The Lord of the Rings: A Beginner’s Guide

Introducing the land of Middle Earth through literature…

By Jack Archambault

Staff Hobbit

I just read The Lord of the Rings. I did it because I got tired of all my nerd friends talking about it and having no idea what they were talking about. So I read them. I still haven’t seen all the movies because they’re just too long. (Yet somehow with all that length they couldn’t find time for Tom Bombadil.) But over the course of roughly five months, I powered through The Lord of the Rings, as well as The Hobbit, in a reading blaze that would make you lose your pee.

I didn’t expect to like these books at all. From everything I had heard, it seemed like a pretty dense set of books that could be off-putting to someone who isn’t obsessed with dwarves and hobbits and elves, and really fantasy in general. Since I am not, I expected to get about a quarter of the way through and quit. But I didn’t! And they were pretty great! And don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything, just in case you also want to spend a few months reading these fun tales by yourself in college!

First, for the unenlightened, The Lord of the Rings is a set of three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Each of these is split into two books, but apparently the entire thing is one giant story. Which makes it very confusing when The Two Towers starts on page 530. It isn’t a trilogy, it’s actually a single novel with six books, published in three volumes, to make everything more convenient. And now I will also get unreasonably upset every time someone refers to it as a trilogy, because I feel like that is my duty now that I am a nerd too. The Hobbit was published about 18 years before The Fellowship of the Ring. The Hobbit is also a film trilogy, but about seven hours of those films are completely unnecessary. It is truly a Hollywood cash grab at its finest.

First, what I didn’t like. To start, it did feel a bit slow in a lot of parts. If you prefer reading things that are fast-paced and keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time, then maybe this isn’t for you. There are a lot of songs and tales told by elven maidens, and you just have to be really into that kind of stuff to enjoy it. Second, the names are more confusing than calculus. This is especially true in The Hobbit, when there are thirteen dwarves that all have names that sound extremely similar, like Kili and Fili, Dori and Nori, and Bifur and Bofur. I also thought that Merry was a girl until about halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring, because Merry, or Mary, or any variation of it, is in my experience an exclusively female name. But now that you know he is, in fact, a he, maybe you’ll have an easier time than I did. But I’m really nitpicking here. I found that there is so much to like about these books, if you can make the commitment.

Simply put, it is a fantastic story that brings you into a world you wish you could live in, with the exception of the dark lord that seeks to destroy everything that is good and happy. But other than that, Middle Earth seems pretty rad. If you’ve ever wanted to read The Lord of the Rings, I say go for it. Unless you don’t want to, then I can’t make you do anything.

 

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