History of Literature

J.R.R. Tolkien


J.R.R. Tolkien


J.R.R. Tolkien

English author
in full John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

born January 3, 1892, Bloemfontein, South Africa
died September 2, 1973, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England

English writer and scholar who achieved fame with his children’s book The Hobbit (1937) and his richly inventive epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings (1954–55).

At age four Tolkien, with his mother and younger brother, settled near Birmingham, England, after his father, a bank manager, died in South Africa. In 1900 his mother converted to Roman Catholicism, a faith her elder son also practiced devoutly. On her death in 1904, her boys became wards of a Catholic priest. Four years later Tolkien fell in love with another orphan, Edith Bratt, who would inspire his fictional character Lúthien Tinúviel. His guardian, however, disapproved, and not until his 21st birthday could Tolkien ask Edith to marry him. In the meantime, he attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham and Exeter College, Oxford (B.A., 1915; M.A., 1919). During World War I he saw action in the Somme. After the Armistice he was briefly on the staff of The Oxford English Dictionary (then called The New English Dictionary). For most of his adult life, he taught English language and literature, specializing in Old and Middle English, at the universities of Leeds (1920–25) and Oxford (1925–59). Often busy with academic duties and also acting as an examiner for other universities, he produced few but influential scholarly publications, notably a standard edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925; with E.V. Gordon), a landmark lecture on Beowulf (Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, 1936), and an edition of the Ancrene Wisse (1962).

In private, Tolkien amused himself by writing an elaborate series of fantasy tales, often dark and sorrowful, set in a world of his own creation. He made this “legendarium,” which eventually became The Silmarillion, partly to provide a setting in which “Elvish” languages he had invented could exist. But his tales of Arda and Middle-earth also grew from a desire to tell stories, influenced by a love of myths and legends. To entertain his four children, he devised lighter fare, lively and often humorous. The longest and most important of these stories, begun about 1930, was The Hobbit, a coming-of-age fantasy about a comfort-loving “hobbit” (a smaller relative of Man) who joins a quest for a dragon’s treasure. In 1937 The Hobbit was published, with pictures by the author (an accomplished amateur artist), and was so popular that its publisher asked for a sequel. The result, 17 years later, was Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, a modern version of the heroic epic. A few elements from The Hobbit were carried over, in particular a magic ring, now revealed to be the One Ring, which must be destroyed before it can be used by the terrible Dark Lord, Sauron, to rule the world. But The Lord of the Rings is also an extension of Tolkien’s Silmarillion tales, which gave the new book a “history” in which Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Men were already established. Contrary to statements often made by critics, it was not written specifically for children, nor is it a trilogy, though it is often published in three parts: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. It was divided originally because of its bulk and to reduce the risk to its publisher should it fail to sell. In fact it proved immensely popular. On its publication in paperback in the United States in 1965, it attained cult status on college campuses. Although some critics disparage it, several polls since 1996 have named The Lord of the Rings the best book of the 20th century, and its success made it possible for other authors to thrive by writing fantasy fiction. It had sold more than 50 million copies in some 30 languages by the turn of the 21st century. A film version of The Lord of the Rings by New Zealand director Peter Jackson, released in three installments in 2001–03, achieved worldwide critical and financial success.

Several shorter works by Tolkien appeared during his lifetime. These include a mock-medieval story, Farmer Giles of Ham (1949); The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962), poetry related to The Lord of the Rings; Tree and Leaf (1964), with the seminal lecture “On Fairy-Stories” and the tale “Leaf by Niggle”; and the fantasy Smith of Wootton Major (1967). Tolkien in his old age failed to complete The Silmarillion, the “prequel” to The Lord of the Rings, and left it to his youngest son, Christopher, to edit and publish (1977). Christopher likewise compiled The Children of Húrin (2007; also published as Narn I Chin Hurin: The Tale of the Children of Hurin) from his father’s unfinished manuscripts; it too is set in Middle-earth prior to The Lord of the Rings. Among other posthumous works by Tolkien are The Father Christmas Letters (1976), Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (1980), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981), Mr. Bliss (1982), and Roverandom (1998). The History of Middle-earth (1983–96) traces the writing of the “legendarium,” including The Lord of the Rings, through its various stages.

Wayne G. Hammond




The Lord of the Rings



The Lord of the Rings is actually three books—The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. It follows on from the story of The Hobbit, which Tolkien had published well over a decade earlier, further exploring the world of Middle Earth and war that would determine the fate of all men. Like The Hobbit, it is the story of an unlikely hero—a childlike, unassuming hobbit, Frodo—whom fate has destined for greater things. At the beginning, elves, dwarves, hobbits, and men come together under the wizard Gandalf's watchful eye to set off on a journey to destroy the magic ring, which Bilbo Baggins had found in The Hobbit. The ring holds inside it the essence of evil and therefore must be destroyed before Lord Sauron can find it and plunge Middle Earth into darkness. Through a series of misadventures, the fellowship either die or become separated. Only Frodo, his loyal friend Sam, and the wasted creature Gollum—who had fallen for many years under the ring's power and is now its slave— are left to return the ring to the fires of Mount Doom, which is the only way to destroy it.
The book is about power and greed, innocence, and enlightenment. Ultimately, it describes an old-fashioned battle of good against evil, of kindness and trust against suspicion, and of fellowship against the desire for individual power. Tolkien's evil is an internal force—most evident in the"good"and "bad"sides of the character Gollum,who epitomizes the struggle to be good. This is also a story about war, no doubt drawn from Tolkien's own experience, and how enemies in life are united in death, the one great equalizer. If there is a message, it is that there is little point to war and that the search for ultimate power is futile in a world where togetherness will always (justly) win out.







The Lord of the Rings

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by philologist and Oxford University 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.[1] Although known to many 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, for economic reasons the publisher decided to omit the second volume, and published The Lord of the Rings itself in 1954–55 as three volumes rather than one.[2][3][4][5] It was divided internally into six books, two per volume; and several appendices of background material, much abbreviated from Tolkien's originals, were included at the end of the third volume. The work 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, notably the hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry) and Peregrin Took (Pippin), but also the hobbits' chief allies: Aragorn, a ranger, Gimli, a dwarf, Legolas, an elf, and Gandalf, a wizard.

The Lord of the Rings has been the subject of extensive analysis of its themes and origins, as have Tolkien's works in general. 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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 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. Long before the start of the novel the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring to gain power over other rings held by the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves. He is defeated in battle, and Isildur cuts off his Ring and claims it as an heirloom for his line. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost in the river Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring comes into the hands of the hobbit Sméagol, who hides under the mountains, where the Ring transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a suspicious, corrupted being called Gollum. Eventually he loses the Ring, and, as recounted in The Hobbit, it is found by Bilbo Baggins. Meanwhile Sauron takes a new physical form and reoccupies Mordor, his old realm. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured by Sauron, who learns that Bilbo has the Ring. Gollum is set loose, and Sauron, who needs the Ring to regain his full power, sends forth the Ringwraiths, his dark, fearsome servants, to seize it.

The novel begins in the Shire, as Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo. Both are unaware of its origin, but Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, learns of the Ring's history and advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire. Frodo leaves, taking his gardener and friend, Samwise ("Sam") Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc ("Merry") Brandybuck and Peregrin ("Pippin") Took, as companions. They nearly encounter the Ringwraiths while still in the Shire, but shake off pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the enigmatic and powerful Tom Bombadil. After leaving the Forest, they stop in the town of Bree, where they meet Aragorn, Isildur's heir, who joins them as guide and protector. They leave Bree after narrowly escaping attack, but the Ringwraiths follow them to the look-out hill of Weathertop, and wound Frodo with a magical blade. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the refuge of Rivendell, while Frodo gradually succumbs to the wound. At the Ford of Bruinen, the Ringwraiths attack again, but flood waters controlled by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them, saving the company.

Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, as well as the news that Sauron has corrupted 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 by returning it to Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, and a "Fellowship of the Ring" is chosen to accompany and protect him: Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the man Boromir, son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the realm of Gondor.

The company pass through the Mines of Moria, where they are attacked by Orcs. Gandalf perishes while fighting the ancient and terrible Balrog, allowing the others to escape. The remaining company take refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien. With boats and gifts from the Lady Galadriel, the company then travel down the River Anduin to the hill of Amon Hen. There Boromir succumbs to the lure of the Ring and attempts to take it from Frodo, who breaks from the Fellowship to continue the quest to Mordor alone, though Sam insists on coming to assist and protect him.

Meanwhile, orcs sent by Sauron and Saruman kill Boromir and kidnap Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the orcs into the kingdom of Rohan. Merry and Pippin escape when the orcs are slain by the Rohirrim. The hobbits flee into Fangorn forest, where they are befriended by the tree-like Ents. In Fangorn forest Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas find not the hobbits but Gandalf, resurrected after his battle with the Balrog and now the significantly more powerful "Gandalf the White". Gandalf assures them that Merry and Pippin are safe, and they travel instead to rouse Théoden, King of Rohan, from a stupor of despair inflicted by Saruman, and to aid the Rohirrim in a stand against Saruman's armies. Théoden makes a stand at the fortress of Helm's Deep. Gandalf rides off to gather more soldiers while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli ride with Théoden to Helm's Deep. They are besieged by orcs, but Gandalf arrives with reinforcements, and the orcs are defeated.

The Ents attack Isengard, trapping Saruman in the tower of Orthanc. Gandalf, Théoden and the others arrive at Isengard to confront Saruman. Saruman refuses to acknowledge the error of his ways, however, and Gandalf strips him of his rank and most of his powers. Merry and Pippin rejoin the others and 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, so Gandalf takes Pippin to Gondor.

On their way to Mordor, Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who has been following them from Moria, and force him to guide them to Mordor. Finding Mordor's main gate impassable, they travel toward a pass known to Gollum. Gollum betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is left seemingly dead by Shelob's bite, but Sam fights her off. Sam takes the Ring, and forces himself to leave Frodo. Orcs find Frodo's body, and Sam learns that Frodo is not in fact dead, but unconscious. Frodo is carried to the tower of Cirith Ungol, and Sam determines to rescue him.

Sauron begins his military assault upon Gondor. Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith in Gondor with Pippin, to alert Denethor of the impending attack. Minas Tirith is besieged, and Denethor, under the influence of Sauron through another palantír, loses hope and commits suicide. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to Gondor by the Paths of the Dead, where Aragorn raises an undead army of oath-breakers in fulfilment of an old prophecy. The ghostly army help him to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor, and the forces freed from the south, along with Rohan's cavalry, help break the siege at Minas Tirith.

Sam rescues Frodo, and they journey through Mordor. Frodo weakens as they near Mount Doom, but is aided by Sam. 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 from Mount Doom. At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo is unable to resist the Ring, and claims it for himself. However, Gollum reappears, struggles with Frodo for the Ring, and bites off Frodo's finger, Ring and all, but in so doing falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him. The Ring is thus unmade. In the instant of its destruction, Sauron perishes, his armies retreat, his tower crumbles into dust, the Ringwraiths disintegrate, and the War of the Ring seemingly ends. Aragorn is crowned Elessar, King of Arnor and Gondor, and marries his long-time love, Arwen, the daughter of Elrond.

Meanwhile, however, Saruman has escaped his captivity and enslaved the Shire. The four returning hobbits raise a rebellion and overthrow him. Saruman is killed by his former servant Grima, who is in turn killed by Hobbit archers. The War of the Ring thus comes to its true end on Frodo's very doorstep. Merry and Pippin are acclaimed heroes. Sam uses his gifts from Galadriel to restore the Shire, and marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo remains wounded in body and spirit, and some years later, 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 gives his daughter the Red Book of Westmarch, containing the story of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. He crosses west over the Sea, the last of the Ring-bearers.



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy