Frodo, Fellowship of the Ring and the Hero’s Quest
Shocking as it may seem to some, I’ve never read J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, nor The Hobbit. I suspect there are folk who would suggest that Tolkien should be considered part of the Literacy Canon. Alas, within a day or so I will be finishing book one to eagerly immerse myself in book two.
I’d seen the movies when my kids were growing up, but as all lovers of literature know, a great book supersedes any satisfaction a film can deliver. (OK, I will admit to being wowed by the SFX in those battle scenes.)
On one level the story is a classic battle between the forces of good and evil. On another level it is a classic story of a hero’s quest. In this case, it is a lowly hobbit named Frodo.
In all great adventures of this type there’s something at stake. Here, the future of Middle Earth is on the line. If the evil Sauran acquires the ring, the one ring that rules them all, then Middle Earth and all things good will be doomed.
I had a friend in college who encouraged me to read this book. He proved unsuccessful at the time, though he did succeed in turning me on the Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The book’s chief claim to fame lies in Tolkien’s skill at creating an entire world of characters and settings unlike our own, populated by elves, hobbits, dwarfs and wizards. Extensive in scope, Tolkien’s epic brought to mind The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy finds herself in a different world, but with a singular quest, to return home. Frodo must destroy the ring.
A key feature of the story, though, is how Frodo’s quest is a team effort. As a result, the story slowly introduces a widening fellowship of travelers, nine in all with the addition of Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir.
The lessons are many. I’d be curious to know how many of us have personally had a personal grand vision or aspired to achieve something significant, but failed to pull together a support team of people who believed in you and your mission. I know that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were “teammates” in an Oxford literary circle called “The Inklings.”
C.S. Lewis, of course, created a world called Narnia that had its own history and geography, populated by famously original characters. The seven volume children’s book series is rich with insights for “children” of all ages.
Neither of these men, however, can be proclaimed the original creator of this fantasy genre. Both had predecessors, and I think here George MacDonald (Lilith, The Golden Key) who was a peer of and friend with Charles Dodgson, whom the world revered as Lewis Carroll.