The Lord of the Rings has had an incredible influence in the world of literature and film. The film franchise paved the way for fantasy films, proving that epic fantasy can be visually and emotionally engaging, building a franchise that has a lasting legacy on the industry. None of this would have been possible without J.R.R. Tolkien. This post highlights the many reasons you should read the Lord of the Rings.
The most distinctive difference between the book and the film is in the characters. The changes in the film, especially with Aragorn’s reluctant leader persona, benefitted the dramatic tension in the film. However, the book sees him assert his role quite early on in the series with a clear understanding of his destiny. The dynamic between the fellowship was particularly compelling as the bonds that bound them were tested and loyalty wavered under the influence and threat of the one ring.
There is a subtle nuance in Tolkien’s characterizations, with our understanding of the character’s nature deriving largely from the smaller details found in their words and actions. It’s in these moments that we come to see how varied the fellowship is in terms of culture and race. This attention to detail highlights how our characters provide further insight into Middle-Earth’s history and culture.
While Tolkien’s characters are often crucial to understanding the dynamic between Middle-Earth’s inhabitants, there are a select few that are quite puzzling. This is especially true in the presence of Tom Bombadil. While his introduction in the Fellowship of the Ring was entertaining, his appearance left us with a lot of unanswered questions. He’s an enigma, whose presence felt out of place in the narrative.
The hardest part of reading Lord of the Rings is having to adapt to Tolkien’s style of writing. His style of writing is graceful, poetic, and highly immersive, but also quite old fashion, which is understandable considering the time it was written. However, that doesn’t make the books any less engaging, and one of the most surprising elements of the narrative was the musicality of it. The films offer a glimpse of the poetic nature of the books, but it barely scratched the surfaced. Characters, like Legolas, often break into song or poetry, and while some may find call them a hindrance to the story, I find that they contributed to the richness of the culture of Middle-Earth.
The biggest criticism would be the lack of dramatic tension. This might be due to the ease in which arising conflicts are dealt with and the lack of a physical villainous presence, but the threat and urgency of the quest weren’t as effective as it should have been.
It is easy to see where Peter Jackson found his inspiration because Tolkien’s world-building is incredibly intricate and vivid, easily capturing the reader’s imagination. The musicality of his prose heightens this richness of Middle-Earth. However, it’s not just the vivid imagery that makes this world feel so real, but also the detailed attention Tolkien dedicates to the language of this world. The appendices, found in Return of the King, highlights Tolkien’s passion for languages with an insightful exploration of the dialect of Middle-Earth. The sheer scope of the world Tolkien has created is incredible and the attention to detail in establishing the history of Middle-Earth is unrivalled.
A product of its time
Looking at this series from the perspective of the 21st century, there is a clear disparity in the representation of females in the book, something which the films rightly expands upon. The lack of female representation was expected and the difference between the role of women in the book and film is insane. Arwen felt like a phantom presence, for the most part, and the dynamic between Eowyn and Theoden/Aragorn was only felt in the unspoken words between them. However, while their roles were greatly reduced, they still made their presence felt when they did appear on the page.
A Timeless Classic
There is no denying the fact that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a timeless classic and paved the way for fantasy in literature and film. The sheer scope of the world J.R.R Tolkien created is phenomenal. With characters of all over middle-earth uniting to fulfil this quest, we are treated to an adventure that explores the strength of hope and how the courage of unconventional heroes shaped the future of Middle-Earth.
Have you read the Lord of the Rings?
What was your favourite book?
Do you prefer the films to the book?