I kept making excuses, always busy with something else.
Now, I look back on my 31 years of geek-filled existance, and realize that my life has been unfulfilled up till now - I have not read the Lord of the Rings. Ever. I’ve just had a mental block on it forever.
I’ve done the sci-fi conventions thing. Got more electronic gadgets than anyone could need. Hardcore D&D/RPG player? Yep! Heck, I’ve even read DUNE… and liked it! But I have passed over this, and now this quest cries out for completion. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to start with the Fellowship of the Ring as opposed to The Hobbit, although I don’t know why precisely. I think I had heard that the Hobbit was a prequel printed later, and so having had bad experiences with prequels I figured I’d stick to the main trilogy.
So now that the excuses are over, I went into the bookstore yesterday to finally confront my dark secret. And I am confronted with no less than 8 different versions of the text. I flip through them, one by one, comparing text and paper (still trying to figure out how there can be 3(!) different versions of the same box set!)… holding them individually as if their weight somehow would reflect their differing ability to entertain and enlighten, and finally settled on This one I proudly walked out of the store, hopeing that I have not committed some unknown Tolkien-esque faux-pas that would forever condemn my soul to eternal torment.
So as I start it what advice can dopers provide me on enjoying this for the first time? It seems that this may be one of the last great “seminal” works I haven’t read yet, so I want to get the most out of it. I know there are many LOTR fans on the board, so i’m looking forward to your recollections. Thanks!
“Waters? There are no waters in Casablanca – we’re in the desert!”
“I was misinformed.”
You wuz misinformed. The Hobbit was published in 1937 IIRC, long before Tolkien even conceived of LOTR. In fact, in letters written while he was writing LOTR he and his friends refer to it as “the new Hobbit”. It’s not a prequel, in the sense that it appeared first, as a stand-alone book.
It is, however, weritten in a very different style – a “listen to grandpa as he tells the story” style that some folks don’t like. It’s obviously a kid’s book, unlike LOTR.
You must lock yourself in your room and read all 3 books (plus the appendices) nonstop. Otherwise, you’ll never truly be a geek.
Just enjoy them. But be sure to read the appendices once you’re done. They flesh out a lot of important background and may answer some questions. Have you seen the Jackson movie version? If not, rent them afterwards and enjoy the visuals.
Have you read a lot of contemporary fantasy? If so, try to set aside your genre expectations. Although it has its thrilling moments, LotR is NOT a can’t-put-it-down adventure yarn. It takes a long time to get started, important events sometimes take place “offscreen”, and Tolkein will sometimes let major plot threads languish for hundreds of pages before picking them up again. If you go into the experience expecting a jaw-dropping fantasy roller-coaster ride, you’re going to be disappointed.
LotR is a fantasy novel the way Moby Dick is a whaling novel. It’s great not because of the exciting story (although the story is pretty exciting at times) but because of the power of the underlying emotions and themes. If you can approach the novel on its own terms rather than comparing it to the many, many novels in the genre it spawned, you’ll probably have a better experience.
Good points. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Toklien was a linguist, and one can appreciate LoTR for the simple beauty of its language, too. The various races are defined as much by their manner of speaking as their customs and appearance. Tolkien can evoke a sense of time and place simply by the words he uses in a way that no one else I’ve encountered in literature can.
Sorry, but I thought The Lord of the Rings was a can’t put it down adventure yarn… I read it for the first time when I was about 14 or 15, and read it uncountable times in the 33 or so years since then. I own several different editions, with my favorite being this one. I don’t usually read that one though, for reading LotR in bed… I usually just read the paperback edition.
Oh, I agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that the emotions and themes of LotR were its only charms. I’ve just heard too many people complain about LotR being too slow and that not enough happens. Sometimes I think people come to the books expecting Star Wars with elves and are surprised by a beginning that reads more like The Wind in the Willows.
I agree with your point, though for me it was also an I can’t put it down. I read it when I was 11. It took about 5 days and sleeping, eating and school suffered.
If I did the analysis of my reading ability and comprehension I went from a reading at a 3rd grade level in 5th to 12th grade by the end of 6th by discovering Tolkien and Heinlein. I have never been the same since.
Completely compelling but I know where many people have complained of slow points and confusion.
Very true. Bree is where you start getting into the meat of it BUT a few very crucial incidents which greatly influence the story MUCH later on happen before that part so don’t skip ahead.
This is one of the reasons LOTR invites re-reading. You tend to miss details the first time around, or rather, to not recognize that certain incidents were important until later. Then you want to go back and re-read what happened. Pretty soon you are deep into the Appendices and considering picking up The Silmarrillion. “I’m only going to read Akalabeth” you say, but we know the truth.
It took me 3 tries to get into the TFOTR, but I finally managed to do it and haven’t regretted it since. I reread the series every other year usually. I have yet to conquer the Silmarillion straight through though, I usually pick it up, read a few sections mark the page and put it back on the shelf to be pulled off and picked up where I left off.
But welcome meldo(r)*, you’re entering a realm of fantasy unlike any other.
meldo(r) is the Quenya word for friend, as shown in the movies and books