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The Fellowship of the Ring cover The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Published by Del Ray Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

The Hobbit was such a hit with readers that they soon were clamoring for a sequel. So Professor Tolkien set out to write one.

However there was one difficulty -- the end of The Hobbit stated quite plainly that Bilbo Baggins lived quietly for the rest of his life and never had any more adventures. So Tolkien had to come up with a new protagonist.

He soon settled on Bilbo's ring as the catalyst for the new hobbit story, and after a few false starts he came up with Bilbo's nephew Frodo as the new protagonist. From there the novel grew -- and grew and grew.

While Tolkien was writing The Hobbit, various elements of his older material came peeking in. There was the offhand mention of the three kindreds of the High Elves who had gone to the Uttermost West to learn wisdom. Then there was the matter of the mysterious Necromancer of Dol Guldor, against whom Gandalf had acted.

Once Tolkien realized that the Necromancer was in fact Sauron, chief lieutenant of the ancient Enemy, the "new hobbit story" became something more. The simple adventure story grew into an account of the end of the Third Age of Middle Earth.

Bilbo's magic ring turns out to be none less than the long-lost One Ring, which Sauron created to control all the other magic rings created by the Elvish master smiths. It was taken from him after his fall at the close of the Second Age, over three thousand years earlier. Now that Sauron's power is growing again, the part of himself he placed in the One Ring is calling to him. His agents are about, seeking rumors of the Ring.

If the One Ring should fall into Sauron's hands, he will be able to return in all his former power and crush the free peoples who oppose him. But the One Ring cannot be used against Sauron, because its perfidious nature will inevitably corrupt any who use it, even the strongest of the Wise. The only solution is to put it beyond Sauron's reach forever.

However, there is no hiding place so obscure, no stronghold so impregnable, that the One Ring can be kept safe from the re-emergant Sauron. The only permanent solution is to destroy it. But there is only one place in all of Middle Earth in which it can be destroyed -- the fires in which it was originally created. That is Mount Doom, the volcanic mountain in the heart of Sauron's stronghold, the land of Mordor.

The task before Frodo and his young hobbit companions seems overwhelming. But they will have powerful companions on their journey. The mysterious Strider reveals himself to be none less than Aragorn, the long-lost heir to the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. The wizard Gandalf will lead their band, who include an elf and a dwarf, as well as the son of the Ruling Steward of Gondor. Together they form the fellowship of the Ring, the Nine Walkers to oppose Sauron's Nine Riders.

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Review posted October 5, 2000

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