Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Fellowship of the Ring 1970s The Fellowship of the Ring (1954, 1965)
Part One of The Lord of the Rings

1970s Ballantine books
cover art by J.R.R. Tolkien (left)

2001 Del Rey paperback, 479 pages
cover art by Ted Nasmith (right)
Fellowship of the Ring 2001

From the back cover of the book:
The dark, fearsome Ringwraiths were searching for a hobbit. Frodo Baggins knew they were seeking him and the Ring he bore - the Ring of Power that would enable evil Sauron to destroy all that was good in Middle-earth. Now it is up to Frodo and his faithful servant, Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it could be destroyed - Mount Doom, in the very center of Sauron's dark kingdom.

Thus begins J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings, which continues in The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Read for group discussion on December 12, 2001

More book covers: The Fellowship of The Ring (LOTR1)
Fellowship of the Ring 1965 unauthorized Fellowship of the Ring 1965 authorized Fellowship of the Ring 1990s
1965 Ace books - 448 pages
(unauthorized edition!)
cover art by Jack Gaughan
1965 Ballantine books
The authorized edition
1990s Ballantine books
479 pages
cover art by Michael Herring

The Fellowship of the Ring
"The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil"
--Frodo Baggins, ring-bearer, hobbit
--Sam Gamgee, hobbit companion of Frodo
--Gandalf, wizard
--Legolas, from Northern Mirkwood, for the elves
--Gimli, son of Glóin, for the dwarves
--Aragorn, son of Arathorn, also called Strider, for men
--Boromir, from the land of Gondor, for men
--Merry Brandybuck, hobbit
--Pippin Took, hobbit

How we each rated this book
Dan 9 Amy 9.5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 10 Barb -
Aaron 7 Cynthia 10
Jackie 10 Ron 9
Mary 10    

Aaron's Commentary  J.R.R. Tolkien - The Fellowship of the Ring

There's no disputing that The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is one of the most important and influential works of fantasy ever written.  (Some would say the most important, but I think Homer has too many years on Tolkien to make that call yet.  Let's see how we feel about LOTR in a thousand years.)  But how much individual readers enjoy LOTR varies.  LOTR readers break down roughly into three categories: (a) those who see no merit in it at all; (b) those who admire and respect it, but do not own a "Frodo Lives!" t-shirt; and (c) those who reread it at least annually and are often heard to wish that they could go live in the Shire.

The first category consists of persons so imagination-impaired they are not worth discussing.  What distinguishes the second and third categories, I believe, is to what extent the reader is drawn into the story.  If you become deeply involved in Frodo's adventure, you will love LOTR; if not, you will simply admire LOTR.  I can claim a little insight into both reactions, because when I first read it I did get drawn into the story of LOTR, but not until the second volume of the trilogy.  Throughout The Fellowship of the Ring, I enjoyed the book but was never swept away.  It wasn't until I caught myself reading The Two Towers late into the night, anxious about whether Samwise could possibly survive his encounter with Shelob, that I realized I was hooked.

I know my reaction is not unique - many readers find that it takes a while to get involved in Frodo's story.  I can think of two reasons for this.  First, Tolkien hoped to do more than simply tell a good yarn.  He wanted to create an entire mythology, which he believed British culture was lacking.  In order to pursue this goal, at which he was astonishingly successful, Tolkien had to begin his tale with lengthy recitations of history and back-story that are less than absorbing to the casual reader.

Second, many readers find Frodo's initial adventures the weakest passages of LOTR.  (Let me remind hard-core LOTR fans that, despite these mild criticisms, I really like LOTR and would heartily recommend it to anyone. Please don't hurt me.)  Tom Bombadil is a fun character, but the hobbits' encounters with him and then with the barrow-wights are almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the narrative.  What's more, I wonder if it doesn't start things off on the wrong foot to have Tom rescue the hobbits the first time they run into trouble.  It leaves the impression that to succeed in his quest, Frodo will always need others to bail him out whenever he gets into trouble.  (And it is a criticism sometimes leveled at LOTR that, in fact, he does.)

The story gathers interest midway through, once Aragorn has joined Frodo's quest with the Black Riders in hot pursuit.  The second half of the book is then punctuated by the memorable showdown between Gandalf and the Balrog.

Even during the stretches of this book when the story moves at a leisurely pace, it is well worth reading for Tolkien's entertaining prose.  Every Tolkien fan has some favorite passages.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, the scene I often find myself returning to is the conversation between Frodo and the elf Gildor.  Gildor repeatedly makes broad observations such as, "The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out," and, "Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill."  To all of which Frodo wryly responds, "And it is also said, 'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.'"  And thanks to passages like that, if you ask me if The Fellowship of the Ring is a great book, I will say both no and yes.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by J.R.R. Tolkien:
-- The Hobbit   in June 1999
-- The Two Towers   in December 2002
-- The Return of the King   in December 2003

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was a UK writer.  He was a professor at Oxford University.  (Full name John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.)  He was born in South Africa but lived in the UK from 1895.

He became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University in 1925, and was appointed Merton Professor of English at Oxford in 1945, a post he held until his retirement in 1959.

He was part of the Inklings, a literary group, with C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield.

Tolkien virtually invented the fantasy genre.  His masterwork is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It's the most influential fantasy series ever written.

The Lord of the Rings (LoTR)
--The Fellowship of the Ring (1954, rev 1965 US) (FoTR)
--The Two Towers (1954, rev 1965 US) (TT)
--The Return of the King (1955, rev 1965 US) (ROTK)

The Hobbit: or There and Back Again (1937) is a young adult prequel to Lord of the Rings.

Many stories and story-fragment of his Middle-Earth mythology were published posthumously.
--The Silmarillion (1977)
--Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth (collection 1980)
--The Children of Húrin (2007)

The History of Middle-Earth series
most collections of stories, edited by Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.'s son
-- I. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983)
-- II. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984)
-- III. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
-- IV. The Shaping of Middle-Earth (1986)
-- V. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
-- VI. The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings 1 (1988)
-- VII. The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings 2 (1989)
--VIII. The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings 3 (1990)
-- IX. Sauron Defeated: The History of the Lord of the Rings 4 (1992)
-- X. Morgoth's Ring: The Later Silmarillion 1 (1993)
-- XI. The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion 2 (1994)
-- XII. The Peoples of Middle-Earth (1996)

Other works
--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925)
--Farmer Giles of Ham (1949, chapbook)
--Smith of Wootton Major (1967, chapbook) young-adult fantasy novella
--Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham (1976 US)
--The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962)
--A Tolkien Reader (1966, collection)
--Tales from the Perilous Realm (1992, reprint of Poems and Stories (1980) omnibus collection of "Farmer Giles of Ham", "Leaf by Niggle", and "Smith of Wootton Major" and "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil"
--Leaf by Niggle
--"On Fairy-Stories" 1939 lecture
--The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth
--Tree and Leaf (1964, collection) material on writing fantasy
--Sir Gawain/Pearl/Sir Orfeo (1975) collection of 3 epic poems, translated by Tolkien from mediaeval English
--The Father Christmas Letters (1976) collection of letters from Tolkien (Father Christmas) to his children, with illustrations by Tolkien
--Mr. Bliss (1982) children's story with illustrations by the author
--Finn and Hengest (1982) Tolkien's lectures and notes on the story which was the basis of Beowulf
--The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983) Non-fiction, a collection of 7 essays/lectures, edited by Christopher Tolkien
--Roverandom (1998, written in 1925) juvenile fantasy about a dog's adventures
--The Road Goes Ever On : A Song Cycle (with music by Donald Swann, 1967)
--Bilbo's Last Song  (1990) 32 page picture book illustrated by Pauline Baynes, a 24-line poem originally published in 1974 as a poster
--Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien (1979) collection of Tolkien's artwork

Our book club's page for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien - Wikipedia
Official Lord of the Rings LOTR Movie Site

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