The Fellowship of the Ring. The first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy takes a little while to get off the ground, it must be said, what with all of the faffing around Bag End that goes on. In fact, the main character of the novel ages 17 years before the story actually takes off. Which doesn’t happen until page 102. This would be unheard of in a modern fantasy epic. From there, if you skip over the drinking songs, things move at a pretty good clip. Barrow wights, black riders, Frodo getting stabbed on Weathertop, the flight to the ford. It’s all good stuff.
But when we get to Rivendell, the hidey-hole of a bunch of elves digging on endless flute music and bad poetry, things slow down. The action dries up, and it’d be a good time to break out some of the halflings’ leaf. Because we’re about to take a trip down memory lane with an elf who’s so old he makes Methuselah look like a freshly docked spring lamb.
I remember my first reading of The Lord Of The Rings. I was in grade five, and although I enjoyed the orc-chopping bits, the talky bits were a bit hard for me. I got bogged down at the Council of Elrond for six whole months. My eyes watered with the boredom of reading this chapter.
On re-examining it, the chapter is actually pretty interesting, although it weighs in at over forty pages of backstory and exposition. But having sat through many a boring meeting in my adult life, I can imagine that actually sitting through the Council of Elrond, perhaps as a low-ranking member of Elrond’s house, would be a nightmare.
It’s the worst kind of meeting. Everyone on staff is ordered to be there, and the boss has a serious look on his face. There are a few key stakeholders from other branches in attendance. And there’s a looooong list of agenda items, none of which concern you. You know you’re not getting out of there anytime soon.
Yes, you’ve been summoned to the Council of Elrond.
Everyone is already sitting down when you arrive. Some dwarf named Groin is gabbling on about a failed mining venture. Is it too late to quickly grab a coffee and a monte carlo? As you start to the tea buffet, Glorfindel shoots you a dirty look and shakes his head no. You find a seat as close to the back of the room as you can.
Next item on the agenda is a retelling of the history of the ring of power. You’ve heard this one before. In fact, the elves in your department commonly say of Elrond “Don’t get him onto the One Ring. You’ll never shut him up.” And sure enough, like all good bosses who love the sound of their own voice, Elrond takes his sweet time recapping all the ins and outs of every age. Can’t he just lay out the key takeaway to bring you up to speed? You’re already yawning through your nose, and it’s not even ten o’clock.
Elrond finally brings it in for a landing, and that freeloading old hobbit Bilbo says something about food. Did anyone mention whether or not this thing was catered? You could slay a jelly slice at this point. But then Elrond makes the mistake of asking the hobbit to run through his item before lunch. Your eyelids flutter in annoyance as Bilbo launches into a lengthy run-down of the three months when he was relevant. Typical. When others are speaking, the hobbit can only think of his stomach. But get him to fill in a tiny gap of the story and he totally milks his moment.
You start to get indignant. Angry, even. You’re simmering in a stew of self-righteousness. How dare Elrond detain you like this! He isn’t the only one with things going on, after all. We all have private lives. Maybe you need to write a sternly worded letter. Anonymously, of course. Or perhaps unionise the elves. Set strict limits on meetings: no more than three sagas and a lay.
By the time Gandalf finishes harping on about fleet horses and fell beasts, you realise there’s no way you’re making it to that drum-and-flute jam session. You were hoping to catch up with young Darunia the she-elf to lay some groundwork. Another thirty lives of men and she’ll be quite the looker.
You lose all feeling in your left buttock from sitting down for so long. A fog rolls over your brain, and you resign yourself to not getting out of here until your eternal life is almost over.
Suddenly there’s a stony silence at the table, and it occurs to you that you stopped listening about an hour ago. Oh, shit. Elrond just asked for a volunteer to head up some kind of project. What did he say? Something about travel… high risk venture… product recall. You didn’t catch the details. Is Elrond expecting you to volunteer? What if it relates specifically to your department’s mission statement? You’re going to look like an idiot if you don’t put your hand up for it.
Everybody’s waiting. You clear your throat, sitting up in your seat a little. It’s time to step up to the plate. Knock one out of the park. Really put your stamp on–
“I will go to Mordor. Though I do not know the way.”
Oh, thank goodness.