When I asked my friends why they didn’t make me read the LOTR trilogy sooner, they replied that I “just wasn’t ready.” And after reading it, I know what they meant. JRR Tolkien’s books are dense. Each is crammed with new languages, intricate backstories, and complex histories. Right off the bat we’re introduced to hobbits, dwarves, wizards, and elves— three books worth.
Maybe that’s why I kept putting them off; I’m not a big fantasy fan, and I rarely start a trilogy (Come on, it’s a big commitment). The idea of an intricate yet fake world just wasn’t appealing.
But it turns out the rich culture was exactly what made me fall in love with the stories.
First off, Tolkien literally created languages for these people. He crafted Quenya and Sindarin (Elvish), Khuzdal (Dwarvish), Entish (a language of the trees), and Black Speech (of Mordor). And some of them, especially Elvish, are absolutely beautiful:
Not to mention that Tolkien created complex histories for each of these groups as well. The appendixes alone take up a third of the pages in the final book. And with languages and histories come poetry; the books are filled with songs and tales expressing both dark days and brilliant glory.
O! Wanderers in the shadowed land
Despair not! For though dark they stand
All woods there must end at last,
And see the open sun go past:
The setting sun, the rising sun,
The day’s end, or the day begun.
For east or west all woods must fail…
These literary accomplishments are cool enough on their own, but put an epic story within its context—one ring to be destroyed lest evil befall all—the journey becomes all the richer. So, yeah, it’s a little nerdy. It can get pretty complex. But whether you’re a fan of dragons and swords or of history and literature, I really think you’ll find something to love.