Monday, November 2, 2015

The Branched Plot

When I think about the storyline of The Lord of the Rings, I usually separate it mentally into two plots (profound, I know). These plots are Sam and Frodo's journey to Mordor, and the adventures of all the other characters (Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, and the rest). In The Fellowship of the Ring, the characters are together for the most part, and there's a single storyline. However, after the breaking of the Fellowship, the characters are split into two groups. Sam and Frodo simply walk into Mordor, while the others are running around fighting battles and rallying forces to fight against Sauron. The structure of the volumes into books helps make this structure clear, and it's very easy to keep the two storylines straight.

I like how Tolkien separates the characters and then unites them again after the Ring is destroyed in The Return of the King. It's common for authors to tell their stories from different perspectives, but I like how Tolkien did it for this story in particular. It really emphasizes how together, the two character groups and their actions bring about Sauron's downfall.

Personally, my favorite chapters are the ones about Aragorn and the others (though I also enjoyed reading about Sam and Frodo; just maybe a little less). I loved reading about all the different places they adventured to and all the characters they met there.

How do you think the story would have unfolded if the Fellowship had stayed together? Which of these plots was your favorite to read? Do you like the organization of the story into books (with each book telling one of the two perspectives), or do you wish Tolkien had alternated these perspectives on a chapter-by-chapter basis?


Varda said...

First of all, I think the journey would have been unsuccessful if the Fellowship would have remained together. Aragorn and Gandalf's influence on the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor, in addition to the warfare contributions of Merry, Pippin, Legolas, and Gimli, provides the framework for the entire remainder of the story. The concept of the Fellowship would have been wasted if the men had all stayed together, though that may sound weird when referencing a "fellowship." The character developments and transformations which occur as a result of the breaking of the Fellowship are paramount to the outcomes of each of the members' lives.

I personally loved the layout of the novel into different books with specific perspectives because otherwise I would have felt disconnected and confused. I think Frodo and Sam's journey is actually a bit underrepresented, mostly because their journey is literally a long, long walk with a few interesting key events. If their story would have been thrown into an every-other-chapter layout, I would have probably become disinterested because I would not have been able to mentally adjust to their plight and the novel itself would have been hard to follow due to the immense detail of this particular work.

Oromë said...

Every time I read or watch The Fellowship of the Ring, it makes me sad when the Fellowship breaks, and the characters all go their separate ways. There is a sort of sentimentality when the Fellowship is all-together that really appeals to me. That being said, I still believe that the breaking of the Fellowship is necessary not only for the success of the quest, but for the success of the story.

Before the Fellowship splits up, its purpose is singular: to destroy the ring. The reader is sort of aware of the problems facing the rest of Middle-earth, but the focus is, really, primarily on Frodo and the ring. When the Fellowship splits up, however, the reader is given access to much more of Middle-earth, placing Frodo's quest at the center of a grander plot. Frodo may be an important player, but he is not the only player. Nor is his quest the only quest. There is much more going on in Middle-earth than the united Fellowship can witness.