Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Lord of The Rings (1954-1955)

If there is one thing in this world that has inspired the world of nerddom, it has to be the fantastical writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. While I’m not a Tolkien nerd/geek/fan/cult-member, I understand those who are. I mean, I’m writing a blog mostly about fantasy and science fiction – and I love doing the digging necessary for each article.

Tolkien did not only write “high epic fantasy”. He was first and foremost a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. You can see a list of his published material at the Tolkien Library website.

While working as a lexicographer on the New English Dictionary, Tolkien began working on the elven language (primarily based on Finnish and Welsh – go to The Elvish Library to get your Tengwar baptism). At the same time he presented his The Fall of Gandolin. The Fall of Gandolin represents the beginning of what later became The Silmarillion. He ended up at Oxford in 1925, and it was after this that the work on first The Hobbit and then The Lord of The Rings began. (Tolkien Library – biography)

The Hobbit was a hit, making it easier for the publisher to contemplate publishing The Lord of The Rings. But for economic reasons, it was decided that three volumes were necessary. The three volumes were The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and the Return of the King. My copy is the omnibus containing all three novels and the appendices at the end, appendices that are quite a bit of fun.

Generally, I try to analyze what it is about a book that makes me like it. With The Hobbit it was the adventure of the tale. The Lord of the Rings is rather more difficult to pin down. Part of my liking has to do with the quality of the work. Tolkien nit-picked at details until they fit into his Middle-Earth world. The likeability of all of the characters also plays a great role. Even the “baddies”. The way the story is told, jumping from place to place is frustrating at times but also makes a lot of sense. I absolutely hated it when Tolkien broke from one adventure when things were at their most critical, to visit someone else where he had left them off. But it did keep me reading. I remember the first time I read The Lord of the Rings. I stayed up all night to get through it. Once I get going, The Lord of the Rings is difficult to put down. I have no idea how many times I have read this book, but I have gone through it a few times.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Each book is divided into two parts. The Fellowship of the Ring consists of I: The Ring Sets Out and II: The Ring Goes South.

From the Shire to Rivendell by Lotro

Bilbo is having his 111th birthday party combining it with Frodo’s 33rd. The whole Shire is looking forward to the celebration as there will be gifts for everyone and enormous amounts of food. As ordered, Gandalf shows up with fireworks for the party.

Bilbo is going to give up the ring, but he is finding it more difficult than he had thought. Somehow, it ends up in his pocket no matter what his intentions are. That is one of the problems with the ring. Once it chooses you as an owner, it will use you up until it feels like letting you go. Now Bilbo has to fight his own desires. In the end he manages to leave the ring with Frodo, his nephew, and Bilbo leaves the Shire with Gandalf.

Leaving the Shire by Ted Nasmith

Originally, the ring had belonged to Sauron. Sauron is a wizard who has gone over to the dark side (like Darth Vader in Star Wars). Now that he has amassed quite a bit of power, he wants his ring back and has sent his minions to search for it. The search has led him to the Shire. Gandalf returns to warn Frodo that he needs to leave the Shire. He does so, and ends up in the company of his friends Sam, Pippin and Merry. They go via the Old Forest to avoid whatever is looking for them.

Tom Bombadil saves hobbits from Old Man Willow (need artist’s name)

The Old Forest is ruled by Tom Bombadil. Thankfully, he keeps a close watch over his kingdom and manages to be there for the hobbits when they need him. With his assistance the hobbits are able to get through the Old Forest. Their journey carries them through Barrow-Downs, Bree and Weathertop.

The four hobbits learn quite a bit about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. Their loyalty to each other increases with their trials. Middle-Earth is not exactly a paradise, free from dangers. Once the Shire is left behind, danger seems to be the word of the day for this little troup. At Bree the hobbits meet up with a ranger called Aragorn. Together, they test the bond between human and hobbits and find out what they all are made of. Eventually, the gang manages to arrive at Rivendell, one of the homes of the elves.

A well-earned rest is taken at Rivendell. Elrond, the elven-leader at Rivendell convenes the Council of Elrond. At the Council, reports are given, and the decision as to what needs to be done next is taken. They decide that the One Ring must be destroyed and once again the hobbits set off. This time there are nine people who set out.

THE TWO TOWERS

As with The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers also consists of two books. Book III is The Treason of Isengard and book IV The Ring Goes East.

treebears by Matthews

Treebeard by Rodney Matthews

This is when Tolkien begins to get seriously annoying. Sadly, he has to because the company has split up and we need to know what happens to each party. Frodo has left the Fellowship and gone down the road he thinks is necessary. Along with him went Sam. For now, we learn very little new about them, but we will later on (of course). This part of the story belongs to Merry and Pippin and the important part they play in furthering the plot.

The group gets split even further. Merry and Pippin are taken by the Uruk-hai. The rest have to make a decision. Try to find Frodo and Sam or follow Merry and Pippin. Merry and Pippin it is. Fortunately for Merry and Pippin, their stay with the Uruk-hai is not an extended one. After their escape they come to Fangorn forest and the Ents. Treebeard’s depiction above is one of the coolest ones I’ve come accross yet. Treebeard is the leader of the Ents, tree-people who have taken a looooong rest (for some of them a permanent one).

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas come accross tracks that remind them of hobbit feet. They follow them into Fangorn and meet Gandalf again. Meeting him is a shock and a surprise (hah, hah, hah – not telling why). Together they rouse the armies of Rohan and all of them travel on to Helm’s Deep where they are needed.

Faramir by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, from Rolozo

In the meantime, Frodo and Sam continue on their journey toward Mordor. Who should appear but Gollum. His attraction to the One Ring is strong and he cannot help being pulled towards it. Frodo and Sam get him to promise to guide them to the Black Gate of Mordor.

Once they get to the Black Gate, Gollum finds it easy to convince Frodo and Sam to follow him to a secret entrance into Mordor. By going there, they will avoid guards. As they keep on going, the three-hobbit-group meets up with Faramir and his Rangers. The Rangers help them on their way. Faramir warns Frodo and Sam that Gollum might know more about the secret entrance than he is telling. And he does. Does he ever. But then Gollum is true to the nature that has become his. Possession of the One Ring is all that matters to him. Means justify the end, and what an unpleasant set of means he has awaiting the two hobbits.

THE RETURN OF THE KING

In our last book of The Lord of the Ring trilogy we find the books V: The War of the Ring and VI: The Return of the King.

The Battle at Minas Tirith by Andrzej Grzechnik

The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy for the faint-hearted. From what I’ve heard, that goes for the movies as well (I have not seen them). There is violence, plenty of violence and death. As you have found thus far, people die along the way. How many of these heroes will survive, is not certain at all. But what most of you already know, due to all of the media coverage of the films, is that some of our heroes will make it – all the way to the very end.

But before we get that far, war beckons in another land. A horde of Orcs are attacking Gondor and the people of Gondor are desperate for help. The goal of Gandalf and Aragorn and the rest is to get there in time to make a difference. But when the dreaded Witch King of Angmar arrives on the scene with even more help from Mordor, nothing is certain.

Map of Mordor by Khând

As you will see when you read The Return of the King, plenty has happened to Frodo and Sam. Their journey towards the destruction of the One Ring is proving extremely problematic. Orcs are following their tracks through the desolate landscape of Mordor. Getting from Cirith Ungol to the Crack of Doom is by no means certain. Nothing of value is to be easy for the two friends.

And this is where I leave off. Like I said at the beginning, The Lord of the Rings has been an enjoyable and tense journey, one that I wish everyone could enjoy. I have not seen the films, and I will not do so either. The images evoked by this trilogy through reading, are enough for me. I wish to retain them, not replace them.

For my dyslectic son, the films were the obvious choice and one that he enjoyed. My non-dyslectic son has read the trilogy several times and seen the films and enjoyed all of them. I’m just too old-fashioned, I guess.

The White Tree of Gondor by Alan Lee


Awards

1957: Awarded the International Fantasy Award


SOURCES


ADAPTATIONS

Film

1978: Part I of a rotoscoped animation of Lord of the Rings was released by United Artists and directed by Ralph Bakshi. UA considered the film a flop and refused to fund Part II.

1980: Rankin/Bass use the opportunity to give out a televised animation of the Return of the King. It was targeted at a younger audience.

1998: Miramax began a live-action adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson. New Line Cinema assumed production responsibility and decided that there would be three, not two films. 2001: The Fellowship of the Ring; 2002: The Two Towers; 2003: The Return of the King.

2009The Hunt for Gollum, a fan film based on elements of the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, was released on the internet in May 2009.

Awards

  • All three films by Peter Jackson won the Hugo Award for Best (Long-form) Dramatic Presentation in their respective years.
  • 4 Oscars for The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 2 Oscars for The Two Towers
  • 11 Oscars for The Return of the King

Radio

1955: The BBC produced a 13-part-radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. It is a very faithful adaptation.

1979: US dramatization subsequently issued on tape and CD.

1981: BBC produced a 26 half-hour-episode adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.


Stage

1990s: Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, produced individual plays of each of the three books.

2001-2003: Full-length productions of each of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) were staged in Cincinnati, Ohio.

2006: Three-hour-stage musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Mirvish Productions opened in Toronto (opened in London 2007).


Music: There are groups playing anything from death-metal to folk music who are fans of Middle-Earth. Some albums are very middle-age while others are far from it.

  • …Of Forest And Fire…
  • …Where the Shadows Lie
  • A Night in Rivendell
  • All that Glitters
  • An Evening in Rivendell
  • At Dawn in Rivendell
  • Beyond the Western Seas
  • Complete Songs and Poems
  • Dol Guldur (album)
  • Evernight (album)
  • Firestorm Apocalypse – Tomorrow Shall Know the Blackest Dawn
  • The First Ring
  • Forest of Edoras
  • In Elven Lands
  • Inspirations of the Middle Earth
  • Journey of the Dunadan
  • Landscapes of Middle-earth
  • Leaving Rivendell
  • Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame
  • Lost Tales (album)
  • Lugburz (album)
  • Minas Morgul (album)
  • Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On
  • Music Inspired by Middle Earth
  • Music of Middle-Earth, Vol. 1: From the Shire to Rivendell
  • Music of Middle-Earth, Vol. 2: From Khazad-dum to Gondor
  • Mystic Legends…
  • Nightfall in Middle-Earth
  • Nightshade Forests (album)
  • Oath Bound
  • Onwards to the Spectral Defile
  • Sagan om Ringen (album)
  • Shadow Rising
  • The Starlit Jewel
  • Stronghold
  • Sword’s Song
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (album)
  • The Last Alliance (album)
  • The Lay Of Leithian (album)
  • The Middle Earth Album
  • Third Age of the Sun
  • Unveiling the Essence
  • Winds of Change

Audio books

1990: Recorded Books published an audio version of The Lord of the Rings, with British actor Rob Inglis.


Satire and parody based on The Lord of the Rings

  • A soft core porn comedy entitled The Lord of the G-Strings.
  • The Harvard Lampoon satire Bored of the Rings, and its prequel  The Soddit.
  • A little-known BBC Radio series, Hordes of the Things (1980) attempted to parody heroic fantasy in the style of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • A German resynchronization of the Fellowship’s first twenty minutes, called Lord of the Weed – Sinnlos in Mittelerde,  portrays the characters as highly drug addicted.
  • Quickbeam and Bombadil, The Lords of the Rhymes, mix Tolkien’s fantasy world with hip-hop.
  • Two New York City based authors, Jessica and Chris, parody Tolkien’s work in Once More With Hobbits.
  • Several former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000 created Edward the Less which parodies the trilogy.
  • The episode of South Park entitled The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers spoofs Peter Jackson’s version of the trilogy.
  • The Lord of The … whatever, a “transcribed electronic text version”, written by the Tolkien fans of the rec.arts.books.tolkien newsgroup as a reply to those who ask where can they download an electronic copy of the book. It has lots of fan in-jokes, like whether Balrogs have wings or not, a long-standing debate in the Tolkien fandom.
  • Flight of the Conchords claim that their parody Frodo was rejected as a theme song for Peter Jackson’s movies.
  • The Ring Thing – a Swiss parody of The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy, however it has received mixed reviews.
  • MADtv spoofed the series with The Lords of the Bling.
  • Kingdom O’Magic by Fergus McNeill. He became famous during the eighties for games such as Bored of the Rings (influenced by, but not adapted from, the Harvard Lampoon book) and The Boggit.
  • Why can’t they just lose the ring in the sink?, humour columnist Dave Barry’s satire.
  • Dead Ringers, BBC Radio/TV satirical comedy show regularly features Lord of the Rings-themed sketches.
  • Bobo, a very popular Serbian voice-over video on scene from the first film, which features Boromir and Frodo as gay lovers.
  • British Comedy duo French & Saunders have also satired and spoofed in detail Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring in a BBC 2002 Easter Special entitled The Egg.
  • A parody entitled teh l0rd of teh Ringz0r has done the rounds of bulletin boards systems.
  • A Spanish voice-over video of Gollum debating about which is the best football (soccer) video game.
  • One Man Lord of the Rings A one man show by Charles Ross, reciting and parodying the three films in an hour.
  • REC Studios’ Fellowship of the Ring A parody starring four people portraying multiple characters each and condensing the first third of the story to under a quarter of an hour.
  • MTV produced the Lord of the Piercing, a parody about the Council of Elrond, in which Frodo uses the One Ring in a piercing. The 4 minute episode comes as a hidden extra in the first DVD of the 4-disc set of The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Fellowship! – A musical parody of The Lord of the Rings
  • Worth 1,000 – Comical images related to The Lord of the Rings.
  • 50 Reasons Why Lord of the Rings Sucks – Only to be read if no sharp objects are within reach.
  • Lord of the Rings vs. The Matrix vs. Star Wars – Comical review of the three movies, not to be taken even remotely seriously.

Video games, board games, role playing games, puzzles, card games, a chess set and miniatures games include the themes from Lord of the Rings.

Various J.R.R. Tolkien recordings on youtube.com


 

One thought on “Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Lord of The Rings (1954-1955)”

  1. Do you think that George R.R. Martin uses 2 R’s in tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien?

    In both cases they do fantasy/mythology, and both their works seem at least somewhat based on Norse mythology, in particular.

    Like

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