Wednesday, August 05, 2015

BookMarks #3 - The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Titles: The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
Author: JRR Tolkien
Genre: Fantasy

This BookMark covers four books comprising of two distinct storylines. After all these are essentially part of a single Tolkien universe (and came in one box set).

Peter Jackson’s magnum opus Lord of the Rings movie trilogy brought to life Tolkien’s characters at the beginning of the millennium. For people like me who hadn’t read the books it was the sheer spectacle which caught the attention. Once the movies had been seen, the books simply had to be read, because it’s my belief that a movie can never do complete justice to a book. A movie can create a spectacular visual landscape but the finer details only emerge from the written words.

Short Summary

The Hobbit, Or There And Back Again
The Hobbit is a tale of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who led a quiet and peaceful life in the Shire. However the wizard, Gandalf manages to trick him (in a way) into joining a group of dwarves in an expedition to retrieve their lost treasures which is under the guard of Smaug the dragon. Along the way, they have many adventures, frequently landing into trouble, yet managing to get out of it through a mixture of bravery, luck and some timely help. The party finally achieves its objectives and Bilbo returns to the Shire with a share of the reward. In the course of the journey, unknown to others, Bilbo acquires Gollum’s ring, which has the power of making the wearer invisible. Thus setting up the events in the Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings [comprising of 3 books - (a) The Fellowship of the Ring, (b) The Two Towers & (c) The Return of the King]

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

The story is set a few years after the adventures narrated in “The Hobbit”. The ring acquired by Bilbo is more trouble than it seems. Gandalf deduces that it is the "One Ring" and needs to be destroyed before it ends up into the hands of the Dark Lord Sauron, its true master which would spell complete doom for all.

Bilbo is getting older and the ring is now beginning to show its true evil powers on him. Finally persuaded by Gandalf, he leaves the Shire leaving his possessions including the Ring to his nephew Frodo. Frodo, convinced by Gandalf, decides to take the Ring out of the Shire and is accompanied in his mission by his friends Sam, Merry and Pippin. On the road, the quartet meet up with Aragorn. They are constantly under attack but manage to escape with the aid of Elrond. Elrond forms a great council which advises the destruction of the Ring by carrying it to Mount Doom. Frodo volunteers to be the ring-bearer. A Fellowship comprising of his fellow hobbits, Gandalf, Aragorn and representatives of dwarfs, elves and men is formed to accompany and assist in Frodo’s mission. During the journey, they face one peril after another till the Fellowship gets broken up. Frodo and Sam, separated from the others, manage to capture Gollum and use him as a guide for the journey to Mount Doom. The others are involved in multiple battles against the forces of Saruman and Sauron. Many a great battle is fought leading to losses on both sides. They notch up many victories, assisted mainly by the timely arrival of aid in multiple forms (including armies of trees, ghosts etc.) finally culminating in the coronation of Aragorn as the rightful king. Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Gollum, reach Mount Doom. Frodo is overcome by the Ring’s powers but Gollum snatches up his “precious” ring and accidentally falls into the fire in Mount Doom, destroying the ring and alongwith it Sauron as well.


Both stories are set in the same Tolkien universe and one follows the other, with the major events flowing in the same pattern, yet they have one essential difference. LOTR is much darker in theme than the Hobbit. While The Hobbit is directed more towards children, the LOTR targets a mature audience. Compared to Hobbit, LOTR is a tad difficult to read and also is more complex in its scale. And of course the biggest difference - the titular character in Hobbit is the hero whereas the one in LOTR is chief villain of the tale.

At the end of the tale is a collection of Annexures. And reading through them I was awestruck by the richness of Tolkien’s craft. The richness of the detail are mind boggling – there are maps, there are the detailed family tress spanning generations, and there is a chronology of each of the kingdoms from many hundreds of years prior to the main events. Then there are the different calendars, the languages, the scripts and even the pronunciations of each of the various clans and species of men, dwarves, hobbits and elves. And then there is the sheer variety of characters – Hobbits, Men, Wizards, Dwarfs, Orcs, Ents and even Gollum. It almost seems like Tolkien had access to a parallel universe and the tale of the rings is his narration of events of that realm. 

It is said that the English Reading world is divided into two broad categories, those who have read the Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read the Lord of the Rings. Finally I belong in the right category (although reading the books itself nearly took as long as the journeys made by Bilbo & Frodo)

Previously on BookMarks – Ten Days That Shook the World

P.S. Having written a post about the movies a few years back, I had got a comment asking me to read the books. Finally after eight years have gotten around to doing that.

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