Sitting down to read The Lord of the Rings feels like catching up with an old friend. I have read it several times since I first fell in love with Middle Earth as a teenager, and I love it just as much every time.
The characters, settings and plot are so familiar to me, but on each re-read, I discover new things, or appreciate things in a slightly different way. There’s so much going on in the series, and so much backstory, that’s it’s easy to miss things first, second or even third time round!
The opening chapters are comforting, especially for those that have read The Hobbit. We’re back in Hobbiton, and enjoying the excitement at Bag End as hobbits Bilbo and his heir Frodo prepare for a Long-Expected Party to celebrate their joint birthdays.
In fact, I’m so at home in Hobbiton, that it feels a shame to leave it, but leave it we must, along with Frodo and his close friends, Sam, Merry and Pippin. Ahead of them is a journey into the unknown and wild parts of the world. And all because of a small golden ring. This isn’t any old ring though, it is a magic ring, made by the dark lord Sauron. And he wants it back. The ring is no longer safe in the Shire, especially when strange hooded men on horseback turn up searching for ‘Baggins’.
From the moment Frodo and his friends leave Hobbiton, they are in almost constant danger. Whether it is wild trees trying to smother them or deadly drums chasing them through dark caves, there is always something to send shivers down the reader’s spine. The black riders in particular never fail to terrify me on every re-read.
The Fellowship of the Ring has its dark moments, where all hope seems to be lost, but for every ‘midgewater marsh’ or gloomy tunnel in Moria, there is a beautiful forest or a hearty inn like The Prancing Pony to offer shelter. And the hobbits couldn’t make it without a little help from other beings in Middle Earth. Halfway through their journey, they are joined by two brave men, Aragorn and Borimir, Legolas the elf, Gimili the dwarf and good old Gandalf the Grey (one of my very favourite characters – I wish he was my granddad!). The Fellowship of the Ring is a perfect introduction to these main characters, who we will get to know better later in the series (if they make it that far!)
I cannot recommend this series enough. The detail of the world created by Tolkien is astounding and the richness of the writing makes it possible to imagine every setting and every character. Having said that, sometimes the detail can be overwhelming, especially for newcomers. When I first read The Fellowship of the Ring I did struggle through parts (The Council of Elrond was a particularly challenging chapter!) However, with a bit of perseverance, you will discover a series filled with heroic deeds, heart-warming friendships and extraordinary courage.