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Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The novel serves as a sequel to The Hobbit.

The work was originally conceived as having six parts:

  • Book I: Return of the Shadow
  • Book II: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Book III: The Treason of Isengard
  • Book IV: The Journey to Mordor
  • Book V: The War of the Ring
  • Book VI: The Return of the King
Tolkien's publisher, however, chose to issue the story in three volumes:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring

    • The Fellowship of the Ring is the first volume of the epic novel The Lord of the Rings. It is divided into two books.

      The first sets the stage for the adventure and follows Frodo Baggins as he flees from his home in the Shire to escape the minions of the Dark Lord Sauron. Sauron seeks the One Ring that will allow him to rule Middle-earth. This ring has been inherited by Frodo who finds himself unwittingly in the midst of a struggle for world domination.

      Heeding the advice of the wizard Gandalf, Frodo leaves his home, taking the Ring with him. He hopes to reach Rivendell, where he will be safe from Sauron, and where those wiser than he can decide what to do about this whole world domination problem.

      In his journey he is accompanied by three hobbit friends, Pippin, Merry, and Sam. From the start they are pursued by Dark Riders, the Ringwraiths who serve Sauron. Narrowly escaping the Dark Riders, and other nasties, they eventually come to Bree, where they meet Strider, another friend of Gandalf who leads them the rest of the way to Rivendell, through further hardships.

      Book Two chronicles Frodo's stay at Rivendell where a plan is hatched to destroy the Ring. Frodo sets forth with eight companions and a pony (see Fellowship of the Ring). This book ends when the company of the Ring dissolves.

      The movie adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring was the 5th highest grossing film in world history (source: IMDB). It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best supporting actor, and best adapted screenplay. It won four of those awards: best score, makeup, special effects, and cinematography.

  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King (includes 6 appendices and 4 indexes)
From this division it became regarded by some as a trilogy or even "The Trilogy".

For the sake of brevity when referencing, the name of the whole novel is often abbreviated to LoTR, and of its three volumes respectively to FoTR, TTT and RoTK.

Publication history

The three parts were published for the first time in 1954-1955 (several months apart). They were later on re-issued numerous times, both as a single volume, as 3 volumes, and even as 7 volumes (based on the original division into 6 books and appendices). One of the current prints is available as ISBN 0-618-12902-2. The books have also been translated, with various degrees of success, into dozens of other languages besides English.

In the early 1960s, the American paperback publisher Ace books realised that, due to a quirk of American copyright law, the Lord of the Rings was not copyrighted in the USA. They proceeded to distribute an unauthorized edition, to Tolkien's outrage. Tolkien made this plain to US fans who wrote to him, and the grass-roots pressure grew so great that Ace books were forced to withdraw their edition, making a nominal payment to Tolkien as acknowledgement that they had been in the wrong. Authorised editions followed, from other publishers, to great success. This remarkable work by the mid-1960s had become, especially in its appeal to young people, a sociocultural phenomenon.

The enormous popular success of Tolkien's epic story gave rise to a slew of imitators and hopeful rivals. The genre of fantasy fiction had existed before the publication of The Lord of the Rings (as seen in pulp fiction adventures), but beginning in the 1960s a large number of writers followed in the Professor's footsteps. A number of genuinely exciting, well-written books of this genre were published (comparable works include the Earthsea books of Ursula K. Leguin and the Thomas Covenant novels of Stephen R. Donaldson), though a great number of cliched "fantasy adventure" stories were also published. The term "Tolkienesque" came to refer to the cliched idea of a group of adventurers embarking on a quest to save a magical fantasy world from the armies of an evil "dark lord."

The Books

The Lord of the Rings is heavily influenced by Tolkien's interest in philology, fairy tales, Norse and Celtic mythology. Tolkien designed a complete mythology for his realm of Middle-earth, including genealogies of characters, languages, runes, calendars and histories.

The plot of the Lord of the Rings follows directly from his earlier book The Hobbit and more obliquely from the Silmarillion.

The hobbits of Tolkien's earlier tale become embroiled in great events that threaten their entire world, as Sauron, the embodiment of evil, attempts to regain the lost One Ring which will restore him to full potency.

The Lord of the Rings on film

There were plans for the Beatles to do a version of The Lord of the Rings but they came to nothing. It was even said that Stanley Kubrick had looked into the possibility of filming the trilogy, but he abandoned the idea as too "immense" to be made into a movie.

Warner Brothers produced an animated adaptation of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers" in 1978. JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Ring incorporated animation over live action sequences, and was directed by Ralph Bakshi. The animated film The Return of the King was released in 1980 by the same producer. An animated version of the prequel Hobbit was released in 1978. The animated films were originally made for TV broadcast, as the regular cliffhanger pauses for commercial breaks attest.

Three live action films, directed by Peter Jackson have been filmed. The Fellowship of the Ring was released in December 2001 (and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2001). The Two Towers is scheduled to be released in December 2002 and The Return of the King is scheduled to be released in December 2003.

Characters from The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Bilbo Baggins
  • Frodo Baggins
  • Sam Gamgee
  • Peregrin "Pippin" Took
  • Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck
  • Aragorn
  • Boromir
  • Legolas
  • Gimli
  • Gandalf

Other Characters

  • Bill the Pony
  • Bill Ferny
  • Elrond
  • Galadriel
  • Gollum
  • Saruman
  • Sauron
  • Tom Bombadil
  • Goldberry
  • Treebeard
  • Fredegar `Fatty' Bolger

Pop-culture references to The Lord of the Rings

  • Led Zeppelin's music: Misty Mountain Hop is named after Tolkien's Misty Mountains; Ramble On refers to Mordor and Battle Of Evermore is an actual allegory from the "Battle of Pelennor Fields" from Return of the King
  • Rush has a song called 'Rivendell' on their Fly By Night album.
  • Swedish musician Bo Hansson has made an entire instrumental album based on The Lord of the Rings
  • The Brobdingnagian Bards have named one of their tracks 'Tolkien', and the remix 'The Lord of the Rings'
  • The TV show Babylon 5 includes occasional homages to The Lord of the Rings, as well as epic themes drawn from similar mythological roots.
  • The satire Bored of the Rings.
  • The books were an enormous influence on the Dungeons & Dragons game, and subsequently on the entire field of role-playing games.

The Silmarillion is a collection of J.R.R. Tolkien's works, standardized and published posthumously by his son Christopher. It contains these five pieces:

  • The Ainulindalë - the creation of Eä, Tolkien's universe.
  • The Valaquenta - the Valar and Maiar, the deities and angels
  • The Quenta Silmarillion - the history of the events before and during First Age
  • The Akallabęth - the history of the Second Age Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

The fictional Silmarillion, together with other posthumous collections of Tolkien's works, such as Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth, forms a narrative detailing the history of the universe where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place. Although reading The Silmarillion is not necessary to enjoy these books, one can learn much more about Tolkien's world and its concepts by reading it.

The Silmarillion is a very complex work, employing an extremely wide array of themes that originate in lore of countries all over Europe, but not adhering to any of them. Thus, the title of Eru Ilúvatar (One who is Father of All) is clearly borrowed from Norse mythology; the story of Túrin Turambar is very similar to a motif from Finnish Kalevala; and Númenor is obviously reminiscent of Atlantis (in fact, one of the names Tolkien gave that land was Atalantë).

Historically, the first drafts of The Silmarillion stories date back to as early as 1917, when Tolkien was hospitalized in a field hospital with trench fever. He tried to publish some the stories (in a very early version) some time in the 1920s; however most editors regarded them with suspicion (the fairy tale for adults was not a popular concept then). He tried once more, having published The Hobbit in 1937; however that time too, The Silmarillion was found to be too complicated, and so Tolkien was asked to write a simple sequel instead (that sequel developed into The Lord of the Rings).

However Tolkien never abandoned these stories, probably seeing in them the genesis of Middle-earth as it is, the later events (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) being only the aftershocks. The last drafts of the Silmarillion stories were written just a short while before Tolkien's death in 1973. For several years, Christopher Tolkien worked on deciphering and connecting his father's drafts, which often were mere sketches. The final result, which was connected in a chronological sequence and made consistent, was published in 1977.

Currently, The Silmarillion is available in several editions, such as the 1990 version from Ballantine Books, ISBN 0345325818.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Christopher Tolkien published all of his father's writings as the 12-volume History of Middle-earth series. In addition to the source material and earlier drafts of several portions of The Lord of the Rings, these books greatly expand on the original material published in The Silmarillion. These later books also reveal that Tolkien developed certain parts of the story of The Silmarillion more than others. The chapters of the story with the greatest (and most interesting) detail include:

  • The Tale of Beren and Lúthien (the Lay of Leithian)
  • The Tale of Túrin Turambar and Nienor Níniel
  • The Fall of Gondolin


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Biography of J. R. R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (January 3, 1892 - September 2, 1973) was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Professor of English Language and Literature from 1945 to 1959. His fascination with languages caused him to invent several languages; later elaborating an entire cosmogony and history of Middle-earth as background. He is best known as the father of modern high fantasy fiction with his fantasy novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. He also did much critical work on Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He was one of the members of the literary discussion group The Inklings, and very close friends with C. S. Lewis.

Tolkien served in the British Army during World War I, where he saw a number of his fellow servicemen lose their lives, and he himself ended up in a military hospital, suffering from trench fever. It was during his recovery that he began to write an invented series of fairy tales based upon his studies of mythology and folklore. Scholars of his work say that the war influenced his writings, and he saw fantasy as a way to escape from the harsh reality of factories, machines, guns, and bombs of the 20th century.

Tolkien created numerous artificial languages (among which the most famous are the two Elvish languages from Lord of the Rings, Quenya and Sindarin). Tolkien was familiar with the artificial language, Esperanto, which he learnt at 17 years of age. Though he did not claim to be an Esperantist, he was quoted as promoting its use.

Tolkien never expected his fictional stories to be embraced by the public. At the urging of C.S. Lewis, he published a book he had written for his own children called The Hobbit (1937). Though intended for children, the book was read by adults as well, and it was popular enough for the publisher (Allen & Unwin) to convince Tolkien to work upon a sequel. His most famous work was the epic three-volume novel The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), which the Encyclopedia Britannica called "richly inventive" [1]; conversely many scholars (particularly those working in the field of Norse mythology), aware of Tolkien's sources, consider the work highly derivative. Tolkien at first thought that The Lord of the Rings would be another children's book like The Hobbit, but it quickly grew more dark and serious in the writing. Though a direct sequel to The Hobbit, it was intended for a much older audience, drawing upon the immense back-story of Middle-earth that he had constructed and that eventually saw publication in the The Silmarillion and in other posthumous volumes.

The Lord of the Rings was, judged both by sales and surveys of readers, one of the most popular works of fiction of the twentieth century. The influence of Tolkien weighs heavily on the fantasy genre that grew up after the success of The Lord of the Rings.

Work published in JRRT's lifetime:

1937 The Hobbit 
1945 Leaf by Niggle (short story) 
1947 Tree and Leaf (essay) 
1949 Farmer Giles of Ham 
1954 The Fellowship of the Ring, part 1 of The Lord of the Rings 
1954 The Two Towers, part 2 of The Lord of the Rings 
1955 The Return of the King, part 3 of The Lord of the Rings 
1962 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book 
1964 Tree and Leaf (On Fairy-Stories and Leaf by Niggle in book form) 
1967 Smith of Wootton Major 
Posthumous non-Middle-earth material 
1976 The Father Christmas Letters 
1982 Mr. Bliss 
1998 Roverandom 

Tolkien continued to work upon the history of Middle-earth until his death. His son Christopher Tolkien with assistance from fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay organised some of this material into one volume, published as The Silmarillion (1977).

Christopher Tolkien continued over subsequent years to publish lots of background material on the creation of Middle-earth, beginning with Unfinished Tales (1980), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), and an essay collection, The Monsters and the Critics (1983), and continuing with:

The History of Middle-Earth series

1983 The Book of Lost Tales 1 
1984 The Book of Lost Tales 2 
1985 The Lays of Beleriand 
1986 The Shaping of Middle-Earth 
1987 The Lost Road and Other Writings 
1988 The Return of the Shadow 
     (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1) 
1989 The Treason of Isengard 
     (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2) 
1990 The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3) 
1992 Sauron Defeated 
     (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4) 
1993 Morgoth's Ring 
     (The Later Silmarillion v.1) 
1994 The War of the Jewels 
     (The Later Silmarillion v.2) 
1996 The Peoples of Middle-earth 


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