As an avid fantasy reader, I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series when I was fifteen.

And it made the same kind of impression on me as any other fantasy nerd who started out with DnD as a young kid.

The level of detail and world-building that Tolkien accomplished is simply incredible, and his characters are some of the most memorable and well-developed in all of literature.

What struck me most about the series was Tolkien’s ability to create such a vivid and immersive world.

From the Shire to Mordor, each location is richly described and brought to life with intricate detail.

The characters are equally complex and multi-dimensional, with each having their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

As I followed the journey of Frodo Baggins, the hobbit tasked with destroying the One Ring, I found myself completely engrossed in the story.

Frodo’s transformation from an innocent hobbit to a heroic figure burdened with an impossible task is truly inspiring.

And his loyal friend Sam, whose unwavering support and love for Frodo is a constant source of hope throughout the series, is simply unforgettable.

For a book that was originally published in 1954, it’s aged surprisingly well.

Some things do feel a little outdated, but that’s to be expected. The portrayal of female characters is one of those things.

While there are some strong women, such as Galadriel and Éowyn, their roles are limited and stereotypical.

Galadriel is depicted as a beautiful and wise elven queen who is admired and revered by all those around her.

However, despite her immense power and wisdom, she is ultimately relegated to the role of a supporting character whose primary function is to aid the male protagonists on their quest.

Similarly, Éowyn is portrayed as a strong and brave warrior who longs to prove herself in battle, but is ultimately limited by her gender.

She is only able to fulfil her desire for combat by disguising herself as a man, and even then, her actions are only justified in the context of her love for Aragorn.

Both Galadriel and Éowyn are also portrayed as objects of male desire, with Galadriel being sought after by the villainous Sauron and Éowyn being courted by the male protagonist Aragorn.

This reinforces the traditional notion that women are objects to be won or conquered by men.

But what about Arwen?

Arwen is portrayed as a beautiful and loving elf princess, who is deeply in love with the male protagonist Aragorn.

Her main function in the story is to provide motivation for Aragorn’s actions.

And her only significant contribution to the plot is to provide him with the sword that he uses to fight against Sauron’s forces.

While Arwen is also depicted as a skilled healer and is shown to have some agency in her decision to forsake her immortality for the love of Aragorn, her character is still largely defined by her relationship with a male character.

Furthermore, Arwen’s role in the story is overshadowed by her male counterparts, as she is not present during most of the key battles and her character development is minimal compared to that of other characters.

Tolkien didn’t employ direct allegory.

Meaning that, for example, none of his characters are perfect representations of the figures they’re derived from.

This is most clearly represented in Frodo being a Christ-like character, who ultimately falls to the power of the Ring and fails in his mission to destroy it.

It can also be seen in Aragorn, living a hidden life in exile before ascending to the throne of his ancestors, representing Christ as King, and Gandalf, warning of the growing power of the Enemy, representing Christ as Prophet.

Éowyn also loves Aragorn. She bemoans the fact that as a woman, she can never attain the glory on the battlefield her brother Éomer and the other men of Rohan live (and die) for.

This leads her to disguise herself as a male warrior to ride with the Rohirrim to defend Minas Tirith. Being a woman eventually proves to be a critical factor as she rushes to defend Theoden when the Witch-King of Angmar mortally wounds him.

The Witch-King proclaims, “Thou fool. No living man can hinder me!” and Éowyn responds, “No living man am I!” (shout-out by GoT in “All men must die, but we are not men”?) and decapitates the Witch-King’s fell beast, eventually destroying the Witch-King with the help of Merry.

Here, Éowyn represents Our Lady as the Woman of the Apocalypse, who was prophesied in the Protoevangelium as the defender of those who fight against the Enemy and who defeats the Serpent by crushing its head.

Galadriel, the “Lady of Light”, represents Mary as Queen. In addition to being one of the oldest elves, she is also the most powerful and most beautiful.

The beauty of the Elves in Tolkien’s legendarium can easily be seen as a metaphor for divine grace.

Galadriel’s granddaughter Arwen, represents Our Lady as Mother, particularly as a Sorrowful Mother – saying ‘yes’ to being a mother, knowing that despite the joy of having a son, she will grieve when he and his father will eventually die.

Additionally, some of the racial and cultural representations in the series can be seen as problematic by modern standards.

This includes things like the representations of southern people and the portrayal of the Dwarves perpetuating negative stereotypes about certain racial and ethnic groups.

But despite its flaws, the series remains a monumental achievement in the world of fantasy literature.

Tolkien’s use of language and mythology is unparalleled in the genre.

One criticism that I have of the series is the pacing.

While the level of detail and complexity is part of what makes the series so compelling, it can also make it difficult to follow at times.

The middle of the series, in particular, can be slow at times, with long stretches of travel and little action or plot advancement.

I’ve fallen asleep many a time slogging through the detailed descriptions, waking up only when the three-book omnibus smacked me in the face. And I mean smacked, because that thing is thicc.

Even so, I’m happy to forgive Tolkien for his long-winded explanations because I know he did such in-depth world building as has rarely been seen. I just skim over the bits that get too granular.

LOTR is a must-read for any true fan of fantasy literature.

It’s almost like a rite of passage at this point.

While there are some flaws, including limited representation of certain characters and cultures, and slower pacing at times, the series is a true masterpiece that has inspired countless readers and writers over the years.

Tolkien’s world-building, language, and mythology are unparalleled in the genre, and his characters are some of the most memorable and beloved in all of literature.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a monumental work of fantasy literature that has captured the imagination of readers for generations.

Each of the three books – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King – is a masterpiece in its own right, with its own unique themes and motifs that contribute to the overall narrative of the series.

Some of the themes in the books.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the main theme that emerges is the struggle between good and evil.

This is exemplified by the conflict between the Fellowship, a group of heroes who are working to destroy the One Ring and defeat the dark lord Sauron, and Sauron’s army of orcs and other evil creatures.

The book also explores heroism and sacrifice, as each member of the Fellowship must make difficult choices and put their own safety on the line for the greater good.

Moving on to The Two Towers, the struggle between good and evil and exploration of heroism continue, but the focus shifts slightly.

The book explores the idea of loyalty, as the members of the Fellowship are scattered and forced to rely on their own resources and those of their allies.

Friendship and love become more prominent, as the bond between Frodo and Sam deepens and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas forge a strong friendship of their own.

Finally, in The Return of the King, the explorations of the struggle between good and evil, heroism, and loyalty come to a climax as the fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.

The book also explores the idea of power and corruption, as the Ring exerts its influence over those who possess it, and the characters must grapple with the temptation to use it for their own purposes.

The theme of redemption also emerges, as characters like Boromir and Denethor are shown to make mistakes but are ultimately redeemed by their actions in the final battle against Sauron.

Tolkien employs timeless themes that have been woven into storytelling since forever and explores the human condition through the struggle between light and darkness on both a personal and a world-at-large level.

The three books of The Lord of the Rings are united by their exploration of good and evil, heroism, loyalty, friendship, love, power, corruption, and redemption. Each book builds on the themes and motifs of the one before it, creating a rich and complex narrative that defined the genre.

Who should read LOTR?

The fantasy nerd in me wants to shout, “Everyone!” but that’s not true 😂

The Lord of the Rings is a classic epic fantasy novel that appeals to a wide range of readers, and is a highly regarded work of fiction that has gained a devoted following over the years.

Fans of high fantasy, adventure, and epic tales will undoubtedly enjoy LOTR.

The books have broad appeal for readers who appreciate complex world-building, detailed character development, and rich storytelling.

If you enjoy immersive and intricate stories with a rich in-world history that is extensively explored in the story, this is for you.

Overall, LOTR is a timeless classic that has something to offer to readers of all ages and backgrounds – there’s a reason why it’s still popular.

The Lord of the Rings has had a profound and enduring impact on the fantasy genre.

And is widely regarded as one of the most influential works of fantasy fiction ever written.

Here are some of the ways in which The Lord of the Rings has influenced the fantasy genre:

  1. Setting the standard for epic fantasy: The Lord of the Rings established many of the conventions of modern epic fantasy, such as complex world-building, intricate mythology, and detailed maps and languages. It also demonstrated the potential for epic fantasy to be taken seriously as literature, and inspired countless imitators and successors in the genre.
  2. Popularizing the “quest” narrative: The Lord of the Rings is often cited as the quintessential example of the “quest” narrative in fantasy, in which a group of characters embark on a perilous journey to accomplish a specific goal. This narrative structure has become a staple of the genre, and is used in countless works of fantasy fiction.
  3. Introducing iconic fantasy races: The Lord of the Rings introduced several iconic fantasy races, such as Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, which have become fixtures of the genre. Tolkien’s detailed descriptions of these races’ cultures, languages, and histories have also inspired countless works of fantasy fiction.
  4. Popularizing the concept of a “secondary world”: Tolkien’s creation of Middle-Earth, a fully-realised fictional world with its own history, geography, and cultures, inspired many other authors to create their own “secondary worlds” in which their stories take place.
  5. Broadening the appeal of fantasy: The Lord of the Rings helped to broaden the appeal of fantasy fiction beyond its traditional niche audience, and showed that the genre could be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.

Overall, LOTR has had an immense impact on the fantasy genre, and its influence can be seen in countless works of fantasy fiction that have been written since its publication decades ago.

Did I enjoy it?

So much.

Though it always takes me a while to read Tolkien, because it is so deep and there is so much.

I remember the first time I read Merry and Pippin being taken by the orcs, I was so engrossed in the events what when I finally looked up from the book – hours later – I was panting like I’d physically been running, even though I’d been sitting in my bean bag.

The feeling of physically being unable to tear my eyes away from the text is also one of those really fond memories I have from reading LOTR for the first time.

It’s not a light read by any means, but it is reliable – and that’s one of the things I love best about fantasy.

I’m at my happiest reading long books in long series so I don’t mind things taking their time to develop.

Rapid-fire round:

  • Did the book meet your expectations? Yes.
  • Who was your favourite character in the book and why? Samwise Gamgee, because he’s just such a good friend.
  • Who was your least favourite character in the book and why? The women often seem like an afterthought.
  • Did you relate to any of the characters? Merry and Pippin, going off on their own journeys and surviving without their friends.
  • What themes or messages did you take away from the book? You do what you can do, the world will do what the world will do.
  • Was there anything in the book that surprised you or that you didn’t expect? How long-winded the songs were.
  • What did you think of the ending of the book? There’s pretty much only one ending for this book and that was it. The book goes on long enough after the denouement to give enough time to say goodbye, though.
  • What do you think the author’s intention was with the book? What message or theme do you think they were trying to convey? To explore the concepts of evil and greed, which I think it does quite well.
  • Which part of the book did you find most memorable? Samwise taking on more and more for his friend.
  • Did you find any aspects of the book confusing or unclear? Histories, more long-winded and boring than unclear, but unclear because I end up skimming the long-winded historical bits.
  • Were there any moments in the book that made you emotional or had a strong impact on you? Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas chasing after Merry and Pippin when they get abducted.