19. A book we have lied about reading: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
List Progress: 15/25
You know the look. The look in a geek’s eyes when they ask you if you’ve read something and you know exactly how the conversation will go if you say no. That moment when you have to decide, to lie or to endure a rambling retelling of an entire trilogy. I have often chosen to lie when it comes to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve seen the film trilogy based on the books and it helped me fake my way through any conversation. It was easier to say “yes, I’ve read it” then “I tried and couldn’t get past how boring Tom Bombadil was”.
But now, some four hundred pages later, I can truthfully say that I’ve completed it. And I have to admit, it was a better ride than I had expected.
The Fellowship of the Ring, published in 1954, feels almost too big to talk about these days. The tropes set here have become such an industry standard and the movies are so well known in the public consciousness that it feels difficult to say anything that people haven’t already said. But I was happy to find some character beats and nuances here that felt like new additions to my mental concept of Fellowship: Aragorn’s indecision and unreadiness to be a leader, the differences between Merry and Pippin, the anti-dwarf prejudice in Lothlorien. I was excited to find things there that I didn’t expect and some that I actually preferred to the adaptations’ take on it.
I am still not sold on slower, indulgent sections like the Tom Bombadil sequence, but not nearly as frustrated as I was reading this as a younger woman. I have some legitimate issues with the pacing of the story and how Tolkien seems afraid of raw emotions, but I was able to get into the groove of the journey.
The one section that genuinely impressed me were the Mines of Moria. The atmosphere was so rich there, really painting that the Fellowship spent days in the darkness, eating there, sleeping there, with no escape from the dark and quiet. It was a genuinely immersive experience that the films were not able to give me, and that alone made any slogs worth it.
I am not rushing out to read the second installment, The Two Towers. But I can see picking it up in the next year, which was not something I expected to say. I thought I would reach the end and throw the book away from me. It’s nice to be surprised. And I won’t have to lie anymore.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.