This time, the third time around, I read one or two chapters a night and savoured the book over the course of several weeks. And I loved it. There were still moments where I was like "Tolkien, dude, get on with it", but for the most part, those were few and far between.
I'm not going to bother giving a basic recap of the story, because unless you've been living under a rock for the past million years, you know the basics, whether it be from reading the books, seeing the movies, or suffering through endless memes about not passing or walking into Mordor.
I was a little surprised by how long certain events take to happen. It takes over 100 pages - almost a fifth of the book - for Frodo to even leave Bag End, and over 200 pages for the hobbits to reach Bree. Which doesn't mean that the stuff that happens in those 200 pages isn't good. Some of it is FABULOUS, especially the stuff involving Tom Bombadil and I'm now irrationally angry that he was left out of the movies because he's utterly brilliant. And the inclusion of a barrow-wight was rather unexpected but added a fantastic tone of creepiness to a book that's often just a bunch of blokes wandering about the landscape*.
Really, my only gripe would be the songs. I know they generally add history and depth to Middle-Earth, but did we REALLY need two full pages dedicated to Frodo's version of Hey Diddle Diddle?? I think not. But a Tolkien book without songs or poems is like an un-iced cupcake: sad and a little bit pointless. Especially when the non-Hey Diddle Diddle songs give us such perfect lines as "Not all those who wander are lost" and "Home is behind, the world ahead" (which never fails to make me tear up when Billy Boyd sings it in Return of the King).
Basically, it was amazing from start to finish. There's a lot of build up for events that happen in the second and third books, but it never feels like Tolkien's saving all the action for further down the track. The characters are brilliant, and Tolkien's passion for the world he's created shines throughout. I don't think anyone on the face of the earth has ever put as much depth and history and attention to detail into their world-building as Tolkien did. I mean, he invented MULTIPLE LANGUAGES, for crying out loud. So yes. Fabulous world-building, fabulous characters, fabulous story telling, general fabulousness throughout.
Onwards to The Two Towers!
Have you read it? What did you think? And do you wish Tom Bombadil was included in the movies too??
*May contain hyperbole.