J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: Part One - The Fellowship of the Ring (George Allen & Unwin 1955, 1966, 1974; Grafton 1991; Harper Collins Publishers 1993)
J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: Part Two -- The Two Towers (George Allen & Unwin 1955, 1966, 1974; Grafton 1991; Harper Collins Publishers 1993)
J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings: Part Three -- The Return of the King (George Allen & Unwin 1955, 1966, 1974; Grafton 1991; Harper Collins Publishers 1993)

(This trilogy has been published in two forms, as three books, and as one complete novel)  

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the land of Mordor where shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor where shadows lie.

It all began with an innocent tale for the kids, something to keep them amused and allow Tolkien to stretch his imagination and storytelling skills with the now classic The Hobbit. Twenty years after The Hobbit was published came the extremely popular and desired trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien put a lot of effort and research into his work, building both viable languages and very detailed histories for the races involved in the tale. The world which he built still stands strong as a monument to him after all these years, and as the increase in popularity once again brings his work to the foreground, Tolkien is one of the world's most well-known writers.

Tolkien is the forefather of fantasy and all that the genre has spawned since its conception. When you walk into a bookstore and see the extensive sci-fi/fantasy section, this is in great part due to Tolkien's works. His writing opened up a whole new world, actually worlds, for the creative-minded to work in, and gave them beings to write about and use as templates for their own creations.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, came across a ring in the dark, and little did he know then what would come of his find. This ring seemed to have a mind of its own, and it was very tired of being hidden away in some deep dark cavern under a mountain. It desired to be back upon the finger of its Master -- Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor -- and nothing was going to stand in its way. And in keeping with that desire, it made certain that poor Bilbo would find it and begin a chain of events that would change the face of Middle-Earth forever.

When The Fellowship of the Ring opens, old Bilbo has held the ring for many years. He decides it is time to move on to the realm of the Elves, and he leaves the ring and all of his other possessions to his chosen heir, Frodo Baggins. Not once does Bilbo realize the danger he also bequeaths to Frodo. The ring is now being looked for by the Dark Lord and his nine, once mortal, human servants. Servants who are known as the Ring Wraiths, or the Nazgul, servants who can cause the bravest to cower whimpering like a child with their mere presence. None have any idea how swiftly events are moving, not even the mighty wizard Gandalf, who upon learning that this is the One Ring, advises Frodo to leave his adopted home and live in another part of the Shire, Crickhollow. It is known that the ring must be destroyed, and that its destruction will be found in the 'Cracks of Doom,' but not who will carry it to that end, nor how. So now Frodo is on the move, avoiding the servants of the Dark Lord who will surely come after him. No-one suspects just how close they will follow, though!

With terror and darkness hidden and dogging his heels like a shadow, Frodo leaves Hobbiton in the company of his staunchest supporter and friend, Samwise Gamgee, and his cousin Pippin. Their other cousin Meriadoc (better known as Merry), goes on ahead to the new house to have all ready and awaiting the travellers upon their arrival. The party is oblivious to the peril which follows as closely as a whisper, searching for the ring to return it to the vile black hand of their master. As the party reaches Frodo's new home in Crickhollow, certain events lead them to the realization that they can't stay there. They know all too well that it would mean Frodo's peril to remain until Gandalf comes or sends word, so Frodo decides to carry the Ring to the Cracks of Doom to dispose of it. He discovers that the younger hobbits have known all along what his plan is and they intend to join him on his journey. This is the beginning of the fellowship.

Frodo heads for Breeland on the outskirts of the Shire, and there meets a guide, Strider, Ranger of Eriador. Strider has deep misgivings about the absence of the wizard Gandalf, for it is not like him to be late without any word, but agrees that the party must leave at all cost. Strider leads the party to Rivendell, home of Elrond and the elves. They encounter a number of trials and tribulations before reaching their goal. When they finally reach their destination, they find Gandalf there and find out also that he was delayed against his will. After a lengthy council Elrond, in his wisdom and forethought, decides that there should be a party of nine walkers. Thus are they evenly matched against the nine riders, the Nazgul, the evil who ride the land seeking the ring of their Master.

The nine who walk are Frodo and his companions, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, of the Shire. Joining them are Aragorn (aka Strider); the wizard, Gandalf the Grey; the elf Legolas, son of the Elven-king of Mirkwood; Gimli, the Dwarf, son of Gloin of the Lonely Mountain; and lastly, the human Boromir, son of the Lord of Gondor. These nine represent the most powerful races of Middle-Earth, and are willing to lay down their lives in order to stay the blackness which is beginning to slowly spill forth from Mordor and control more and more of the world.

In the second part of the trilogy, The Two Towers, the story shifts its focus. It is still very much concerned with Frodo and the journey of the ring towards its doom, but the story seems to be located in the lands surrounding the two towers, Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. The Fellowship of the Ring is torn asunder by events beyond the control of anyone, mortal or otherwise. Tolkien allows us to see what happens to each of the characters after the splitting of the group, and their individual unique tales are all still a vital part of the ring-bearer's journey. Frodo and Sam end up with an unlooked-for and not too trustworthy guide, Smeagol, also known as Gollum, the creature who had the ring before Bilbo 'found' it, and who is still very much in its power and wants it back. The hobbits have no choice but to partially trust this twisted and vile creature and to follow where he leads. They seek to enter the land everyone else wishes to flee, but Mordor has few unwatched passes on its borders. The journey is fraught with peril and more darkness than one could think of, yet in it all there is a light of hope.

We meet the Ents in this part of the adventure. Ents are very old tree-folk, indistinguishable from ordinary trees unless they choose to make their presence known. However, these trees have speech, and thought, and can travel a great distance in little time. They are normally very slow and ponderous folk, and dislike anything hasty -- such as us humans -- but when it is war, and the trees are at stake, then the Ents can be quickly fired up and used to the best advantage. Thus does Gandalf's adversary, Saruman, learn a harsh and valuable lesson in how far one can push and scheme. However, any more would be telling, and that would not be right.

In The Return of the King, the journey of the ring-bearer reaches its culmination. The opposing forces and strategies of Sauron and Gandalf are in the fore. War has encompassed all, and the darkness has no regard for life, not even that of its own servants. Those valiant enough to stand against the darkness are fighting not only for their lives, but for the continuance of Middle-Earth itself, and life as they know it. If they fall, the blackness will engulf everything and life will be only a misery. The companions all have their parts to play, as the ring-bearer struggles to make the final leg of his journey. Frodo, having been exposed to Gollum's treachery, finds his journey much harder than he had ever imagined. The ring weighs heavily upon him, dragging at both his physical strength and his spirits; its voice has become much louder and harder to ignore the closer it draws to Sauron. Frodo must not only battle and outwit the servants of the enemy, starvation and dehydration, but now the ring itself. Sam, ever the loyal and loving friend, gives all that he can to help his beloved Mr. Frodo, but will his strength, courage, and love be enough? There is only one way you can find out, for I shall tell you no more.

Tolkien created an unparalleled masterpiece, and left a strong and undying legacy behind him. Even now there is a movie being made. Although we saw the release of an animated movie a number of years ago, this is a real movie with real people. Perhaps we now have the capability of doing this great work justice, and perhaps not, for the movie will have to do our imaginations justice as well, and that is a tall order.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Bilbo Baggins

[Naomi de Bruyn]