Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lord of the Rings: A Review

I finished the Lord of the Rings about a week ago. In honor of that momentous event, I will give a brief review. There may be some spoilers.

I enjoyed the books to some degree. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "My Favorite Book EVER!" I would give the series a 5.

Things I liked:

1. Frodo and Sam and their tight-knit relationship.

2. The Frodo and Sam portion of their journey.

3. Oddly, I liked Smeagol. He made me laugh. He was creepy, but his dialect was hilarious.

4. The portion set in Lothlorien. That was a really good part.

5. I loved Gandolf's sarcastic dislike for Pippin. Hilarious.

6. I loved the Ents and Treebeard.

Things I disliked:

1. The length of the dark parts. Sometimes it just drug on and on.

2. There wasn't enough focus on Arwen for me to buy into her character as the true love interest of Aragorn. For me, it was more "likeable" for Aragorn to end up with Eowyn because she is pretty amazing. I just think that Tolkien didn't put enough emphasis on Arwen early on during the Rivendell part of the story.

3. What is up with the Ents not finding the Entwives?!?!?! You're killing me Tolkien! You wrap up something as minute and barely mentioned as Sam's love life, but you won't satisfy the centuries-long longings of Treebeard and the other Ents? Come on!

4. I got sick of all the poems. Seriously, Tolkien, you can just write a book of poetry, you don't need to throw it all in the Lord of the Rings series. They were random most of the time, and after reading all of them in the first book and having it add nothing to the story-line, I skipped them in subsequent books. Don't judge.

5. Orcs. I hate them. They are icky and gross. I know they were needed for the story, but I felt the need to state here that they were definitely NOT my favorite part of the story.

6. Violence, death, danger, etc. I knew what I was getting into when I read them, but I still thought that the best parts were the more "peaceful" parts. I know the violence was necessary, but I don't have to like it.

And that, my friends, is my review. Enjoy!


Dianna said...

On 2: Most of Arwen's story ended up in the appendices, and rightfully so, because this trilogy is certainly not a love story, at least not in the Eros sense of love. Also, Tolkien doesn't know how to write women - he's used to writing epic, manly stories, not flouncy romances, which is why the whole Eowyn and Faramir thing at the Houses of Healing is so "wtf." Notice that the two women who get the most "screen time" - word time, I guess - are either ethereal, angelic creatures so far above the mortals that her gender doesn't even enter the picture, OR an extremely masculine man who wants to fight but can't because of convention. I think making Eowyn masculine was the only way Tolkien saw to include a women but not have to write them as "womanly."

On 4: Tolkien was working with the tradition of Epic works, which had elements of connecting themselves back to their own mythologies. If you read, say, Beowulf, there are tons of allusions to Norse Gods, and the myths about them. The same with the Canterbury Tales - references to things people in that time would have recognized. The poems are actually really significant because it means Tolkien created an entire mythology for Middle Earth, which his characters know, but we don't. They each give us a frame of reference to identify with the characters - especially the tale that Aragorn tells about the mortal man and the elf lady (Lurien and Bern, I think), which previews for the alert reader his love affair with Arwen. Tolkien's making his characters exist in a wholly other universe, but still giving us a huge, functioning world in which to put them, complete with the myths and stories about their origins - which are, appropriately, told in poetic form, which is a tie in to epic tradition.

Maybe viewing the story as a traditional epic rather than a fantasy tale will help clarify some things? Marc can chime in on this too if he wants.

But I'm glad to see that you have read them, and now we can have some of the same reference points for literature! You'll be able to understand much more of my thesis! Now, to get you to read Harry Potter...you haven't yet, have you? ;)

Carrie said...

You are a nerd... but in a good way. :) I see what you are saying about Tolkien not being good with female characters. That makes more sense now. I also appreciated your comments on the poetry. However much I appreciate Tolkien's desire to create a whole alternate world for his characters, I don't necessarily (personally) want to know the whole world history. I am sure many Tolkien fans enjoy delving into the depths of his poetry, but I am more of a casual reader of Tolkien, so for me it was a lot of non-essential information (meaning that the story still made sense without it). I can see that reading and delving the depths of the poetry would create a more rich experience of the series, however, I don't personally want to delve there. :) More power to the people that do, however!

The Bullards said...

Carrie- I know nothing of LOTR (except that you sound like you know something if you call it LOTR :)) But I know that I miss you! Thanks so much for your sweet comments on the blog... it's good to know someone is out there reading... I would write it just for you and Tiff, as you are probably the only two people who read it! :) Hope you're well!!

Kim said...

On 4: Actually, the couple in the Lay of Luthien is Beren the mortal man and the elf maiden Luthien, whose story is told again in more detailed prose in the Silmarilion. Personally, I'm a big fan of the history showing through in moments like this, although I can appreciate how difficult it is for more casual readers to slog through that much poetry. That's why in my own story the poetic history is shorter and more to the point. But as Dianna mentioned, though the poems may not have immediate impact on the flow of the overall narrative, this one does some serious foreshadowing about Aragorn and Arwen, which may also address your concern about their relationship not being explored enough. Tolkien was a big picture guy, making his entire world as real as ours by giving it a rich history.

On 5: This one actually sounds to me like a good thing, rather than a criticism. Tolkien wrote villains that actually disgusted you. He was successful in his ambition to depict the most loathsome creatures possible as a foil for the perfection of the elves. And since the orcs are descended from fallen, twisted, tortured elves it is especially terrifying to think that a creature so fair could fall so far.

On 6: Yes, the violence is dark and evil. But without it there would be no plot, no victory for good, and no way to return to the peace you loved so much in Hobbiton and Lothlorien. The peaceful moments are even more beautiful and poignant in contrast to the darkness and death that surrounds them.

Overall, Dianna is right that the story needs to be viewed in the epic tradition, not in relation to modern fantasy alone.

I'm glad you read them--it's a big accomplishment!

Dianna said...

Oh Carrie, you're awesome. And I understand the thing about being a casual reader. I skipped over the poems the first time I read them, too. Hahah. But I'm glad you've read them, at the very least, though you may be barraged with more information about them than you ever wanted to know, as a result of me doing my thesis...

Anonymous said...

To be totally honest, anyone who gets off on Lord of Rings is a Nerd! Sorry. But read biographies. Now that is about life and reality which we live in daily! Sorry but fiction doesn't change the world it just alters the mind.

Dad Patterson

Carrie said...

Dad, you're hilarious. For the rest of blogland, please know that Dad is joking and trying to get LOTR fans riled up. You and your biographies! They aren't for everyone, just like LOTR isn't for everyone. Hope everyone has a great long weekend!

mepat@sio.midco.net said...

I apologize for my comment about Nerds! It was just my stupid humor! Hey, I am the biggest biography Nerd that exists. I love every museum I can get my hands on. Now you all know why I never majored in English! Have a good day!


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