Middle-earth is the name used for the inhabitable parts of J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Arda (ancient Earth) where the (canonical) stories in his legendarium take place. "Middle-earth" is a literal translation of the Old English term middangeard, referring to this world, the habitable lands of men. Tolkien translated 'Middle Earth' as Endor (or sometimes Endóre) and Ennor in the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin, respectively. Mythologically, the north of Endor became the Eurasian land-mass after the primitive Earth was transformed into the round world of today.
Middle-earth's setting is in a fictional period in Earth's own past. Tolkien insisted that Middle-earth is Earth in several of his letters, in one of them (no. 211) estimating the end of the Third Age to about 6,000 years before his own time. The action of the books is largely confined to the north-west of the Endor continent, implicitly corresponding to modern-day Europe. The History of Middle-earth is divided into several Ages: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deal exclusively with events towards the end of the Third Age and conclude at the dawn of the Fourth Age, while The Silmarillion deals mainly with the First Age. The world (Arda) was originally flat but was made round near the end of the Second Age by Eru Ilúvatar, the Creator.
Much of the knowledge of Middle-earth is based on writings that Tolkien did not finish for publication during his lifetime. In these cases, this article is based on the version of the Middle-earth legendarium that is considered canonical by most Tolkien fans.
The term "Middle-earth" was not invented by Tolkien, rather it existed in Old English as middanġeard, in Middle English as midden-erd or middel-erd; in Old Norse it was called Midgard. It is English for what the Greeks called the οικουμένη (oikoumenē) or "the abiding place of men", the physical world as opposed to the unseen worlds (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 151).
Middangeard occurs half-a-dozen times in Beowulf, which Tolkien translated and on which he was arguably the world's foremost authority. (See also J.R.R. Tolkien for discussion of his inspirations and sources). See Midgard and Norse mythology for the older use.
Tolkien was also inspired by this fragment:
- Eala earendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended.
- Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / above the middle-earth sent unto men.
in the Crist poem of Cynewulf. The name earendel (which may mean the 'morning-star' but in some contexts was a name for Christ) was the inspiration for Tolkien's mariner Eärendil.
Tolkien began to use the term "Middle-earth" in the early 1930s in place of the earlier terms "Great Lands", "Outer Lands", and "Hither Lands" to describe the same region in his stories. "Middle-earth" is specifically intended to describe the lands east of the Great Sea (Belegaer), thus excluding Aman, but including Harad and other mortal lands not visited in Tolkien's stories. Many people apply the name to the entirety of Tolkien's world or exclusively to the lands described in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
In ancient Germanic and Old Norse mythology, the universe was believed to consist of nine physical worlds joined together. The world of Men, the Middle-earth, lay in the centre of this universe. The lands of Elves, Gods, and Giants lay across an encircling sea. The land of the Dead lay beneath the Middle-earth. A rainbow bridge, Bifrost Bridge, extended from Middle-earth to Asgaard across the sea. An outer sea encircled the seven other worlds (Vanaheim, Asgaard, Alfheim, SvartAlfheim, Muspellheim, Nidavellir, and Jotunheim). In this conception, a "world" was more equivalent to a racial homeland than a physically separate world.
Main article: Arda
Tolkien stated that the geography of Middle Earth was intended to align with that of our real Earth in several particulars. ([The_Letters_of_J._R._R._Tolkien Letters] #294) Expanding upon this idea some suggest that if the map of Middle Earth is projected on our real Earth, and some of the most obvious climatological, botanical, and zoological similarities are aligned, the Hobbits' Shire might lie in the temperate climate of England, Gondor might lie in the Mediterranean Italy and Greece, Mordor in the arid Turkey and Middle East, South Gondor and Near Harad in the deserts of Northern Africa, Rhovanion in the Forests of Germany and the steppes of Western and Southern Russia, and the Ice Bay of Forochel in the fjords of Norway.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are presented as Tolkien's retelling of events depicted in the Red Book of Westmarch, which was written by Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and other Hobbits, and corrected and annotated by one or more Gondorian scholars. Like Shakespeare's King Lear or Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, the tales occupy a historical period that could not have actually existed. Dates for the length of the year and the phases of the moon, along with descriptions of constellations, firmly fix the world as Earth, no longer than several thousand years ago. Years after publication, Tolkien 'postulated' in a letter that the action of the books takes place roughly 6,000 years ago, though he was not certain.
Tolkien wrote extensively about the linguistics, mythology and history of the world, which provide back-story for these stories. Many of these writings were edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher.
Notable among them is The Silmarillion, which provides a Bible-like creation story and description of the cosmology which includes Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the primary source of information about Valinor, Númenor, and other lands. Also notable are Unfinished Tales and the multiple volumes of The History of Middle-earth, which includes many incomplete stories and essays as well as numerous drafts of Tolkien's Middle Earth mythology, from the earliest forms down through the last writings of his life.
Main article: Ainulindalë
The supreme deity of Tolkien's universe is called Eru Ilúvatar. In the beginning, Ilúvatar created spirits named the Ainur and he taught them to make music. After the Ainur had become proficient in their skills, Ilúvatar commanded them to make a great music based on a theme of his own design. The most powerful Ainu, Melkor (later called Morgoth or "Dark Enemy" by the elves), Tolkien's equivalent of Satan, disrupted the theme, and in response Ilúvatar introduced new themes that enhanced the music beyond the comprehension of the Ainur. The movements of their song laid the seeds of much of the history of the as yet unmade universe and the people who were to dwell therein.
Then Ilúvatar stopped the music and he revealed its meaning to the Ainur through a Vision. Moved by the Vision, many of the Ainur felt a compelling urge to experience its events directly. Ilúvatar therefore created Eä, the universe itself, and some of the Ainur went down into the universe to share in its experience. But upon arriving in Eä, the Ainur found it was shapeless because they had entered at the beginning of Time. The Ainur undertook great labours in these unnamed "ages of the stars", in which they shaped the universe and filled it with many things far beyond the reach of Men. In time, however, the Ainur formed Arda, the abiding place of the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men. The fifteen most powerful Ainur are called the Valar, of whom Melkor was the most powerful, but Manwë was the leader. The Valar settled in Arda to watch over it and help prepare it for the awakening of the Children.
Arda began as a single flat world, which the Valar gave light to through two immense lamps. Melkor destroyed the lamps and brought darkness to the world. The Valar retreated to the extreme western regions of Arda, where they created the Two Trees to give light to their new homeland. After many ages, the Valar imprisoned Melkor to punish and rehabilitate him, and to protect the awakening Children. But when Melkor was released on parole he poisoned the Two Trees. The Valar took the last two living fruit of the Two Trees and used them to create the Moon and Sun, which remained a part of Arda but were separate from Ambar (the world).
Before the end of the Second Age, when the Men of Númenor rebelled against the Valar, Ilúvatar destroyed Númenor, separated Valinor from the rest of Arda, and formed new lands, making the world round. Only Endor remained of the original world, and Endor had now become Eurasia.
J.R.R. Tolkien never defined the geography for the entire world associated with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In The Shaping of Middle-earth, volume IV of The History of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien published several remarkable maps of a "flat Earth" which his father had devised for the first Silmarillion mythology. These maps were cannibalized by Karen Wynn Fonstad to project possible compatible but entirely non-canonical "whole world maps" reflecting a world consistent with the historical ages depicted in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.
The only maps ever prepared by Christopher Tolkien and/or J.R.R. Tolkien for the world encompassing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were published as foldouts or illustrations in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Early conceptions of the maps provided in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings were included in several volumes, including "The First Silmarillion Map" in The Shaping of Middle-earth, "The First Map of the Lord of the Rings" in The Treason of Isengard, "The Second Map (West)" and "The Second Map (East)" in The War of the Ring, and "The Second Map of Middle-earth west of the Blue Mountains" (also known as "The Second Silmarillion Map") in The War of the Jewels.
None of these maps are consistent with the several "flat Earth" maps, and the extraordinary "flat Earth" concept only survived into the Middle-earth mythology (established in print by the 1950 and later editions of The Hobbit and all editions of The Lord of the Rings, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, The Road Goes Ever On, and The Silmarillion) as a narrative structure which was not illustrated in any capacity by either J.R.R. Tolkien.
Any discussion of the geography of Arda (prior to the changes which resulted in the enlargement of Arda to become what Tolkien identified as the Solar System) can only be speculative and fraught with conflicts and contradictions.
The Endor continent, which in the "flat Earth" phase of Middle-earth's mythological history was only one of several which were later either reshaped or taken away from the world (identified by Tolkien as "Ambar" in several texts, but also identified as "Imbar", the Habitation, in later post-LoTR texts), was originally conceived of (by Tolkien, in the earlier Silmarillion mythologies) as conforming to a largely symmetrical scheme which was marred by Melkor. The symmetry was defined by two large sub-continents, one in the north and one in the south, with each of them boasting two long chains of mountains in the eastward and westward regions. The mountain chains were given names based on colours (White Mountains, Blue Mountains, Grey Mountains, and Red Mountains).
The various conflicts with Melkor resulted in the shapes of the lands being distorted. Originally, there was a single inland body of water, in the midst of which was set the island of Almaren where the Valar lived. When Melkor destroyed the lamps of the Valar which gave light to the world, two vast seas were created, but Almaren and its lake were destroyed. The northern sea became the Sea of Helcar (Helkar). The lands west of the Blue Mountains became Beleriand (meaning, "the land of the Valar"). Melkor raised the Misty Mountains to impede the progress of the Vala Orome as he hunted Melkor's beasts during the period of darkness prior to the awakening of the Elves.
The violent struggles during the War of Wrath between the Host of the Valar and the armies of Melkor at the end of the First Age brought about the destruction of Beleriand. It is also possible that during this time the inland sea of Helcar was drained.
From the time of the destruction of the two lamps until the time of the Downfall of Númenor, Ambar was supposed to be a "flat world", in that its habitable land-masses were all arranged on one side of the world, the shape of which Tolkien did not specify. It is generally assumed that he envisioned a disk-like face for the world which looked up to the stars. A western continent, Aman, was the home of the Valar (and the Eldar). The middle lands, Endor, are generally identified with "Middle-earth". The eastern continent was not inhabited.
When Melkor poisoned the Two Trees of the Valar and fled from Aman back to Endor, the Valar created the Sun and the Moon, which were separate bodies (from Ambar) but still parts of Arda (the Realm of the Children of Iluvatar). The Middle-earth mythology presupposes that Arda became a system of separate bodies traversing the universe at that time. A few years after publishing The Lord of the Rings, in a note associated with the unique narrative story "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" (which is said to occur in Beleriand during the War of the Jewels), Tolkien equated Arda with the Solar System; because Arda by this point consisted of more than one heavenly body.
According to the accounts in both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, when Ar-Pharazôn invaded Aman to seize immortality from the Valar, they laid down their guardianship of the world and Ilúvatar intervened, destroying Númenor, removing Aman "from the circles of the world", and reshaping Ambar into the round world of today. Akallabêth says that the Númenóreans who survived the Downfall sailed as far west as they could in search of their ancient home, but their travels only brought them around the world back to their starting points. Hence, before the end of the Second Age, the transition from "flat Earth" to "round Earth" had been completed.
The Endor continent became approximately equivalent to the Eurasian land-mass, but Tolkien had proceeded too far with his fictional geography to provide any realistic correlations between the narrative of The Lord of the Rings and Europe or near-by lands. It is therefore assumed that the reader understands the world underwent a subsequent undocumented transformation (which some people speculate Tolkien would have equated with the Biblical deluge) sometime after the end of the Third Age.
Main article: List of Middle-earth peoples
Middle-earth is home to several distinct intelligent species. First are the Ainur, angelic beings created by Ilúvatar. The Ainur sing for Ilúvatar, who creates Eä to give existence to their music in the cosmological myth called the Ainulindalë, or "Music of the Ainur". Some of the Ainur then enter Eä, and the greatest of these are called the Valar. Melkor (later called Morgoth), the chief personification of evil in Eä, is initially one of the Valar.
The other Ainur who enter Eä are called the Maiar. In the First Age the most active Maia is Melian, wife of the Elven King Thingol; in the Third Age, during the War of the Ring, five of the Maiar have been embodied and sent to Endor to help the free peoples to overthrow Sauron. Those are the Istari (or Wise Ones) (called Wizards by Men), including Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando. There were also evil Maiar, called Umaiar, including the Balrogs and the second Dark Lord Sauron.
Later come the Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men, intelligent beings created by Ilúvatar alone. The Silmarillion tells how Elves and Men awaken and spread through the world. The Dwarves are said to have been made by the Vala Aulë, who offered to destroy them when Ilúvatar confronted him. Ilúvatar forgives Aulë's transgression and adopts the Dwarves. Three tribes of Men who ally themselves with the Elves of Beleriand in the First Age are called the Edain.
As a reward for their loyalty and suffering in the Wars of Beleriand, the descendants of the Edain are given the island of Númenor to be their home. But as described in the section on Middle-earth's history, Númenor is eventually destroyed and a remnant of the Númenóreans establish realms in the northern lands of Endor. Those who remained faithful to the Valar found the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. They are then known as the Dúnedain, whereas other Númenórean survivors, still devoted to evil but living far to the south, become known as the Black Númenóreans.
Tolkien identified Hobbits as an offshoot of the race of Men. Although their origins and ancient history are not known, Tolkien implied that they settled in the Vales of Anduin early in the Third Age, but after a thousand years the Hobbits began migrating west over the Misty Mountains into Eriador. Eventually, many Hobbits settled in the Shire.
After they are granted true life by Ilúvatar, the Dwarves' creator Aulë lays them to sleep in hidden mountain locations. Ilúvatar awakens the Dwarves only after the Elves have awakened. The Dwarves spread throughout northern Endor and eventually found seven kingdoms. Two of these kingdoms, Nogrod and Belegost, befriend the Elves of Beleriand against Morgoth in the First Age. But the greatest Dwarf kingdom is Khazad-dûm, later known as Moria.
Orcs and Trolls are evil creatures bred by Morgoth. They are not original creations but rather "mockeries" of the Children of Ilúvatar and Ents, since only Ilúvatar has the ability to give being to things. The detailed origins of Orcs and Trolls are unclear (Tolkien considered many possibilities and frequently changed his mind). It seems most likely that the Orcs were bred largely from corrupted Elves or Men or both. Late in the Third Age, the Uruks or Uruk-hai appear: a race of Orcs of great size and strength. (Some claim that by the end of the Third Age, the only Uruks properly called Uruk-hai are those serving Saruman.) And Saruman breeds Orcs and Men together to produce "Men-orcs" and "Orc-men"; at times, some of these are called "half-orcs" or "goblin-men". (There is no consensus as to whether Saruman's Uruk-hai were among these. The books contain no hint of the "pod grown" Uruk-hai portrayed in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.)
Seemingly sapient animals also appear, such as the Eagles, Huan the Great Hound from Valinor, and the Wargs. The Eagles are created by Ilúvatar along with the Ents, but in general these animals' origins and nature are unclear. Some of them might be Maiar in animal form, or perhaps even the offspring of Maiar and normal animals.
Main article: Languages of Middle-earth
Tolkien devised two main Elven languages which would later become known to us as Quenya, spoken by the Vanyar, Noldor, and some Teleri, and Sindarin, spoken by the Elves who stayed in Beleriand (see below). These languages were related, and a Common Eldarin form ancestral to them both is postulated.
Other languages of the world include
- Adûnaic – spoken by the Númenóreans
- Black Speech – devised by Sauron for his slaves to speak
- Khuzdûl – spoken by the Dwarves
- Rohirric – spoken by the Rohirrim – represented in the Lord of the Rings by Old English
- Westron – the 'Common Speech' – represented by English
- Valarin – the language of the Ainur.
History of Middle-earth
Main article: History of Arda
The Years of the Lamps began shortly after the Valar finished their labours in shaping Arda. The Valar created two lamps to illuminate the world, and the Vala Aulë forged great towers, one in the furthest north, and another in the deepest south. The Valar lived in the middle, at the island of Almaren. Melkor's destruction of the two Lamps marked the end of the Years of the Lamps.
Then Yavanna made the Two Trees named Telperion and Laurelin in the land of Aman. The Trees illuminated Aman, leaving the rest of Arda in darkness, illuminated only by the stars. At the start of the First Age the Elves awoke beside Lake Cuiviénen in the east of Endor, and were soon approached by the Valar. Many of the Elves were persuaded to undertake the Great Journey westwards towards Aman, but not all of them completed the journey (see Sundering of the Elves). The Valar had imprisoned Melkor but he appeared to repent and was released on parole. He sowed great discord among the Elves and stirred up rivalry between the Elven princes Fëanor and Fingolfin. He then slew their father, king Finwë and stole the Silmarils, three gems crafted by Fëanor that contained light of the Two Trees, from his vault, and destroyed the Trees themselves.
Fëanor persuaded most of his people, the Noldor, to leave Aman in pursuit of Melkor to Beleriand, cursing him with the name Morgoth. Fëanor led the first of two groups of Noldor. The larger group was led by Fingolfin. The Noldor stopped at the Teleri's port-city, Alqualondë, but the Teleri refused to give them ships to get to Middle-earth. The first Kinslaying thus ensued, Fëanor and many of his followers attacked the Teleri and stole their ships. Fëanor's host sailed on the stolen ships, leaving Fingolfin's behind to cross over to Middle-earth through the deadly Helcaraxë (or Grinding Ice) in the far north. Subsequently Fëanor was slain, but most of his sons survived and founded realms, as did Fingolfin and his heirs.
The Years of the Sun began when the Valar made the Sun and it rose over the world, Imbar. After several great battles, a Long Peace ensued for four hundred years, during which time the first Men entered Beleriand by crossing over the Blue Mountains. When Morgoth broke the siege of Angband, one by one the Elven kingdoms fell, even the hidden city of Gondolin. The only measurable success achieved by Elves and Men came when Beren of the Edain and Luthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, retrieved a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Afterward, Beren and Luthien died, and were restored to life by the Valar with the understanding that Luthien was to become mortal and Beren should never be seen by Men again.
Thingol quarrelled with the Dwarves of Nogrod and they slew him, stealing the Silmaril. With the help of Ents, Beren waylaid the Dwarves and recovered the Silmaril, which he gave to Luthien. Soon afterwards, both Beren and Luthien died again. The Silmaril was given to their son Dior Half-Elven, who had restored the Kingdom of Doriath. The sons of Fëanor demanded that Dior surrender the Silmaril to them, and he refused. The Fëanorians destroyed Doriath and killed Dior in the second Kinslaying, but Dior's young daughter Elwing escaped with the jewel. Three sons of Fëanor – Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir – died trying to retake the jewel.
By the end of the age, all that remained of the free Elves and Men in Beleriand was a settlement at the mouth of the River Sirion. Among them was Eärendil, who married Elwing. But the Fëanorians again demanded the Silmaril be returned to them, and after their demand was rejected they resolved to take the jewel by force, leading to the third Kinslaying. Eärendil and Elwing took the Silmaril across the Great Sea, to beg the Valar for pardon and aid. The Valar responded. Melkor was captured, most of his works were destroyed, and he was banished beyond the confines of the world into the Door of Night.
The Silmarils were recovered at a terrible cost, as Beleriand itself was broken and began to sink under the sea. Feanor's remaining sons Maedhros and Maglor were ordered to return to Valinor. They proceeded to steal the Simarils from the victorious Valar. But the power of the Simarils was too great for them to hold. Each of the brothers met their fate, one falling into the chasm of fire and the other throwing the jewel into the sea.
Thus began the Second Age. The Edain were given the island of Númenor toward the west of the Great Sea as their home, while many Elves were welcomed into the West. The Númenóreans became great seafarers, but also became increasingly jealous of the Elves for their immortality. But after a few centuries, Sauron, Morgoth's chief servant, began to organize evil creatures in the eastern lands. He persuaded Elven smiths in Eregion to create Rings of Power, and secretly forged the One Ring to control the other rings. But the Elves became aware of Sauron's plan as soon as he put the One Ring on his hand, and they removed their own Rings before he could master their wills.
The last Númenórean king Ar-Pharazôn, by the strength of his army, humbled even Sauron and brought him to Númenor as a hostage. But with the help of the One Ring, Sauron deceived Ar-Pharazôn and convinced the king to invade Aman, promising immortality for all those who set foot on the Undying Lands. Amandil, chief of those still faithful to the Valar, tried to sail west to seek their aid. His son Elendil and grandsons Isildur and Anárion prepared to flee east to Middle-earth. When the King's forces landed on Aman, the Valar called for Ilúvatar to intervene. The world was changed, and Aman was removed from Imbar. From that time onward, Men could no longer find Aman, but Elves seeking passage in specially hallowed ships received the grace of using the Straight Road, which led from Middle-earth's seas to the seas of Aman. Númenor was utterly destroyed, and with it the fair body of Sauron, but his spirit endured and fled back to Middle-Earth. Elendil and his sons escaped to Endor and founded the realms of Gondor and Arnor. Sauron soon rose again, but the Elves allied with the Men to form the Last Alliance and defeated him. His One Ring was taken from him by Isildur, but not destroyed.
The Third Age saw the rise in power of the realms of Arnor and Gondor, and their decline. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron had recovered much of his former strength, and was seeking the One Ring. He discovered that it was in the possession of a Hobbit and sent out the nine Ringwraiths to retrieve it. The Ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins, travelled to Rivendell, where it was decided that the Ring had to be destroyed in the only way possible: casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo set out on the quest with eight companions—the Fellowship of the Ring. At the last moment he failed, but with the intervention of the creature Gollum—who was saved by the pity of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins—the Ring was nevertheless destroyed. Frodo with his companion Sam Gamgee were hailed as heroes. Sauron was destroyed forever and his spirit dissipated.
The end of the Third Age marked the end of the dominion of the Elves and the beginning of the dominion of Men. As the Fourth Age began, many of the Elves who had lingered in Middle-earth left for Valinor, never to return; those who remained behind would "fade" and diminish. The Dwarves eventually dwindled away as well. The Dwarves eventually returned in large numbers and resettled Moria. Peace was restored between Gondor and the lands to the south and east. Eventually, the tales of the earlier Ages became legends, the truth behind them forgotten.
Works by Tolkien
- 1937 The Hobbit
- 1954 The Fellowship of the Ring, part 1 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1954 The Two Towers, part 2 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1955 The Return of the King, part 3 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1962 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book
- An assortment of poems, only loosely related to The Lord of the Rings
- 1967 The Road Goes Ever On
- A song cycle with the composer Donald Swann (long out of print but reprinted in 2002)
Tolkien died in 1973. All further works were edited by Christopher Tolkien. Only The Silmarillion portrays itself as a finished work — the others are collections of notes and draft versions.
- 1977 The Silmarillion
- The history of the Elder Days, before the Lord of the Rings, including the Downfall of Númenor
- 1980 Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth
- Stories and essays related to the Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings, but many were never completed.
The History of Middle-earth series:
- 1983 The Book of Lost Tales 1
- 1984 The Book of Lost Tales 2
- The original mythologies, introducing many ideas which were used in later mythologies
- 1985 The Lays of Beleriand
- 1986 The Shaping of Middle-earth
- The first Silmarillion mythology
- 1987 The Lost Road and Other Writings
- The original Númenor mythology, the second Silmarillion mythology
- 1988 The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1)
- 1989 The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2)
- 1990 The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3)
- 1992 Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4)
- The development of the Lord of the Rings, from 'The Hobbit 2' to what would become more a sequel for 'The Silmarillion'. Sauron Defeated also includes the second the Númenor mythology.
- 1993 Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion, part one)
- 1994 The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion, part two)
- The primary source materials for the published Silmarillion, as well as late materials related to the Silmarillion mythologies. Includes the controversial 'Myths Transformed' section, which documents how Tolkien's thoughts changed radically in the last years of his life.
- 1996 The Peoples of Middle-earth
- Source material for the appendices in The Lord of the Rings and some more late writings related to The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
- 2002 History of Middle-earth: Index
- This book has completely integrated all of the indices from the previous twelve volumes into one large index.
Works by others
A small selection of the dozens of books about Tolkien and his worlds:
- 1978 The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (ISBN 0345449762, Robert Foster, generally recognised as the best reference book on The Lord of the Rings. This guide does not include information from Unfinished Tales or the History of Middle-earth series, which leads to some errors by our choice of "canon" above.)
- 2004 The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas Anderson, a comprehensive study of the publication history of The Hobbit.
- 1981 The Atlas of Middle-earth (Karen Wynn Fonstad – an atlas of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Unfinished Tales; revised 1991)
- 1981 Journeys of Frodo (Barbara Strachey – an atlas of The Lord of the Rings)
- 1983 The Road to Middle-earth (Tom Shippey – literary analysis of Tolkien's stories from the perspective of a fellow philologist; last revised 2003)
- 2002 The Complete Tolkien Companion (ISBN 0330411659, J. E. A. Tyler – a reference, covers The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales; substantially improved over the two earlier editions.)
In letter #202 to Christopher Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien set out his policy regarding film adaptions of his works: "Art or Cash". He sold the film rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969 after being faced with a sudden tax bill. They are currently in the hands of Tolkien Enterprises, which has no relation to the Tolkien Estate, which retains film rights to The Silmarillion and other works.
The following year (1978), a movie entitled The Lord of the Rings was released, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi; it was an adaption of the first half of the story, using rotoscope animation. Although relatively faithful to the story, it was neither a commercial nor a critical success.
In 1980, Rankin-Bass produced a TV special covering roughly the last half of The Lord of the Rings, called The Return of the King. However, this did not follow on directly from the end of the Bakshi film.
Plans for a live-action version would wait until the late 1990s to be realised. These were directed by Peter Jackson and funded by New Line Cinema with backing from the New Zealand government and banking system.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The films were a huge box office and critical success and together won seventeen Oscars (at least one in each applicable category for a fictional, English language, live-action feature film, except in the acting categories). However, in adapting the works to film, changes in the storyline and characters offended some fans of the books.
The works of Tolkien have been a major influence on role-playing games along with others such as Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock. Although the most famous game to be inspired partially by the setting was Dungeons & Dragons, there have been two specifically Middle-earth based and licensed games. These are the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game from Decipher Inc. and the Middle Earth Role Play game (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises. A Middle Earth play by mail game was originally run by Flying Buffalo and is now produced by Middle Earth Games; this game was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design's Hall of Fame in 1997.
Simulations Publications created three war games based on Tolkien's work. War of the Ring covered most of the events in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gondor focused on the battle of Pelennor Fields, and Sauron covered the Second Age battle before the gates of Mordor. A war game based on the Lord of the Rings movies is currently being produced by Games Workshop. A board game also called War of the Ring is currently published by Fantasy Flight Games.
The computer game Angband is a free roguelike D&D-style game that features many characters from Tolkien's works. The most complete list of Tolkien-inspired computer games can be found at http://www.lysator.liu.se/tolkien-games/
EA Games has released games for the gaming consoles and the PC platform. These include The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Battle for Middle Earth, and The Third Age. Vivendi released The Fellowship of the Ring while Sierra created The War of the Ring, both games that proved highly unsuccessful.
Apart from this game, many commercial computer games have been released. Some of these derived their rights from the Estate, such as The Hobbit — others from the movie and merchandising rights.