After I tried to read Macbeth in a bilingual edition last year, it was so evident that I have to improve my English level if I want to be able to read anything in that language, that I started to take English lessons.
Several years ago, I had what I thought was a decent English level. I read some of Harry Potter’s novels, among some other not so difficult books, and I even wrote a post about the Chamber of Secrets, which I thought I had posted in my blog, but I couldn’t find right now. I suppose it get lost in one of my blog’s many moving.
Years passed without me reading anything in English and without practicing. So, it’s no surprise that my English went back to a bad level. But, I have been taking lessons for some months already, and I’m practicing by watching some TV series without subtitles, and by reading books in English, again.
The first one I have read is The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of The Lord of the Rings, that I had bought many years ago, when I was reading books in English, but I never read it, and it was there, forgotten, on my bookshelf.
I have read it relatively fast. There were lots of words I didn’t know, but helped by a dictionary, I felt I could go through the book easily enough, and I think I understood everything. Also, I had already watched the movie, although so many years ago, but that’s something that always help.
My conclusion about the book is that it’s the first part (or the first two books) of an extremely ambitious book (or a single novel, consisting of six books), in which Tolkien not only tells us a great heroic adventure, but also was able to create a big and extraordinary complete world.
Tolkien was a philologist, and because of that one of the most impressive things of these books are surely the many languages spoken in the Middle-earth. In The Fellowship of the Ring, however, I felt that geographical references were very important, even more than the languages.
Many places are shown in this book, and each one was shown not only with its physical description, but also with its historical background. Sometimes, I felt it was like being in a touristic trip: behold the Argonath, behold Tol Brandir. It was nice.
Also, I felt that in this extraordinary world, which has a long-registered history, there weren’t to many religious references. And, having watched the television series Game of Thrones, where there are many important religions, it was notorious the lack of religious expression and gods mentions in Tolkien’s book.
Additionally, it was a rare surprise to see that all characters, without exception, like to sing. Even Gimli enjoyed singing a song when they were in Moria. I think this love for singing was for Tolkien, who was also a poet, puts some poems in his book. I liked it, but in some occasions, I felt it a little forced, like they star to sing with no good reason.
I felt, as well, an imbalance in the way The Fellowship of the Ring was brought into the movie. The first part of this book pass really fast in the movie, because the story of Tom Bombadil and many aspects of the conspiracy unmasked between friends were left out. The second part was brought with more detail, and I think almost everything got to the movie. It was nice to see that the fight between Gandalf and the balrog really was as in the movie: “Fly, you fools”.
One thing I had problem to understand was the fellowship’s indecision between going to Minas Tirith or to Mordor. And leaving that decision to the end, when Frodo asked for just one hour to decide, was illogic. They should have decided on that long before, in Lothlórien, for example, where they stayed several days doing nothing.
And the final scene, when Sam complains to Frodo because he was being left behind, and they have a beautiful conversation, with mutual recriminations and loyal admiration, I couldn’t help feeling like they were as two littles Don Quixote and Sancho.
Finally, the prologue, and specially its final part “note on the shire records”, in which Tolkien talks about the Hobbits after the end of the Third Age, shows that he was one of those writers that can’t stop living inside theirs books, inside the fiction they created. That’s, in my opinion, what differentiates the good writers from the extraordinary ones.
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.