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Thanks for the detailed reply, Joe :) It kind of makes me want to dive into the books now. (I keep meaning to read them, but then I get distracted by other books. That trilogy has always seemed like such a big commitment...)

I'll be honest with you -- the first three chapters of the first book are very slow and can be very boring. Tolkien is wrapping up some threads from The Hobbit, giving some backstory for the Ring, and prepping the main characters for the start of their journey.

Get through those first three chapters, though, and it's a total train ride all the way through until the last few chapters of the third book, where once again Tolkien is taking the time to wrap up all the loose plot threads and bring everything to a proper conclusion. Remember those three "false" endings in the movie version of Return of the King, followed by the real ending where Sam returns alone to his family and says, "I'm home"? Those were all pretty much verbatim from the book, and that left out a major chapter (The Scouring of the Shire) that comes between the hobbits leaving Gondor and Bilbo and Frodo departing with Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel to the Blessed Isles.

OK, I'm going to stop now before I start telling you to shout "Frodo lives!!" ;-)

- Joe -
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