||I have decided to review the forward,
prologue and appendices separately, because they deal with a lot of
matter, related to the book, but not actually part of the book. Most of
it comes in the form of a storyteller commenting on the story, so it is
actually quite far removed from the story itself.
In Tolkien's Forward, he specifically
counters the interpretations of some reviewers of The Lord of the Rings.
I have heard people comparing the end of this book to the second world
war. I do not know enough about the details of the end of the war to
make that comparison, but I do not see how this could be viewed as an
allegory. Tolkien's alternate summary of a likely "allegory" in the
Forward seems more likely. He learned about the horrors of war
first-hand, and this allowed him to give us some gritty details and some
knowledge of strategy, but I do not see the metaphors that some people
claim to see. I have always preferred this as a story, especially in
light of The Silmarillion. Knowing that story, or history of the world,
then The Lord of the Rings becomes an obvious conclusion of the tale.
I would suggest reading the Prologue
after reading the books themselves, as the geography and people would be
meaningless otherwise. It also gives away some of the things that may
happen. Specifically, it tells us that Merry and Pippin became great
leaders after the war, that Sam and Faramir (separately) had
grandchildren, and so on... There are several places in the books where
their very survival is in doubt, but this would spoil it.
I have always disliked the way Tolkien
approached this and The Hobbit as histories to be translated and
collected from some more ancient works. Here it is made explicit that
the work could be fluid, as more "reference material" could be found.
Specifically, this is found in the account of The Hobbit, as the first
edition had Bilbo telling a different account of the discovery of the
Ring, compared with the second edition, published after
The Lord of the
Rings. Obviously, Tolkien had to fit the story with his new discoveries
about the Ring while writing the larger work. He interprets this
discrepancy as Bilbo lying about his encounter with Bilbo, and
historians correcting the story later on.
I would disagree that the Lord of the
Rings is too short, as Tolkien says. I think the length is perfect (if not a little too
long for the end to be reached after the Ring is destroyed). If
anything, it is Appendix A that is too short. The description of the
history of Arnor, Gondor, Rohan, the dwarves and the tale of Aragorn and
Arwen could have been drawn into a larger story of its own. I would have
loved to see the stories of Cirion and Eorl and Aragorn and Arwen from
Unfinished Tales included here, instead of just a synopsis.
I was intrigued by the entire history
of the Third Age, and wanted a lot more. However, some of the text was
written in a strange way, that was more complicated than it should have
been, I think. Instead of listing the kings, then talking about them
later, it would have been better to just put a label in parentheses
after their names in the text. I also found that so many of the names of
kings and princes were too similar, especially for such a condensed
version of the tale. It was very difficult to keep straight who was who.
It was the deeds that were interesting, however.
The tale of the dwarves is so very much
related to what went on in the Lord of the Rings that it seems like a
shame that we only get it as an appendix. I would love to see an
expanded version of their history in the Third Age.
The story of Aragorn and Arwen tells
that there were only three unions of men and elves. I wonder how true
that can be. It seems very restrictive, especially given their proximity
in so many locations. There is also the legend that the folk of Dol
Amroth were of mixed blood -elf and man.
Appendix B is a tough read, but
provides us with a good summary of the Third Age, and somewhat of the
Second. If anything, it gives us specifics in summary about what
happened in the book we just read! However, there is so much talk of
The Silmarillion, which had not been published at the time, that I wonder
what readers of that time thought of it. There was an entire age
unaccounted for, mentioned and obviously available to the author, but
not to the readers!
The tale of years tells us that Legolas
built his own ship that could travel the Straight Road! I was amazed at
that; very cool. Was special knowledge required, or had Cirdan not yet
left the havens? It is not clear when Cirdan was to leave, and the
Appendix C is not really worth
mentioning, being an incomplete genealogy of obscure hobbits.
Appendix D is the calendar of the
realms. I wonder who cared about what the real names of the months were in
different ages and species and parts of the world. Do we want to know
how they reformed the calendar as we also did centuries ago?
I found Appendix E interesting only as
an insight into the evolution of our own languages and letters. I have
no experience in philology, and no interest, but have casually wondered
how languages and writing evolved into what we use today. In that, this
appendix was somewhat informative.
Appendix F, as I mentioned in
of Middle Earth, was rather uninteresting and even worthless, for me.
The relationship between our languages and that of the Third Age does
not feature into the story of The Lord of the Rings at all, except
incidentally. It only adds to Tolkien's sense of being the objective
storyteller, translating an ancient work. I feel that this actually
detracts from the story. I did have to laugh at Tolkien's obvious
criticism of Walt Disney, when talking about his elves and dwarves
compared to the fantasy stuff that has been seen in the recent past.
I feel that the Appendices should
complement the story that we just read. Appendices A and B are certainly
relevant, as they add a dimension and tell a little of the history which
was only referred to by some of the characters, and could only be
explained by lengthy exposition. Those things are definitely better off
here. It seems to me that Appendix C would only be poured over by actual
hobbits, and Appendix D to people who were trying to figure out the
actual timeline discrepancies, perhaps for charting purposes, as in
Journeys of Frodo. Appendix E should interest people trying to decipher
the text on the cover of the book (although both sets of letters are so
fluid that they are only useful to the truly dedicated, yet the appendix
also gives us much more information than is necessary, at the same time).
Finally, Appendix F would interest people trying to figure out why some
names seem to be related to others, and why they appear to be from
different European backgrounds.
The only parts of the Prologue and
Appendices that I found truly enjoyable were Appendices A and B. The
rest could have been expunged without true loss, perhaps freeing up
space for expansion of the truly related material. Of course, I know
that many other people feel differently, but I suppose these people are
actually working in this special realm of Middle-Earth. Myself, I prefer
stories compared to supposed "translations" of make-believe histories.