The Fellowship of the Ring

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 22, 2002

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Fourteen people attended this meeting, include one first time participant. The subject of this meeting was the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The meeting was scheduled a month after the movie opened, so that everyone who wanted to see the movie first could do so. Everyone had finished the book.

The group quickly divided into two camps. About half of us had originally read this book as children and reread it regularly since. The story was so deeply ingrained in these people that they could not speak objectively about it. One person felt this story achieved the spirit of the Ring of the Nibelung and the King Arthur story.

The people in the other camp had either read the book as adults or simply had not bonded with the book when they first encountered it. It quickly became apparent that neither group was going to persuade members of the other group to its side.

We did agree about several points. All felt that it is a remarkable work of imagination and worldbuilding. We appreciated the morality of the book. We enjoyed the teamwork and friendships, particularly the relationship between Sam and Frodo.

The book’s writing style was likely the element about which we disagreed most strongly. Some loved every word, some loved everything but the poetry, and the rest found the writing style artificial and off-putting. One person who liked The Princess Bride much more than the Lord of the Rings suggested that William Goldman should write a “good parts” version.

After discussing the book we turned to the film, which we all liked a lot. We found the film was visually rich and much more action-packed than the book. Several people pointed out that some action sequences in the film were actually from other books (The Two Towers and The Silmarillion). We felt that the writers of the screenplay did a wonderful job of adapting the story to a different medium.

It seems silly to try to make a recommendation about this book, since it’s so well known that everyone likely to read it probably already has. After the meeting we had dinner at Threadgill’s.

— A. T. Campbell, III