The first volume of The Lord of the Rings begins the journey of Frodo Baggins from the peaceful paradise-like Shire towards the dark hellish land of Mordor, thus launching modern fantasy. Author J.R.R. Tolkien took almost 20 years to write the sequel to his bestseller The Hobbit during which he created the entire history of Middle Earth from The Creation to the Bilbo’s return from the Lonely Mountain to provide his epic with a grounding in a real place. It is in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ that the reader gets a livid picture of the world of Middle Earth.
‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ contains the first two books of six that Tolkien divided The Lord of the Rings into. The first details the passing of the Ring to Frodo and the journey from the Shire to Rivendell with the Nazgul in pursuit. The second details the forming, journey, and breaking of the Company of the Ring through death and separation. Throughout Fellowship, Tolkien continually builds the world the characters inhabit by having them relate history and lore of the part of the world they are traversing.
Unlike The Hobbit, Fellowship feels like it has been transcribed not from an oral tradition but from a dry history that the author attempted to fashion into a story. Throughout the entire volume this can be see in the tone of the writing, which is not a laid back, but one of building even throughout action sequences such as the flight to Rivendell and race through Moria. Although J.R.R. Tolkien intended his fantasy epic to be published whole, it was a publisher decision to split the tale that in some ways gives the entire volume this odd tone from the first page to the last. Where the reader is left on the last page of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is not suppose to be where they are left, they are suppose to go directly to book three to continue the story. With this in mind, the reader better appreciate what Fellowship is and what it is not.
In and of itself ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is not a whole book, it is the first third of a complete story and thus is has to be judged on this. Within the pages of Fellowship, Tolkien gives the reader a vivid sense of the world of Middle Earth and what is at stake on Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring. While the action and adventure are present, they are behind the character development needed for greater needs later on in the overall story of The Lord of the Rings. In Fellowship, Tolkien’s epic has a very good beginning that will keep readers looking forward to see things develop in The Two Towers.