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#1 Mar 18 2013 at 1:14 PM Rating: Good
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So in the past month I've read The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers. Well, reread the first two. At the moment, I'm taking a break from Tolkein to read The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

Thing is, when I finish this, I need to decide if I want to actually read The Return of the King or not. And I'm starting to lean heavily towards no. Thing is, while I understand the importance of these works in the context of the genre's development, I have to say... Tolkein is a horrible writer.

Okay, maybe that's too strong. But they are serious issues here.

He's faithless to his characters, the plot and developments are almost all reactionary, the narration is erratic at best, and the switch in scope of the plot is constantly jarring.

Of the characters, only Sam and Gandalf seem to actually get any meaningful characterization, and actual development is even rarer. And Sam is so unlikable that even this is rough. Why is a book series focused on the story of this one fellowship failing so miserably at making me feel like these characters even exist? Outside of plot-driven events, they're barely even mentioned. What character traits does Merry possess? I hardly know, because outside of maybe 3 short conversations in two books, he barely plays any role. Gimli spends most of his time talking about how fair Galadriel is. Legolas barely talks unless it's to tell them what he sees in the difference, or to express his desire to see the various forests. Pippin is only featured when he's screwing stuff up in a meaningful way (minus the scenes when they escape into Fangorn).

At the end of the day, none of them feel real to me. They barely elicit a more emotional response than the name "Gil-galad" does, and I have no clue who Gil-galad even is.

So my serious question is whether or not it's worth prioritizing ROTK? Part of me wants to read it, because I've already finished 2/3 (+1). But I am starting to feel like I won't actually feel any emotional return from it other than the satisfaction of being done with the trilogy. And that's... bad.

I mean, I still have the Farseer Trilogy, the Night Cycle Trilogy, the Shannara series, and more to read. Plus, I bought the Guild Wars 2 novels, and one of the Dragon Age novels, because I was curious.

OH, also Stardust and The Princess Bride.

So it's not like I'm struggling to find something to read...

Edited, Mar 18th 2013 3:53pm by idiggory
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#2 Mar 18 2013 at 1:17 PM Rating: Good
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Tolkein reads like a travel brochure to me.
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#3 Mar 18 2013 at 1:54 PM Rating: Good
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Except it's not even a good one, because nearly all the lands outside of the shire are desolate and unappealing.
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#4 Mar 18 2013 at 2:02 PM Rating: Excellent
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idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
Thing is, when I finish this, I need to decide if I want to actually read The Return of the King or not. And I'm starting to lean heavily towards no. Thing is, while I understand the importance of these works in the context of the genre's development, I have to say... Tolkein is a horrible writer.

Okay, maybe that's too strong. But they are serious issues here.


I have to agree with you. When I read Lord of the Rings for the first time as a 12-13year old it really fascinated me and I could not imagine a book greater than those. Not anymore sadly.
I'd say if the first two were not a fun read stay away from the third and read something you enjoy in the time you saved.
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#5 Mar 18 2013 at 3:17 PM Rating: Good
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I agree. I read the Hobbit back in like 7th grade and though ti decent at best, and only got part way through Fellowship before giving up in annoyed boredom.
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#6 Mar 18 2013 at 4:23 PM Rating: Excellent
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#7 Mar 18 2013 at 4:26 PM Rating: Good
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Agreed. They should all be knocked down 1 karma grade for their insolence.
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#8 Mar 18 2013 at 5:19 PM Rating: Good
I really liked the Hobbit, but I think that was because it was so different from LotR proper.

I feel like when Tolkien wrote his trilogy, he was emulating the old stories like Beowulf. You don't get deep characterization, you get a narration of what happened, like someone telling you an old fairy tale. To me, LotR fits this description pretty well.

I mean, Tolkien pretty much only wrote LotR so he had an excuse to write in elvish frequently, and the Silmarillion is a textbook. He wasn't going for what we think of now as the fantasy genre, even though it wound up as it is today in large part because of these works.
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#9 Mar 18 2013 at 5:36 PM Rating: Good
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So my serious question is whether or not it's worth prioritizing ROTK?


You should totally read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It's a little harsh on Cao Cao and overly reverent of Liu Bei, IMO, but it's a worthy read. Smiley: jester

I really enjoyed the Farseer Trilogy. I wouldn't say that it's very consistent in quality, and there's something, I dunno....just off about it that makes it a bit unsettling (not sure if that's bad or good). But it's got some sensational moments, a fittingly somber tone, and a stellar ending.

Just started the first Black Company book, meself. I'm really hoping to enjoy it.

Edited, Mar 18th 2013 7:37pm by Eske
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#10 Mar 18 2013 at 5:57 PM Rating: Good
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Oh, I also bought the first in the Malazan series this week.
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#11 Mar 18 2013 at 10:40 PM Rating: Good
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Eske Esquire wrote:
Just started the first Black Company book, meself. I'm really hoping to enjoy it.

The first three are relatively awesome, mostly due to the jarring narration style.

The next few ("Books of the South") are decent, and after that they start to get a little unfocused as the Annalist position moves on to new characters. Still, it's worth reading the whole series.
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#12 Mar 18 2013 at 11:51 PM Rating: Excellent
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Demea wrote:
Eske Esquire wrote:
Just started the first Black Company book, meself. I'm really hoping to enjoy it.

The first three are relatively awesome, mostly due to the jarring narration style.

The next few ("Books of the South") are decent, and after that they start to get a little unfocused as the Annalist position moves on to new characters. Still, it's worth reading the whole series.


Seconded. though it picks up again at the end.
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#13 Mar 19 2013 at 3:18 AM Rating: Excellent
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idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
Oh, I also bought the first in the Malazan series this week.


A wise choice! My favourite work in fantasy so far. Maybe that'll change when the Song of Ice and Fire is finished. Here's to hoping it does get finished. Smiley: frown

I tried the Black Company but couldn't get into it. Really didn't like any character. It did entertain me but maybe my expectations were too high after Malazan and Ice&Fire being compared to it so often.
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#14 Mar 19 2013 at 7:38 AM Rating: Good
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idiggory, King of Bards wrote:

OH, also Stardust and The Princess Bride.
The Princess Bride is the grandest exception of Book >> Movie . Had I read the book before seeing the movie, I'd never have seen the movie.

Of the LoTR trilogy, I thought the first book was the most engrossing for me. But the third was better than the second. I don't agree about Sam. I think he was the only really well developed character aside from Frodo. Gandalf was pretty stereotypical wizard.

Anyways, I'd read the third book if I were you. Just because you should finish the trilogy. Though the ending wrap-up part drags on (and on).
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#15 Mar 19 2013 at 12:26 PM Rating: Good
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I have to say... Tolkein is a horrible writer.

Yeah, horrible. I don't think anyone (including Tolkein) was under some other impression. The books are important, the writing's awful. That said, only The Hobbit is meant to be a narrative in the technical sense. LOTR was intended more as modern epic poem, hence the 3 pages of singing when Boromir dies that makes any sane person want to claw their eyes out.
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#16 Mar 19 2013 at 3:53 PM Rating: Decent
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IDrownFish of the Seven Seas wrote:
I feel like when Tolkien wrote his trilogy, he was emulating the old stories like Beowulf. You don't get deep characterization, you get a narration of what happened, like someone telling you an old fairy tale. To me, LotR fits this description pretty well.


This was exactly what Tolkien was doing. The whole point is that the events are more important than the characters themselves. They exist as vehicles for the plot, not the other way around. Modern storytelling tends to focus on the characters, their motivations, hopes, fears, etc, so we're used to that and find its absence jarring. Um... but having said that, even for the times, Tolkien was dry.
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#17 Mar 19 2013 at 5:06 PM Rating: Excellent
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I've never read Tolkien except for the Hobbit when I was in 4th grade (and barely remember).

Never watched any of the movies beyond the first one either. Just never felt like dedicating three+ hours to one of them. I only saw the first one because it was on Netflix during the post-birth period when I was up 20 hours a day and Netflix became my best friend for a while.
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#18 Mar 19 2013 at 5:46 PM Rating: Good
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Elinda wrote:
idiggory, King of Bards wrote:

OH, also Stardust and The Princess Bride.
The Princess Bride is the grandest exception of Book >> Movie . Had I read the book before seeing the movie, I'd never have seen the movie.

Of the LoTR trilogy, I thought the first book was the most engrossing for me. But the third was better than the second. I don't agree about Sam. I think he was the only really well developed character aside from Frodo. Gandalf was pretty stereotypical wizard.

Anyways, I'd read the third book if I were you. Just because you should finish the trilogy. Though the ending wrap-up part drags on (and on).


I agree with Sam. I think he's easily the most developed character. I can't comment on whether or not Gandalf is a sterotypical wizard simply because I haven't experienced enough of the genre from before LOTR to make that claim. But he's at least one of the only characters who experiences growth. None of the other characters seem to meaningfully change as a result of the events. Or they change in one way and it goes to define their character.

Gandalf goes from a man with a great number of doubts to a man of action (who still has doubts, but understands the need to move forward anyway. It's not necessarily a massive amount of character development, but it is compared to everyone else.
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#19 Mar 20 2013 at 5:55 AM Rating: Decent
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I'ld read it, if only to end the series. The movie does not do it justice, especially the fight at Minas Tirith. (and ofcourse the horribly boring ending in the movie)

Tolkien is dry and fairly boring, definitely not my favourite author. LotR isn't a book I'll ever reread, but I am glad I read it. As others have already posted, characterization isn't the most important thing in the books, never the goal of the tale. Although, and I'm going to catch hell for this most likely, it isn't really a big deal in most fantasy books, definitely not the epic/high fantasy books anyway.

But yes, definitely finish the series!
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#20 Mar 20 2013 at 2:54 PM Rating: Decent
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idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
I can't comment on whether or not Gandalf is a sterotypical wizard simply because I haven't experienced enough of the genre from before LOTR to make that claim.


He's not. More correctly, Gandalf more or less established what we think today as a "stereotypical wizard" (and a bunch of other stereotypes that are considered staples of fantasy today). Prior to Tolkien, wizards were usually shapeshifters, potion makers, or artificers. They didn't "cast spells" in the way we think today (although some witches did, but that was more like hexes and such). Elves were more like what we'd call pixies or sprites (tiny things with wings). Dwarfs were more like Gnomes (like a foot tall, sometimes related to trees or toadstool circles, and trapped people who foolishly followed them to their underground homes). And of course, orcs are a complete invention of Tolkien, but are now in the common domain thanks to TSR using them in D&D, and the Tolkien estate not thinking to sue them quickly enough.

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But he's at least one of the only characters who experiences growth. None of the other characters seem to meaningfully change as a result of the events. Or they change in one way and it goes to define their character.


Yeah. Not much characterization in Tolkien. Although, I'm not sure if Gandalf so much "grew" as changed. Again though, the issue is that Tolkien really doesn't present the story from a character point of view, so while we can imagine the internal changes, we're not told outright about them. I'd also suggest that Aragorn changes significantly as well. His transformation from ranger with no wish to claim his throne to king is arguably one of the central character elements of the books (as much as such can be given we're talking about Tolkien here). This is far far more focused on in the films than in the books though. In the books, he's already made the decision to become king by the time he agrees to join the fellowship. The film actually invents the whole conflict and question of his choice and Elrond's involvement (and delivery of the Sword). In the books, it's been reforged and he carries it with him when leaving from Rivendale for the entirety of the quest. It can be argued that Jackson's version is better, but again reflects the modern audience's expectation of and need for character driven elements in a story.

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Gandalf goes from a man with a great number of doubts to a man of action (who still has doubts, but understands the need to move forward anyway. It's not necessarily a massive amount of character development, but it is compared to everyone else.


Yup. Again though, it's all more or less implied in the books. Tolkien basically sucked at trying to tell us anything about a characters personal feelings. It's all done via dialogue, and fairly strained dialogue at that. Tolkien was much more comfortable describing things and places and events than he was describing how people felt about them. Still though, it's a classic, and it's startling how many things we associate with modern high fantasy were more or less created by Tolkien in his world of Middle Earth. And the story itself is pretty darn good.
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#21 Mar 20 2013 at 6:14 PM Rating: Good
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I'd also suggest that Aragorn changes significantly as well. His transformation from ranger with no wish to claim his throne to king is arguably one of the central character elements of the books (as much as such can be given we're talking about Tolkien here)


Is that featured in the last book? I know the movies presented Aragorn this way, but I didn't get that at all from the first two books. He always seems gung-ho on going to Gondor. He spends a lot of time internally lamenting the loss of Gandalf, because he thinks it means he has to go with Frodo and can't head to Gondor. And there's that whole thing about how the sword would be reforged when the ring was found again, he's extremely proud to be wielding the blade, and he doesn't shy away from his family name ever.

And they spend a LOT of time talking about his kingly air. When they arrive in Rohan, he has no problems acting as the Prince of Gondor. He doesn't ever really show the doubt they give him in the movie.

Honestly, if he starts showing doubt about taking up the throne in the third book, it would just be weird. Because he's seemed gung-ho on heading there for the first two books. Fine, that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to be king, but he's bringing back the sword that was broken and he's been claiming his lineage this whole time.

It could just be that this is a byproduct of Tolkein's style choice to completely ignore developing his characters. But I'm not particularly in the mood to be accommodating.
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#22 Mar 20 2013 at 8:03 PM Rating: Decent
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No. It's not presented in the actual story directly. Jackson added it because it is alluded to in the appendixes and other source material that Aragorn had a choice to stay as a ranger or choose the path of kingship (I think there was also an issue with wanting to just live with Arwen in Rivendale and believing that pursuing the throne would cost him that). But in the books, that choice is basically made "off screen" and occurs before he joins the Fellowship (it's unclear if he's made that decision when he leads the Hobbits to Rivendale though). Tolkien was just poor at portraying character emotions and turmoil, so he just left that out of the direct story. I think it was right of Jackson to put it into the story, even though it required some alterations to some events (which I suppose the purists hated).

The other major (but somewhat related) alteration is that in the films Elrond is presented as having given up on Men and more or less not wanting anything to do with Aragorn reclaiming the throne, to the point of actively attempting to separate Aragorn and Arwen. While I can't remember all the details of their backstory (it's in the Appendixes in RoTK), I don't recall it being that direct. Also Elrond is the one who keeps the Ring and Staff for Aragorn to have when he's of age and who hides him and raises him until that time. He gives Aragorn the Ring (not the one ring, his family ring thingie), and basically sets him on the path to reclaiming the throne. So there's lots of questioning of roles and paths going on, Tolkien just doesn't let that stuff get in the way of his story, but adds it into the Appendixes instead.

It's a deliberate style choice. Tolkien's to leave the doubt and uncertainty of the hero/king figure out of the direct story itself, and Jackson to take it out of the back story and put it front and center. Each reflects the style and intended audience. But it is clear from the Appendixes that in his past he did turn his back on Gondor and the path of the king. He served as a military commander in Gondor (under an assumed name) decades earlier and had achieved quite a name for himself and people willing to follow him. He could trivially have assumed the throne at that time if he'd wanted to, but he decided not to. Something changed between then and when he chooses to join the Fellowship. Tolkien just doesn't elaborate on it. It's that change I was referring to.


I guess I sometimes forget which bits were in the direct story, and which are picked up from the Appendixes and other sources.
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#23 Mar 21 2013 at 6:24 PM Rating: Good
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I'd also suggest that Aragorn changes significantly as well. His transformation from ranger with no wish to claim his throne to king is arguably one of the central character elements of the books (as much as such can be given we're talking about Tolkien here)
Is that featured in the last book? I know the movies presented Aragorn this way, but I didn't get that at all from the first two books. He always seems gung-ho on going to Gondor. .
Yeah, there's no indication in the books at all that Aragorn had forfieted his legacy in any way. He was gung-ho for the crown because (as indicated in the Appendix) Elrond told him that "none less than the King of Gondor and Arnor" would wed his daughter.

gbaji wrote:
No. It's not presented in the actual story directly. Jackson added it because it is alluded to in the appendixes and other source material that Aragorn had a choice to stay as a ranger or choose the path of kingship (I think there was also an issue with wanting to just live with Arwen in Rivendale and believing that pursuing the throne would cost him that). .
No. See above

gbaji wrote:
Also Elrond is the one who keeps the Ring and Staff for Aragorn to have when he's of age .
Only the ring (at age of seniority). Aragorn doesn't get the staff until his crowning, as it is the symbol of authority (as opposed to a crown) for the North Kingdom (Arnor).

gbaji wrote:
But it is clear from the Appendixes that in his past he did turn his back on Gondor and the path of the king.
He delayed it. See above.


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Edited, Mar 22nd 2013 4:41pm by Bijou
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#24 Mar 22 2013 at 7:26 PM Rating: Good
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I would get in on this discussion, but it's been years since I've read the books. After having read this thread I am a bit tempted to dig them out though. I am a bit disturbed at how much Bijou knows about the story, I would think it would be someone difficult for him to read them. I suppose there could be an edition out there with a huge font.
#25 Mar 22 2013 at 10:14 PM Rating: Good
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I would get in on this discussion, but it's been years since I've read the books. After having read this thread I am a bit tempted to dig them out though. I am a bit disturbed at how much Bijou knows about the story, I would think it would be someone difficult for him to read them. I suppose there could be an edition out there with a huge font.
Your mom is a huge font.Smiley: mad

I re-read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings about 3 times per year and have done so for about...eight years. I used to do that with the Silmarillion,too, but I lost that book a couple of years ago and have not replaced it.
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#26 Mar 25 2013 at 8:34 AM Rating: Good
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Smasharoo wrote:
I have to say... Tolkein is a horrible writer.

Yeah, horrible. I don't think anyone (including Tolkein) was under some other impression. The books are important, the writing's awful. That said, only The Hobbit is meant to be a narrative in the technical sense. LOTR was intended more as modern epic poem, hence the 3 pages of singing when Boromir dies that makes any sane person want to claw their eyes out.
So much this. Tolkien may have launched the modern Fantasy novel into popularity, but he was NOT the first modern Fantasy writer. He was the last of the traditional Epic Poets in the vein of Boewulf, Homer's The Odyssey, and Virgil's The Aeneid. These epics were very much meant foremost to teach and preserve cultural knowledge*, rather than being an entertaining narrative. Seriously, it sounds like you've got a lot of very good books to read. You've read enough Tolkien to know what it's like, and you know the ending to the story. You don't have to write an essay on it, so why torture yourself with more of the same? Lots of people love Tolkien as adult readers, and lots don't, including me. Reading it over and over again as a child was enough. It's not fun as a novel to an adult me, and I don't remember any great literary merit beyond being an example of The Epic. And it doesn't even have most of the coded metaphysical, psychological layers of old epics.

*The Aeneid was commissioned to glorify a particular Roman Emporor, which Virgil audaciously undermined in his prologue by sending all his words through the Ivory Gate, the gate of dreams and falsehoods.
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