My Review of The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It scarcely seems necessary to do a review of this work, it is so well known, and recently turned into a movie series to boot. It is the Platonic ideal of the epic high fantasy genre, and at the heart of Tolkien’s work through his life. The first effort in this fantasy world was the children’s book The Hobbit, but as it was successful Tolkien’s publisher wanted more, and Tolkien obliged. Originally it was intended that the The Lord of the Rings would be the first volume, with the Silmarillion as volume 2, but the publisher decided to break it into three volumes (though each of those three has two parts, so one could as well call it a six-volume work). The overall summary is that the dark lord Sauron created Rings of Power: Three for Elves, 7 for Dwarves, and 9 for Men. Then he created the One ring to rule the others and to corrupt them. He loses this ring in a battle and is trying to get it back, and if he does his power will corrupt all of Middle Earth. The only way to stop him is to destroy the ring, and that can only be done in the fires of Mount Doom where it was originally forged. So a mixed group of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and Men, plus the wizard Gandalf, set out to do just that. The work is about all of the adventures they have along the way.

The themes embedded in this work display the discomfort Tolkien had with the modern world, and much of that derives from his experience of World War I. Because of the subsequent World War II and the Cold War, the first World War has faded in the minds of many people. But it was a particularly searing experience to those who lived through it. For example, if you look at the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam over the entire course of the war, that is less than half of the number killed on both sides in just 6-day Battle of the Marne in 1914. Human life was of no account in this war, and the butchery was staggering. It was the modern industrial war, and even the killing was industrialized.. Tolkien displays in The Lord of the Rings a deep disdain for industrialization. And as is the case with so much fantasy, class structure is implicitly important, and some races are irredeemably evil. But it has won many awards, and in 2003 the BBC named it Britain’s best novel of all time. Virtually all high fantasy traces its roots to Tolkien.

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