Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Victory is mine!

It's been a long slog, and I interrupted it to read Jon Krakauer's Eiger Dreams, but I am pleased to report that, only a few decades late, I have finally finished The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Fellowship of the Ring scores points for its contrasting heroic archetypes. First there's diminutive Frodo, a kind and good hobbit. When fate thrusts the terrifying role of Ring Bearer upon him, he finds solace in duty, friendship, and perseverance. He suffers without complaint both physically and emotionally, trudging on despite wounds or weather, although--because he's a tender, sensitive type--he is likely to swoon, shiver uncontrollably, sleep fitfully, or faint before the day or night is out.

Frodo's heroic foil is Aragorn. Aragorn has a lineal suffix surname ("son of Arathorn"), but he prefers to go by "Strider" and assorted other one-word nicknames when he is out and about because he finds the accompanying anonymity useful. He bathes in invigorating streams of testosterone every morning so that he always smells of virility even when he's travel worn. He is tall, handsome, wise, knowledgeable, trained in herbal healing arts, capable of carrying hobbits through head-high snow drifts, poetic, musical, contemplative, vigilant, efficient, and modest. He looks just as good in rustic earth tones as in shimmering green elvenwear. Protector and guide, he inspires trust and is (literally) a born leader. He doesn't faint.

There are three semi-prominent female characters in the book, and all of them have names, so that's some improvement over The Hobbit. The first is the river spirit Goldberry, wife of Tom Bombadil, whose job it is to look inspiringly pretty and to laugh with a sonorous tinkle. She and Tom appear early on in the book, when Tolkien was still writing a children's story instead of a profound fantasy epic for adults. The second female is the elf Arwen, whose job it is to sit still and quietly in Rivendell and be breathtakingly beautiful. As the only quiet, unmarried, breathtakingly beautiful female in the book, she is a suitable beloved for Aragorn, who is so strong and silent that he can mention her only obliquely and only to elves. The third female is the wise elf ruler, the Lady Galadriel. She's poised, elegant, wise, and magical, not to mention inspiringly beautiful.

As for the story's action, my favorite part of the book was when arrogant Boromir tried to persuade Frodo to yield the ring; the charged dialog and plot twist were very dramatic, and they occurred only a few pages from the end of the book, which made the reading all the more rewarding. Thereafter, I immediately commenced The Two Towers and was impressed with the speed with which Tolkien dispatched Boromir. Nowhere else, not even in tragic opera, has a character so promptly kicked the bucket in payment for his sins.


Guy said...

Excellent! At the least I look forward to your description of the next female character in the book.

mom2homer said...

I'm sure that among her other qualities, she'll be inspiringly beautiful.