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Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-Lords in their halls of stone.

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the shadows bind them
In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

Table of contents

I. Introduction
II. The magic of Tolkien
1. War of Lost Tales
2. Concept and creation
III. The Fellowship
1. Plot
2. The temptation of the ring
3. Literary motifs and philosophy
IV. The magic comes alive!
1. Reception
2. Tolkien and the counterculture
3. The Movies
4. Modern fandoms
V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

Before the award-winning movies, there was a book.

J.R.R. Tolkien introduced the world to Middle-earth over fifty years ago, and the world has
never been quite the same. The Lord of the Rings has become a cultural icon of the modern age.
In an Amazon.com poll, readers chose it as the best Book of the Millennium!
The Lord of the Rings has not only delighted readers for years, but has sparked the imagination
of thousands of writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Its impact on the world will not be
soon forgotten.

However, this story did not really even begin in the imagination of a talented Oxford professor.
It began in lost tales of adventure, which fueled that imagination and stirred the soul of an avid
student of ancient literature. The Lord of the Rings drew many of its characters, themes, and
adventures from stories that have touched the hearts of men for centuries: stories like The Iliad,
Beowulf, and the Arthurian Romances.

In this study, you will learn more about The Lord of the Rings: about the literary elements and
influences that made it a masterpiece while digging down in the thought processes of an author
as he created a work of genius.

II. The magic of Tolkien

1. War and Lost Tales

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language,
specialising in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the
University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit
(1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented
version of our world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
From early childhood, Ronald showed remarkable linguistic gifts. He was competent in a great
number of languages and busy making his own purely for fun. He also had a number of close
friends; in his later years at school they met regularly after hours as the T. C. B. S. (Tea Club,
Barrovian Society, named after their meeting place at the Barrow Stores) and they continued to
correspond closely and exchange and criticise each others literary work until 1916.

In August 1914 the United Kingdom entered the First World War. Tolkien was sent to active duty
on the Western Front, just in time for the Somme offensive. During these months, all but one of
his close friends of the T. C. B. S. had been killed in action. Partly as an act of piety to their
memory, but also stirred by reaction against his war experiences, he had already begun to put his
stories into shape. This ordering of his imagination developed into the Book of Lost Tales (not
published in his lifetime), in which most of the major stories of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
appear in their first form: tales of the Elves and the Gnomes, the siege and fall of Gondolin, the
tales of Beren and Lthien.

During his life in retirement, Tolkien received steadily increasing public attention and literary
fame after publishing his creation. The sales of his books were so profitable that he regretted that
he had not chosen early retirement.

After his retirement in 1959 Tolkien and his wife Edith moved to Bournemouth. On 29
November 1971 she died, and Ronald soon returned to Oxford, to rooms provided by Merton
College. Ronald died on 2 September 1973. He and Edith are buried together in a single grave in
the Catholic section of Wolvercote cemetery in the northern suburbs of Oxford.

Tolkien was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in
the 1972 New Year Honours[93] and received the insignia of the Order at Buckingham Palace on
28 March 1972.

2. Concept and creation

Tolkien never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book called The
Hobbit, which he had written some years before for his own children, came in 1936 to the
attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin,
who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication. However, when it was published a year later,
the book attracted adult readers as well as children, and it became popular enough for the
publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.

The request for a sequel prompted Tolkien to begin what would become his most famous work:
the epic novel The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien spent more than ten years writing the primary
narrative and appendices for The Lord of the Rings, during which time he received the constant
support of his closest friend C. S. Lewis. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set
against the background of The lost Tales, but in a time long after it.

Well over a thousand pages long, filled with fragments of poetry and untranslated imaginary
words, intense description and historical detail, his work created the genre of modern fantasy
literature as it is seen today in bookstores. 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,[9] and the publication of many books about Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings has
inspired, and continues to inspire, artwork, music, films and television, video games, and
subsequent literature.

III. The Fellowship

1. Book overview

A. Prologue
Thousands of years before the events of the novel, the Dark Lord Sauron had forged the One
Ring to rule the other Rings of Power and corrupt those who wore them: the leaders of Men,
Elves and Dwarves. Sauron was defeated by an alliance of Elves and Men. Isildur, son of
Elendil, cut the One Ring from Sauron's finger, causing him to lose his physical form. Isildur
claimed the Ring as an heirloom for his line, but when he was later ambushed and killed by the
Orcs, the Ring was lost in the River Anduin at Gladden Fields.

Over two thousand years later, the Ring was found by one of the river-folk called Dagol. His
friend Smagol fell under the Ring's influence and strangled Dagol to acquire it. Smagol was
banished and hid under the Misty Mountains. The Ring gave him long life and changed him over
hundreds of years into a twisted, corrupted creature called Gollum. Gollum lost the Ring, his
"precious", and as told in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins found it. Meanwhile, Sauron assumed a
new form and took back his old realm of Mordor. When Gollum set out in search of the Ring, he
was captured and tortured by Sauron. Sauron learned from Gollum that "Baggins" of the Shire
had taken the Ring. Gollum was set loose. Sauron, who needed the Ring to regain his full power,
sent forth his powerful servants, the Nazgl, to seize it.

B. The fellowship of the ring

The story begins in the Shire, where the hobbit Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo
Baggins, his cousin and guardian. Neither hobbit is aware of the Ring's nature, but Gandalf the
Grey, a wizard and an old friend of Bilbo, suspects it to be Sauron's Ring. After Gandalf
confirms his suspicions, he tells Frodo the history of the Ring and counsels him to take the Ring
away from the Shire. Frodo leaves the Shire, in the company of his gardener and friend, Samwise
("Sam") Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc Brandybuck, called Merry, and Peregrin Took,
called Pippin. They are nearly caught by the Black Riders while in the Shire, but they shake off
pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest.

The Hobbits reach the town of Bree, where Gandalf is expected to meet them. Instead, they meet
a Ranger named Strider, whom Gandalf had mentioned in a letter. Strider persuades the hobbits
to take him on as their guide and protector. Together, they leave Bree after another close escape
from the Black Riders. On the hill of Weathertop, they are again attacked by the Black Riders,
who wound Frodo with a cursed blade. Strider fights off the Black Riders with fire and leads the
hobbits towards the Elven refuge of Rivendell. Frodo falls deathly sick from the wound. The
Black Riders nearly overtake Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen, but flood waters summoned by
Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them.

Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond speaks of the
history of Sauron and the Ring. Strider is revealed to be Aragorn, the heir of Isildur. Gandalf
reveals that Sauron has corrupted Saruman, chief of the wizards. The Council decides that the
Ring must be destroyed, but that can only be done by sending it to the Fire of Mount Doom in
Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo takes this task upon himself. Elrond, with the advice of
Gandalf, chooses companions for him. The Company of the Ring are nine in number: Frodo,
Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the Man Boromir,
son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the land of Gondor.

After a failed attempt to cross the Misty Mountains, the Company is forced to try a dangerous
path through the Mines of Moria. Insidethe mines, they learn of the fate of Balin and his colony
of Dwarves. After surviving an attack, they are pursued by Orcs and by an ancient demon called
a Balrog. Gandalf faces the Balrog, and both of them fall into the abyss. The others escape and
find refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlrien, where they are counselled by Galadriel and

With boats and gifts from Galadriel, the Company travel down the River Anduin to the hill of
Amon Hen. Boromir tries to take the Ring from Frodo, but Frodo puts on the Ring and
disappears. The Company is scattered in the panic to find Frodo, and they are attacked by Orcs.
Frodo chooses to go alone to Mordor. Sam guesses Frodo's mind, and goes with him.

C. The Two Towers

Orcs sent by Saruman and Sauron kill Boromir and take Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and
Legolas decide to follow the Orcs bearing Merry and Pippin to Saruman. In the kingdom of
Rohan, the Orcs are slain by a company of the Rohirrim. Merry and Pippin escape into Fangorn
Forest, where they are befriended by Treebeard, the oldest of the tree-like Ents. Aragorn, Gimli
and Legolas track the hobbits to Fangorn. There they unexpectedly meet Gandalf. Gandalf
explains that he slew the Balrog; darkness took him, but he was sent back (to Middle-earth). He
is clothed in white and is now "Gandalf the White", for he has taken Saruman's place as the chief
of the wizards. Gandalf assures his friends that Merry and Pippin are safe. Together they ride to
Edoras, capital of Rohan. Gandalf frees Thoden, King of Rohan, from the influence of
Saruman's spies. Thoden musters his fighting strength and rides with his men to the ancient
fortress of Helm's Deep, while Gandalf departs to seek help from Treebeard.

Meanwhile, the Ents, roused by Merry and Pippin from their peaceful ways, attack Isengard,
Saruman's stronghold, and trap the wizard in the tower of Orthanc. Gandalf convinces Treebeard
to send an army of Huorns to Thoden's aid. Gandalf brings an army of Rohirrim to Helm's
Deep, and they defeat the Orcs, who flee into the waiting shadow of the trees. Gandalf visits
Saruman, offering him a chance to turn away from evil. When Saruman refuses to listen, Gandalf
strips him of his rank and most of his powers. Pippin picks up a palantr, a seeing-stone that
Saruman used to speak with Sauron and through which Saruman was ensnared, and is seen by
Sauron. Gandalf rides for Minas Tirith, chief city of Gondor, taking Pippin with him.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who had been following them from Moria. They force him to
guide them to Mordor. They find that the Black Gate of Mordor is too well guarded, so instead
they travel to a secret way Gollum knows. On the way, they encounter Faramir, who, unlike his
brother Boromir, resists the temptation to seize the Ring. He provides Frodo and Sam with food.
Gollum who is torn between his loyalty to Frodo and his desire for the Ring betrays Frodo
by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo falls when pierced
by Shelob's sting. But with the help of Galadriel's gifts, Sam fights off the spider. Believing
Frodo to be dead, Sam takes the Ring in the hope of finishing the quest alone. Orcs find Frodo,
and from their words Sam becomes aware that Frodo is yet alive. The Orcs take Frodo's body,
and Sam chases after them, entering Mordor alone.

D. The return of the King

Sauron sends a great army against Gondor. Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith to warn Denethor of
the attack, while Thoden leads the Rohirrim to the aid of Gondor. Minas Tirith is besieged.
Denethor is deceived by Sauron and falls into despair. He burns himself alive on a pyre, nearly
taking his son Faramir with him. Aragorn, accompanied by Legolas, Gimli and the Rangers of
the North, takes the Paths of the Dead in the hopes of bringing the Dead to his aid, for the Dead
Men of Dunharrow are bound by a curse by which they are given no rest until they fulfil their
oath to fight for the King of Gondor. With the coming of Aragorn, the Army of the Dead fulfil
their oath and strike terror into the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor. Aragorn defeats
the Corsairs and takes their ships, which he uses to bring the men of southern Gondor up the
Anduin, coming just in time to the aid of Minas Tirith. owyn, Thoden's niece whom he loves
as a daughter, slays the Lord of the Nazgl with help from Merry. Thoden is slain and owyn
and Merry are injured. Together Gondor and Rohan defeat Sauron's army in the Battle of the
Pelennor Fields.

Meanwhile, Sam rescues Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol. They set out across Mordor.
Aragorn leads an army of men from Gondor and Rohan to march on the Black Gate of Mordor,
so as to distract Sauron from his true danger. His army is vastly outnumbered by the great might
of Sauron. Frodo and Sam reach the edge of the Cracks of Doom, but Frodo cannot resist the
Ring any longer. Frodo claims the Ring for himself and puts it on his finger. Gollum suddenly
reappears, having caught up with the hobbits. He struggles with Frodo and bites off Frodo's
finger with the Ring on it. Celebrating wildly, Gollum loses his footing and falls into the Fire,
taking the Ring with him. The Ring is destroyed, and Sauron loses his power forever. The Nazgl
perish, and Sauron's armies are thrown into such disarray that Aragorn's forces emerge

Aragorn is crowned King of Arnor and Gondor, and weds Arwen, daughter of Elrond. The four
hobbits make their way back to the Shire, only to find out that the Shire has been enslaved by
bad men. The hobbits raise a rebellion and overthrow the men, who turn out to be led by
Saruman. Frodo does not allow the hobbits to kill Saruman, but Grma turns on Saruman and
kills him in front of Bag End (Frodo's hobbit-hole). He is slain in turn by hobbit archers, and the
War of the Ring comes to its true end on Frodo's very doorstep.

Merry and Pippin are celebrated as heroes. Sam marries Rosie Cotton and uses his gifts from
Galadriel to help heal the Shire. But Frodo is still wounded in body and spirit, having borne the
Ring for so long. A few years later, in the company of Bilbo and Gandalf, Frodo sails from the
Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace.

In the appendices, Sam gives his daughter Elanor the Red Book of Westmarch, which contains
the story of Bilbo's adventures and the War of the Ring as told by the hobbits. Sam is then said to
have crossed west over the Sea himself, the last of the Ring-bearers.

2. The temptation of the ring

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the
darkness bind them.

Although the Ring's true nature normally lies hidden beneath a "quite plain" exterior, a simple
band of pure gold that seems unmarked and unremarkable. As characters interact with this
apparently innocuous trinket, their temptation to take and use the Ring reinscribes those fiery
letters and illustrates the present, active, and dangerous power of the Ring.
The powerful, such as Gandalf and Galadriel, desire to take the Ring, but they also fear the
consequences of wielding its power. When, despairing of his ability to destroy the Ring, Frodo
offers it to Gandalf, the wizard immediately refuses because he recognizes the danger: "the way
of the Ring to my heart is through pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good."
Because the Ring is evil, the wizard knows that any attempt to wield it for good purposes will be

For less mighty characters, the temptation of the Ring becomes, if anything, more powerful.
Although a strong and proud man, Boromir acknowledges his country's weakness at the Council
of Elrond: "though I do not ask for aid, we need it." That knowledge of weakness opens him to
the Ring's influence.

The final and greatest temptation in the novel is that of Frodo at the Cracks of Doom. From the
first revelation of the fiery letters in his home at Bag End, Frodo has known that he cannot and
must not wield the Ring, but it warped and corrupted Frodo's perception of Bilbo and Sam.
Frodo's failure at the Cracks of Doom reveals that the danger of the Ring is not limited to its use.
Wielding power especially the immense power of the Ring can corrupt even the most wise
and well-intentioned. The more subtle danger of the Ring, however, is its ability to prey on the
desires of those who are powerless. Even more than its use, the eagerness to acquire power can

3. Literary motifs and philosophy

A. Antitheses
Tolkien's extensive use of duality and parallelism, contrast and opposition is found throughout
the novel, in hope and despair, knowledge and enlightenment, death and immortality, fate and
free will. One famous example is the often criticized polarity between Good and Evil in Tolkien.
Orcs, the most maligned of races, are a corruption of the mystically exalted race of the Elves.
Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery, home of the Lord of the Nazgl, the most corrupted King
of Men, directly opposes Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard and the capital of Gondor, the last
visible remnant of the ancient kingdom of Men in the Third Age. These antitheses, though
pronounced and prolific, are sometimes seen to be too polarizing, but they have also been argued
to be at the heart of the structure of the entire story.

B. The corruption of power and addiction

The Lord of the Rings centres around the corrupting influence of the One Ring to the worst that
is thought and felt: cruelty, domination, greed. The possessiveness of the two hobbits is
relatively mild compared to others in the epic. Boromir, for example, becomes murderously
obsessed with the Ring, though he never possesses it. In the same vein, Smagol kills his kin
Dagol. Smagol's addictive features become more pronounced as, over five centuries, he
devolves into Gollum, showing traits ranging from withdrawal and isolation to suspicion and
anger towards others, with his obsession eventually leading to his own demise.

C. Loss and farewell

This theme of loss, the sense that some must sacrifice themselves and their happiness in order to
preserve the hope of happiness for others, is a central theme of Tolkien's work. The end of the
tale, which recounts Aragorn's death and Arwen's grief, strongly evokes the sense of sacrifice and
loss that pervades the trilogy. While Aragorn accepts his death peacefully, Arwen resists both his
death and her own. She dies in Lothlrien and marks the end of the elves in Middle-earth and the
loss of that special sense of magic, delight, and majesty that they represent. The ending
reinforces the conclusion of the main novel, when Frodo leaves Middle-earth along with the
elves and Gandalf. They have saved the world, but not for themselves.

D. Fate and free will

Gandalf in one scene discusses the possibility that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and that
Gollum has an important part to play, the clearest testament to the role of fate in The Lord of the
Rings. Beyond Gandalf's words, the story is structured in such a way that past decisions have a
critical influence on current events. For instance, because Bilbo and Frodo spared Gollum,
Gollum was able to destroy the Ring by falling into the Crack of Doom while Frodo failed to
destroy it. Thus Frodo, who is overpowered by the evil Ring, is saved by coincidence.
The role of fate in The Lord of the Rings is contrasted sharply with the prominent role also given
to choice and free will. Frodo's voluntary choice to bear the Ring to Mordor is seen to be an act
central to the plot of the whole story. Also important is Frodo's final inability to summon the will
to destroy it. Thus, free will as well as fate is seen to be a constant theme throughout the story:
from Sam's vision of old Gaffer Gamgee's wheelbarrow and the Scouring of the Shire in the
Mirror of Galadriel, to Arwen Evenstar's choice of mortality.

E. Courage
A kind of courage was defined by Tolkien in the difference between humility and the arrogant
desire for glory. While Sam follows Frodo out of loyalty and would die for him, characters like
Boromir are driven by pride and would risk the lives of others for their personal glory. Likewise
the rejecting of the ring by Sam, Faramir, and Galadriel can be seen as a courageous rejection of
power and glory and of the personal renown that defeating Sauron would have brought about.

IV. The magic comes alive!

1. Reception
While early reviews for The Lord of the Rings were mixed, reviews in various media have been,
on the whole, highly positive and acknowledge Tolkien's literary achievement as a significant
one. The initial review in the Sunday Telegraph described it as "among the greatest works of
imaginative fiction of the twentieth century".
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.

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, and enjoys
popularity to the present day.

2. Tolkien and the counterculture

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 amongst United States Tolkien fans during this
time. Middle Earth was a literary escape hatch for a generation haunted by the Vietnam War and
the atomic bomb, a return to simple living.

Also appealing to the burgeoning anti-war, feminist and civil rights movement activists was
Tolkiens political subtext of the little people, the Hobbits, and their wizard ally, leading a
revolution. The military industrial complex targeted by protestors resembled Mordor in its
mechanised, impersonal approach to an unpopular war.

Tolkiens literary world directly inspired some of the most high profile agents of change within
the counterculture. Rock bands whose anthems served as a soundtrack for the upending of the
establishment clearly read Tolkiens work.

In 1970, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Genesis all had Lord of the Rings-themed songs on
the charts. Two 1971 Led Zeppelin songs, Misty Mountain Hop and The Battle of Evermore, in
which the ring wraiths ride in black, also were inspired by Tolkien. Black Sabbaths The
Wizard is an anthem for Gandalf. Genesis Stagnation was clearly influenced by the Middle
Earth ethos.

Tolkiens anti-materialistic worldview, in which he extolled the wonders of growing things and
of the ordinary also dovetailed with the countercultural values. Some hippies built hand-crafted
houses, went back to the land to grow organic vegetables, wore simple clothing, ate vegetarian
meals and lived communally, all seemingly in keeping with the pleasurable simple life in the
3. The Jackson Movies
The Lord of the Rings gained a much broader audience with the release of Peter Jackson's The
Lord of the Rings film trilogy These were released serially in three successive years, from
December 2001 to December 2003. Since then, a large number of fans have also arisen who have
not read any of the books, and have been only exposed to Tolkien through the films and its
Considered to be one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with an
overall budget of $281 million the entire project took eight years, with the filming for all three
films done simultaneously and entirely in New Zealand. While the films follow the book's
general storyline, they do omit some of the novel's plot elements and include some additions to
and deviations from the source material.

The series was a major financial success, with the films collectively being among the highest-
grossing film series of all time. The films were critically acclaimed and heavily awarded,
winning 17 out of 30 total Academy Award nominations. The final film in the series, The Return
of the King, won all of its 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.

The movie starred Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Sean Astin as Sam. The wizard Gandalf was
impersonated by Ian McKellen, while Legolas the elf and Aragorn were played by Orlando
Bloom and Viggo Mortensen, respectively.

4. Modern fandoms
Tolkien fandom is an international, informal community of fans of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien,
especially of the Middle-earth legendarium which includes The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings,
and The Silmarillion.

Translated into dozens of languages and spread across the globe, The Lord of the Rings has
never been out of print since its publication. The existing fanbase in the mid-1990s consisted of
devoted fans, completely unused to having truly new material or any sort of mass-media
acknowledgement, who paid strict attention to detail and continuity within the legendarium.

The Tolkien Society (UK) was founded in the United Kingdom in 1969, and remains active as a
registered charity. The society has two regular publications, a bi-monthly bulletin of news and
information, Amon Hen, and an annual journal, Mallorn, featuring critical articles and essays on
Tolkien's work. They host several annual events, including a conference held at Oxford,

V. Bibliography




Fuller, Sarah Canfield CliffsNotes on The Lord of the Rings. 15 Apr 2017