CBR12 Bingo: Yellow
When I was a kid my dad read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to me. I’d already read The Hobbit, and of course as a kid I preferred the simplicity and accessibility of that book, but I can still remember the moment that my dad and I finished reading The Two Towers: “Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.” Whew. Eat your heart out, The Empire Strikes Back–that is a killer ending to a Part II of a trilogy.
Earlier this year, during the peak of the lockdowns, a used bookstore from my hometown advertised that they were offering bookboxes–tell them what kind of books you like and how much you want to spend, and they would put together a box and ship it to you. I jumped on this as a way to support a favorite bookstore, and included in my request that I had been wanting to reread LOTR for years and would love a copy. They sent me a huge one volume doorstop edition. I developed a routine of getting up early on the weekends and reading a chapter or two, along with whatever other books I was reading at the time. In an ordinary year, this would have taken a lot longer, but it’s not like I had too many weekend plans in 2020.
Doing this was maybe one of my favorite parts of this year. I finally finished The Return of the King a few weeks ago, but I’ve kept up the routine of devoting a couple hours every weekend morning to reading and it’s lovely.
While I’d read The Fellowship of the Ring a couple times since I was a kid, I’d never finished a reread of The Two Towers before and I’d never even started on The Return of the King. I was surprised when I finished the trilogy at last to realize that The Return of the King was my favorite of the bunch.
I think most people are familiar with the basics of the story, so I decided to review LOTR by just giving my high and low points for each book (spoilers throughout, of course):
The Fellowship of the Ring: I love the Shire, and the masterful worldbuilding Tolkien does. This one probably has the most humor of the three books, since it spends the most time with the hobbits in the Shire. It also has a lot of deliciously creepy moments, like the Nazgul searching for the hobbits by sniffing them out, the fight at Weathertop, the scenes in Bree–but nothing can match the incredible suspense as the Fellowship travels through the Mines of Moria. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and it was still almost unbearably suspenseful and creepy. On the other hand, The Fellowship of the Ring drags on a bit in parts–which makes sense since it’s setting up everything that will happen in the next two books. In the end I think it’s my least favorite of the three books.
The Two Towers: I had forgotten that in the books, unlike the movies, Boromir dies in the first chapter of The Two Towers rather than at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. It sounds morbid to say that Boromir’s death is one of my favorite parts in the books, but it’s because I like that he’s redeemed in the end. The battle at Helm’s Deep is epic, of course, and The Two Towers also has some humor in it between Gimli and Legolas’s banter, Merry and Pippin, and of course the Ents (one loose thread from these books that bothered me is that the Ents don’t get a happy ending as we are left wondering if they ever found any Entwives). I also really liked the stories of Theoden, Eomer and Eowyn (Eowyn being the most developed female character in the books), and of Denethor and Faramir, and these continue into the third book. The end of The Two Towers, as I mentioned above, is about the most exciting ending to a middle part of a trilogy that I’ve ever read–between Gollum, Shelob, and the Orcs, it just seems impossible that Sam and Frodo will survive. The one thing I struggled with in The Two Towers was the section before Frodo and Sam meet Faramir where they are just journeying endlessly with Gollum through a difficult landscape.
The Return of the King: Exciting from start to finish. I loved all of The Return of the King. If I had to name a downside, I was disappointed that we didn’t hear more about Aragorn’s journey on the Paths of the Dead, because it sounded like it was going to be really exciting and creepy–something Tolkien did very well. I was also surprised at how quickly the scene at Mount Doom was concluded, but this wasn’t a bad or good surprise–just a surprise. Other than that, The Return of the King is perfect and I cried when it was over.
Lord of the Rings was a great series to read right now since it is of course the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. It has its problems, of course–a serious lack of female characters, some overly flowery prose in parts, and some bits that drag on for too long–but I think when I look back on 2020 reading this will be one of the year’s highlights.
Completed bingo: Fresh Start, White Whale, Yellow, Friendship, Book Club