I have often heard it said that the first book in the series is the slowest to get underway. Indeed, it does take a long while comparatively to get Out of the shire and begin the journey, which in my opinion, doesn't really get rolling till The Prancing Pony a good deal of the way in... That being said, I cannot help but feel that the slow beginning helps to make the journey itsself more real in feeling. As you plod stumbling through the woods on the way to The 'Pony, you get a much more visceral feeling for the slow pace and difficult makings of travel in middle earth which I think adds a more realistic understanding of what exactly is entaled in the more rapidly covered traveling done later on.
By covering the grunt work at the beginning, you are allowed to move more rapidly through the travel once the situations get more tense and hectic without underrepresenting the toil that doing so actually involves.
That being said, I very much Do Not like the tendancy for Tolkien to not be capable of passing a field, forrest, or mountain without waxing endlessly about its name, its past, its geographical context, etc... Such data is good to have, but as a first time reader I was left doing a lot of mental work to remember all that data before eventually realising that None of it Really Mattered to the Actual Story Right Now... Likewise, there are several asides into stories and tales (and SONGS) of things that, while also not without their own merrit, also Did Not factor into the story right then...
Time and again I found myself (as a FIRST TIME reader) struggling to keep clear names, events, geography, and characters which are Extensively delved into, to only find later that None of it was Needed to complete the story in the end...
Mind you, these are all the same things that those who read the story time and time again will find most valuable and intriguing in the long run, but as a reader, I'd prefer an author to somehow hint at their non applicability in situ to save me the needless effort.
That being said, I think this story is uniquely better than the next two at providing the key backstory for all that Does Matter. Short passages by Elrond for example cover Vast Spans of Time and move far too quickly over fundamental events that underly the whole situation as it now rests. Indeed, most Everything that happens at the Council Meeting is extremely interesting. Most of this is Not returned to later on in the series and is Important to Catch and Understand!
In fact, I would say this first book in the 3 (tho Tolkien himself divided it differently) is actually the more coherant. A Single Narrative where events progress one after another which is Not the case always in the books to come. Making this book perhaps the most well devised of the 3...
In many ways I very much Love the audible version of the books, for the majority of the time the narration is transparent and characters not only self identify, but seemlessly blend into conversation... but there remains 1 SERIOUS FLAW in the spoken form that Continues to Bother me Time after Time - to the point of loathing their occurrance (Fast forwarding even) - The SINGING is Loathsome to me.
Not that the voice is terrible, but the voice is ever the same for dwarves as elves and hobbits... while Speaking this is not a big deal, but Singing, and especially the choirs of singing, it becomes loathsome.
Moreover however, as one who is hoping to hear and experience the original text as Tolkien presents it, The Tunes and rhythms are completely the contrivance of the narrator and producer and are Not in any way Represented by Tolkien in the original format!
As a musician and composer, I am left Hating the domination of their own whims over the possibilities I might Make Myself as to their performance if the original Data ALONE was given. I cannot help but think that the tunes and rhythms of Dwarves, Elves, and Hobbits would be FAR more Differently structured in Reality than they are here - when presented as the singular whims of the same persons time after time.
Even the lyrics, when I struggle to hear beyond the added absurdity Suggest to me a different itteration... yet the insistance of the ear and the presumption of the reader exert a far stronger pull on the mind.
While I found at first the sections of Tom Bombodil horribly unpleasant and cheezy (he's the Jarjar Binks of middle earth) I wonder afterwards what difference it would have made if the reader had not Imposed on those sections his own 'flumpy doodley doo' approach.
The character as presented would take me about 5 minutes to punch in the face they're so annoying, yet the particular Power and Magic of his song makes me think it Must have been In Actuality far more effective and enticing.
I continue to wish - in vain I suppose - that the material could be presented SIMPLY SPOKEN, yet even then the rhythms might be corrupted... I had even thought of reverting to a TEXT representation for them - thus presenting them as Tolkien intended.
Text can, by use of poetic arrangement, Suggest Possible organisations - in the same way Dr. Suess can, without Emposing a perception on the reader where the author chose not.
In this way I not only dispise the song passages as uninteresting, poorly moving, and similar, but I Regret and Loathe the lasting effects they might have on the interpretations of the songs I might try to make in future of my own sort...
Novels are Loved and Powerful because of their abilities to allow readers to bring their own experiences and memories to bear on the information presented... it simply feels presumptive and imposing for a narrator and a producer to Decide For me that which was Purposefully left open to interpretation in the original form.
Nevertheless, this is the best (and Only) option for an audio form I have yet found, and thankfully the musical passages are less in this book than in the Hobbit... indeed they happen far less even throughout the series. Thankfully.
An annoying and needless flaw to an otherwise excelently made rendition. Not perhaps a book ruiner, but certainly something I wish I had known to disregard Beforehand rather than spend so long listening and wondering if that was as Tolkien had actually heard it... or indeed intended it...
Here's hoping that this foreknowledge in your own case on both counts will allow your first experience of the book to far exceed my own! The potential is yet there, and the fundemental narrative is indeed powerfully evocative and engrossing!
Good luck! and Enjoy!
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