Today I’m going to be doing something that I have been procrastinating for almost 2 months now, which is finally reviewing The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by the one and only J.R.R.Tolkien! If you watch my vlogs, then you’ll know I was reading this in Jan/Feb and I always intended to review them, but just never got around to it.
It is quite a mammoth task because it is such an old series with so much lore, background and an established following, so I’m definitely not the first person in this fandom. I can officially say I’m in the fandom though because I enjoyed all the books a lot and am truly fascinated by the world Tolkien created.
This book review is going to be a little different to my other ones because LotR is one of those series like Harry Potter that everyone pretty much knows the plot of already since it is such a popular/old series now. Therefore, I’m not going to be reviewing it in my typical style – instead I’m just going to go through my notes and discuss things that I thought of while reading, talk about my favourite and least favourite characters and generally just talk about the series I’ve fallen in love with. So now without further chatter, let’s get on with it…
[There will be some spoilers, but since this series is like 80 years old, I think we’re past the no-spoiler time period]
The first thing I thought when I started reading the Hobbit was ‘Who’s the narrator?’. The narration settled down after the first few chapters, or maybe I just got used to Tolkien’s slightly strange writing style, but the narration did seem to jump around a lot at the beginning. I know that all of Tolkien’s books are written as he is just translating the books that Bilbo and Frodo wrote about their adventures, which is sometimes obvious and sometimes not. It seems to jump from Tolkien telling the story, to Bilbo and sometimes even to Gandalf, which definitely took a while to get used to.
Once I was over the fact that the narration was a little odd though, the first thing that struck me about his books was just how much time and effort he put into them. We all know he made his own language, which is impressive enough, but then you look at the detailed family trees of the side characters, dates of historical events from all races going back to the first age, different races count time differently like you would expect when they don’t talk to each other and so much more.
I’ve seen it talked a lot about online, but one of the things that struck me as really magical about his world is that the entirety of The Hobbit and LotR takes place in the 3rd age. They pass through ruins of places long destroyed and forgotten and just generally live in a world that is so heavily influenced by previous ages that it makes you desperate to hear more. I want to know the story of every ruin they walked through, all the old kingdoms and alliances because Tolkien’s world is so rich with history that it almost genuinely seems real. There are no gaps in the world building that I could find at all and I honestly feel like I know more about the history of middle earth than I do about the world I live in!
The Hobbit is probably my favourite Tolkien book out of the ones I’ve read because it is purely a story of an adventure. Bilbo gets dragged into an adventure he didn’t quite sign up for, sees and does all these things, narrowly escapes death a few times and comes back safe and sound to his life as he left it. It’s these kinds of stories that I love the most. I know killing characters is important and necessary to make a good story in some cases, but sometimes I just want a good wholesome fantasy adventure story of them going ‘there and back again’.
I don’t have much else to say about The Hobbit in particular because aside from it taking me a while to get used to the writing style, I really have no criticisms. It was a lovely wholesome adventure story that I’m sure I will re-read many times in my life
The Lord of the Rings
On the other hand, I have quite a bit more to say about LotR. I did still really enjoy them, but I think they were definitely more 4 stars than 5. Out of the 3 books the first was my favourite because there was more of that adventure spirit and theme that I loved from the Hobbit and the second book was somewhat disappointing to me because the Battle of Helms Deep was not nearly as impressive as in the films. Yes I did watch the films first (sacrilege I know!) and it was disappointing to realise that about 90% of the Battle of Helms Deep was fabricated by the movie directors.
We’ll get back to that later though. Even though the first book was definitely my favourite, I do still have a few things to say about it and it starts with Frodo. I think Frodo is a bit of a loser. I said it! I know some people won’t agree with me, but he really is just a bore to me. The only way I can describe him is a boring piece of white bread. I know its mean, but it’s just how I feel.
On the subject of the hobbits though, let’s just talk about Sam for a moment. Maybe I’m a little biased because he shares my name, but I LOVE Sam! He is the most loyal, good hearted, strong person (Hobbit?) I’ve ever read about and he deserves all the love in the world. Frodo would barely have made it out his front door without Sam and he certainly never would have made it to Mordor alone. Frodo might have carried the ring, but that is pretty much all he did. Sam was the backbone of the story really.
I also just wanted to mention what Sam sees when he had the ring for a brief time. He takes it when he thinks Frodo is dead, so that he can finish the task, but the ring tries to take him of course. Except the worst thing that pure sweet Sam Gamgee can think of is to have a giant garden! The ring is designed to corrupt people and yet the greatest most evil desire of Sam’s heart is to have a garden that covers all of middle earth that people have to look after… He is such a sweet, innocent baby and I will die screaming about it!!!
Before we talk about anyone else or move onto the plot, I wanted to take a brief interlude to discuss the elves for several reasons. The first is that I really do not, no matter how hard I try, understand the concept of ‘the Undying lands’. I don’t get it! I don’t know if I’m thinking too deep into it, but as far as I can tell it’s just that they sail to essentially another ‘continent’, which surely wouldn’t make them immune to Sauron’s evil and therefore they should help? We’ll get back to that in a minute, but if you can explain to me what the Undying lands are, then please do because I AM SO CONFUSED! Is it sort of their version of the afterlife like when they get sick of being immortal they sail to a different ‘plain of existence’? I don’t know. Please help me.
Now back to why they didn’t help because WHY DIDN’T THEY HELP!? The elves are so old and are therefore really skilled and knowledgeable and could have easily helped at so many times, but instead they sit in their forest like ‘sorry not our fight guys’!? People keep saying the old alliances are dead, but why? There is no need for it? Essentially I’m just a little salty on the human’s behalf that the elves were to proud and noble to get of their high horses and help.
Also where were the dwarfs? Apart from Gimli, dwarfs play no part of LotR, which is sort of weird don’t you think…?
Thank you for listening to me rant about the elves and their arrogance, but now back to the books. I think I enjoyed the last 2 books slightly less because it was less of the ‘fun fantasy adventure’ genre that the Hobbit had and there was also a little too much Frodo, who I’ve already said annoys me.
As I said I had watched the movie many times before I read the books, so I already knew what was going to happen, but something that was drastically changed in the movies was the Hobbit’s journey to Bree. It took a lot longer in the books and was pretty much entirely cut out of the films. I don’t blame the films for that because it was rather long winded, but what I wanted to talk about was Tom Bombadil, whom I find incredibly creepy. I’m not sure what it is about him and his wife, but they creep me out. I know that Bombadil is sort of meant to be Tolkien himself helping the Hobbits since he knew as the author that they wouldn’t make it by themselves, which is also why he is so omnipotent. He still creeps me out though.
The rest of the series played out pretty much exactly has I knew it would from the films, although I was very betrayed that the Battle of Helms Deep really wasn’t as dramatic as I was lead to believe it would be.
Something I was hoping the books would explain a bit more to be was Eowyn’s character. She is a somewhat stereotypical female character in that she is very emotionless and just wants to fight like the men, but what I really didn’t get was WHY she was so desperate to dies in battle? I hope the book would answer that question, but all it did was solidify the fact that I think she’s a bit crazy. Her entire character is based around the idea of he not wanting to conform to the gender roles of her country, which I can understand, but why Tolkien then interpreted that as I want nothing more then to DIE IN BATTLE I will never know. She was genuinely devastated when Aragorn brought her back after the battle at Gondor because she wanted to die in battle.
Her character doesn’t make much sense to me and she really seems to be a bit of a stereotype in my opinion, but since Tolkien made his own language and it was the early 1900’s, I’ll give him a break here.
I noticed that there were also a significant lack of female characters in general throughout all of Tolkien’s books, which is unsurprising since it is set in an old fantasy world, written in the 1900’s and based mostly around battle, but still. It would have been nice to see at least one female character that wasn’t some sort of all-knowing elf or a crazy woman desperate to die of the battlefield.
I don’t have a lot more to say about the books because I feel it’s mostly been said before and really they were kind of exactly what I expected, but I do just want to say that Gandalf is one of the more amusing characters I’ve ever read about. He is a meddling old wizard who is mostly all talk and party tricks, but I love him for it!
I don’t feel like this review/chat would be complete without talking about the movies, since they were what convinced me to read the books in the first place.
As book to movie adaptations go, I have to say that I think these are probably the best I’ve ever seen! I know that isn’t saying a huge amount since most book to movie adaptations are pretty terrible, but the accuracy levels are really unparalleled. Yes they did cut out a bit at the beginning and end of Lord of the Rings because it wasn’t really essential to the main storyline, but really they did a fantastic job of casting, setting and showing all the events accurately, even if they did make the Battle of Helms Deep a little more interesting than it was meant to be. The only thing I don’t think LotR films got right was the casting for Frodo. I really don’t think Eljah Woods captures how much of a wet lettuce Frodo is as a character, but I’ll let it slide.
The Hobbit films are my absolute favourite though. They were in fact so accurate that I honestly can’t think of a single thing they missed out. They managed to make 3, 3 hour long films out of the one book, which I know a lot of people think is too long, but I enjoyed the attention to detail. The only thing I do have to say is that I think it’s a little strange that they actually added extra storylines into the Hobbit films. I’m suspecting that some or all of them were actually canon because I know that Tolkien had a whole load of unpublished works and notes expanding on all the extra details that weren’t included in the actual books. It makes me think that they probably included some extra bits from some of his other works to add some more context to things like Gandalf’s excursion with the Necromancer.
Somehow I doubt that there was a strange love story between one of the woodland elves and Kili though. I think that was a Hollywood ‘we can’t have a film without a love story’ moment. They also decided to include Legolas in the Hobbit, even though he doesn’t actually appear in the books, but I expected they wanted some more familiar faces and I do love Legolas, so I’m not that made about it.
So those are my thoughts on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! I gave all of the books somewhere between 4-5 stars, but I can definitely say that I prefer the hobbit because Frodo really does annoy me! I have also never quite related to a character as much as Bilbo – he is so introverted, but also has a secret desire to go on adventures, which he only just makes it out of alive using a mixture of luck, chance and a little bit of background knowledge!
Are you a fan of Tolkien? I know his writing is a little weird and it can be daunting to get into, but I encourage you to give them a read if you can because the world really is so rich and magical. If you’ve read them what is your favourite book? Who is your favourite character?
I’d love to know, so leave a comment down below or come and chat to me over on my Instagram: @theoriginalbookdragon
Goodbye for now
Over and Out