Essay by Fili

''Well, I'm back,'' he said.

30 years on, 20 readings later, bereavement remains companion to Sam's words that end the greatest story ever told.

The Fellowship Of The Ring mirrors The Hobbit initially - The Shire, Gandalf, a quest, a journey to Rivendell - but metamorphoses into compelling uncertainty when the wizard seems lost in Moria.

The majesty Tolkien reveals in the main characters from all perspectives - ''we slew the great warrior [Boromir]'' sneer the Uruk-Hai - Aragorn's confrontation with said host at Helm's Deep, Gandalf facing down: Saruman, the Lord Of The Nazgul and the Mouth Of Sauron; the ''humanity'' of the hobbits.

These would make any book but, with two simple, yet brilliant, devices, Tolkien elevates his work into a Classic.  Sauron - 'The Lord Of The Rings' himself - never takes centre stage.

With no definition, the evil of the Dark Lord has no boundary in our minds.

And mythology - Tolkien intrigues by eschewing the mere reporting of facts for passing on legend and rumour to the reader.

I grew up with it, have always loved it and now, via the world wide palantir, can share it with kindred spirits.

This is what The Lord Of The Rings means to me.

31-May-02