What colour is your aura? Which primetime serial killer are you? How long would you last in a zombie apocalypse if hampered by a new born and a sausage dog? These are just some of the quizzes you’ll find online to ease those mid-afternoon moments, but I don’t know you. More importantly, I don’t know how to create fancy quizzes. What I do know is Lord of the Rings, and (hopefully) books, and so I present to you: The members of the Fellowship of the Ring as books.
Warning: I am going in here with the assumption you know Lord of the Rings. If you don’t, I appreciate your dedication, but I may lose you.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
In which an intergalactic ambassador, Ai, goes on a journey to an alien planet and in doing his duty is shunned by various societies. He is aided and eventually loved by his ambisexual companion, who enables his journey across a perilous landscape.
It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have.
Alternative: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, in which the Pilgrim travels to a mountain, seeking deliverance of the heavy burden (sin) he is carrying, accompanied by Pliable, Obstinate, and Help. He falls in a swamp, reaches the Wicket Gate (I am not making this up), goes along a narrow highway, and eventually reaches a sepulchre, where the ‘straps’ binding Pilgrim’s burden break, and it falls into the open sepulchre. I know Tolkien hated allegory, but come on.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
In Ancient Greece, Patroclus watches as his lover Achilles is drawn towards an irrevocable heroic destiny brought on by his demigod heritage. At times helpless or outraged, but always supportive, Patroclus stands small but strong by Achilles’ side as he is dragged into the trenches of the Trojan War. Anyone who doubts this need only look at Sam’s face in Return of the King when Frodo leaves for the undying lands.
And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.
Alternative: Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. This wholesome childhood favourite celebrates food, nature, and above all, friendship.
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
In what is considered to be one of the best Discworld novels, Sam Vimes is sent to the past in the midst of a revolution. Vimes’ stout heart and unwavering ethics are tested to their limits, with dramatic success.
He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew…then it was too high.
Alternative: Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
In which the impulsive young Jim Hawkins goes on a dangerous adventure to discover the mysterious Treasure Island amid pirates and parrots. A classic, swashbuckling coming-of-age adventure.
I lay down flat in the bottom of that wretched skiff and devoutly recommended my spirit to its Maker. At the end of the straits, I made sure we must fall into some bar of raging breakers, where all my troubles would be ended speedily; and though I could, perhaps, bear to die, I could not bear to look upon my fate as it approached.
Alternative: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. A gorgeous story wherein the stuffy, temperamental Sophie meets the charming, if careless and dishonest wizard Howl, and they accidentally embark on an adventure against the wicked Witch of the Waste.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
We’re getting meta here but bear with me. On first glance, LotR involves a lot of fighting and killing orcs, but at its heart is about camaraderie, duty, and is incredibly poetic. Sound like anyone?
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
I am so self-righteously sure of this that there is no alternative. Aragorn needs no backup.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
In which Eleanor’s mind is twisted as she stays in Hill House, more so than her companions. She is haunted by the ghost of her abusive mother as she descends into destructive madness. [Spoilers] And she escapes only through death.
She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair.
Alternative: The City & The City by China Miéville, wherein two cities are laid on top of one another, overlapping but never interacting, even when murder’s afoot. Boromir’s troubled relationship with Minas Tirith – the one his father rules, the one he wants to return to with Aragorn, is reflected here.
Ulysses by James Joyce
A pretentious classic.
I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I? Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand. Would you go back to then? Just beginning then. Would you?
Alternative (with Gimli): Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Apply as you see fit.
Nimona by ND Stevenson
In this graphic novel, a small angry redhead fights a morally-ambiguous fight alongside two rivals with wild homoerotic energy.
‘You can’t just go round murdering people. There are rules, Nimona.’
Alternative (with Legolas): Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Who am I kidding, Legolas is Pride and Gimli is Prejudice.
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Reading this book cover to cover and taking copious notes shows the incredible vastness of Middle Earth, and all the things in Lord of the Rings which were set in motion in the past Ages. It is also a stuffy, laborious text to read at times, but the wisdom it leaves you with is without doubt.
‘Many are the strange chances of the world,’ said Mithrandir, ‘and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter.’
Alternative: The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest notable narrative in human history.
What do you think? Can you think of any obvious ones I missed? It was great fun, I might have to do another one…