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The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by philologist and Oxford Universitymarker professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit (1937), but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War II. Although generally known to readers as a trilogy, the work was initially intended by Tolkien to be one volume of a two-volume set along with The Silmarillion; however, the publisher decided to omit the second volume and instead published The Lord of the Rings in 1954-55 as three books rather than one, for economic reasons. It has since been reprinted numerous times and translated into many languages, becoming one of the most popular and influential works in 20th-century literature.

The title of the book refers to the story's main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who had in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power, as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth. From quiet beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land not unlike the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters, most notably the hobbits, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry) and Peregrin Took (Pippin).

Along with some of Tolkien's other works, The Lord of the Rings has been subjected to extensive analysis of its themes and origins. Although a major work in itself, the story was only the last movement of a larger work Tolkien had worked on since 1917, in a process he described as mythopoeia. Influences on this earlier work, and on the story of The Lord of the Rings, include philology, mythology, religion and the author's distaste for the effects of industrialization, as well as earlier fantasy works and Tolkien's experiences in World War I. The Lord of the Rings in its turn is considered to have had a great effect on modern fantasy; the impact of Tolkien's works is such that the use of the words "Tolkienian" and "Tolkienesque" has been recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The enduring popularity of The Lord of the Rings has led to numerous references in popular culture, the founding of many societies by fans of Tolkien's works, and the publication of many books about Tolkien and his works. The Lord of the Rings has inspired, and continues to inspire, artwork, music, films and television, video games, and subsequent literature. Award-winning adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been made for radio, theatre, and film.


The story takes place in the context of historical events in Middle-earth. In those histories, prior to the start of the novel and not known to the main characters, Sauron forges the Ruling Ring in Mordor. In battle, Isildur cuts off Sauron's ring and claims it for himself. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost in the river Anduin. Over two thousand years later, Déagol, a Hobbit, finds the ring while fishing with his cousin Sméagol (or Gollum) who then kills Déagol for the ring. Sméagol keeps the Ring for nearly five hundred years before losing it, whereupon Bilbo Baggins finds it. Meanwhile, Sauron reoccupies Mordor. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured near Mordor and interrogated by Sauron, who learns of its finding by Bilbo. Gollum is set loose but is caught by Aragorn, Isildur's heir, and imprisoned by the Elves in Mirkwood. Meanwhile, Sauron sends forth his fearsome servants, the Ringwraiths, to seize the Ring.

The novel begins in the Shire, as Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo; both are unaware of its origins. Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, learns of the Ring's history and advises Frodo to take the Ring away from the Shire. Frodo leaves, taking his gardener and friend, Samwise Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, to help him. They encounter the Ringwraiths whilst still in the Shire, but shake off the pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the enigmatic and powerful character Tom Bombadil. After passing the Barrow-downs with Tom's help, they stop for a night in the town of Bree. There they meet Aragorn who calls himself "Strider" and joins them as guide and protector. They leave Bree after narrowly escaping an attack by the Ringwraiths. On the journey to Rivendell, Frodo is wounded by the Ringwraiths on Weathertop as they continue in close pursuit. At the Ford of Bruinen, Frodo and the others are rescued, as flood waters controlled by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm the Ringwraiths, sweeping them away.

Frodo recovers under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, and news of the escape of Gollum from Mirkwood and Sauron's corruption of the wizard Saruman. The Council decides that the threat of Sauron is too great and that the best course of action is to destroy the Ring. This can be done only by returning it to the Cracks of Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, and a "Fellowship of the Ring" is chosen to accompany him. The Fellowship is composed of nine members, to set out against the nine Ringwraiths. Along with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin go Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli - the son of Gloin, one of the dwarves that accompanied Bilbo on his quest, Legolas - an elf from the woodland realm of Mirkwood, and a man - Boromir son of the Steward Denethor from the realm of Gondor.

The company is forced to travel through the Mines of Moria, where they are attacked by Orcs. Gandalf fights a Balrog and falls into a deep chasm; the others escape, and take refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien. With boats and gifts from the Lady Galadriel, the company then travel down the great River Anduin to Amon Hen. There Boromir, heir to the current Steward of Gondor, succumbs to the lure of the Ring and attempts to take it from Frodo, who breaks from the Fellowship and continues the trek to Mordor accompanied only by Sam.

Orcs sent by Saruman and Sauron attack, killing Boromir and kidnapping Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the Orcs into Rohan. Merry and Pippin escape when the Orcs are slain by the Rohirrim and find themselves in Fangorn forest where they befriend the tree-like Ents. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas encounter Gandalf, who is now "Gandalf the White", in Fangorn forest. Gandalf travels with them to rouse Théoden, King of Rohan, and the Rohirrim to take a stand against Saruman's armies. Théoden initially decides to fight Saruman's forces at the fords of the river Isen, but upon hearing that those who defended that area have retreated to the fortress of Helm's Deep, he decides to make his stand there. Gandalf rides to Isengard; while Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn travel with Théoden and his nephew Éomer. After much fighting at Helm's Deep, the Rohirrim mount a final charge and drive the Orcs into a forest of Huorns raised by the Ents, where they disappear, just as Gandalf arrives.

The Ents destroy Saruman's remaining forces in Isengard. Gandalf, Théoden and the others arrive at Isengard. Saruman, however, refuses to see the error of his ways, and Gandalf strips him of his rank and most of his powers, and the Ents imprison him there. Pippin looks into a palantír, a seeing-stone that Sauron had used to communicate with Saruman, unknowingly leading Sauron to think that Saruman has captured the Ring-bearer. Gandalf takes Pippin to Gondor to remove him from the temptation of the palantír.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum and force him to guide them to Mordor. They travel a long and hard road, briefly aided by Boromir's brother, Faramir. Gollum betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is left unconscious by Shelob's bite, but Sam fights her off using Sting and the vial of light from Ëarendil's star — one of the Lady Galadriel's gifts. Sam, believing Frodo dead, takes the Ring, and Frodo is carried to the tower of Cirith Ungol by Orcs.

Sauron begins his military assault upon Gondor, with the Witch-king of Angmar, greatest of the nine Ringwraiths, commanding Sauron's armies in the battle.

Gandalf arrives at the City of Minas Tirith in Gondor with Pippin, to alert the Steward of the impending attack. Pippin becomes one of the Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith, while Merry becomes esquire to the King of Rohan. Aragorn takes Gimli and Legolas through the Paths of the Dead where he raises an undead army of oath-breakers. These help him to defeat the armies of the Corsairs of Umbar in southern Gondor, enabling the region's forces to sail to the aid of Minas Tirith in its Siege.

Denethor, Ruling Steward of Gondor, believing both his sons are dead, loses hope and commits suicide. But, with the timely aid of Rohan's cavalry and Aragorn's reinforcements, a significant portion of Sauron's army is defeated. King Théoden dies in the battle, but the Lord of the Nazgûl, the Witch-king of Angmar, is slain by Éowyn and Merry.

Sam rescues Frodo from captivity, and they make their way through Mordor. After many hardships, they reach Mount Doom. Meanwhile, in the climactic battle at the Black Gate of Mordor, the vastly-outnumbered alliance of Gondor and Rohan fight desperately against Sauron's armies, with the intent of diverting Sauron's attention away from Mount Doom, which Frodo must reach in order to destroy the Ring.

At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo falls to the lure of the Ring, and claims it for himself. He puts the Ring on his finger. Gollum struggles with Frodo for the Ring, and bites off Frodo's finger, Ring and all; but in so doing he falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him. The Ring is thus unmade the only way it can be: in the same fire in which it was forged. In the instant of its destruction, Sauron perishes, his armies fall apart, the Dark Tower crumbles into dust, the Ringwraiths disintegrate, and the war of the Ring ends.

Amid the victory celebrations, Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor, and he marries Arwen, the daughter of Elrond and his long time love.

Saruman escapes his captivity in Orthanc and enslaves the Shire, but the returning Hobbits raise a rebellion and overthrow him in The Battle of Bywater. Saruman is stabbed and killed by Wormtongue, his former servant, following the battle. Merry and Pippin are acclaimed as heroes. Sam uses his gifts from Galadriel to restore and beautify the Shire, and marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo remains wounded in body and spirit and, accompanied by Bilbo and Gandalf, sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace. Sam returns home, and eventually becomes Mayor of the Shire. After Rosie's death, Sam leaves the Red Book of Westmarch with his daughter and crosses west over the Sea, the last of the Ring-bearers.

Main characters in The Lord of the Rings

For a more comprehensive list of characters see the navigation box The Lord of the Rings at the bottom of this article.

The following antagonists are also present:
  • Sauron, the Dark Lord and titular Lord of the Rings, a fallen sorceror who helped the Elves forge the Rings of Power long ago. He forged the One Ring in secret to control all the other Rings of Power.
  • The Nazgûl or Ringwraiths, nine servants of Sauron. Men of old, they were enslaved to the One Ring through the Rings of Power.
  • The Witch-king of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgûl, and Sauron's most powerful servant, who commands Sauron's army.
  • Saruman, a corrupted Wizard who seeks the One Ring for himself.
  • Gollum, a creature of Hobbit origin who formerly possessed the One Ring, which caused him to turn almost wholly evil and also gave him unnaturally long life.

Concept and creation


The Lord of the Rings started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien's earlier work, The Hobbit, published in 1937. The popularity of The Hobbit had led George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed. Having rejected his contemporary drafts for The Silmarillion, putting on-hold Roverandom, and accepting Farmer Giles of Ham, Allen & Unwin thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become The Lord of the Rings. The story would not be finished until 12 years later, in 1949, and would not be fully published until 1955, when Tolkien was 63 years old.


Persuaded by his publishers, he started "a new Hobbit" in December 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring emerged. The idea for the first chapter ("A Long-Expected Party") arrived fully-formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo's disappearance, the significance of the Ring, and the title The Lord of the Rings did not arrive until the spring of 1938. Originally, he planned to write a story in which Bilbo had used up all his treasure and was looking for another adventure to gain more; however, he remembered the Ring and its powers and decided to write about that instead.

Writing was slow, due to Tolkien having a full-time academic position, and needing to earn further money as a university examiner. Tolkien abandoned The Lord of the Rings during most of 1943 and only re-started it in April 1944, as a serial for his son Christopher Tolkien, who was sent chapters as they were written while he was serving in South Africa with the Royal Air Force. Tolkien made another concerted effort in 1946, and showed the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not complete the revision of earlier parts of the work until 1949.


The Lord of the Rings developed as a personal exploration by Tolkien of his interests in philology, religion (particularly Roman Catholicism), fairy tales, Norse and general Germanic mythology, and also Celtic and Finnish mythology. Tolkien acknowledged, and external critics have verified the influences of William Morris and the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. As for the magic Ring around which the story revolves, it seems quite likely it was inspired in large part by "The Testament of Solomon," in which King Solomon controls a cadre of demons and commands them to build the Second Temple.[5140]

Tolkien included neither any explicit religion nor cult in his work. Rather the themes, moral philosophy, and cosmology of the Lord of the Rings reflect his Catholic worldview. In one of his letters Tolkien states, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."

Some locations and characters were inspired by Tolkien's childhood in Birminghammarker, where he first lived near Sarehole Millmarker, and later near Edgbaston Reservoirmarker. There are also hints of the Black Countrymarker, which is within easy reach of north west Edgbaston. This shows in such names as "Underhill", and the description of Saruman's industrialization of Isengard and The Shire. It has also been suggested that The Shire and its surroundings were based on the countryside around Stonyhurst Collegemarker in Lancashiremarker where Tolkien frequently stayed during the 1940s. The work was influenced by the effects of his military service during World War I.

Publication history

A dispute with his publishers, George Allen & Unwin, led to the book being offered to Collins in 1950. He intended The Silmarillion (itself largely unrevised at this point) to be published along with The Lord of the Rings, but A&U were unwilling to do this. After his contact at Collins, Milton Waldman, expressed the belief that The Lord of the Rings itself "urgently needed cutting", he eventually demanded that they publish the book in 1952. They did not; and so Tolkien wrote to Allen and Unwin, saying, "I would gladly consider the publication of any part of the stuff."

For publication, the book was divided into three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring (Books I, The Ring Sets Out, and II, The Ring Goes South,) The Two Towers (Books III, The Treason of Isengard, and IV, The Ring Goes East,), and The Return of the King (Books V, The War of the Ring, and VI, The End of the Third Age, plus six appendices). This was due largely to post-war paper shortages, as well as being a way to keep down the price of the book. Delays in producing appendices, maps and especially indices led to the volumes being published later than originally hoped — on 21 July 1954, on 11 November 1954 and on 20 October 1955 respectively in the United Kingdom, and slightly later in the United States. The Return of the King was especially delayed. Tolkien, moreover, did not especially like the title The Return of the King, believing it gave away too much of the storyline. He had originally suggested The War of the Ring, which was dismissed by his publishers.

The books were published under a profit-sharing arrangement, whereby Tolkien would not receive an advance or royalties until the books had broken even, after which he would take a large share of the profits. An index to the entire three-volume set at the end of third volume was promised in the first volume. However, this proved impractical to compile in a reasonable timescale. Later, in 1966, four indices, not compiled by Tolkien, were added to The Return of the King.

Editions and revisions

In the early 1960s Donald A. Wollheim, science fiction editor of the paperback publisher Ace Books, claimed that The Lord of the Rings was not protected in the United States under American copyright law because the U.S. hardcover edition had been bound from pages printed in the United Kingdom, with the original intention being for them to be published in Britain. Ace Books then proceeded to publish an edition, unauthorized by Tolkien and without paying royalties to him. Tolkien took issue with this and quickly notified his fans of this objection. Grass-roots pressure from these fans became so great that Ace Books withdrew their edition and made a nominal payment to Tolkien, well below what he would have been due. However, this poor beginning was overshadowed when authorized editions followed from Ballantine Books and Houghton Mifflin to tremendous commercial success. By the mid-1960s the novel had become a cultural phenomenon. Tolkien undertook various textual revisions to produce a version of the book that would be published with his consent and establish an unquestioned US copyright. This text became the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings, published in 1966. Houghton Mifflin editions after 1994 consolidate variant revisions by Tolkien, and corrections supervised by Christopher Tolkien, which resulted, after some initial glitches, in a computer-based unified text.

Posthumous publication of drafts

From 1988 to 1992 Christopher Tolkien published the surviving drafts of the Lord of The Rings, chronicling and illuminating with commentary the stages of the text's development, in volumes 6–9 of his History of Middle-earth series. The four volumes carry the titles The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring, and The End of the Third Age, the last three being alternative titles suggested by Tolkien for the original divisions.


The novel has been translated, with various degrees of success, into at least 38 other languages. Tolkien, an expert in philology, examined many of these translations, and made comments on each that reflect both the translation process and his work. As he was unhappy with some choices made by early translators, such as the Swedish translation by Åke Ohlmarks, Tolkien wrote a "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" (1967). Because The Lord of the Rings purports to be a translation of the fictitious Red Book of Westmarch, with the English language representing the Westron of the "original", Tolkien suggested that translators attempt to capture the interplay between English and the invented nomenclature of the English work, and gave several examples along with general guidance.


The Lord of the Rings has received mixed reviews since its inception, ranging from terrible to excellent. Recent reviews in various media have been, on the whole, highly positive and Tolkien's literary achievement is slowly being acknowledged as a significant one. On its initial review the Sunday Telegraph felt it was "among the greatest works of imaginative fiction of the twentieth century." The Sunday Times seemed to echo these sentiments when in its review it was stated that "the English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them." The New York Herald Tribune also seemed to have an idea of how popular the books would become, writing in its review that they were "destined to outlast our time." W. H. Auden, a huge admirer of Tolkien's writings, regarded 'The Lord of the Rings' as a 'masterpiece', furthermore stating that in some cases it outdid the achievement of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Other supporters of the book from the literary world included Iris Murdoch, Naomi Mitchison, Richard Hughes and C. S. Lewis.

New York Times reviewer Judith Shulevitz criticized the "pedantry" of Tolkien's literary style, saying that he "formulated a high-minded belief in the importance of his mission as a literary preservationist, which turns out to be death to literature itself." Critic Richard Jenkyns, writing in The New Republic, criticized a perceived lack of psychological depth. Both the characters and the work itself are, according to Jenkyns, "anemic, and lacking in fiber." Even within Tolkien's literary group, The Inklings, reviews were mixed. Hugo Dyson complained loudly at its readings, and Christopher Tolkien records Dyson as "lying on the couch, and lolling and shouting and saying, 'Oh God, no more Elves.'" However, another Inkling, C. S. Lewis, had very different feelings, writing, "here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a book which will break your heart." Despite these reviews and its lack of paperback printing until the 1960s, The Lord of the Rings initially sold well in hardback.

In 1957, The Lord of the Rings was awarded the International Fantasy Award. Despite its numerous detractors, the publication of the Ace Books and Ballantine paperbacks helped The Lord of the Rings become immensely popular in the United States in the 1960s. The book has remained so ever since, ranking as one of the most popular works of fiction of the twentieth century, judged by both sales and reader surveys. In the 2003 "Big Read" survey conducted in Britain by the BBC, The Lord of the Rings was found to be the "Nation's best-loved book." In similar 2004 polls both Germany and Australia also found The Lord of the Rings to be their favourite book. In a 1999 poll of customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite "book of the century." The Lord of the Rings was awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2009.

Ethan Gilsdorf, writing for The Boston Globe commented that while there are movements within academia to approach The Lord of the Rings as a serious literary work, the 2001–2003 film trilogy has contributed to a dumbing down of the reception of the novel by the forces of mass-commercialization.


Even though The Lord of the Rings was published in the 1950s, Tolkien insisted that the One Ring was not an allegory for the nuclear bomb, nor were his works a strict allegory of any kind, but were open to interpretation as the reader saw fit.

A few critics have found what they consider to be racial elements in the story, generally based upon their views of how Tolkien's imagery depicts good and evil, characters' race (e.g. Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, Southron, Númenórean, Orc); and that the character's race is seen as determining their behaviour. Counter-arguments note that race-focused critiques often omit relevant textual evidence to the contrary, cite imagery from adaptations rather than the work itself; ignore the absence of evidence of racist attitudes or events in the author's personal life and claim that the perception of racism is itself a marginal view.

Critics have also seen social class rather than race as being the determinant factor for the portrayal of good and evil. Commentators such as science fiction author David Brin have interpreted the work to hold unquestioning devotion to a traditional elitist social structure. In his essay "Epic Pooh", science fiction and fantasy author Michael Moorcock critiques the world-view displayed by the book as deeply conservative, in both the 'paternalism' of the narrative voice and the power-structures in the narrative. Tom Shippey cites the origin of this portrayal of evil as a reflection of the prejudices of European middle-classes during the inter-war years towards the industrial working class.

The book has been read as fitting the model of Joseph Campbell's "monomyth". .


The Lord of the Rings has been adapted for film, radio and stage multiple times.

The book has been adapted for radio four times. In 1955 and 1956, the BBC broadcast The Lord of the Rings, a 12-part radio adaptation of the story. In the 1960s radio station WBAI produced a short radio adaptation. A 1979 dramatization of The Lord of the Rings was broadcast in the United States and subsequently issued on tape and CD. In 1981, the BBC broadcast The Lord of the Rings, a new dramatization in 26 half-hour instalments. This dramatization of The Lord of the Rings has subsequently been made available on both tape and CD both by the BBC and other publishers. For this purpose it is generally edited into 13 one hour episodes.

Three film adaptations have been made. The first was J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1978), by animator Ralph Bakshi, the first part of what was originally intended to be a two-part adaptation of the story; it covers The Fellowship of the Ring and part of The Two Towers. The second, The Return of the King (1980), was an animated television special by Rankin-Bass, who had produced a similar version of The Hobbit (1977). The third was director Peter Jackson's live action The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, produced by New Line Cinema and released in three instalments as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). All three parts received nearly universal acclaim and were each nominated for and won multiple Academy Awards, including consecutive Best Picture nominations. The final instalment of this trilogy was the second film to break the one-billion-dollar barrier and won a total of 11 Oscars, including "Best Picture", "Best Director", "Best Screenplay", and "Best Musical Score". They are consistently ranked among the best movies ever made to this day.

The 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 and has been covered in major media.

In 1965, songwriter Donald Swann, who was best known for his collaboration with Michael Flanders as Flanders & Swann, set six poems from The Lord of the Rings and one from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil ("Errantry") to music. When Swann met with Tolkien to play the songs for his approval, Tolkien suggested a different setting for "Namárië", which Swann accepted. The songs were published in 1967 as The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, and a recording of the songs performed by singer William Elvin with Swann on piano was issued that same year by Caedmon Records as Poems and Songs of Middle Earth. In 1990, Recorded Books published an audio version of The Lord of the Rings, with British actor Rob Inglis – who had previously starred in one-man stage productions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – reading. Inglis uses distinct voices for each character and reads the entire text, including performing the songs. A large-scale musical theatre adaptation, The Lord of the Rings was first staged in Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canada in 2006 and opened in London in May 2007.


Influences on the fantasy genre

The enormous popularity of Tolkien's epic saga greatly expanded the demand for fantasy fiction. Largely thanks to The Lord of the Rings, the genre flowered throughout the 1960s. Many other books in a broadly similar vein have subsequently been published, including the Earthsea books of Ursula K. Le Guin, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, The Belgariad by David Eddings, the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, the Thomas Covenant novels of Stephen R. Donaldson; the "Wheel of Time" books of Robert Jordan; the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini relies very heavily on it; and, in the case of the Gormenghast books by Mervyn Peake and The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison, rediscovered.

With a significant overlapping of their respective followings, there has been and still is extensive cross-pollination of influence between the fantasy and science fiction genres. In this way, the work also had an influence upon such science fiction authors as Frank Herbert and Arthur C. Clarke and filmmakers such as George Lucas.

Dungeons & Dragons, which popularized the role-playing game (RPG) genre in the 1970s, features many races found in The Lord of the Rings, most notably halflings (another term for hobbits), elves, dwarves, half-elves, orcs, and dragons. However, Gary Gygax, lead designer of the game, maintained that he was influenced very little by The Lord of the Rings, stating that he included these elements as a marketing move to draw on the popularity the work enjoyed at the time he was developing the game. Because D&D has influenced many popular video games, the influence of The Lord of the Rings extends to many of them as well, with titles such as Ultima, EverQuest, the Warcraft series, and the 'Elder Scrolls" series of games as well as, quite naturally, video games set in Middle-earth itself.

As in all artistic fields, a great many lesser derivatives of the more prominent works appeared. The term "Tolkienesque" is used in the genre to refer to the oft-used and abused storyline of The Lord of the Rings: a group of adventurers embarking on a quest to save a magical fantasy world from the armies of an evil Dark Lord, and is a testament to how much the popularity of these books has increased, since many critics initially decried it as being "Wagner for children" (a reference to Der Ring des Nibelungen) — an especially interesting commentary in light of a possible interpretation of the novel as a Christian response to Wagner. Tolkien's frequent use of alternative spellings for the plurals of elf and dwarf (elves and dwarves, instead of elfs and dwarfs), which had been abandoned in modern English, have caused them to return to common usage.


The Danish Tolkien Ensemble have released a number of albums that feature the complete poems and songs of The Lord of the Rings set to music, with some featuring recitation by Christopher Lee. Another band that makes use of the songs and poems featured in the stories is the Russian Caprice.

Beyond setting Tolkien's verse to music, the book has influenced many musicians. Rock bands of the 1970s were musically and lyrically inspired by the fantasy embracing counter-culture of the time; British 70s rock band Led Zeppelin are arguably the most well-known group to be directly inspired by Tolkien, and have several songs that contain explicit references to The Lord of the Rings ("Ramble On," "The Battle of Evermore," "Over the Hills and Far Away," and "Misty Mountain Hop"). The songs "Rivendell" and "The Necromancer" by the progressive rock band Rush were inspired by Tolkien. And Styx also paid homage to Tolkien on their "Pieces of Eight" album with the song "Lords of the Ring," while Black Sabbath's song, "The Wizard", which appeared on their debut album, was influenced by Tolkien's hero, Gandalf. The heavy metal band Cirith Ungol, took their name from a fictional place in Middle-Earth, Cirith Ungol. Progressive rock band Barclay James Harvest were inspired by the character Galadriel to write a song by that name, and used "Bombadil", the name of another character, as a pseudonym under which their 1972 single "Breathless"/"When the City Sleeps" was released; there are other references scattered through the BJH oeuvre.

Later, from the 1980s to the present day, many Heavy metal acts have been influenced by Tolkien. Blind Guardian has written many songs relating to Middle-earth, including the full concept album Nightfall in Middle Earth. Almost all of Summoning's songs and the entire discography of Battlelore are Tolkien-themed. Gorgoroth and Amon Amarth take their names from an area of Mordor, and Burzum take their name from the Black Speech of Mordor.

Enya wrote an instrumental piece called "Lothlórien" in 1991, and composed two songs for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring—"May It Be" (sung in English and Quenya) and "Aníron" (sung in Sindarin). Swedish keyboardist Bo Hansson released an instrumental album entitled Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings in 1970.

Impact on popular culture

The Lord of the Rings has had a profound and wide-ranging impact on popular culture, beginning with its publication in the 1950s, but especially throughout the 1960s and 1970s, during which time young people embraced it as a countercultural saga. "Frodo Lives!" and "Gandalf for President" were two phrases popular among American Tolkien fans during this time.

Parodies like the Harvard Lampoonmarker's Bored of the Rings, the VeggieTales episode Lord of the Beans, the South Park episode The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Lights! Camera! Danger!" and the Internet meme The Very Secret Diaries are testimony to the work's continual presence in popular culture.

In 1969 Tolkien sold the merchandising rights to The Lord of The Rings (and The Hobbit) to United Artists under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000 plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen & Unwin and the author. In 1976 (three years after the author's death) United Artists sold the rights to Saul Zaentz Company, who trade as Tolkien Enterprises. Since then all "authorised" merchandise has been signed-off by Tolkien Enterprises, although the intellectual property rights of the specific likenesses of characters and other imagery from various adaptations is generally held by the adaptors.Outside any commercial exploitation from adaptations, from the late 1960s onwards there has been an increasing variety of original licensed merchandise, from posters and calendars created by illustrators such as Pauline Baynes and the Brothers Hildebrandt, to figurines and miniatures to computer, video, tabletop and role-playing games. Recent examples include the Spiel des Jahres award winning (for best use of literature in a game) board game The Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia and the Golden Joystick award winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar by Turbine, Inc.


  1. "I have spent nearly all the vacation-times of seventeen years examining [...] Writing stories in prose or verse has been stolen, often guiltily, from time already mortgaged..."
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter 1, paragraph 8.
  3. Carpenter, Humphrey (1995). The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-05699-8, Letter no. 142, page 172
  4. Shippey, T.A. (2005 [1982]). The Road to Middle-earth, 3rd ed., HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-261-10275-3.
  5. T.A. Shippey: Tolkien, Author of the Century HarperCollins, 2000
  6. Terry Gunnell, "Tívar in a timeless land: Tolkien's Elves" (Retrieved 2008-04-04)
  7. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Letter #19, 31 December 1960
  8. Shippey, Tom (2000). J. R. R. Tolkien Author of the Century, HarperCollins. ISBN 0-261-10401-2
  10. “Note on the text” pp. xi–xiii, Douglas A. Anderson, in the 1994 HarperCollins edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.
  11. Letters, 305f.; c.f. Martin Andersson "Lord of the Errors or, Who Really Killed the Witch-King?"
  12. W. H. Auden, At the End of the Quest, Victory, 22 January, 1956
  13. Richard Jenkyns. "Bored of the Rings" The New Republic 28 January 2002. [1]
  14. The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, (Revised Edition, by Jane Chance, copyright 2001). University Press of Kentucky, cited in
  15. Tolkien, J. R. R. from Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Macmillan Reference USA. Cited in
  16. Shippey, T. A. The Roots of Tolkien's Middle Earth (review) Tolkien Studies - Volume 4, 2007, pp. 307-311
  17. Jody G. Bower: The Lord of the Rings" — An Archetypal Hero’s Journey
  18. "The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. 2004-01-30. pp. 96.
  19. ^ "Ten Greatest Films of the Past Decade". Total Film. April 2007. pp. 98.
  21. Tolkien had recorded a version of his theme on a friend's tape recorder in 1952. This was later issued by Caedmon Records in 1975 as part of J.R.R. Tolkien reads and sings The Lord of the Rings (LP recording TC1478).
  22. Swann, Donald and Tolkien, J.R.R. The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle New York: Ballantine Books (1967).
  23. Tolkien, J.R.R. and Swann, Donald. Poems and Songs of Middle Earth New York: Caedmon Records (1967). LP recording, TC1231/TC91231.
  24. ISBN 1402516274
  26. "Do you remember [...] The Lord of the Rings? [...] Well, Io is Mordor [...] There's a passage about "rivers of molten rock that wound their way ... until they cooled and lay like dragon-shapes vomited from the tortured earth." That's a perfect description: how did Tolkien know, a quarter of a century before anyone saw a picture of Io? Talk about Nature imitating Art." (Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two, Chapter 16 'Private Line')

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