Series Review: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

In the wee hours of this morning, I finished the epic saga that is Lord of the Rings, and I was slightly distraught. It’s a surreal feeling, knowing that you’ve just completed one of the most beloved stories in human history and you’ll never again be able to read it for the first time. Reading this trilogy is an adventure in and of itself: you meet new monsters and explore new worlds that you never would have dreamed were possible, and yet, you see yourself in the story as well. I give LotR a 9.3/10 (stars? cupcakes? What is my rating system?).

Things I Like:

  • I feel like at this point complimenting Tolkien’s world-building skillz is just white noise, but come on. Middle-Earth is developed to the point of insanity. From the geography to the history to the creatures, the level of detail in the description and creation of Middle-Earth is unrivaled. This land, complete with all of its quirks and weird symbols and billions of different names for the same thing, is a brilliant display of human imagination.
  • The bromances are  perfect. Though I definitely do not frown on romance, the main relationships in young adult literature usually contain some sort of romantic involvement. LotR is a really nice break from that because the main relationships are friendships. Legolas and Gimli are bros. Merry and Pippin are bros. Sam and Frodo are the bros to end all bros. I love books where strong relationships aren’t romantic, because it shows that you don’t have to be in love to love somebody.
  • The way the ring ends up getting destroyed is surprising and interesting. I was expecting some big march to Mount Doom that ends in Frodo making a heroic speech and tossing the ring into the flames while simultaneously engaged in a sword fight with Sauron himself. (Sam is in the background slaying Nazgul or something.) But it ends up that Frodo doesn’t choose to give up the ring; instead, Gollum fights him for it, bites off his finger, and falls into the fire with the ring. Frodo doesn’t really succeed, but the quest still succeeds… I didn’t see that coming.
  • The last six chapters of Return of the King are essentially one giant epilogue, which is exciting. Though it limits the possibility for fanfiction, I love knowing what happens to the characters after the climax of the story.
  • I really like Eowyn as a secondary character. Her character calls into question the patriarchal tendency of Middle-Earth: she proves that she can kick butt in battle even as a woman (*gasp*), but she only really becomes happy when she marries Faramir. Her character is sad but also really complex, especially in a feminist context.
  • For some reason I just really enjoy Ents.
  • The battle scenes are well-written and entertaining. There’s not really any gore (which is good because I can’t handle gore), but it still feels exciting and action-packed. Tolkien does an excellent job of giving the reader a bird’s-eye view of a battle.

Things About Which I Have Conflicting Feelings:

  • FRODO LEAVES SAM! This upsets me greatly. Frodo just casually sails away without really even having a bro moment with Sam, who has pretty much lived to serve Frodo at this point. Sam literally carried Frodo up Mount Doom. THEIR FRIENDSHIP IS SO BEAUTIFUL; IT SHOULD NOT END. EVER. (The reason I have conflicting feelings about this is because, while the tearing asunder of the bromance is quite sad, it introduces an important idea. Sam being left by Frodo calls into question the nature of selflessness. Nowadays we tend to praise people for “being their own person” and “not letting anyone else make their decisions,” but Sam doesn’t really do that until his return to the Shire. He selflessly serves Frodo for three whole books, and when he is given the opportunity to be on his own, it’s actually really sad. Is there a way to be selfless and still be yourself and have your own life? Thematic question!)
  • The language is fancy. This adds to the grandiose nature of the story, but also makes it more difficult to read.

Thing I Don’t Like:

  • Gandalf kind of started annoying me after a while. I get that he’s all wise and powerful and stuff, but I got sick of the way he would show up and magically solve everyone’s problems. In the end he stops doing this, which is good, but still. His whole magical helper deal seems a little too magical.
  • That’s really the only thing I don’t like.

Favorite Character: Samwise freaking Gamgee. He’s so loyal and adorable and I love everything about him. Quite honestly, if he were to show up at my front door right now and ask me to marry him, I would.

And with that slightly creepy and obsessive note, I think it’s time for me to sign off. Lord of the Rings is a beautiful thing. *awkward ending*

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