Hola, my dear strangers!
After finally completing the first part of the legendary novel The Lord of the Rings (not a trilogy, as it turns out), I now fully understand why people all over the globe have admired this work of art for decades. It took me a long time to finish reading it, more than two months, I’m sorry to say. I could place the blame on the extensive amount of studying I had to do, the Uni entrance exam, the drama about the enrolment, my travels that basically consist of moving to a different city every fourth day and daily ten-hour walks that leave me too exhausted to read, but I won’t. Reading should be a daily enjoyment, one that is not to be missed. I am sorry now for pushing it to the sidelines, in a manner of speaking, but when you only have a limited amount of time in a place you’ve never visited before (and, perhaps, may never again), then you tend to spend every waking moment walking around, sightseeing and generally soaking in the atmosphere of said place. Still, despite all these “disturbances”, I’ve managed to finish reading The Fellowship of the Ring and am so glad I did.
Tolkien’s poetic use of words has once again left me speechless. I am awed by his choice of words and the old-fashioned mannerisms he uses in his writings. There is always a way to make something sound more poetic, better-rounded and more beautiful. I realise that terms like ‘hither’, ‘ere’ and such can seldom be heard in modern language and that saddens me a bit. If people took the time to form these beautiful sentences and chose their words with more care, just imagine what a wonderful world this would be. I know that this is only wishful thinking, but if nowhere else, then at least we can find some consolation in Tolkien’s works and their adaptations.
The first tome of The Lord of the Rings takes us back to the sleepy Shire, populated by carefree hobbits and their rather frivolous concerns, which invariably remind us of everyday lives of ordinary people, especially in smaller, rural communities. Every new piece of gossip is a sensation, every move the neighbour makes cause for juicy rumours, every novelty reason for curiosity and even fear. Huddled like that in their perfect little green world, these hobbits seldom get to experience the outside life and, when they do, it’s through no direct contact at all, but via faraway news that every now and again reach their village. But, there is one among them who has seen the outside world and experienced all of its cruelty. That’s our protagonist from The Hobbit – Bilbo Baggins, an elderly chap leading a quiet life and harbouring a dark secret that is about to alter the face of Middle Earth.
His heir, Frodo, is our true protagonist. Meek and reserved, Frodo is reluctant in accepting the burden of the Ring of Power, but does so anyway. Along the perilous road, he is joined by various peoples of different races who all flock together to fight the evil that threatens their world. But, evil can be found within as well. Such is the nature of evil, summed up metaphorically in the form of a simple piece of jewellery; to spread and corrupt the hearts of even the best of men (and hobbits and dwarves and elves, etc.). Doubt and fear poison the fellowship from the very get go and the numerous perilous situations they encounter along the way provide very little hope.
Yet, their quest must be done. The ruling ring of power must be taken to its place of origin and there destroyed. There are some spectacular descriptions of nature throughout the novel, providing a better understanding of the geography of this magical land the fellowship is travelling across. My favourite character probably has got to be Gandalf. I love everything about him – his habit of pipe-smoking, his short fuse and quirky temper, his advice, but most of all, his wise words of comfort and tender warnings to the other members of the fellowship, mainly Frodo. I loved his speech about how not everything can be predicted and easily judged. Frodo thought it was a pity that Bilbo didn’t kill Gollum, whereas Gandalf corrected him and told him that it was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Those words ring wide and deep, especially in this world filled with dangers.
BBC is on at the moment and I keep hearing about all these horrific events happening in the world. I believe that only a very small part of our seven billion population is truly evil, if evil can indeed so easily be defined and personified. The rest, I believe, are just human. They act and do horrible deeds out of fear, discontent, revenge, blind faith in something better or, most commonly, because they’ve experienced injustice. However, injustice doesn’t justify more injustice. Gollum’s terrible deeds shouldn’t get an equal response, in my opinion. Pity, indeed, is what he deserves and pity is what he has earned. He was once different, better. However, along came an alluring distraction, a shiny trinket in the form of a ring, that’s managed to poison his mind and turn him for the worse. Something like that, a loss of innocence, dignity and humanity, truly is pitiable. But, that does not mean that he should be slain without cause or reason, simply because he is an odious spiteful creature. There may yet be redemption and a chance of something better for him. It’s as Gandalf has said. We shouldn’t be too quick to deal out death and justice. It’s easy to destroy something. It’s very hard to create it and even harder to rebuild something that’s been maimed, most often than not, by our own callousness.
It’s incredible how many metaphors, intentional or not, Tolkien has managed to squeeze into this fantastical story. Every page is necessary, every passage indispensable. There is an intricate web of real life situations woven into every word and it mirrors our world perfectly. For example, aging. Aging can be very ugly if not accepted and gracefully stepped into. Letting go of past glory days and accepting limitations is a difficult thing to achieve. We see these transformations every day in our parents, our grandparents, friends and acquaintances who’ve hit their forties, fifties and sixties and, if you’re of a slightly older generation, you might even see this in yourselves. The Hobbit was about Bilbo’s adventures, his heroic and less than so deeds, his perils, trials and tribulations, his life. In that novel, he was the active protagonist, he did things and things happened to him. In this novel, we see him reluctantly stepping aside and distancing himself from the Quest in Rivendell, allowing younger generations to try to accomplish something he is no longer able to. His mind might be ready, but his body is spent, his spirit diminishing. And, that is the end of it. You can either accept this and live out the rest of your days in peace and quiet or keep fighting the inevitable, all the way to the bitter end.
There’s also growth. We see many characters growing in this novel, in many different ways. Merry and Pippin expand their worlds and, when faced with the real world outside of the picturesque Shire, they also start growing out of their immaturity. Aragorn grows to accept his role in life. He casts away the name of Strider and decides to step out of exile and become his true self, a king, however heavy that burden may be. Legolas and Gimli learn to look past their prejudices and grow to accept each other as friends, regardless of the bad blood among their peoples. Sam learns to take responsibility for others and bears it quite courageously, I have to say, in spite of the many dangers lying in wait. Gandalf learns that, no matter how old or wise he may be, mistakes can still be made and their consequences have to be faced. And Frodo? Well, perhaps he’s got more growing to do than any other character. He’s got to learn to accept foreign ideas and notions, to assume the responsibility of being the Ring-bearer, to assume responsibility for his fellow company members and friends, to step outside into the uncomfortable world and fight for the better future, even if he himself may never live to enjoy it. He’s basically got the weight of the world on his small shoulders. He is unprepared for a task of such magnitude and is too small and ‘insignificant’ to be able to make the right decision when it comes to the fate of the entire world. Yet, there is a passage in the book that describes his duty and the way we perceive small and great people perfectly.
“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
And that statement cannot be more correct. Small hands in small places doing small things. Millimetre by millimetre, big changes are made, the world gets changed and then changed again, all thanks to an army of ordinary nameless ants.
Neither side here is purely good or purely evil. Saruman was good before he got corrupted by Sauron. Sauron was good before he got corrupted by Morgoth. Boromir is a good man, desperate to win a fight he’s not patient enough to vie, so he succumbs to his short temper and tries to find a shortcut to the victory. In the end, he even goes as far as attacking Frodo and trying to steal the ring from him. There are no shortcuts, however, not when it comes to accomplishing great deeds and taking away great victories. Sadly, they take an enormous amount of time, lots of careful planning, vigilance and patience. And, even when prepared for properly, these victories are still not guaranteed. Such is the world of danger our characters have found themselves in. Boromir is too impatient to wait for better chances and his despair is slowly growing. His world is changing far too quickly and he is not well prepared for all that lies ahead. Frodo senses that the fellowship may soon break due to Gandalf’s demise and Boromir’s dissatisfaction. He finally comes to a decision to leave alone, unwilling to put other members of the company in further danger. However, Sam, his faithful shadow, refuses to let him leave alone and joins him on the road ahead. There may be yet another shadow following them, one with less than agreeable intentions. And, so, the company breaks apart. I will find out what lies ahead once I read the second part. Speculating based on the movies is pointless, since I’ve already established that they considerably differ. So, I’ll just have to wait and read, read, read…
Have a nice day, my dear strangers! Keep reading. 🙂