This year, I decided to bone up on my geek bona fides and read some geek lore that I’d previously skipped. Although my beautiful wife read the trilogy ten years ago when the films came out (I said TEN YEARS AGO, granpa!), I didn’t. I also missed out in my youth in the middle eighties to read these in the formative years where they’d have had the most impact and I’d be a slavish fanboy. As it is, I am not.
You know the plot, surely, so I won’t bore you with going into it. Instead, I’d like to point out the book that The Fellowship of the Ring (yes, I know, Tolkien himself called it the Company more than the Fellowship, blah blah blah. I did catch that) most reminded me of was Kim by Rudyard Kipling. They both feature very lush descriptions of exotic locations populated with strange (to us) people, and both feature someone who is elevated to play a big role in The Great Game/The War of the Ring. Both feature Roads which cut through the wilderness. I don’t know if any serious scholar has seen it and written a dissertation on it, but you could definitely put a deep comparison through the works.
That said, Lord of the Rings might be a touch too lush for optimum enjoyment. Its very populous cast of characters makes it hard to relate to a single person within it as the reader’s proxy. The best you can do is Sam Gamgee. Even Frodo is a cipher, really. And you need that proxy when running through dozens of pages of elaborate history/description/meeting of the minds to get to the next brief bit of action–although by the beginning of The Two Towers, we get to more action, but by splitting the Fellowship into two or three parts and giving us complete books without Sam, it can still be a slog to read.
Also, note I did not read the appendices which account for something like 200 pages of the final book. Seriously, more of the lush background and description with none of the action and, ultimately, none of the relevance to the story at hand? Maybe, as I say, this would have been more relevant had I grown up a decade earlier or read these books in my younger, more time to kill days.
That being said, I do have the rest of the Tolkien canon, and I will get to it eventually, but not right away. This stuff is rich and deep and dense–more so than Kipling himself–and I need to tear through some books to make sure I make quota this year.
So it’s worth reading if you fancy yourself a geek, and it is a 20th century classic that will probably be studied and relevant in the future when so much is not. But steel yourself. This is not a comic book nor a 20th century American thriller.