Review: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien (Audible Edition)

I am about to come at you with an unpopular opinion. I haven’t read Lord of the Rings, I watched the films but was completely lost and hated them so much. I’ve tried to watch them so many times and simply gave up.

This is a series that I want to love so so so bad. I have multiple copies of the books but I am afraid to read them because I hated the movies so much and feared I would find the books boring.

Having discovered audiobooks recently, I thought this would be a good time to try my hand at reading this classic series especially with this fantastic narrator. After all, Tolkien is like the inventor of the modern fantasy genre so it’s basically required reading in my opinion!

Summary

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose (summary from Goodreads).

Review

Ok so let me just say that the narrator was fantastic. He read with such enthusiasm and heart that I feel the need to commend him. Plus it was nice to have someone else pronounce the odd names and places rather than me making things up in my head as I go along. However, the one thing I have noticed with audiobooks is that I don’t know that I fully pay attention or absorb the story in the same way I would if I was reading. Especially a story like this where locations and maps are important. I think I needed to physically read this one rather than listen to it.

That said, I found the story so boring. It basically seemed like one long walk where nothing really seems to happen except that we meet other random characters and keep right on walking and debating about what to do with the evil ring. I all honesty, I fell asleep so many times listening to this book and I had to go back and read the Sparks Notes summaries as I went along so that I made sure I knew what was going on. I don’t know how much of that was narration/listening versus physically needing to read the book—-but either way I found myself happy that it was over.

However much I found this book boring—-I want to love it so bad still. Tolkien is an incredible writer with beautiful descriptions and prose. His influence is easily recognizable in a number of modern fantasy like the Game of Thrones books and Harry Potter. I spent a lot of time reflecting on why I didn’t like the book as much as I had hoped. What it came down to for me was it was quest driven rather than character driven.

So much of the story seems to be about the ring itself and the journey—what to do with the ring and how to destroy it. Where as books like Game of Thrones (I know I am comparing apples to oranges here but just go with it). focus so much on the characters and their flaws and strengths and how they respond to conflict and the ‘call to action’. In this book, I don’t seem the same level of development (at least at this point in the series) and I found the journey simply boring. I felt like I needed much more in the way of character evolution and development.

But even if I struggled to like this one, I soldiered on and kept listening and trying to pick out areas of the story that I found interesting. I feel the need to keep reading the series but this time rather than listening to an audiobook, I am going to physically read the second book and see if that helps me to become invested in the charters and world more or not.

I am also going to give the movies another go. I just simply want to love this series so much because so many others do and I hate that I am not gushing over this book. Please tell me the story picks up!

Book Info and Rating

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 20 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Recorded Books (first published July 29th 1954)
ASIN B0099SNQYG
Review copy provided by, personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: fantasy, classic

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6 thoughts on “Review: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien (Audible Edition)

  1. I’m with you! Back in High School, everyone was reading these books. I tried.. I really and truly tried to read them, but failed. I think I got to like 10 pages before I was so confused and bored I gave up. Then someone said, oh, try The Hobbit first then you’ll like the others. So I tried… I really and truly tried, but… same thing. Fast forward to the movies and my younger son roped me into watching the first one, which I thought was beautiful but… meh (I hate Elijah Wood, by the way. He acts like his surname). He pushed me to watch the second one and after the scene with the trees – which I liked – I gave up.

  2. Have you read the Hobbit? I find that people who struggle with LoTR tend to like it more. It was meant for a younger audience though and has more of a fun adventure feel. LoTR is really for people who enjoy reading mythic epics like the Niebelungenlied, Volsung Saga, Kalevala (upon which a lot of it is based), the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc.

    Even though Tolkien said he never meant it to be allegorical, by consciously applying the same conventions as epic works it tends to feel that way. Which is to say the characters feel a bit flat… or perhaps it would be better to say, unapproachable. Like they are more of an idea of themselves than themselves.

    Also, I would recommend reading this book in winter, or during a swing of bad weather when you find yourself trapped inside and might be more in the mood for long bouts of sitting in quiet reading, with a hot cup of tea and a crackling fire (or the Yule log channel on YouTube, what have you). That was the advice I got for approaching this book, and I think it holds true. You have to do a little “mood setting” to get into it.

  3. I felt the same way about the Hobbit, but I still love the Lord of the rings series. I think now a days, fantasy is written at such a high level of character building and world building that the older books that have been written before such things were important to us book nerds have fallen behind. Not to say that they aren’t worth the read. I love your honest opinion and hope you try the next book in the series to see if you truly can’t stand the books. Happy weekend.

  4. The Hobbit is also plot driven as opposed to character driven, but it’s shorter, the action goes much faster, and all of Tolkien’s strong points (the descriptions and myths and sweet friendships) are very much in evidence. As a starting point The Hobbit might be kinder to you.

    I definitely agree the LOTR books use a LOT of words to move a little action, lol. I couldn’t finish the books myself until I’d watched the movies and had faces in my mind to go along with the complex names and places!

  5. I know what you mean Anne, I haven’t read Tolkien’s epic tomes either because their size and, quite frankly, daunting pronunciation put me off. Unlike you, however, I have watched and loved all of the films.
    I have found through experience that I’m unable to maintain focus just listening to an audiobook, so my favourite compromise now is to buy the Kindle version and add the narration if one is available. This way, my focus is kept because I’m having to read the words but I’m also getting the performance (and help with pronunciation) too. 😉

  6. I’m sorry you didn’t get on with it, maybe the writing style is not for you (it can be a little dry). I like The Fellowship the best of the series. If you’re not liking that one, it doesn’t bode well for the rest…
    You could try Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain for a LOTR feel but much shorter stories 🙂

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