When I started the challenge, I thought that #1 The Lord of the Rings was the title of the first volume in a trilogy. I was corrected by a friend: it refers to the whole trilogy. Starting to read, I was corrected again. It’s not, says my edition, a trilogy but actually one novel told in six books, commonly split over three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
I’m not a fan of Tolkien’s works, as you’ll have noticed from my review of The Hobbit. From my prejudiced and unhappy viewpoint, it seems unfair that he not only got the top spot, he did it with three (or six, depending on your perspective) books disguised as one. I had to drag myself through The Hobbit, so I thought I’d help myself (and you) out by reviewing the books in chunks, as I read them. This means that although there are no spoilers in this post, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS in my Lord of the Rings reviews. Either that or I’ll have nothing to say by the end.
In the beginning
I bought the three volumes of Lord of the Rings on Kindle, as they were £1.99 each at the time, and K wanted to reread them. I then realised I had to go and read The Hobbit, as the blasted thing is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings so it was a fair while before I opened the ebook. And then even longer before I got to the first chapter.
One advantage of reading a book on Kindle, is that the Paperwhite makes a good guess at how long you’ve got left in a chapter or the whole book. It’s easily tricked by appendices, but it’s pretty good overall. According to my Kindle, I had an hour of reading between the cover of my edition of The Fellowship of the Ring and the start of the first chapter. An hour! Fully 10% of the material in the book is before Chapter One. It’s partly a long discourse on who changed what when, partly Tolkein’s notes to the reader, and partly a long and involved history of the made-up travels of the non-existent original sources that are the imaginary fore-runners to this work of fiction.
Apart from a short ‘previously in The Hobbit‘, all this stuff should have been at the end of the last volume. It’s interesting stuff, but by no means essential. And, in his notes to the second edition, Tolkien spoils his own books. He tells you that so-and-so is bad and meets such-and-such fate, that this happens and that happens. I’ve played through the whole LEGO Lord of the Rings game, so I don’t care about spoilers at this point, but I also know enough to realise at least a couple of these things should have been surprising. So I’m already not happy with either Tolkien or his editor.
Getting to the first page was exhausting. I think I’ll break the six-book series into 7 posts, this being the first. I’ll launch into Book One, after I’ve had a nap and a third breakfast, hobbit style.