense!  With their mentor gone, how will the group go on?  Even when they do reach Lothlorien, no one seems to know how to get where they are going.  They had been dependent on Gandalf making the decisions, and now he is gone.

Gandalf's fall was very quick!  I wonder if Gandalf had remained with the group, if Frodo would have ever been compelled to go alone at the end of Fellowship.

Galadriel and her Ring. She knows the Ring of power must be destroyed, but with it's destruction comes the de-powering (is that a word?) of her Ring as well. The Elves must leave Middle Earth or forget who and what they are. For her, this is a no win situation. Frodo's success effectively means the banishment of the Elves in Middle Earth. I wonder if that makes him more likely to do everything in his power to succeed, or less? 

I think Galadriel's acceptance of Frodo's quest helps solidify how important it is for him to succeed.

Boromir - I didn't trust from way back at the Council at Rivendell. His conversation with Frodo at the end of Fellowship made him look like a know-it-all with a world view of colonialism and imperialism. Is this Tolkien taking a shot at the old fashioned British world view, or am I reading way, way too much into it? 

I think Boromir has in his heart already to find a powerful weapon against the enemy.  The Ring offers that power to him. 

After spending some time in Lothlorien, Sam realizes the Elves aren’t quite as scary or as strange as he first thought. I wonder if when he gets back to the Shire if he’ll realize the Hobbits in the next town aren’t quite as strange as he once thought.  I really don’t think this is an overt “message” story, but I do wonder if Tolkien didn't mind throwing in a little message of “those folks in the next valley aren’t as different as you think”.

It does seem every place they have traveled a misconception about hobbits, men, dwarfs, or elves is getting cleared up!  It is reasonable Tolkien had a message there.

I only stared reading fantasy a few years ago, and I keep running into this undercurrent of choice.  Bilbo has to choose to give up the Ring.  Frodo has to choose to take on the quest and be the Ring bearer. Even Boromir is choosing how he feels about the Ring and what it could bring him.  In the end, this is all coming down to how we choose to live our lives from moment to moment. 

Things may happen that are out of our control, but we always have the choice on how we will respond.

And the obligatory: what was your favorite part of this section?

This is a pretty dark answer, but I like where Boromir turns on Frodo.  I don't like that he did, but I love seeing how the ring is affecting those in its presence, and I love that it pushes Frodo to take this quest alone.

Another thing I love is how many quotes in the movie are taken straight from the book.  That's a beautiful thing.

Thank you LOTR read-alongers for having and participating in this read-along!  I can't express how much I'm enjoying the revisit to middle-earth.


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  1. I knew that Jackson, Walsh and Boyens had tried really hard to be as faithful to the books as they felt they could be and still work within the parameters of film and I was actually surprised by how well they did stick to the story and how many direct quotes they used. It makes the films and books fit so much more closely together, like two sides of the same coin.

    I like the section with Boromir as well, although I find it sad. It is sad in large part because I think Boromir's desires come from a place that he thinks is justified and is probably really close to how most of us would feel when faced with our race possibly being destroyed by an enemy growing in power right on our front lawn.

  2. I am participating in another, all year-long, LOTR Read-Along hosted by Lorren at The Story Girl, and I've just finished the whole thing. I don't know exactly how many times I read this book, and I love it more every time. Gollum is one of my favourite characters. I never skip the poetry parts, as they are delightful to read.

    I agree with Carl V. that the film-makes did a great job, staying close to the book, especially by using a lot of direct quotes. However, the films reflect the difference of how society perceives evil today and how it did in Tolkien's time. Nevertheless, I like the films as a great addition to the book.

    I am looking forward to reading your update posts for this readathon.

  3. I agree Pepca, I do think there is a difference in the perception of evil. I also think Tolkien's work is amazing in that it allows itself to be used to examine evil not just in its own time but still today. The fact that it is not simply a product of its time but continues to retain applicability is one of the reasons I am convinced it is still so popular today.

  4. That's great you guys have a read-along of LOTR going, too, Pepca! I will no longer skip the poetry parts. I see how integral they are to the story now.

    Carl, I'm excited to think what Jackson and co. will do with The Hobbit. I have never read The Hobbit.

    I agree that most of us would react as Boromir and assume we could control the ring. The ring may have even spoke such thoughts to Boromir.

  5. Me too. I'm a bit worried they might go too far off script (for example, the Evangeline Lily character they completely invented). I read The Hobbit back before the Fellowship film was released. I'm not going to read it again until after the movies as I want to be able to approach the film without having the story firmly in mind.

  6. I agree, Carl, the LOTR and other Tolkien's work are timeless and they convey valuable lessons regardless of time period.

    Also, it is a good idea to see the film without having the book too firmly in your mind. I know the books almost by heart, and it makes the film experience somehow less enjoyable.

  7. I am very happy that I saw the films first and hadn't had any exposure to LOTR (other than a vague idea of what it was) before that. It makes it possible for me to enjoy both with only minor issues one way or the other. I'm hoping I've forgotten much of The Hobbit (and I think I already have except for major plot points) by the time I see those films.

  8. Interesting I did not think anyone would really like how Boromir turned on Frodo. I think that it just shows how much power that the ring has and can influence anyone with the power it is capable of. In this part it show why the ring needs to be destroyed.

    Great to see you with us in the quest of LOTR.

  9. I liked your comment about the dialogue from the film being taken straight from the book because I feel the same - the thing that did surprise me though is that sometimes the person making the statement as changed. Can't think of an example off the top of my head without going back and looking though! I really did think that the film was a brilliant representation of the book and I can't wait to see the Hobbit. I have read the hobbit but it was in school! So, I can remember bits - such as the scene with the trolls - which is referred to in LoTR and I can remember other bits but it's all very vague. Which is probably good.
    Lynn :D

  10. I liked your comment about the dialogue from the film being taken straight from the book because I feel the same - the thing that did surprise me though is that sometimes the person making the statement as changed. Can't think of an example off the top of my head without going back and looking though! I really did think that the film was a brilliant representation of the book and I can't wait to see the Hobbit. I have read the hobbit but it was in school! So, I can remember bits - such as the scene with the trolls - which is referred to in LoTR and I can remember other bits but it's all very vague. Which is probably good.
    Lynn :D

  11. Yes, they did do that a few times. One notable time is when they had Grima Wormtongue say some lines to Eowyn that Gandalf says in the books. I think they did a fairly good job justifying those kind of changes when they talked about the Book to Script translation in the EE Extras, but I'm sure there are some die hard fans that are very bothered by it.

  12. I read an article recently where Evangeline Lilly addressed the concerns about her Hobbit character. I don't remember where I read it, but this has the same quotes:

    I feel pretty confident Jackson will do the right thing with it.

    Now you guys have me questioning whether I should read The Hobbit before watching the movie or not.

    Geeky Daddy, those points have a lot to do with why I did like that section with Boromir. Thanks for the welcome!

    I need to get out my EE discs and rewatch the extras. Did they address why Frodo is the one to solve the speak friend and enter riddle where it was Gandalf in the book?

  13. No (unless they did on the commentary track) but I always figured they had Frodo solve the riddle as kind of a nod to Bilbo and The Hobbit. Since Bilbo had a battle of riddles with Gollum I think they were just trying to show that the cleverness ran in the family.

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