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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin, 398 pp, 1954

First off, let me point out that I read this from the new edition that contains all three books in one volume, published to coincide with the new movie. It's this volume I've linked back to Amazon, rather than a stand-alone paperback version.

Speaking of the movie, after watching the previews, it seems like it took some liberties with the book. For example, there appears to be an elf warrior babe who protects Frodo, who is not in the book, and it also appears to concoct a romance with Aragorn and another lady (maybe the elf babe?). Other than that, and the obvious defect that the hobbits (Frodo, Sam, et al) look just like Men and not like hobbits.

But enough about the movie. I'm sure I'll go see it, and maybe even enjoy it, if it even pretends to follow the book. But I know this. The book will be better. It always is.

This is the first I've read Tolkien, though I do have dim childhood memories of watching an animated cartoon in a movie theater. It may have been The Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit, but one image still stays strong with me, because I thought it was the neatest thing I had ever seen. In this cartoon, Gandalf attacks an army of orcs, cutting through the creatures on horseback and slicing their backs with his blade. Blood flies everywhere. That's all I remember. Perhaps someone can let me know what this cartoon was, when it came out, etc. I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, again back to the book. Many, many people are no doubt familiar with the storyline, so I won't go into too much detail here, but Frodo Baggins is a hobbit living in the Shire who has inherited a ring from Bilbo, the hero from The Hobbit. This ring is very powerful, and Sauron, an ancient dark lord, is searching for it. Gandalf urges Frodo to undertake a dangerous quest to cast the ring into the Cracks of Doom, thus destroying it forever. This book is Frodo's quest.

Along the way he meets many friends and more than a few enemies, including the very cool Black Riders, who are servants of Sauron.

The book starts out slowly but picks up once Frodo embarks on his journey. While not action-packed in the modern sense, it is quite exciting, and I can't wait to see what the movie does with the special effects.

The book's main attraction, for me at least, is the fantasy world Tolkien creates. I've read some fantasy series, and his is by far the most extensive and believable world. He refers to ancient histories, and lineages dating back centuries, plying the reader with detail that wasn't entirely necessary but adds a rich context and flavor to the book. His imagination was just outstanding.

So I loved the book, will see the movie, and read the next book (The Two Towers) very soon.

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