Chapter by Chapter: Re-reading the Trilogy

Organized by Onomir, commentaries by Celedor and occasionally others, gathered from the community reading 2007-2008
Book 1:   1  2  3  4-6  7-10  11-12    Book 2:  1-2  3-4  6-7  8-10
Book 3:   1-2  3-5  6-7  8-11   Book 4:  1-3  4-6  7-8  9-10
Book 5:  1-2  3-5  6-8  9-10   Book 61-2  3-5  6-7 8-9 

Prelude to a Read:

I remember when I first read the books I couldn't stop and had to keep reading until I was exhausted at the end of the day. How wonderful it was when I discovered the joys of reading a chapter at a time and letting each chapter roll around in my head before moving on to the next. (One reading I particularly enjoyed was when I was at college and didn't have my books with me. I walked back and forth a mile or so to the library where they had a brand new Alan Lee illustrated set and read a chapter each day. After the struggles of school each day, it was nice to send my mind to another world with different issues for the duration of the walks - especially the walk home in the dark.) - Celedor

Onomir introduces the Read:

My dear friends from near and far, WELCOME!

Preparations are about finished and there is a place for everyone to join in the party. Even those that do not like to wander far from the hearth and keg can enjoy this, our FIRST Read through together, of the Professors Work;


It is always best to start at the beginning, the old Gaffer says, so STARTING SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, By Shire Reakoning, we shall share our thoughts, during the following week, on the FORWARD AND PROLOGUE through SATURDAY THE 29th.

Beginning Saturday the 29th we shall begin sharing our thoughts, during the next week, of CHAPTER ONE "A Long-expected Party".

Yes observant reader, that does entail reading the Forward, Prologue, and Chapter One straight away!

The discussion of CHAPTER TWO "The Shadow Of The Past" shall begin October 6th, and so on.

Topics of discussion are open to all. Brainstorming as it were.
(Please do not make me bring in the GREEN Mop)

Mayhap; Weather, Foods, Smells, Character Quirks, Humor, Sceeery Bits, Songs, Clothes, Pipeweed, Foods (We Likes Food Precious), Armory, Spirituality, Ale, Ale, (See Foods), Landscapes, Geology, Astromomy, and so on, to name a few.

There shall be GIFTS, as is proper Hobbit custom, to those that participate on a regular basis. I shall see to that, but to do so I shall need your BagEnd Address. You can drop me a note here as a private message or send me a note.

So my dear friends, light your pipes, draw an ale, pour a tea, put out some cakes and pickels and let us listen while the Professor takes there and back again, again.

"This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it. It was begun soon after The Hobbit was written and before its publication in 1937".....


September 22nd Arrives:


Well my friends the day is upon us and although I do not have a speech I would like to speak regarding;

Concerning the Forward

I am holding a Silver Jubilee Edition of LOTR The Fellowship Of The Ring, Printed for the American Market by Ballantine, which was Tolkien’s American Publisher at the time, April 1981 to be precise. To this Edition the Forward was intended.
The Forward was written for this book by Tolkien before he went to be with his beloved forever in 1976, if I am not mistaken or ill informed.
He ends the forward by saying that this, The 25th Ann. Edition was done with his consent and so we can be assured that it is as He intended it.

Right from the onset of the forward I am amused by JRRT when he wrote that he did this work to satisfy him and had little hope that other people would be interested. I think he is just being modest because later he mentions that people expressed a desire to know more about Hobbits from Reading the Hobbit which was published decades earlier.

The FACT that this was a writing experiment of linguistics and writing a long tale that would hold the readers interests seems also a statement of JRRT’s modesty.

I have always held the notion that he knew perfectly that this tale would be the literary successes that it is. Why, because no writer in History had ever attempted or finished such an auspicious endeavor before.

As a simple writer myself I find comfort in Tolkien’s telling of how the story came to him in bits and pieces and that the end was finished before much of the body of the work. I find that usually the case for myself and writers I have spoken with.

And the book WAS too short indeed!

He raises a point still debated by readers of Allegory. He denies and explains his purpose quite well and dispelled any attempt to do so and his dislike of such a tool, as it were.

I laugh every time I read his comment about those that did not like his book and how did not like theirs as well…..Writers envy…I guess… each his own as the saying goes.

So gentle readers, I hope you will share your thoughts as well.
I also would like to mention that the letter written by Peter Beagle dated 14 July 1973 is wonderful and at that time in History my Brother Jimbobaggins and I were traveling and hitching around the Western States of America in True Hobbity fashion. Details of that summer are fond indeed and the subsequent Sept 13 1973 we found ourselves in a military barracks….for many years. I first read The Hobbit Sept. 1967 for an English class and remember still the shivers and Goosebumps that the tale in Mirkwood, with the Spiders, gave me. I still think of it every time I see a spider web in a tree….kinda stuck with me. The LOTR followed over the next year because of an Awesome English teacher name Schmelling, who also was a Sherlock Holmes fanatic and got me into writing and using my imagination, which came in handy during the Sixties….I had good teachers.

I shall write later this week concerning the Prologue.

And remember, Real Ringers Read The BOOK, often.  - Onomir


So much has been said, and argued, about Tolkien's motives and meanings, and The Lord of The Rings itself has been sometimes shoved to the back by purists who would claim the Silmarillion as his premier masterwork, that is is salutary to read in the Foreword Tolkien's own avowed aim in writing The Lord of The Rings;

'The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them...'

Tolkien is not just revealing the details of a secret fantasy world, but telling a story. He is one of the greatest storytellers of literature. Today, when narrative is sort of out of fashion, and aimless films and books abound, we should hail a reteller of epics to match Homer or the Beowulf poet.

However, this is a long story, and it 'grew in the telling'. Tolkien begins the Prologue with the sentence; 'This book is largely concerned with Hobbits'...''

But is it? There are four (five if you count Bilbo) hobbits in the story, and two are its principal heroes, but the book is not largely concerned with hobbits. It is an epic about a war, and with all sorts of people, men, dwarves, Elves....and Frodo and Sam are central to the story not because they are hobbits but because they are heroes.

The Shire brackets the story, it is true, being the setting for the initial events and the final epilogue with the Scouring and final farewell of Frodo. But the unique character of hobbits, although it makes The Lord of The Rings a very special book and raises it above just 'fantasy fiction' (there is no such convincing creature in any other fantasy fiction - hobbits have entered our vocabulary and our everyday world) still Frodo could be Everyman; his actions and his thoughts, not always typical of hobbits, are what matter.

But the opening chapter 'Concerning Hobbits' sets a homely, whimsical tone very much in keeping with that of The Hobbit, which began with a hobbit dwelling in a hole in the ground. It is amusing introduction, practical, long-winded, digressional, chatty, humorous, good-natured and very much like the following;

'...when hobbits first began to smoke is not known, all the legends and family histories take it for granted....' and so on.

The Lord of The Rings will take us a very long way from this happy land where genial, not very bright rural people enjoy their parties and family gatherings and the gentle wheeling of the seasons. It will bring us to an altogether more terrible place;

From this;  :-D
'(Hobbits) ...laugh, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them) They were hospitable and delighted in parties and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted...'

To this :  0.o

'The last stage of their journey to Orodruin came and it was a torment greater than Sam had ever thought he could bear. He was in pain, and so parched that he could no longer swallow even a mouthful of food. It remained dark, not only because of the smokes of the mountain; there seemed to be a storm coming up, and away to the South-East there was a shimmer of lightnings under the black skies. Wost of all, the air was full of fumes; breathing was painful and difficult, and a dizziness came on them, so that they staggered and often fell. And yet their wills did not yield, and they struggled on....'

There and back again, indeed....  - Varda


I love this line,
"Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer."

I am so glad I read Christopher's books on the making of LOTR with all the character developments etc. Strider was Trotter, a hobbit that wore wooden shoes because his feet were burned by the enemy until half way through Book 2 where he became a man but didn't become Strider until ROTK was almost finished.

Like the forward says, he had to rewrite and type the book in reverse to correct all the changes over 25 years. Hard to imagine.

The complete distain for his story by his contemporaries is now laughable but had to weigh heavy on him during those years. A professor writing a fantasy novel, how contrite! And how famous are those men today? Right.
Thanks for setting this up Bro. The link to read on line is very cool.

Also to note, that having read LOTR for the first time just before PJ's movies came out and since that time having read so much Tolkien and all the wonderful tales created by the talented people in Middle Earth (you guys), now reading LOTR for the third time, in my minds eye I can see the museum in Michel Delving, the tall hobbit houses in Tuckborough, the 3 elven towers west of the Shire, Edoras, Minas Tirith and all the environs of the tale. This makes each visit to the book that much more enjoyable so a thanks to all of you for keeping The Fellowship alive. - Jimbo Baggins


Before we move on to Chapter One, I wanted to say a word or two about the Prologue.

As I was reading it this time around, I was strongly reminded of the first time I read it -- I was in 7th or 8th grade, as I recall, and I had heard a lot about the tale, and was eager to read it. So I checked it out of the library and plunged right in.

The Prologue, however, kept referring to Bilbo, and a previous tale, and the further I got into it, the more I realized I was going to have to read that one first! The intriguing references to other lands and peoples and histories was calling to me to come, visit -- but even then I was keen on reading things chronologically. So, with a sigh, I put down LotR and went back to the library to find The Hobbit.

When I was finally able to pick up the tale again, I reread the Prologue.  Some of the things that intrigued me then -- and still do! -- were the references to other works, such as Merry's Herblore of the Shireand his Old Words and Names in the Shire. I always wanted to read those as separate works. And the reference to Findegil, King's Writer, who made a copy of Translations from the Elvish, always made me wish I had a copy of that great work, that dealt with the Elder Days! Thankfully, that work eventually found its way into my hands, as the Silmarillion. 

If nothing else, the rereading of this tale is bringing back all those fun feelings of anticipation I had as I read for the first time. Tolkien was a master at putting in little comments that foreshadowed greater things to come -- even in the Prologue!!

I am looking forward to getting into the chapters now; it will be great fun to relive those memories, as well as to discover those new things I missed in the other umpteen hundred readings I did before. There is always something new to discover in this tale, which makes it worth reading over and over again.  - Linaewen


Some thoughts on the Prologue.

The account of Hobbits lives in ‘Concerning Hobbits’ is one of my favourite parts. Hobbits take life at a leisurely pace , enjoy community activities, like celebrating birthday parties etc The Shire is a place I have always felt I could be at home in. I know it is not a true depiction of the lives as lived by farmers, agricultural labours, their families generations ago and whose lives held many hardships as well as simple joys too. For me Tolkien’s shire is the ideal place with ideal people. It is as if I were looking back at a bygone age through rose tinted glasses. Yet there is much I can relate to as well. There is still a good community feel where I live now, neighbours will help you out, take care of the elderly etc except, it not so easy to escape from the dangers and fears of life now.
In many ways I truly think I want to be a hobbit in the Shire just because it helps me to be a child again, to feel safe from the outside world, not to have to grow up and take responsibilities,. Do the things I wished I could do as a child eg parties every week and you get the presents too. Eat as much as I like and no worries caused by the latest medical bulletin on diet and good health. Feel safe to enjoy a walk in the fields and woods which I often did with my sister and friends when we were young and mum wasn’t at home fretting about our safety. And to take off our shoes and socks and go barefooted without mum telling us we would catch a cold (which she often did or to wrap up warm etc.). The Shire is my place to day -dream in.

Like Linaewen, I also wished Tolkien had said more about Merry’s book ‘Herblore of the Shire‘. It is all so intriguing. The flora of the Shire and lands beyond is my special interested at the moment.. I am making a scrapbook on this topic. I love the way Tolkien called the Hobbits after flower and herb names. It is also touching that one Hobbit lass is called after, I guess, his daughter Priscilla. Prisca Baggins who married Wilibald Bolger is a cousin of both Frodo and Pippin. The name Priscilla is apparently a nickname, meaning "little Prisca . St Prisca was a martyr. 

Daisy Gold ... a hobbit from the Shire




Because it's a book I repeatedly read, and I wish not to ruin those readings, I have a strict rule that I'm not allowed to browse favorite passages from LOTR but can only read it cover to cover. Therfeore, I usually enjoy the later chapters more than the early ones, because I've worked more to get there. That said, chapter 2 may be my favorite chapter in the book. I think it's one of the best written parts of the book at least. It's the heart of the book.

When I first read FOTR, I was about ten years old or so, and the timespans in this chapter threw me, because I couldn't grasp "nine years later" which Tolkien casually tossed out there. Now, at 32, I can understand it better, and the chapter reads much better for me.

The Ent reference in the chapter is always fun for those of us who know what's coming; but the backstory and quest set-up presented here steals the show. 


I remember how the first few times I read this passage it puzzled me greatly. I had just grasped the concept of the Ring putting processes in motion, and so I'm thinking, "oh the Ring chose Bilbo". Then Tolkien throws this curveball at me: Bilbo was chosen but not by the Ring.

But now it's clear to me what it means. It's the first line eluding to the religion or cosmology of Middle-earth, if I'm not mistaken. Certainly it's an important quote that will get more meaning as the story progresses.

Just finished chapter three:

This is the first time I've read the books since seeing all the films, so I can't help but pretend to look at it from the perspective of someone who has seen all the films but is reading the books for the first time; because I know there are these people out there, and it's great fun to see how the approach works.

Going at it this way, of course, the reader knows what's going on with Gandalf, what the black riders are all about, and what the Elves are up to. But I think that makes it only more interesting to read it from Frodo's ignorant perspective and get his thoughts on the matter. I also liked discovering that Pippin's song from the third film comes from this chapter, though I'm guessing the tune here is more cheerful.

I also discovered something I never really thought about before but noted as important this time around: Sam's story about the black rider talking to his dad in Hobbiton. Notice what Tolkien does here: he takes Sam out of the story for a brief time so that the character can later add a vital piece of exposition out of chronological order. (I know this last sentence comes off as a boring and stuffy analysis, but hang with me here.)

Tolkien knows it's important to keep the Black Riders mysterious and scary, so he's not about to give us all the info on them at once. He begins with Frodo overhearing part of a conversation between a Rider and Ham Gamgee. But we don't know what the creature looks like or what he's saying. Then later, we meet the creature in a frightening road encounter, but nothing in the encounter identifies it the species Ham was talking to. At this point, Tolkien pulls Sam out of his bag; the hobbit not only explains this is what his dad's "pal" looked like, but gives us the other half of the conversation we heard earlier. By finding a way to play with chronology and giving us this information out of order, Tolkien has made the exposition much more interesting and has created a far more enjoyable tale for us to read. Tolkien must have liked doing this, because as the tale progresses, he makes greater use of the device, even going so far as creating separate "books" for his characters so he could really take it to the next level.

(On a sidenote, if I can skip to many chapters ahead, I've heard and read the comment that Boromir's final battle with the orcs is not "shown" in the books; the man is simply discovered dying. I disagree with this. While it is true we do miss the battle the first time around, when we are with Aragorn at the beginning of The Two Towers, we later we see Boromir's final battle through the eyes of Pippin when the hobbit's chapter comes up. Once again, Tolkien is finding a way to play with chronology to tell his tale in a more interesting way; something he does better than any other author I've read. He knows it's more shocking to stumble across Boromir dying and more interesting to fill in the missing part later.)

On a final note, I must say I am happy that I read these books so many times before seeing the films; because with the Harry Potter series, the characters from the films are starting to enter my mind when I pick up those books. That's probably because I only read those once before the movies started. But with The Lord of the Rings, my own characters pop right up in my head whenever I start reading. I'm glad of this, because they're like old friends, and I wouldn't want Peter's characters to replace them. They're also my own characters, and it's great to bring something of myself to the book. And, lastly, I like the idea of Peter's interpretation adding something to my life and not replacing something.  
- Celedor

I was rushed through 3 but came away with a few thoughts.
Sam and Pippin meeting the Elves is fantastic. So mystical in the description about the elves shimmering as they walked and the dream like state the two hobbits fell in swooning on a lifes ambition to not only see elves but be talking with them!
Frodo comes off as a very mature hobbit knowing just enough elf-speak to impress them and of talking about the events taking place outside the shire. Very wise. - Jimbo


4, 5 & 6:

This chapter in "War of the Rings" was fun. The characters at that time, Bingo, Bongo or whatever played a great trick on Farmer Maggott. Using the ring Bingo (Frodo) came into his house invisible, and the others were talking, eating and he picked up a beer mug cheersL and Maggott thought it was floating, witchcraft. Getting even for setting the dogs on him a long time ago. Much changed, for the better, in the end. Farmer Maggott really was a stout, good fellow and had the most wonderful mushrooms!

Chapter 5...
I love the description of the lighting around Bucklebury, Crickhollow, Brandyhall and the Ferry. It's like looking at a Thomas Kinkade painting with soft diffused light.
The Conspiracy were very well travelled in and around The Shire and made great traveling companions on the quest. They were not always the bumbling fools as made out in the Movies.
The end of 5 is so beautiful. Frodo sees and feels in his dream the pull of being a Ring Bearer into the West. Seeing all these early chapters for the first time since reading Christopher Tolkien's books makes little things like this really stand out. I think the Tower, light and thunder are metaphors for Mt Doom?
I keep falling asleep trying to read Chap. 6, The Old Forest. The spell of the woods and the heavy feel of the forest makes me drowsey. I'll have to read it earlier in the day and not at bedtime.  - Jimbo

Book 1, Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked

This is a really weird chapter in that it has exposition I've always taken for granted: Merry and Pippin know what's going on, and they're coming with. I assumed as much the first time I read the book, even if I didn't know the details. So I always forget about this chapter, because it seems a bit redundant to me, even though it's not. One delight for me this reading is to see how Tolkien takes the first time reader by the hand in the early chapters and gently leads him through the setup of the story. It's something I didn't appreciate as much as I should have when reading the second through twelfth times or however many it's been.

I've also been noticing this reading how much work the screenwriters for the films did; you can see where they had to rewrite and restructure things from scratch, and you can see where they took parts of the text and moved them around, sometimes even to the second or third films.

On one other note, aren't the dreams in these early chapters so much fun to read when you've read the books before?

Book 1, Chapter 6: The Old Forest

The clearly defined boundary between the Shire and beyond is really well done. Hearing the gate clang is a definitive moment that works so well.

This is the first chapter that having Fonstad's Middle-earth Atlas starts to pay off. You can see exactly where the hobbits travel and see where they're going wrong.

I love how the characters speak like real people, without pandering to a camera or giving out exposition or comic lines all the time. They bicker amongst themselves in a real way, and talk about their adventure as we would. "We might. We might succeed in roasting Pippin alive inside."

This part of the book strongly reminds me of The Hobbit, with it's series of unrelated whimsical adventures. Lots of fun. - Celedor



Book 1, Chapter 7: In the House of Tom Bombadil

This is so much like reading The Hobbit: good guys and bad guys that are not united... the ring being more a fun toy than a symbol of doom, an enemy leading to a friend... even a silly poem at the end to summon Tom should danger arrive. It's great fun reading these parts since the rest of the road - and the movies - are so different.

Book 1, Chapter 8: Fog on the Barrow Downs

I didn't really care for this chapter this time around, though I don't think it's ever done too much for me anyway. Finding the road again was always the part I liked. The description of Frodo in the barrow is creepy and fun, though.

Book 1, Chapter 9: At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

"a dark figure climbed quickly in over the gate and melted into the shadows"

I love that little detail, because even people rereading the book are likely to think, "Oh, a black rider," though it's proven later that it's not.

Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth once again proves valuable, with lots of geographical exposition at the beginning of this chapter making more sense with her maps. But beyond that, it's a great help with the Prancing Pony itself. When I read and look at her floorplans, I feel like I'm really looking at the actual site - of which the movie was based off of - and I say to myself, "Wow, Frodo was standing right there!" and get excited, because I know exactly how big the room he was in was, where the fireplace was, what the moulding looked like, etc. It makes it more real to me.

I've always enjoyed this chapter, but this reading I really got into Frodo's song, which I'll admit I never got into before. I like how Tolkien wrote it as the setup to the nursery rhyme.

I also liked how the tension is built up at the end of the chapter, with two meetings set up for Frodo.

Book 1, Chapter 10: Strider

Funny note: Exactly six years ago yesterday (as of this writing), the Aragorn commercial for FOTR began airing. My recap:

"The Ring of Power," Gandalf says over shots of Frodo and the Ring," "It has been found."

"What must I do?" asks Frodo, praying someone will say, "Stay home and eat seed-cakes."

"The Ring must be destroyed," says Elrond, dashing his hopes.

"If by my life or death I can protect you," says Aragorn as images of him are shown, "I will."

"How do we know him as a friend?" asks Merry. Stock action music starts up.

"His Name Is ARAGORN," a card says.

"He is Aragorn," Legolas tells those of us who have gone blind, "heir to the throne of men."

"You have my sword," says Aragorn, not saying whether he wants it back or not.

"HIS STRENGTH WILL PROTECT THEM," a card assures us.

"Are you frightened?" asks the ranger.

"Yes," Frodo squeaks.

"Not nearly frightened enough," says the heir to the throne of men, "I know what hunts you."

And we see Aragorn and the nazgul in action as Frodo shouts, "Aragorn!"

A voiceover ends it with "The Lord of the Rings, rated PG-13, starts December 19."

To the chapter: I love the details, particularly the story details in the book that make the narrative so rich; like Sam wanting to stay with local hobbits and wondering how he'll battle the evils of Middle-earth when a big three story building scares him. Also, I like how Tolkien explains that the hobbits stay in the parlour room for the night. For some reason, that point never stuck with me before. I knew Frodo and company didn't stay in their own room, but if you would have asked me before this reading what room they did stay in, I wouldn't have been able to name it. But more importantly, as details go, Gandalf's letter is (and always has been) a favorite part of "Book 1" for me, and it's great to see it back in the story after not being in the film (or films, as Bakshi didn't do it either.) Personally, I'm inclined to believe the letter was a strong reason why Frodo trusted Aragorn - certainly it helps the reader trust Aragorn.

This is a fun chapter! Gandalf's back in the story - via his letter, Merry is having adventures, Aragorn has much to say, and Butterbur comes forth with some backstory, and it all converges in that one room, where everyone brings their information to Frodo.

Merry gives us more rich details left out of the film: the black riders are in league with some of the men of Bree. The hobbits ask Aragorn if the Black Riders will attack the inn and he replies, "No, I think not. They are not all here yet. And in any case that is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not openly attack a house where there are lights and many people... But their power is in terror, and already some in Bree are in their clutch. They will drive these wretches to some evil work."

I also love the little plot point, "they are not all here yet," which becomes a key thing coming up - indeed, key at the beginning of the next chapter, but also beyond.

Hmm... now I'm thinking of pulling out Unfinished Tales and reading "The Hunt for the Ring" to get the other half of the Ringwraith story. - Celedor



Book 1, Chapter 11: A Knife in the Dark

Once again, I love rediscovering the details of the story; like why the Nazgul were split up and the fact that the Nazgul attack doesn't take place on top of Weathertop, but rather in a dell. I had forgotten that, and I think I like these details because I think of the book as a real adventure that happened and the movies (Bakshi's and Jackson's) as "based off the true story". It's fun to actually be there and see what really happened.

Speaking of Bakshi's movie, I can't help but notice he stayed much closer to the text in this early part of the story than Jackson did; that's not a knock against Jackson - who I think did a lot of work intentionally to restructure the story and give it a different tone to more better adapt the story to film and set up the later films - I'm just strongly reminded of Bakshi when reading these chapters. I notice that Strider, particularly, is much different than Viggo's portrayal of him. He's always laughing, and he's constantly sharing old tales and legends with the hobbits, being sort of like a school teacher in a lot of ways. It's great fun to listen to him talk about the history of Middle-earth. (And unlike Viggo, the guy is constantly talking!)

Anyway, the knife in the dark: an exciting moment. It's one of those key moments I remember vividly from when I first read the books. Today I appreciate how well the chapter was written and how well the attack was handled by J.R.R.

I especially love that, unlike the Jackson movies (again, no disrespect, because movies are different) the Black Riders aren't seen clearly for the most part. In the previous chapters they're felt more than seen, and mostly they're either seen in the distance as vague shapes or, better yet, not seen in the distance, though everyone expects to see them. Tolkien understands horror. In this chapter, the hobbits see vague shapes closing in on them, like deeper darkness in the general darkness. And then when Frodo puts on the Ring (which Jackson did do similar to the book), it's really frightening to see the clearly. Tolkien did such a fabulous job with the Nine.

Book 1, Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford

I commented before how Bakshi's Lord of the Rings seems a more accurate portrayal as to what "really" happened in the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. It is especially true with this chapter - Glorfindel aside. Bakshi probably handled this chapter better than he adapted any other chapter. And it's been a while since I've watched his movie, too; but this chapter so strongly reminds me of his film, with even subtle movements by Frodo at the Ford matching.

The book, of course, has more details than any movie could and continues to have gems that will probably be untouched by any adaptation, be it radio, film, or tv: such as Sam's song about the Trolls. Love it. It seems Tolkien was a fan of the song "The Fox Went Out":

The fox went out on a chilly night,
He prayed for the moon to give him light,
For he'd many a mile to go that night,
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,

Sam's song:

"Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by. Done by, Gum by!


Book 2:  Chapters 1-2

Book 2, Chapter 1: Many Meetings
Also known as Chapter 13

I always have loved this chapter, because Gandalf appears and answers all the questions raised in the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf is like Spock is to Star Trek, Doc Brown is to Back to the Future, and Hermione and Dumbledore are to Harry Potter: he's a guy that can quickly and painlessly explain what's going on without the reader second guessing him; a real asset to the writer. He even explains the closing of the previous chapter, which happens very differently than the movie, I see.

"Earendil Was Mariner" is my favorite poem or song in all the books. I also love Tolkien paints it like a dream Frodo is having.

Love the introductions of Elrond and Arwen. I've got a soft spot for The Hobbit, so Elrond - and Gloin and Bilbo- bring back great memories. It's especially fun listening to Gloin and Bilbo talk and find out some extension to the material covered in The Hobbit. As for Bombur being so fat it takes however many dwarves to carry him, I'm not quite sure whether this is supposed to be comical or sad.

I also love reading from Frodo's point of view for much of Fellowship of the Ring, and I'm reminding myself to enjoy it now, because in the next two books the narrative shifts more to the other hobbits' point of views, as Tolkien tries to make Frodo a more distant character.

Anyway, time to wear something nice! I'm about to attend the Council of Elrond. What a chapter that is.

Book 2, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond

I must admit that in my prior readings I found this chapter to be a chore because of its length. It's not that I disliked it; I just found parts of it very long winded. This time, however, I was really into every word. The Elves, Dwarves, Men, Gollum: we learn what all of them are up to, setting up the rest of the story. Moria, Isengard, Rohan, and Gondor are all fleshed out too, laying the foundation for the second half of this book, as well as TTT and ROTK. I can see why reading this chapter the first time can come across as needlessly expositional, with the reader not paying too much attention to these places. "We're going to Mount Doom, not Moria, right?" But it's one of those chapters that's fascinating upon rereading the tale (or reading this after seeing the film.)

There's a little more talk of "Providence" in this chapter - "Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands," Elrond says. "You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that that is is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world." When I first read the book, these hints were too difficult for me to grasp, so I sort of ignored them and moved on. As I get older, I find these statements more fascinating.

I love Gandalf's line, "the power of Sauron is still less than fear makes it."
It was brave of Tolkien to stick this in, because it was important to make the reader believe Sauron's great power, but Tolkien still puts it in as a reminder that fear makes enemies bigger than they really are: which adds to the reality of the book, because we all know that's true. (Tolkien makes the books seem very real by sprinkling stuff like this in throughout. That's why I wanted to cite an example. Had he been a "professional" author, rather than an author by hobby, he probably would have been under pressure to do things more "properly", which would have led to books than might be more slick, seem more "made for tv" or have had more dramatic tension - but they would also feel less realistic.)

The above was my fumbling way of trying to get across a point. I wish I could articulate it better, but hopefully it made some kind of sense. :)

I guess this chapter only leaves one question: Why was Spock not invited to the Council? Elrond mentions that Bilbo has not had time to put his adventures "into verse", but Spock has! Actually, I wish I could insert myself into the Council, seek permission to tell Bilbo's tale at the appropriate time, and perform "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" just to get everyone's reaction. Of course, Elrond would have pointed at me and then to the door... but hey, it would have been fun. Especially if I had my bassoon with me. And maybe a few of you as backup singers.


Book 2, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South

Once again, Thank you Mrs. Fonstad for your wonderful Middle-earth Atlas. May you rest in peace. I was never really able to grasp the journey and distance the Fellowship had in this chapter before, but with Fonstad's Atlas, Pp 164, you see the exact path - much of the early portion not covered in the book. And that makes Sam's line about "I'm beginning to think it's time we see that fiery mountain" make more sense.

Notice we get less from Frodo's POV here and more from Sam's POV. When Tolkien was writing this, I think he was beginning to like Sam more and more in FOTR.

Changes, changes... Peter changed much to adapt the book to film, and here are some I was reminded of this reading:

Boromir's a jerk in the books. Maybe jerk isn't right. He's the "football star", the big man on campus in Gondor. He's closed minded, used to getting his way, getting all the girls, and thinks he's all that. I joked in another post that if the TV show Lost was turned into LOTR, Sawyer would be Boromir. The son of Gondor in the book leans that way. The Fellowship is going to start the journey in secret, so Boromir takes out his horn and blows a note that echos throughout the mountains. Elrond tells him "slow you should be to wind that horn again," and Boromir talks back to him. He's just not the kindly troubled man from the film.

Aragorn gets his sword fixed in this chapter. Also, unlike the film, Aragorn wants to journey over the mountains and Gandalf wants to go to Moria.

I especially like how, unlike the film again, the book allows all the characters to have some development early in the journey. We hear from all of them; they tell us what they think of the travels so far, where they would like to go, and what they think will happen. And knowing that they'll all split up before too long, I'm relishing this part of the journey, and the various interactions between them. Unfortunately, a film doesn't have time to really do much of this.

One last change is that the filmmakers wanted Caradhras to be controlled by Saruman, which makes sense for the movie, since you want to keep your antagonists involved. In the book, of course, it's teased that Sauron is behind the snow, but everyone more or less comes to the conclusion that the mountain itself is evil and trying to drive them off. This is similar to the idea of the "evil forest" and "evil mounds" from before. I really like it, because I've done a lot of hiking through forests, mountains, and other areas, and it's easy to believe that you're in a spiritual entity that has great power over you; and you're hoping it lets you pass.

It's very similar to parts of "The Hobbit". Hmm... someone should make some movies out of those books.

Book 2, Chapter 4 :  A Journey in the Dark

I remember reading this chapter in college and going out for a walk to clear my mind afterwards. As I walked down a street for the first time, I saw, engraved the sidewalk, a copy of the first illustration in this chapter. Being that this was in the 90's, and Lord of the Rings wasn't all that popular at the time, to say I was beyond surprised. Indeed, I'll confide that I said, "mellon" and half expected the doors to open.

Another interesting tidbit: before the films came out, I wrote a piece about the lead characters in the three movies for I mentioned that it was Merry who solved the riddle at the Gate - which I admit is an exageration. The interesting thing is that I know some of the actors read the piece, and on the Actor Commentary Dom repeats that it's Merry who solved the riddle. Perhaps my article at had nothing to do with this, but I can't help but wonder if it did.

Anyway, on to the chapter.

It's very different from both Jackson's film and Bakshi's film, full of rich detail and great character exposition. It's fun to have all the main characters together and to hear the bickering of the big folk (I love Boromir's inpatience and needling of Gandalf: "But do not you know the words, Gandalf?" Boromir asks. "No!" replies the wizard. "Then what was the use of bringing us to this accursed spot? You told us that you had once passed thorugh the Mines. How could that be, if you did not know how to enter?") as well as the thoughts of the little folk, as they talk about the adventure. ("My heart's right down in my toes, Mr. Pippin," said Sam. "But we aren't etten yet, and there are some stout folk here with us. Whatever may be in store for old Gandalf, I'll wager it isn't a wolf's belly.") And I had completely forgotten about the attack by the wolves. It reminded me of The Hobbit.

While reading, I was greatly aided in reading the chapter by having Fonstad's Atlas (as always) and Tolkien's illustration of the Moria Gate. Tolkien is the only one that ever gave the area such majestic cliffs, matching the description in the book.

Tolkien, as previously touched upon, also included two illustrations here. And boy did that come out of nowhere! I admit after hundreds of pages of text, it's still a bit surprising to suddenly see two drawings.

I had also forgotten how long (and how well written) this chapter is. It seems like three chapters in one. The wolves, the Gate, Moria, Gimli's Khazad Dum chant, and Balin's tomb.... it's a lot of stuff. I especially love the shafts of light in Moria.

Anyway, I could linger and talk about a lot of things I like, but, like Gimli, I must move on.

Book 2, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm

What a chapter!

It's one of those they just can't capture realistically on film. I think it's because there are such magical elements to it, it doesn't feel as real at the theater as it feels to actually be there - as indeed I feel like after reading Tolkien's brilliant writing and using Fonstad's invaluable maps.

I hope those fumbling words made some sense.

This is like a Dungeons and Dragons adventure gone wrong. We're in a dungeon with bad guys all over, we have Gandalf trying to do a door shutting spell, and an evil "boss" creature appearing - and we're trying to escape with a treasure intact.

It's funny how Tolkien remarked in the last chapter that Moria was so much more frightening a place than the worst imaginings of the hobbits... because quite frankly he hadn't painted that scary of a picture. I found the Old Forest much more frightening. But here in this chapter, he's a master scary story teller; who doesn't get chills when Gandalf reads the record of the colony? And then you find out about their bad end, and suddenly you realize the Fellowship is caught in the same trap?

I only regret that I can't read the chapter again for the first time, as Gandalf taking out the bridge and then falling into the abyss, both shocked the heck out of me the first time around - and made me realize there was no turning back: this was a dark tale that was only going to get darker. It was not "The Hobbit II".

MithrandirCQ inquires:

I am curious to know about how my fellow Ringers felt about this climactic confrontation between Gandalf and the Balrog. I had the same feelings when I read it the first time. However, when discussing it with people who had their first reads of this chapter, the feeling was "OK, but the character is too important so he'll be back somehow". I was wondering if this true for you and others well. For me, the first time I read it I had no inkling that Gandalf would come back. Perhaps being drawn into the story too deeply I could not relate to the "big picture" of the plot story.

I had no clue he'd be back. Of course, I was only ten when I first read the books, so I had not become the jaded, cynical soul I am now. Like you, I was into the moment and not looking at the big picture.

Rohirrim Eored: 
  I read The Hobbit for 7th or 8th grade English and really enjoyed it. I didn't read LOTR until after the Fellowship of the Ring came out. I freaked when Gandalf "died." I was really upset. My husband thought I was nuts when I yelled out, "No! Gandalf can't die!" Then I burst out in tears. (thank goodness we had rented the movie, lol) I took the movie back to the video store and told the lady at the counter that I couldn't believe Gandalf was dead. She smiled at me and said, "Don't worry, he comes back. Read the book." Of course, I did and it still made me sad reading that part (among others) but I kept at it and was overjoyed to "see" him return.


FOTR Book 2 Chapter 6: Lothlorien

Well, here in southeastern Wisconsin we've had quite the whacky weather this week. First, we had temperatures in the 60's, then we had tornados destroy a couple towns (skirting the edge of mine), then thunderstorms, and now we're getting a snow. It's Wisconsin, where if you don't like the weather you just wait and it'll change.

Despite this, I read this chapter outside, something I like to do with Tolkien. When the chapter takes place by a river, I like to find a river and read there. When it takes place in a forest, I find one of those. This chapter had both, but I was unable to travel to either. However, the weather cooperated, giving me a winter's day with a hint of spring, just like the Fellowship had as they entered Lothlorien. It made the reading more realistic. I like to smell the air and hear the wind.

This is a transitional chapter. We don't get the heavy drama of the the Bridge of Khazad-dum, nor do we get even meet the Lady or enter the main city yet. We're traveling. We're grieving. We're meeting.

I have to admit that my memories of this chapter differ slightly from the real deal. I always thought Boromir had great objections into entering Lothlorien, but in the actual text he's almost content to let Gimli object for him. He does have one line saying he wishes not to enter, but apart from that Boromir's hardly in the chapter!

If he has any objections to sleeping in flets, crossing rivers by way of ropes, being blindfolded, being led be Elves, or visiting Elvish mounds, it hasn't been recorded here. It's easy to forget he's part of the Fellowship.

Other things that caught my interest this reading:

There are lots of Gollum hints.

Sam's line before going to sleep is really funny.

Legolas' song is great but seems to have pieces missing.

"[Aragorn] left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as a living man" is a line very similar to the bit about Bilbo putting on the Ring and never being seen by a hobbit in Hobbiton again. I love lines like these.

Book Haldir strikes me as similar to movie Haldir.

I like Tolkien's poetic descriptions of Lothlorien and the descriptions of how Frodo and Sam feel there.

The Fellowship traveled a long way in this chapter, according to my atlas. And indeed, a careful reading shows they covered a lot of ground.

I think I like these transitional chapters more upon rereadings. They don't stick in the memory as much as the big stuff, so I notice details in them I had forgotten. It's also fun to set aside weighty issues for a time and just enjoy site-seeing in Middle-earth.

Book 2, Chapter 7 - The Mirror of Galadriel

I'll mention again: I don't browse passages in The Lord of the Rings, because I don't want to make reading it cover to cover to be less enjoyable. Like Frodo and Sam, I either take the whole journey, or like Fatty Bolger I don't go at all. No shortcuts!

Because there have been times I've been interupted in my readings, I have had some false starts where I haven't been able to finish the book. And thus each chapter I read is more enjoyable for me, because I've read it less times than the previous one.

If there was a chapter I'd love to browse or reread, it would be this one. It's one of my favorites - probably the favorite of FOTR. And no film has come close to doing it justice. The book does an especially nice job of explaining what "the test" is, whereas Bakshi's and Jackson's films reference it, but it's like looking at a piece of a jigsaw puzzle without being able to see the picture on the box.

Tolkien really loves to show us bits of the story from the past, present, and future, doesn't he? He uses dreams, the Mirror of Galadriel, and the Palantirs to do this. Peter Jackson was wise to make all of these a part of the films. It certainly empowers Sauron, whom we encounter here for the first time.

Anyway, my favorite part of this chapter is the dialague, which is very rich. Tolkien was such a great writer.

was always intrigued by the fact that Galadriel, in testing the Fellowship's resolve is tested herself by the "smallest of creatures". I was not aware of the true effects of the ring on Frodo until I read this chapter and the dialogue he has with Galadriel. He sees farther than most already when tempered with what he must bear. Sam sees a star but Frodo sees Nenya, the Ring of Adamant. I remember having a hard time with Galadriel. Like Arwen, she seemed ethereal and other-worldly. It has always been a longstanding criticism on Tollers and his development of the female characters (or the lack) in his stories. "He makes his women no matter what their rank the most commonplace of stereotypes". I felt in the case of Arwen and Galadriel that this was true.


Book 2, Chapter 8 - Farewell to Lórien

When I began this chapter, I was thinking, "Oh, I remember this as a transitional chapter... one of those filler chapters designed to take you from one good spot to another one, but not as good itself." What I had forgotten is that while it is a transitional chapter, it's one of the better ones. I loved it!

The chapter is mostly about delaying the company's decision as to where to go next, and I would like to comment on that. When I first read the books, I didn't see it as a decision: the quest was to go to Mount Doom, so I figured that's where they should go. When I reread the books later, I knew where everyone was going, so I didn't think about the decision either. This time (and maybe recent readings too) I've begun to understand the decision and its difficulty more. Indeed, I can now see a bit of logic in going to Minas Tirith. Afterall, Frodo didn't just take to Ring into the wild and head towards Mordor; he went to Bree, then Rivendell, then Moria, then Lothlorien. Those are strongholds of Men, Elves, and Dwarves, and with the exception of Moria, Frodo was offered aid in each place. Minas Tirith would seem to be another good stop along the way... at least, you can see why some members of the Fellowship would think so. Especially since they could stay on the western shore of the Anduin. (And if Osgilliath is retaken by men, it seems like a perfect plan.) It would solve Aragorn's dilemma nicely, too.

Of course, there are reasons not to go to Minas Tirith, but I've always understood those reasons. It's nice to finally understand the other point of view.

Along the same lines, I want to mention that I think Tolkien was very clever with his geography - specifically the Anduin River - in forcing the Fellowship to make a decision as soon as possible (as Celeborn lays out) and having that decision be so clear and visible: west side of the river, the safe side, or east side of the river, the dangerous but neccesary side.

Speaking of Celeborn, I remembered him as somewhat an idiot, but that may have been influenced by Jackson's and Bakshi's films, where he doesn't come off too well. He's actually very Lordly, and Galadriel treats him so. There's no question he's the lord of the land. And I love his reproach of Boromir: "But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know."

Everytime I read LOTR, I notice something I didn't notice before. This time, I noticed the Fellowship were not just given cloaks, but they were given hoods with them. So that's where Aragorn's hood that gets shot came from!

"To that fair land Frodo never came again." There's another of those great lines that I love.

Book 2, Chapter 9: The Great River

As an avid outdoorsmen who has spent many years canoeing and portaging in the wild, this chapter is a delight for me. You can tell Tolkien did the same, because his writing is so realistic to someone who has actually done the things he’s talking about. The same is probably true for other passages, such as those about battle and war. Someone can study about these things in a text book all they want, but only the person who has experienced them can capture the spirit and emotion of those involved in a realistic way.

Funny exchange: Sam tells Frodo he saw a log with eyes. Frodo says, “The log’s all right, but leave out the eyes!”

When I reread LOTR the second time (I think), I was surprised Aragorn knew about Gollum following the company. I was thinking, “Frodo should tell Aragorn”, but I was rereading the book, and so I “knew” it wouldn’t happen... and then it does! Well this time I learned something even more. Whether I had forgotten it in previous readings, or I just didn’t pay enough attention, I don’t know. But I finally see that, before too long, the whole company knew Gollum was following. So anyway, that’s a new bit for me this time around.

I’ve been on many lakes, rivers, and streams, so I know what it’s like to battle them when they’re not friendly. Tolkien describes it really well. (There have been times I’ve been on such large lakes, and the shorelines stay so distant, I’ve wondered if I was on some sort of perpetual rowing machine.) I do have to admit I’ve never had Orcs shooting at me while I’ve paddled. Frightening. Oh, by the way, it seems the Elves have discovered kevlar canoes.

Gimli and Boromir have some fun needling each other here. Love it.

I’m almost convinced Legolas does not have golden hair after reading this chapter. Famously, there’s the quote: “Frodo looked up at the Elf standing tall above him, as he gazed into the night, seeking a mark to shoot at. His head was dark, crowned with sharp white stars that glittered in the black pools of the sky behind.”

Some people say that his head is dark here because it’s night, and I used to somewhat buy that. But reading the chapter this time around, I noticed how clear Tolkien was that the night was not that dark: “The stars were strangely bright.” and later: “in the star glimmer they must have offered their cunning foes some mark.” He paints the scene like everything had a shimmer, so I would have to believe a blonde Legolas would not have a
dark head.

You know, I must have watched too many LOTR movies, because I had forgotten the appearance of the Argonath wasn’t majestic... but rather scary. Still, it’s great to see them. It’s like visiting the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. Maybe someone should write a Middle-earth fanfic inspired by National Treasure and the Da Vinci Code, where someone has left clues in the famous Middle-earth landmarks, and Fatty Bolger goes in
search of them.

One last thought: while I don't recommend the first time reader do this, this reading I am looking at exactly where each member of the Fellowship is every page I read. Thanks to Fonstad's Atlas, it's like each Fellowship member has a GPS on their backs, and I can tell right where they are. It's really interesting to see how close Gandalf is in this chapter! It's also fun to see Tolkien hinting as this through the eagle.


Book 2, Chapter 10: The Breaking of the Fellowship

I'm reading the traditional three volume LOTR set at the moment, just like I was the first time I read the books. I'll never forget my shock when I was finishing FOTR then... I thought it was an independent book, and in this chapter it seems like things are drawing to a close. Then BAM! The Fellowship breaks. I didn't see that coming.

The conversations (before and after Frodo asks for his time alone) are fascinating upon rereading LOTR, because we see several different alternative futures for the Fellowship: like Aragorn, Gimli, Frodo, and Sam breaking off to destroy the Ring, and Boromir's idea of world conquest.

And then the reality that happens is a shocking twist that propels LOTR to the next level - setting up my favorite part, the first half of TTT, "Book 3".

Finally, I'll say I love the closing lines of the book, a touching conversation between Sam and Frodo.


Before we embark into The Two Towers, I would like to have a head count as to how many are yet in our Company Of Readers.

Join US
Read with US

What say YOU?

As Elrond said, no bond is upon any one. Go as far with us as you may.

Read and or write as you will.

I am thankful for each of the Company and hope everyone is enjoying Professor Tolkiens lay of this wonderous tale.

May the blessings of Elves, Men, and all Free folk be with you.

- Onomir

As Sam would say, I'm coming with! But that should surprise no one. - Celedor



Book 3, Chapter 1: The Departure of Boromir

Short chapter, but very good.

I like that we get a chapter from Aragorn's point of view. Lines like, "Hobbits go light, and their footprints are not easy even for a Ranger to read, but not far from the top a spring crossed the path, and in the wet earth he saw what he was seeking," give us great insight into how he views the adventure. Actually, I'd like it if Tolkien would dig himself up from the grave and rewrite LOTR from the perspective of the other characters. He could do the whole story again, but this time each chapter would be from a different character's viewpoint.

Speaking of which, have you ever wondered how LOTR was written? I don't mean the real way it was written, but the ficticious way. I always imagined Frodo talking to Merry, Pippin, and Sam, and then getting some additions from Aragorn and Gimli, and maybe a few others. Even Gandalf gets some thoughts into the narrative, so he must have given an interview too. I'm not quite sure how the questioning fox got into the story: “'Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings in this land but never of a hobbit sleeping out of doors under a tree. Three of them! There’s something mighty queer about this!' And he was quite right – but he never found out any more about it." Since the hobbits didn't see him, and he never found out about the adventure, it doesn't fit into my theory. But I don't really lose sleep over that.

You know, I sometimes used to wonder how the heck the Orcs got such a lead on Aragorn and company. Now I understand better, seeing all Aragorn had to do before he could even start the chase. Still, I keep trying to tell him, "hurry up, hurry up, or you'll never catch those Orcs!"

It is fun to see Aragorn work out the riddles and figure out which hobbits were captured, and what happened with the remaining hobbits.

I also love how the geography again plays such a role in the story.

Finally, Boromir's redemption here is touching, as is the poem about him not returning to Minas Tirith.

I always find the TTT chapter one The Departure Of Boromir, to a critical hinge in the tale. Not only that it brings separation for the Company but it places Aragorn on the path to Minas Tirith for good. Also the brave Hobbits find themsleves taking stock and rising to the challange that each must face Together But Alone.

Book 3, Chapter 2: The Riders of Rohan

I remember how boring I found this chapter the first time I read it. My heart was with Frodo and Sam, it seemed like Merry and Pippin were having some interesting stuff happen to them, and here I was stuck with the three characters to whom nothing was happening to. Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas chase after Merry and Pippin and get clues along the way as to what happened to them; well my reaction is, "wouldn't this be much more exciting to get from Merry and Pippin's viewpoint?"

Now I know better: this is a "mystery" chapter, where we are given riddles and we must try to figure them out - with some help from Aragorn. Also, I now have Karen Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth, and the chapter makes so much more sense with it - at least to me. (It's fun, at any rate, to know exactly where Merry and Pippin are as the three hunters chase them.)

This chapter is the beginning of the Gimli/Eomer Galadriel debate that I love.

I also love the following exchange:

"The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?"

"As he ever has judged," said Aragorn. "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves : and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house."

Those lines are so Tolkien, because he put such an effort into making his Middle-earth familiar and believable before introducing us to its magic. He knew the magic would than seem so much more magical. And he reminds us that good and ill are still good and ill in Middle-earth.

Another interesting line: "I mark them," said Aragorn. "But I marked also that this old man had a hat not a hood."

This line is great, because it shows how well Aragorn pays attention to detail. But I've always found it odd that Saruman was described by Eomer as hooded and cloaked, and then he's wearing a hat here - which is then commented on by Aragorn. Does anyone know why Tolkien did this? Did he want first time readers to wonder if it was Gandalf at first?

Anyway, this is the first appearance of Saruman in the Lord of the Rings, and I thought it was very well written.


Chapter Three;

See the Orcs Run
Run Run Run 

- Onomir

Book 3, Chapter 3: The Uruk-Hai

At last: a Pippin chapter! It's a very well written chapter that greatly educates us as to the character of the two hobbits and the Uruk-Hai.

I especially love the bit about how the hobbits exit the circle made by the Riders of Rohan without the Riders being aware. And it's fun to get the answers to the other riddles set up in the last chapter.

The fight between Eomer and Ugluk is fun, because we now know both characters so well.

All that said, this is a very dark chapter too, and I have to say it's not the most enjoyable for me. It's the darkest time for Merry and Pippin, in my opinion, because they're captives, cut off from all their friends in a country they don't know. It's a scary situation, and running into Fangorn, lost and hungry doesn't seem much of an improvement.

Book 3, Chapter 4: Treebeard

This chapter went smoother for me this reading than previous readings, where I remember it as taking ten years or so to complete. (I exaggerate, but it is a very long chapter with many plot points.)

I particular, the time with Quickbeam is much shorter than I remembered.. they only spend a couple pages or so with him.

It's interesting to hear Merry's describe Isengard. It's even more interesting to hear Treebeard talk about Saruman and Gandalf.

Throw in some good poetry, a bit of dramatic tension regarding the Ents' decision, and the ongoing tour of Middle-earth, and you've got a good chapter.

I am a bit sad that Merry and Pippin's time on their own is now over. I always enjoy it so much, and this time it went by so quickly.

Book 3, Chapter 5: The White Rider

Dominic Monaghan said in an interview that he thinks Gandalf is a great character, because the books always seem more alive when he's there.

He's right. And this chapter is like a kick in the pants: Gandalf is back, and along with him, excitement. Not that the first few chapters of TTT are bad, but they do lack that "umph" that Gandalf can give. In fact, I read an article in the local paper about writing for tv shows, and they interviewed people who had written episodes for various tv series. The writers all began talking about the importance of the "answer men" character, a role Spock had in Star Trek; the guy who always can explain everything and give it credibility. Gandalf is the "answer man" in LOTR, and Tolkien's writing is better when he's around. This chapter was very well written - the best in TTT so far. - Celedor

Onomir:  For me this chapter becomes a slingshot and propels the story for all involved.
I read it some weeks ago and now can re-re-read it again and on to some others...I can never just read One chapter....The Hunger! 


 *Cue Rohan music*

Book 3, Chapter 6: The King of the Golden Hall

This is one part of the story that, in my opinion, the films greatly improved. Whereas Tolkien just sort of suddenly gives us Rohan and Saruman, Jackson spent the whole first film setting up Saruman and spent the first part of the second film setting up Rohan. In the films, we see Saruman changing Isengard, building an army, and sending them to kill the Fellowship and capture the hobbits. We see Eomer become an outcast, Wormtongue taking over, and Theodred's death. All this happens offstage in the book.

I also don't like, in the book, the ease at which Gandalf gets Theoden from Wormtongue's side to his. Theoden has been listening to and believing Wormtongue for quite some time, and Gandalf simply asks Theoden to step outside and see that there's some daylight. Theoden then says, "It's not so dark" and puts his trust in Gandalf. I prefer the film's method where Gandalf literally frees Theoden from Saruman's possession.

That said, there's a lot of good in this chapter too. The opening description of the Edoras is well written; and if you have the Alan Lee illustrated version of the book, you can see everything in the description while you read about it.

I also love the war of words between Gandalf and Wormtongue. Grima calls out Gandalf when the wizard says he comes with aid:

"What aid have you ever brought, Stormcrow? And what aid do you bring now? It was aid from us that you sought last time that you were here. Then my lord bade you Choose any horse that you would and be gone; and to the wonder of all you took Shadowfax in your insolence. My lord was sorely grieved; yet to some it seemed that to speed you from the land the price was not too great. I guess that it is likely to turn out the same once more: you will seek aid rather than render it. Do you bring men? Do you bring horses, swords, spears? That I would call aid; that is our present need. But who are these that follow at your tail? Three ragged wanderers in grey, and you yourself the most beggar-like of the four!"

And just when it looks like Wormtongue has a point, Gandalf turns to Theoden (and in my vision, raises and eyebrow) and says:

"The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late."

And he points out: "Has not the messenger from your gate reported the names of my companions? Seldom has any lord of Rohan received three such guests. Weapons they have laid at your doors that are worth many a mortal man, even the mightiest."

I love this sort of verbal volley.

Anyway, on to the physical volley!

Book 3, Chapter 7: Helm's Deep

Just for the record, this is my first reading of the books in five years.

This is a very fun chapter to read in the shadow of the films, because it's so different than how it was portrayed on the big screen. I'd forgotten many of the details, most notable that the "Riders of Rohan" aren't riding behind Gandalf at the close; they're on foot! Also, the layout of Helm's Deep is somewhat different than the film's version, which makes the cave stuff more dramatic. The caves are quite far back and not connected to the fortress. Also, I noticed the gorge is called Helm's Deep and the fortress is called the Hornburg, though I kind of recalled that. The films can be forgiven for simplifying it for the masses.

On that subject, as with the other chapters, I'm using Fonstad's Atlas a reference. She has a special "Helm's Deep" battle map, which I don't believe I've used before.

Tolkien was very good at writing battle scenes, because he figured out what it took the filmmakers a while to learn: stick with the lead characters and let the audience see the battle through their eyes.

Anyway, good stuff all around here.

DrSpin98:  How interesting it is to read so many learned readers' takes on the books. One I do feel compelled to disagree with though is the statement of how well Tolkien pens a battle scene. I think to me those scenes are some of the most poorly written and frustrating parts of the books.
Just goes to show how different people can have different takes after seeing/hearing/reading things. One of the many cool things about art.

Well, you know the funny thing is I disagree with myself sometimes, too. Upon one reading, I'll really like one chapter, but another reading I won't like it so much. As far as the battle scenes, they frustrated me a lot the first few times I read them, but now I love them.


The Road to Bali?

The Road To Singapore?


The Road To Isengard!

Happy Trails!  - Onomir

Book 3, Chapter 8: The Road to Isengard

This is a very odd place in the book, because there's just been this great release of tension, and now there are quite a "inbetween" chapters before we get to Frodo and Sam.

This chapter, specifically, is one of those transition chapters, taking our heroes on the road to get them to the next point in the story. Tolkien tries to make it interesting by having Gimli talk about the glittering caves, and that works.

But, that said, this isn't the most interesting chapter to reread, because the mystery is "what's happening in Isengard," with Gandalf not wanting to say; and that's much more interesting to read the first time around when you don't know yourself. I will say, it's funny to see how Gandalf acts in this chapter; after being anxious the previous chapters and deeply worried about the west you can tell he's not concerned about Rohan or Saruman much anymore. He wants to turn his attention eastward. And he's not about to provide explanations... which is convenient for Tolkien, who wishes to keep things mysterious.

"If you would learn that, you should come with me to Isengard ' answered Gandalf.

"To Isengard?" they cried.

"Yes," said Gandalf. "I shall return to Isengard, and those who will may come with me. There we may see strange things."

"But there are not men enough in the Mark, not if they were all gathered together and healed of wounds and weariness, to assault the stronghold of Saruman," said Théoden.

"Nevertheless to Isengard I go," said Gandalf. "I shall not stay there long. My way lies now eastward."

On a final note, this chapter has bits from The Two Towers film at the beginning, and bits from The Return of the King film at the end!

Book 3, Chapter 9: Flotsam and Jetsam

The great have gone off to discuss important matters, and happily we get a fun little break here where the Fellowship reunites and fill each other in on what has happened.

Later on, in Return of the King, when Frodo and Sam reunite with the rest of the Fellowship, Tolkien tells us how they gathered in a room and talked about all that happened to them, but we don't get any of the conversation. Tolkien just says something like, "And they talked long into the night." It drives me mad, because I want to hear all they have to say! I also wanted a Faramir/Frodo reunion which never happens. Fortunately, in this chapter, we get most of the conversation between Merry and Pippin and the three hunters - and Tolkien keeps it interesting by adding to the story and telling us exactly what led to Merry and Pippin being where we found them, and why Treebeard was on the north side.

I also like this chapter because it's very "unmovie-ish". You'd never see it in a film adaptation; it's a very book kind of thing.

 Book 3, Chapter 10: The Voice of Saruman

I've always enjoyed this chapter. Saruman's voice represents some of Tolkien's best writing. Firstly, Saruman is a great spinner of facts. He could be a Republican here in the U.S. (I know there are conservative people out there reading this who don't share my disdain of this political party, so I apologize if you're one.)

"Well?" Saruman said now with gentle question. "Why must you disturb my rest? Will you give me no peace at all by night or day?" Its tone was that of a kindly heart aggrieved by injuries undeserved.

And at the same time, Tolkien brilliantly describes magic. As a writer, he doesn't feel the need to use special effects, put on a light show, or make the magic flashy. His magic is more subtle. As a good writer, he uses words to paint the magic:

The voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. Fur some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spake to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler's trick while others gape at it.

Hey, one little detail I had forgotten: the door to Orthanc does not face the gate (in the south) it faces east. I love the descriptions of Orthanc; they make me feel like I'm actually there, standing next to Merry and Pippin.

Here's an odd thing; for some reason I had this memory of Pippin complaining about not being close enough to see Saruman and Gandalf do their exchange, but he was actually complaining about being so far from the gate, where he wanted to slip away to. It's fun to find out, after a dozen readings, something different.

Finally, it's a bit sad to see Merry and Pippin say goodbye to Treebeard. This chapter really makes it seem like a large chunk of the story is coming to a close. Really, it's the resolution to the breaking of the Fellowship... all the way back in the first book. And the interesting thing is back then when they were debating where to go: Mordor or Minas Tirith... the one place everyone agreed they had to avoid, hence the Mines of Moria, Lothlorien, etc... was Isengard! And that's where they all met again.

Book 3, Chapter 11: The Palantír

This could really be the first chapter of the Return of the King. It's the start of the next tale, and Tolkien is such a tease to put it here, just before taking us back in time and finally changing to Frodo and Sam.

You know, Fellowship of the Ring is a great book, though it's sort of a D&D quest, and Return of the King has some powerful moments. However, the first half of TTT to me is what turns the Lord of the Rings into something special; it does the dirty work that makes the tale more than a Dungeons and Dragons quest and sets up those great moments in ROTK giving it something to pay off. In my opinion, Book 3, while not the crowd pleaser, is the heart of these books, even if the Ring-bearer's quest is the heart of the tale. At the beginning, I always wish we could follow Frodo and Sam, as they seem to have the more interesting lot at the breaking of the Fellowship. By the end of this chapter I'm saying, "No, no, no! Let me stay with Gandalf! Or Aragorn! We can't stop this part of the story now!"

On one other note, after all that happened in the preceding chapters, it's a bit odd to have Merry and Pippin back with Aragorn and Gandalf (and Legolas and Gimli), just like old times. I mean, inbetween we had Gandalf die, the remainder of the Fellowship grieve, the Fellowship break, Boromir die, Merry and Pippin captured, all the Ent stuff, Helm's Deep, the Voice of Saruman... and now we're back to Gandalf having conversations with Merry and Pippin like he does in this chapter (which I quite enjoyed).

Also, it's fun to know that Sauron is mistaken at this point and will likely be confused when he sends a black rider to Saruman, whom he thinks has a prisoner.


Book 4, Chapter 1: The Taming of Sméagol

Reading this chapter is a major culture shock after reading the previous; after all that happened, it was difficult enough to think about Gandalf and Aragorn back journeying with Merry and Pippin; now I have all the momentum of the preceding chapters in my head, and I have to go back in time to a short time after the Fellowship broke up and begin a new story with Frodo and Sam that has to build its momentum from scratch. It's difficult to do!

Instead of Orcs, Wormtongue, or Saruman serving as the villain, the antagonist or challenge here is, at first, simply the geology! I tried to pay closer attention to it this time than in the past, and I found it really interesting. I think I have a better picture of it in my mind than before.

Meeting Gollum was great. I tried to put myself in a virgin frame of mind, where I hadn't met him before (with the exception of The Hobbit, which is really Bilbo's journal and not the most realistic of accounts) and where, like the hobbits, I thought that dealing with him would be a tricky puzzle, as killing him would be wrong, but having him ahead or behind isn't a good idea either. It felt like I was meeting him for the first time; that the film's Gollum was a movie star "playing him" but this was the real deal, and it was fascinating.

I also read with interest that Frodo initially calls him Gollum (to his face) but then switches to Smeagol. Then Gollum starts calling himself Smeagol. But Sam - and Tolkien - still call him Gollum. Meanwhile, Gollum begins to swear on the Precious by saying, "we" but switches to "Smeagol"... apparently leaving Gollum out! It's interesting little dance with the names.

Lastly, I notice that most of the chapter is from Frodo's point of view, more or less, but Sam's getting more and more thoughts into the narrative.

Book 4, Chapter 2: The Passage of the Marshes

I continue to find the geography and geology interesting, because for whatever reason, I wasn't getting it before and now it's clicking. I understand where Sam and Frodo were having trouble before meeting Gollum, and I understand how Gollum got them out of it.

It's interesting to speculate how Aragorn would have done as their guide rather than Gollum. Would Aragorn have gone taken northern lands and been killed by Orcs as Frodo and Sam were captured, such as Boromir and Merry and Pippin? Or would he have tried to find a way through the marshlands? At the Council of Elrond Aragorn talked about how he had traveled in all the lands near Mordor, and how he captured Gollum along the skirts of the Marshes; therefore, I have to believe he could have taken them along the same paths Gollum did. But at this point, Aragorn is riding from Fangorn to Edoras, so I guess it doesn't matter. What would the hobbits have done without Gollum? Certainly they would have taken the northern road to the gate, and they would have been captured.

The description of the barren lands before Mordor matches the descriptions of the battlefields from World War I.

"Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Nomen-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of the Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come. But here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rotteness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed ans powered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed by the reluctant light."

This chapter has the opposite POV of the last; it's mostly from Sam's perspective, with Tolkien giving us Frodo's viewpoint from time to time as an aside. Frodo is becoming a more distant character as a result; and the readers' inclination is to empathize more with Samwise from here on.

Anyway, onward I go.

To think that Frodo's long quest to reach Mordor is one page away.


Book 4, Chapter 3: The Black Gate is Closed

You know what's interesting about this chapter? Frodo, Sam, and Gollum basically spend the entire chapter in one place, and the contents of the chapter is what they say, see, and what Frodo is thinking. I don't know of any other chapter in the books, offhand, that's like this. Usually our protaganists are constantly on the move, trying to get some place, hide, or fight.

I've always loved it when Gollum takes them to the gate and says, "See, you can't go any further," and Sam responds, "Then why did you bring us here?" Gollum says, "You told me to!"

In the Return of the King director's commentary, Peter, Fran, and Philippa talk about how in the book, Frodo tells Gollum early on that the Ring must be destroyed, but I don't believe this is so. It's not true at the Black Gate where Sam says something like, "Good thing he doesn't know, or there would be trouble." Actually, I think we readers sometimes take the quest for granted and don't realize that it's actually a big secret that not even Sauron realizes until it's too late. Most don't know about the Ring, of course, and some who do don't know how it can be destroyed. So as readers we can't take for granted that the Ring is being taken to Mount Doom and everyone knows it, because only a very, very few do.

There's a connecting point in this chapter; Tolkien tells us that Gandalf is at the foot of Isengard talking to Saruman as Frodo looks over the Black Gate. This cross referencing is fun, because The Two Towers is like two separate books.

It's powerful to read about Frodo's musings of whether Gandalf has entered Mordor. He thinks not and realizes he, a little hobbit, must enter where the great dare not go. And then, unexpectedly (especially since I had forgotten) the chapter ends on a light note, with Sam bringing up the Oliphants, and Frodo says laughs and says,"I wish we had a thousand oliphants with Gandalf on a white one at their head. Then we'd break a way into this evil land, perhaps." And Frodo doesn't even know he's the White Rider now!


Book 4, Chapter 4: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Jackson has mentioned that he included this in the films because it was a particularly memorable chapter that even people who have not read the books in twenty years usually recall.

And speaking of recalling, I recall a dream I had last night where I was reading on ahead, ten, twelve chapters beyond this point, and I was worried because I hadn't yet posted here what I thought of the chapters. Tell me, am I too obsessed with this board when I dream about it?

A note on Faramir: I know there was some grumbling when The Two Towers film was released about his character being changed; I wonder what people would have thought had his character been eliminated? I must admit, when reading the books from the point of view of a scriptwriter trying to adapt it, Faramir is a character that is more easily tossed out than others. His part in Frodo's story is a detour while Frodo is journeying from the Black Gate to Cirith Ungol; his part in Gollum's motivation to betray Frodo isn't all that neccesary with Gollum being perceived as evil already, and his part in The Return of the King isn't all that important. With the Lord of the Rings already having too many characters and subplots for a film adaptation to begin with, you can see where someone else might have left him out. Instead, Jackson chose to expand his part and give him a character arc; he begins with his allegience on his father's side, and then he learns better and does the right thing. The films are probably richer for it; certainly the books would have suffered a great loss had he not been part of them. He's not only a great connecting point between books 4 & 5, he's also important for Eowyn's sake.

Back to matters at hand: while this is a memorable chapter for me as well, I enjoyed reading it, because I had forgotten many of the details.

I especially like how well Tolkien handles Gollum here. You can understand his dilemma in that he wants Gollum to be Frodo's guide before and after the Faramir stuff, but he doesn't want Gollum to be with Frodo and Sam during the Faramir stuff... so he has to find a way to write him out of the story. He does it well.

I enjoyed hearing Faramir's men talk among themselves and Frodo and Sam. Usually we don't hear the regular folks in this story; we hear from Kings, counselors, Elrond, Galadriel.. those sort of people. Not the regular lunch box toting joes who go out and do the regular work. Here, we hear the two regular Gondorians just shooting the bull. "Those **** southerns, curse them!" and talking about what it's like in Gondor at the moment.

Lastly, the Oliphant moment, set up by the last chapter, is one of the great parts of the books.


Book 4, Chapter 5: The Window in the West

This is the "getting to know Faramir" chapter.

You know, in the original Two Towers shooting script - and in the theatrical cut - Faramir talks about "showing his quality", which now I see comes directly from the book. But in the film the line is taken out of context, and Faramir is a different character, and so I don't think it made much sense in the film. Then, in 2002, the filmmakers shot a pickup scene that introduced Denethor, and they thought it would make more sense of the line if Dad were to say, "A chance for Faramir to show his quality." The scene, and the way he says it, is just what the film needed. Faramir's quality line suddenly makes perfect sense. Anyway, that was just a thought I wanted to throw in.

The Window in the West fascinates me, because it's part natural and part not. The men redirected the river and used it's old tunnel. And what's more, the redirected river works to protect and hide them.

I also loved Faramir teaching us all about Gondor, Rohan, and Numenor. (The Rohan stuff is especially nice, as it connects this half of the book to the first half.) Numenor was one of the earliest LOTR creations by Tolkien, I believe, predating the books. I find it more fascinating for that reason.

I also think this chapter helps us understand Boromir more. He was the sports star in the school where sports are considered the biggest deal. Sure, it's okay for a sports star to be in the band, and it's nice for them to have other interests; but a person in the band or honor society who isn't a football star isn't as high up on the totem poll as one who is.

And then Boromir journeyed to other schools; Rivendell, Lothlorien, etc. And they don't care about sports (a metaphor for his great battle ability). They care more about art and music and other interests, and those people are held most lofty. You can tell why Boromir didn't like these lands and wanted to get back to Minas Tirith, and avoid places of magic.

Funny thing: the first time I read the book, there was so much to keep track of by this point, it didn't sink it that Sam had told Faramir about the Ring. Maybe I didn't even let it in the second time. Either the second or third time I remember reading the book and suddenly realizing Sam had blurted out the Ring in this chapter, and I thought, "WHAT?! He just told Faramir about the Ring?!"

It's also touching when Frodo says, "I must find the Mountain of Fire and cast the thing into the gulf of Doom. Gandalf said so. I do not think I shall get there." and then collapses.

Book 4, Chapter 6: The Forbidden Pool

This chapter has become more sad for me as I have aged. There's something worse about betraying a thing that cannot understand what's going on and why it's happening than something or someone that does; that the betrayal is neccesary to save its life makes it even worse.

I remember watching a nature show once where this animal was raised by a person who lived in the wild, and they had become great friends. But eventually the man was going to leave, and he needed to show his friend that humans could not be trusted, so he had to betray him. I could hardly watch, knowing the betrayed was not only hurt (on the inside) but confused as well - and would remain that way the rest of his days. The man, of course, too was hurt - as is Frodo in this chapter.

I think a lot of fans try to write Gollum off to make this chapter easier; they try to believe that he was always wicked and will always be wicked. They try to believe he could never be saved. Some want to believe that he deserves what he gets, and Faramir says something similar. I would point out, however, that Tolkien went on the record saying Gollum could be saved, and he was very close to repenting.

That makes the betrayal more sad.

"We are lost, lost. No name, no business, no Precious, nothing. Only empty. Only hungry: yes we are hungry."

Well, now it's time to leave Gondor. I seem to recall the chapters ahead are some of the darkest in the book - at least they were for me in the past.


Book 4, Chapter 7: Journey to the Cross-roads

Like the one before it, this is a rather short chapter. And here lies the break between Jackson's second film and third film, starting in the second and then ending in the third.

And, this is the first time I will have read the end of this book and The Return of the King since seeing The Return of the King film adaptation.

I have to say: I don't think Jackson really changed all that much by having Faramir take the hobbits to Osgiliath. While they never go there in the book, he takes them not far from there. There have to be other times in the films our heroes don't journey exactly where they do in the books. (For example, Frodo and Sam take a straight shot from the Tower of Cirith Ungol to Mount Doom in the films, as opposed to the book where they travel almost to the Black Gate, turn east, and then finally travel south to Mount Doom.) Yet Osgiliath gets all the attention as a "change". It's probably because it's a name and a noticable set, as opposed to an unnamed path or landscape. But that said, it's not a big change.

I did find it interesting that Gollum's line in the book, "Nasty place, full of enemies" doesn't refer to Minas Morgul, as the film has it, but rather Osgiliath!

I also notice Jackson changed the chronology a bit here, as at this point Aragorn is already taking the Paths of the Dead, Merry is in Theoden's service, and Gandalf and Pippin are.... just a few leagues away! Indeed, as Frodo innocently walks south, Gandalf and Pippin are rounding the mountains just on the other side of the river. If they each had flare guns, they could see each other. If they had cell phones, they arrange a meeting in just a couple hours. That would sure change the story, wouldn't it? ("I don't think Tolkien knows about cell phones, Pip.") The story is better as it is, but my mind reels at the thought that Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are just walking in the wilderness a little bit away from Gandalf and Gondor, and apart from the river, there's no real barrier, like Moria or Cirith Ungol, stopping these groups from meeting up.

Anyway, the darkness has begun. The enemy has blotted the stars and sun out of the sky... almost. Tolkien teases us with one last bit of light - literally and figuretively, at the close of the chapter. Now comes, to me, the darkest part of the Lord of the Rings.

Book 4, Chapter 8: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

I love this chapter. It has everything. I can tell why both Bakshi and Jackson used a lot of the stuff here for their films, even transferring some bits to other parts of the story. It's one of the best written chapters in the book.

Let's start with Minas Morgul: creepy! It's one of the few places Tolkien describes from afar that we don't actually visit. Usually, when something is seen afar - such as the Tower of Cirith Ungol in this chapter - our heroes eventually end up there in the story. (Indeed, Frodo sees a lone window with a red light in Cirith Ungol looking his way. To think we'll be visiting that very spot and looking the other way in the next book!) But Minas Morgul, rotating top and all, remains distant.

As I mentioned, Tolkien's writing is really fantastic here. It's great how Frodo sees the army issued that is meant to crush Faramir and his friends, and he can't help but think of them before realizing he still must complete his mission. And don't let my fumbling words fool you here; Tolkien writes it much better. (Frodo seeming to wake up out of a dream is especially well done.)

Having done some mountain climbing, I enjoyed the stairs bit too. I read that Tolkien originally intended to have one stair leading to Cirith Ungol and one leading away, but he messed up and put both stairs before the tower and didn't realize his mistake until he had written a lot of the story.

And there's the absolute gem where Frodo and Sam talk about the stories that really matter; almost an inside joke by Tolkien. It's just a fabulous conversation that represents Tolkien's best writing. Meanwhile, Gollum is off visiting Shelob. I had read in the appendices before that he did this, but I had never read the story before knowing exactly when he did it until now. (I have a GPS tracker on all the characters this reading. Gandalf and Pippin are in Minas Tirith, Merry is heading there, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are nearing the Anduin.) When Gollum returns, he nearly repents... I seem to recall a letter of Tolkien's saying the saddest part of the story was here when Sam wakes up and accuses Gollum of sneaking when a kind word could have saved Gollum.

Frodo not only treating Gollum which such kindness, but offering him a chance to leave freely is especially touching.


Book 4, Chapter 9: Shelob's Lair

Before, whenever I read this chapter, I felt like Sam when Frodo began running away towards the Orc tower. I would cry, "Frodo, what are you doing! Slow down and keep your wits!" This time, however, I was in Frodo's headspace for whatever reason. He's been trying to enter this inpenetrable land, and after two stairs, Gollum's betrayal, and a giant spider, he sees the finish line for the pass... "Run, Frodo, run, before something bad can happen!"

You know what would be cool? Two people renacting the fight Sam has with Gollum on youtube. Tolkien gives a blow by blow account, and it would be fun to see in real life and in real time.

This is another chapter where Fonstad's atlas comes in handy, not to mention a look at Tolkien's chronology. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Sam and Frodo were in Shelob's lair for over day... without sleep!

Book 4, Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise

Curse Tolkien's writing style! On one hand, it allows him to build momentum much more successfully than if he integrated the two "books" in The Two Towers. On the other hand, it's maddening when we know we must leave one story thread for another! I want to stay with Sam!

I suppose it could be worse, he could have ended this chapter with the audience thinking that Frodo is dead, and Sam is heading out to finish the quest himself. Speaking of which, Sam's decision to take the Ring and leave Frodo makes perfect sense. If Frodo is dead, as Sam believes (and Tolkien even says), then his duty is to protect the Ring. But this is the chapter where Sam's self doubt comes into play. Sam has just as much a duel personality as Gollum: it's just not in the films. And whereas Sam has a voice of self-doubt in his head (as I think we all do), Gollum's other voice is self-hatred.

Anyway, just like Book III, Tolkien built up the momentum wonderfully here, and I wish I could skip to Book VI - which I have in the past. I've read Book III straight into Book V, too. I recommend everyone read the books this way at least once; not the first time you read the books, mind you, but sometime after. It's a really fun experience that works well.

Speaking of working well, by separating the books as Tolkien has, it really makes you feel for Samwise at the end of this chapter. You feel his lonelyness more than if the storylines were integrated.

On a final note, I love the architecture of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. The whole undergate/stone door thing fascinates me. I also want to mention that the conversation between the two Orcs at the end is the most fun Orc conversation in any of the books. I especially like how one was from Minas Morgul and the other from the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

And now I must part with Frodo and Sam. Whereas we only spent ten days with the other members of the Fellowship, we spent 18 with Sam and Frodo, putting us pretty far ahead. It's catch up time. I will say that as hard as it is to part with the two Hobbits, picking up the thread where Book III left off is exciting, because unlike the beginning of Books III and IV, we don't need to start the momentum of a story all over again. Book III's story was cooking when we left it and now we get to go back to it.

To Minas Tirith! And the Return of the King.


Book 5, Chapter 1: Minas Tirith

Before jumping back into this story, I went back and read the ending of Book III to reorient myself. I think Tolkien expected you to just remember what was going on in the story ten or eleven chapters before word for word, but I'm not that kind of guy! Tolkien writes picks up right where he left off with the statue metaphor thingy, and also says, "Then, as Gandalf promised...." That promise was 11 chapters ago. I'm supposed to remember it? Well, anyway, I did go back, and so I understood the connections.

Anyway, it was fun to see the most important city in Middle-earth and the most important people of Middle-earth from the most insiginifcant character's point of view. Lucas liked that too, and he used it in the original Star Wars, where the story is told from the droid's point of view.

It was interesting to see the way that the Beacons are used in the book much like the film. I remembered Pippin commenting on the beacons, but I never really pictured their path in my mind before seeing the film. "There they go speeding west." I don't think I ever understood that line before, and the names of the mountains didn't mean anything to me in prior readings. This time I had the atlas, of course, and so as Gandalf (very quickly) gave their path, I was able to follow along.

Speaking of which, without Fonstad's Atlas, I would be lost in Minas Tirith. It's such a complex city. Tolkien describes it well, but either there's so much to it either I need Fonstad's map, or I would have to draw my own map to remember everything.

This chapter mentions Frodo looking at the same Moon as Pippin. It's still difficult for me not to think of Frodo and Sam as being "a chapter behind" and "next to the Tower of Cirith Ungol." Yet, physically, they are just across the river, safe, not having any problems at the moment. In fact, Pippin looks out in Frodo's direction and must see the area where he is, though he wouldn't be able to see anything as small as a Hobbit.

Denethor is a very well written character that comes off much better than either the animated or live action film. I know the script writers struggled with him because he's a complex character introduced at a stage where the story needs to start having a resolution; but I also don't think John Noble was the best choice. He didn't do a bad job, but I think Patrick Stewart or David Warner, for example, would have brought more complexity and interest to the character, even with the same script. There would have been more gravitas, respect, inner conflict, outer conflict, and a feeling of greatness behind the character, I think.

Bergil is an interesting character in that Tolkien doesn't seem to like to write about children. Even in The Hobbit there's not much mention of children. It's interesting to see how he writes for them.

I must admit in past readings I missed all the clues that foretold the coming darkness to Minas Tirith (the dawnless days). Yet, there's a lot of foreshadowing here. (Not to mention, we already found it out with Frodo and Sam.)

Chapter 2

I like how 12 and 1/2 chapters ago we have this:

"A beautiful, restful night!" said Merry to Aragorn. "Some folk have wonderful luck. He did not want to sleep, and he wanted to ride with Gandalf -- and there he goes! Instead of being turned into a stone himself to stand here for ever as a warning."

"If you had been the first to lift the Orthanc-stone, and not he, how would it be now?" said Aragorn. "You might have done worse. Who can say? But now it is your luck to come with me, I fear. At once. Go and get ready, and bring anything that Pippin left behind. Make haste!"

And then we begin 12 1/2 chapters later like it's the next chapter:

"Gandalf was gone, and the thudding hoofs of Shadowfax were lost in the night, when Merry came back to Aragorn. He had only a light bundle, for he had lost his pack at Parth Galen, and all he had was a few useful things he had picked up among the wreckage of Isengard."

At this point in the book, the story diverges a bit from the film. I found it exciting when the film strayed from the book, because I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen, and now I like it in reverse, because it's fun to read fresh parts of the book that didn't make it into the film.

Speaking of not making it into the film... Aragorn's people join him, and they ride REALLY far, REALLY fast. My God, they make Gandalf look slow! And he rode to Minas Tirith without having to wait for any other horse. Aragorn and company covered 100 leagues, or about 300 miles at a speed that would make cars look slow! It never sunk in when I had previously read the books. And guess what... for their effort, the feat is not only left out of the films, so are all the riders but Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas! Ah well.

Also, speaking of the film, I think it made me understand Eowyn better. In the books, you don't really get an explanation for her until Gandalf talks about Wormtongue's effect on her in a much later chapter. I like the film, where those words are actually put in Wormtongue's mouth. With that in mind, I understand much more of how he played upon her fears, and why she wants to do what she does. Her scenes with Aragorn are really well written. I especially like how Aragorn says something like, "Indeed, no trip would be considered wasted, though I couldn't spare it had I not been headed this way."

Merry feels like baggage again. I like how he wonders if Saruman is springing one last trap on the King, and he wonders what it would be like if he ended up lost in this country he doesn't know. You can see being captured by Orcs has played on his fear.

The Palantir stuff is interesting, especially after Gandalf urged Aragorn not to use it, and Aragorn does anyway. Returning to Helm's Deep seems like a step backwards, but it's kind of fun, too. - Celedor

Thank you for continuing the journey and posting about each chapter. I have finished the story and moved on to other tales, but I hope you will continue to post your insights and outta sights of each chapter.
The Grey Company chapter always makes me sad and nostalgic but turns us again to actions both bold and meek.
I shall be mailing you a Kingly Gift at the end of this month for your continued support and Fellowship.
I wish you good luck on your book writing as well.  - Onomir


Book 5, Chapter 3: The Muster of Rohan

Okay, I really like The Lord of the Rings. Not in the, "I like Tolkien, so I like LOTR" kind of way. The truth is, I find The Hobbit to be a great book, but I've read a lot of great books. The Sil is nice, but I found parts a chore to read. The fact is, everytime I pick up LOTR, it does it for me like it's a pretty girl smiling. I get the adrenaline rush, the goose bumps, and I get excited. So you probably haven't heard me post too many times, "This chapter was a bit of a let down." It's like the Beatles; every song seems to be better than the last to me.

Except now, like "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", there's an exception to the rule.

I must admit "The Muster of Rohan" doesn't work for me.

Tolkien tries to make it sound like Aragorn is going to die. I understand what he's trying to do. I understand why he's trying to do it. I get that. It just doesn't work. We know by now "small chance of success, certainty of death" means it will all be okay because we've been through it in the previous two books. In fact, the Paths of the Dead are more or less "Moria part II".

We have this thing going on with Merry. He wants to go to Minas Tirith. He's told he can't. Then he's told he can't again. Then again. We know he'll get there, though.

Then there's Eowyn. She's in both animated Lord of the Rings films. She's in Jackson's Two Towers and Return of the King. You'd think she was a pivotal character. Forgive me, but after reading the books this time, I think if I were Tolkien I would not have put her in the story. We already have so many plotlines and so much to take care of. And the fact is - unlike Jackson's film - Eowyn doesn't do anything in Tolkien's Two Towers. It's the last couple chapters that set up her story, and then it's paid off quickly afterwards. I don't think it's needed, though her dialogue is so well written I suppose it would be a shame to lose it. Still, it's difficult to start up another subplot in this chapter.

And lastly, we know Rohan is preparing to go to Gondor. That's how we begin and end this chapter.

So, let me say again, I know what Tolkien's trying to do here. It's just difficult for me to bite. If I had written LOTR this is one chapter I'd want to work on some more. But, as Tolkien said,chapters that are considered blemishes by some are considered wonderful by others.

I will say I like how the guy with the red arrow clearly is disappointed to hear it will take Rohan a week to come. He tries to be polite, but you can tell he's frustrated and thinks Gondor will be gone by then. "At least you can distrurb the Orcs in their feasting." To which Theoden replies, "At least we can do that."

Book 5, Chapter 4: The Siege of Gondor

"Son, we live in a city with walls. You want answers? You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" - Denethor to Pippin in A Few Good Guards of the Citadel.

I'm a gibbering mess. This chapter is greatness. It's like three chapters in one. Frodo's story intersects thanks to Faramir. Merry's story intersects thanks to Rohan arriving. Pippin's story - well, this is just the greatest Pippin chapter so far; even better than Minas Tirith, which I love.

The Gandalf versus Lord of the Ringwraith showdown is fantastic, too. I love the writing, and the unexpected ending. After so many chapters - seven or eight, I think, talking about either the darkness issueing or the darkness growing, it comes as quite a surprise to see morning.

The Faramir/Denethor stuff is great, too, and no doubt that's why Jackson covered it so well in the films. I especially like how we get to see Denethor's meetings because Pippin is waiting on him now. And to think that Faramir and Frodo are both poisoned into unconsciousness at nearly the same time... and both thought to be dying.

The ending of the chapter... the last three pages: that's the best part. I could read that over and over again.

Book 5, Chapter 5: The Ride of Rohirrim

This, 5 squared, is an odd chapter. We start off not knowing of any complications in Rohan's ride to Minas Tirith; then we realize that it's not going to be so easy. Wild Men surround them. An army from Mordor is setting up an ambush. Before we get very far with either of these complications, the men of Rohan are quickly given a solution: the wild men want to be friends, and they can take a shortcut. Meanwhile, before we find out about any of this, we established with the last sentence of the last chapter that Rohan makes it to Minas Tirith safely.

That's weird.

Personally (and granted, I'm not one of the greatest authors of all time), I think it would have been better if the last Merry chapter would have been extended to include the beginning of this one: end it with the Riders of Rohan in peril, thinking the woses are going to get them, and setting up exposition about the ambush. Not only would their arrival at Minas Tirith become more dramatic, this chapter would answer the riddle of how they got through... sort of like reading about the riddles Merry and Pippin set up for Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, and then learning the answers.

Anyway, it's still a good chapter (through very short). It's nice to see what the Riders have been up to, and it's fun to learn about what's going on in Minas Tirith from another perspective: from afar. I also like the whole "shifting of the wind" thing.


Book 5, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

This has always been a favorite chapter of mine. Even Rankin/Bass couldn't screw it up.

This is the point in the book you don't want to stop and write these things. You just want to keep reading! In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien tells his story very leisurely, thinking nothing of having months, years, or decades fly by. (This was hard for me to deal with when I first read the books, because I did not yet have the experience to help me comprehend a span of ten years or more.) In The Two Towers, things tighten up with the first half of the book only spanning ten days, and the second half recounting those ten before adding a few more days. Here, we get to the point where there are these two days day - March 14 and especially March 15, where so much is going on, chapter after chapter is devoted to explaining them from different angles.

Anyway, to this chapter:

I love Merry taking on the Witch King. It's described in a way where you can put yourself in Merry's shoes and believe this isn't a fantasy story, but it's real.

I love Eowyn's reveal.

I love Theoden's final speech.

I love how Tolkien describes Aragorn as the King returns.

I love Aragorn's line about avenging what's happened before talking about, as well as his line coming true about meeting Eomer, though all the hosts of Mordor lie inbetween.

Oh, the heck with it. I love it all. This novel isn't bad.

Book 5, Chapter 7: The Pyre of Denethor

This must be one of the shortest chapters in the book: it's only 7 1/2 pages in my edition. That surprised me, because I remembered it as longer. But then I swear Tolkien rewrites this Lord of the Rings thing inbetween each time I read it. Sort of like Lucas redoing Star Wars again and again.

It's a good chapter for what it's worth. The palantír coming back into play is fun, especially since we know who's really in those black ships, and that Gondor is going to win the day's battle. It also ties back into the earlier part of this book, where he seems to know things he shouldn't.

And it's fun to know that the SOB is dead. I mean, he's really annoying, isn't he? Unfortunately, we've also lost a lot of good people the last couple chapters: from the poor Porter Beregond killed to Aragorn's kinsman who brought Arwen's flag.

On a final note, this chapter really makes Aragorn look strong, as he was able to use the palantír for good while Saruman and Denethor could not.

Book 5, Chapter 8: The Houses of Healing

I remember that when I first read the books I composed a song for the Merry Pippin reunion: "We'll Be Friends Forever" it was called. (Hey, I was only 11 or so.) I had it ready before I got to the chapter where they actually get back together... and then I found my song useless, because they didn't meet with the joy I was expecting. Merry's entry in the city brought a tear to my eye... and then I feared he was dying.

I still find the beginning of this chapter very emotional. Part of it is that I've always identified with Merry more than any other character in the books. (Part of it is that I've gotten lost myself more times than I can count because I have no sense of direction.)

The rest of the chapter is a great read, too, because we deal with so many loose threads: Faramir, Eowyn, Aragorn, and Merry of course. It puts them all on a course for a happy ending, though Eowyn still has a ways to go. I particularly like Aragorn's quote about his frost setting her up for the fall, and that there's nothing worse for a man than to have a woman love him and not be able to return it.

I do find it odd when Pippin talks about Gandalf and Aragorn being related; because they are such different characters to me. (For one thing, Aragorn has more of a sense of humor. And he laughs often - in the book - which Gandalf doesn't do as much. He's more gloom and doom on the printed page.) Aragorn, of course, is hilarious in this whole chapter.

It's a good chapter, though I feel the sadness the the adventure is coming to a close.

"Master Meriadoc, if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken. If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House. And he will tell you that he did not know that the herb you desire has any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of the tongues." - Aragorn, knowing Merry's pack is lying by his bed


Book 5, Chapter 9: The Last Debate

When I first read The Lord of the Rings, I decided it was not only the greatest book I ever read, or would ever read, I decided it was the top of the entertainment mountain and couldn't see anything ever surpassing it.

That was when I was about 11.

It's interesting how we perceive things differently as children and adults. I remember performing A Midsummer Night's Dream for elementary school students and then later performing for an adult audience: both enjoyed it and were laughing throughout, but the similarity ended there. Lines that killed in the first performance fell flat in the second. Lines that went over the head of the kids profoundly affected the older people.

It's easy to forget when we get older how much newness there is in the world as a child. We take so much for granted as adults, because we've dealt with, say, "Wednesday", for so long we don't give it a second thought. Archetypal situations we've seen so many times don't have as much impact, because they've been played out. And so we'll wonder what kids see in something or another they love so much, because we can't look at it from their perspective.

Meanwhile, it's difficult for a child to understand why an adult finds entertainment in some of the things he or she does. A child has limited experience, still-developing brains, and is constantly being inundated with subject matter to learn; so it's difficult for a child to put anything into context and reflect upon it with very much consideration.

So when I look back upon my childhood and think about when I named The Lord of the Rings as "my thing", I wonder: what was it about it that I liked? And the answer is probably things that don't resonate as much with me now, because I'm really a different person.

And yet, it's still my favorite book- by such a wide margin, I don't see anything surpassing it. That's because as I have grown, it has seemed to have grown with me, as if it's been rewritten with an added layer meant to appeal to me whatever stage of life I am in each time I read it.

This continues now. Reading "The Last Debate" I could forget all the other times I read the book, and enjoy it like it was a fresh performance. It's fun to see part of the Fellowship reunite yet again. The bit about Aragorn taking over the ships is the last piece of the puzzle falling into place, bringing us to speed, so that's great, too. It's so nice to see the Lords all on the same page, with Denethor out of the picture. But what I enjoyed most was Gandalf's speech. I love to hear his thought, and I love to hear his explain what Sauron is thinking. It's a treat we don't often get in these books.

This is a really exciting time. Helm's Deep, in the books, was really an expected victory, even if things looked a bit dark for a time. Minas Tirith winning the day before this chapter was very unexpected, so it's fun to see how everyone feels, and what they are going to do with this victory.

And now things are truly being set in motion that can't be undone. Little do any of the people at Minas Tirith - nor first-time readers - know that Frodo has escaped the tower with Sam and is heading north at this very moment, just a few miles away, in the mountains.

Book 5, Chapter 10: The Black Gate Opens

Well, what to say? This time reading the books I'm more subdued reading this chapter, partly because I really recognize its the last throw, and partly because I'm a bit sad this part of the story is coming to an end.

I had forgotten that Aragorn and Gandalf go to Minas Morgul. I had also forgotten the touch that the mithril shirt, the blade of men, and the elvish stuff given to a halfing represents a conspiracy to Sauron. (Well, it sort of is, isn't it?)

I also like how Aragorn and Gandalf treat the Mouth of Sauron as opposed to their actions in the Rankin/Bass and Jackson films. They simply outclass him rather than being immature.

Anyway, Book V is over with. The great momentum of Book III-V is done. Now it's time to finish what was started in Book IV.

I'm going to be sad when I'm finished though. I'm really enjoying this reading.

I know what you are saying my brother, but I find the upcoming chapter as thrilling as the first and I wish this last book was handled with more care by the movie makers because it shows the qualities of all of the characters, save dear Boromir alas.


Book 6, Chapter 1: The Tower of Cirith Ungol

Alright, now we're in for some serious business.

First off, I have to say I do find this chapter slightly boring, because it's mostly Sam. Don't get me wrong, I like Sam. It's just that there's hardly anyone else in this chapter and hardly any dialogue. Sam thinks this. Sam thinks that. The orc conversation is interesting, and when Sam finds Frodo the story picks up a bit for me.

Before that, it is touching when Sam, who has journeyed from Hobbiton, finds himself at a dead end, and sits down to sing, not knowing what else to do. (Although it is a bit weird that he'd brave Moria, slay orcs, storm a tower, and then be defeated by because the doors are locked. Just think! Sauron needn't have gone to war at all. He just needed to lock the door at Sammath Naur.)

I also like that when Sam finds Frodo, Frodo doesn't want to accept it right away. "Am I dreaming?" He doesn't want to let it in, because there's nothing he wants more than to have Sam appear and rescue him, and to think that's happening and then find out it was just a dream would be too much to take.

I also want to say I love Tolkien's architecture, as usual. The Tower of Cirith Ungol is great, including the paths outside. It's interesting how Frodo enters through the undergate and exits through the front door.

Anyway, now we finally have Frodo and Sam (with a Nazgul on their tale) ready to continue the quest. But not the same Frodo as before. As I said, it's serious business now. We're in the thick of it.  - Celedor

You are a dafted old Elf is there ever was one, or what I mean to say is that I disagree with you on this chapter and would say that it is a wonderful chapter for those of us that adore Samwise Gamgee and the drama of entering deeper into Mordor.

but I guess we can agree to disagree once in awhile ;-{>


Book 6, Chapter 2: The Land of Shadow

When I first read this chapter, I think I had a feeling that Tolkien was in the corner of Sam and Frodo and wouldn't let the quest fail. I think, also, all the stories I'd ever read at that point were happy stories, so I was used to happy endings. Whenever I would reread the book, I'd know the quest was going to be successful, so I wouldn't think of Sam and Frodo as being in any danger.

This time is different. I think part of it is that over the years, especially recently, I've read a lot more nonfiction; and much of it with an unhappy ending. For example, the story of Anne Frank, including what happens after the diary, is a crushing blow to me even this day. And so now I read this chapter in The Return of the King, and Tolkien describes what's going on so realistically, it's easy for me to forget its fiction. I'm also able to put myself in Sam and Frodo's shoes, and forget I know what's going to happen.

And so, reading this chapter was more dramatic for me this time than anytime in the past. The Orcs capture Frodo and Sam. Frodo and Sam are marching towards Udun, and then Barad-dur (and thank goodness I had a map handy, because it helped tremendously in this chapter, I'd never properly visualized where that tower was that the Orcs came from.) The quest is hanging by a thread because of all this, and for the first time I didn't feel that there was a "scriptwriter" willing to help out anytime Frodo and Sam couldn't handle it themselves. I felt like if one thing more went wrong, it would all be over.

Anyway, the chapter is over. Now for the last march to Doom.

Land Of Shadow was ans still is an emotional chapter. I find that for myself, caring for the Hobbits and Fellowship as I do makes this chapter a "tough" read and the gloom and shadow of Mordor prevail and permeate the mood and senses of the reader. Darkness is almost too much for even Sam.

but good old Sam watched over his beloved master indeed.

glad it past me now and on we go. - Onomir


Book 6 Chapter 3: Mount Doom

I mentioned the realism Tolkien puts into his books. This chapter is a case in point. Another writer would have been tempted to overwrite it, but (almost surprisingly, considering how wordy he is elsewhere) Tolkien does not.

I love how Frodo asks Sam how much farther and Sam says, "I don't know, because I don't know where we're going." It's something that would never make it into a film, because to a person watching a film, the object is to get to Mount Doom, and there the way will show itself. But in real life, if you told someone to go to a volcano, once they got there, they wouldn't know where in the volcano to go to. Yet, it makes sense Sauron would have a road and that Sam and Frodo would discover it.

Anyway, this chapter is almost too much to talk about, because there are so many great lines. So many great things. I love that Sam carries Frodo not only up to the volcano, but out of the tunnel away from harm.

I love that Sauron is closer to our protaganists than ever before... and yet Tolkien keeps him an abstract eye and never lets us see his tower clearly. I believe by keeping Sauron at a distance, all the way to the end, it makes it more fun to reread the books over and over again. If we ever got to actually meet Sauron at the end, it wouldn't be as much fun to start over.

And as I said, things come to a head very quickly. Suddenly Frodo is there about to accomplish his quest. Beforehand he tells Gollum not to touch him again or he will be cast into Doom. The Ring holds him to it.

I loved this chapter.

Book 6, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen

This is a fun chapter, even though the tension is gone. It's sort of like desert.

I like Frodo and Sam wake up east of the river, and that they visit some of the places they had previously been weeks before - I had forgotten that detail. I had also forgotten that Pippin is so close to death that he doesn't wake up until just before Frodo and Sam - about two weeks after he was injured.

I like how Tolkien didn't avoid describing what happens in the battle after the Ring is destroyed - he explains, again realistically, that some of the enemy fled, but some of them from the east fought on; and he tells that some of the men in the west entered Mordor and destroyed the towers. These are little details another author would have left out to focus on Frodo and company, but Tolkien knew they were important.

Anyway, it's fun to see Frodo and Sam finally getting to see some of the people they saved.

Book 6, Chapter 5: The Steward and the King

This is one of those chapters I didn't take much notice of as a boy, since romance wasn't my thing then, but I've since come to appreciate more.

Yet, this time I have to say I'm not as into it as the stuff before the Ring was destroyed. The dramatic tension is mostly gone, and the tale is winding down.

I do think it's kind of fun to finally learn what Aragorn does as King; he pardons Easterners and meets with the people who were valiant in battle, sort of like the President meeting the winners of the World Series. I can't help but imagine myself as a soldier of Gondor meeting him. "Wow, you're Aragorn! It's so cool to meet you!" (This would probably be what I'd say to Viggo, come to think of it.)

Ioreth is funny.

The White Tree is touching.

The romance between Faramir and Eowyn is great.

But there's a sadness now that all is coming to a close.


Book 6, Chapter 6: Many Partings

The last time we were in Rivendell, we kicked it off with "Many Meetings". We return at the close of the chapter "Many Partings". Symmetry.

This is a fun chapter, catching up with all our old friends - and some enemies. It's a good insight into how the world is changing and what's going to happen in the fourth age.

Did you know Arwen gives her spot at the Grey Havens to Frodo? You probably did, but I missed it, or it didn't stick until this reading. These last two chapters have been big Arwen chapters, actually.

Frodo and Sam are rather quiet this chapter. I would have liked to have heard their reactions to the Ents, Rohan, and other places they didn't see. I also would have liked to have seen their meeting with Eomer, and their reunion with Faramir. Ah well.

The Fellowship breaks again, and this time, for the last time, as it is said. They may see each other again individually, but never again will all of them be together, sort of like the Beatles after the photo shoot for Abbey Road.

Things are winding down!

Book 6, Chapter 7: Homeward Bound

This chapter is only seven pages in my edition.

It's lots of fun to stop at Bree again, and lots of fun to have Gandalf with. In The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings he's constantly falling out of the story, and there's not many times when the hobbits have him to themselves; usually there are other big folk around that he's dealing with. It's fun to have just the hobbits and him, because we have the wisest character in the story with the ones that learned the most through their adventures.

I absolutely love the moment when Butterbur finally takes in that Aragorn is King. It's too bad it wouldn't have worked in the films.

I like that we start to notice how much the hobbits have changed, and how awkward they look. We notice how much we, as readers, have changed, too, since the silly adventures from so long ago, when the book began. It's somehow fitting that Bombadil isn't around at this time. He would be out of place at this point in the story, where we've left the whimsy and childish aspects of The Hobbit behind. (No disrespect towards the The Hobbit, but it's not the adult mindbender Lord of the Rings is.)

I enjoyed this chapter.


Book 6, Chapter 8: The Scouring of the Shire

I can tell why this chapter is a favorite with fans. It's three times the length of the previous chapter and full of fun, danger, and resolution. It also made me notice how little I know Shire geography!

This reading, in order to get more out of the books than my previous readings, I wasn't content not knowing where anything is. When Tolkien says, "And everyone celebrated in the Kingdom from Emyn Narcost to the Gulf of Rofinban" I wasn't going to just pass it over - I looked it up on my maps. When Gandalfed named each Beacon of Gondor, I followed along in my atlas. Tolkien does this sort of thing throughout the books: he thinks you either have blown up copies of his maps, or you know Middle-earth like the back of your hand. Interestingly, while I know Rohan, Gondor, Fangorn Forest, and Mirkwood well enough, it's like I said before: I don't know The Shire (or I didn't know it), knowing exactly where the Scary Hills are, where Frogmorton is, and even knowing the location of the Green Dragon in Bywater. Now I've had an education, though, and it did make the chapter more fun.

In the past, I had read this chapter with Frodo's perspective in my mind: how sad it is that hobbits have come to this; hoping they don't kill each other. I always found Merry and Pippin rather rash. This time, I agreed more with Merry and Pippin and saw their viewpoint. Battle is neccesary. Looking sad won't solve anything. I think Tolkien had numerous thoughts on war, and he expressed the different viewpoints through the hobbits. Like Frodo, he does believe it's a really sad thing. But another part of him understands that it's neccesary at times, and there's an art to it. Merry and Pippin learn all about this in a way Frodo doesn't have a chance to.

Tolkien does seem to make a mistake in this chapter: early on, Frodo knows Saruman is behind everything in this chapter. Yet later on, he's surprised when Saruman appears - as is everyone.

And one last thought, I'm happy Jackson cut this chapter out of the last film. He does touch on it in the first film, in Galadriel's mirror, and that's the perfect place for it - you don't have to worry about character introductions there (like Farmer Cotton, the sherriffs, and the ruffians), and you don't have to worry about tying up another plotline.

Book 6, Chapter 9: The Grey Havens

Reading this chapter this time around, I couldn't help but think how faithful the last film was to it; Jackson really caught the feeling of it. (I remember one film review exclaiming, "Now that's how you end a film series!") Not that I didn't notice that the book's "Well, I'm back," takes place at night.

The end always sneaks up on me. The story seems to glide along, and then Frodo asks Sam to head out with him, and suddenly (like Sam) I realize it's all ending.

I find it interesting that throughout the story, the characters get closer to the sea as they travel south, and Tolkien mentions it throughout the story with reverence. But then we don't actually get to see it, except on the horizon when Aragorn takes over the ships, and on the horizon when he finds the white tree sapling. So we journey back to the Shire, and there we find the sea finally just to the west.

On a final note (and I do mean final!) I like how Tolkien doesn't stop describing Frodo's journey with the hobbit setting off... he describes the shore Frodo journeys to. (Although, if he thinks we can remember the dream at Bombadil's a thousand pages later, he has too much faith in my memory.) He ten cuts to Sam, back in the world we're familiar too, and it's quite the transition.

Anyway, I enjoyed the books again as always. I think I got more out of them this time than ever before. I probably won't read them again for another five years at least. The time between readings for me grows with each reading, otherwise they don't seem as fresh. I am going to continue and read the appendices, though I won't be posting about them.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I had some interesting things to say.