Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, famed author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, were best friends and often read one another's work. Do you see any similarities between the Lord of the Rings and Narnia books? How do you think the two writers might have influenced each other? How do they differ?
The Fellowship of the Ring begins with a prologue on Hobbits, and the first half of the novel takes place mostly in or near the Shire. What do you think of the pacing of this early section of the novel? How would the tone and style shift if we started in Rivendell, with the Council of Elrond? Or with the love story of Aragorn and Arwen, which only appears in pieces in the Appendices to The Return of the King?
Tolkien claims that the Tom Bombadil chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring have a purpose to them: to show the natural pacifism that grows from renouncing material objects and enjoying "things in themselves without reference to yourself" (source, 178-9; in a letter to Hugh Brogan, 9/18/1954). Be that as it may, if you had a choice over the shape of The Fellowship of the Ring, would you keep the Tom Bombadil chapters? What do they add to the narrative? How would the book change without Tom Bombadil?
As we mention in The Hobbit learning guide (where this trait is even more marked), Tolkien's work has often been criticized for the absence of major female characters in his conception of Middle-earth. There are women in The Fellowship of the Ring, but they live mostly on the margins of the story. Can you imagine the Lord of the Rings with a female Dwarf or Elf as a member of the Fellowship? How would the Ring quest change if either Frodo or Sam were female?
One thing that always strikes us when we read Book 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring is that the pacing is really fast, especially compared to, say, the Tom Bombadil chapters of Book 1. In the space of ten chapters, we get the Council of Elrond, the Fellowship's failure to cross Caradhras, the disaster at Moria, and their trip through Lothlórien. Is there any portion of this second book that you would like to see more of? What would you sacrifice in the first book to make room for expanded chapters in the second?