When I was 16 years old a friend encouraged me to read a book he had just finished “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. He described it as being about Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Dwarves, Dragons and Fiery Mountains and the like. I had always loved to read but had no use for fiction at the time, preferring histories and biographies and other nonfiction reading. I had little interest in a book such as this. I promised to take his paperback copy and give it a look, intending only to briefly look through the first chapter and return. However, after reading the first chapter I was taken in and absolutely loved this monumental work of fiction.
The book is about a quest to destroy the ultimate One Ring of power which was created but lost by the evil Sauron. The quest was undertaken by a lowly Hobbit, a race not seen before in literature, invented by Tolkien. They are about half the size of men, referred to as “Halflings, and with feet of leathery soles covered in hair such that they do not need shoes. The story focuses on the Hobbit Frodo Baggins and his friend Sam Gamgee’s quest to take the ring back to the Cracks of Doom (a mountain), where it was created, and destroy the ring that had come to Frodo by accident. Along the way he is aided by Gandalf, a wizard; Aaragorn, the rightful King of Gondor who has been banished to the wilderness; and five other members comprising the “Fellowship of the Ring”, the title of the first of three volumes of the book. The story ranges throughout Middle-Earth with lands, people and places which Tolkien beautifully creates for the reader. It is an epic story of friendship, love and heroism.
The book is a marvel to read. Tolkien took 14 years to write it, being a perfectionist, and made every attempt to make the story accurate and consistent which is difficult to do when you are creating the story yourself. Tolkien, an Oxford Don, was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. The book has strong Christian imagery and Tolkien was a strong Christian himself, being one of the best friends of C.S. Lewis. First published in 1954, it is still in print having become a classic of fiction.
Perhaps the chief virtue of the book is that it depicts wonderful characters; some with deep virtues and others with deep flaws, good vs evil. None of the vague, distorted, undefined characters we see in literature or the movies today who appear neither good or bad, if these authors/creators even acknowledge any difference between the two. The book is filled with characters such as Hobbits who are willing to sacrifice their life to save Middle-Earth from another dark age, a King living in the wilderness who protects people who neither know or appreciate his selfless work while waiting until the proper time to assert his right to his kingship, and a wizard who refuses to take the One Ring even though he had the power to wield it to defeat Sauron because he knew it would corrupt him in the end. This is opposed to such characters as Sauron and Saruman who was a wizard that became a traitor and joined in league with Sauron.
I still much prefer nonfiction reading today and yet I list “The Lord of the Rings” as my favorite book of all time. Since reading this book I have acquired a greater appreciation for fiction that can sometimes illustrate principles and thoughts in a better way than nonfiction can. I also have come to simply love a good story. This book is all of those things, it is a great read. I highly encourage anyone to enter this wonderful world and enjoy Tolkien’s masterpiece.