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The story's [[Lord of the Ring|titular character]] is the Dark Lord [[Sauron]] of [[Mordor]]. The primary villain of the work, he created [[the One Ring]] to control nineteen other [[Rings of Power]], and is thus the "Lord of the Rings." Sauron, in turn, was the servant of an earlier Dark Lord, [[Morgoth]] (Melkor), who is prominent in Tolkien's ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', the history of Middle-earth.
 
The story's [[Lord of the Ring|titular character]] is the Dark Lord [[Sauron]] of [[Mordor]]. The primary villain of the work, he created [[the One Ring]] to control nineteen other [[Rings of Power]], and is thus the "Lord of the Rings." Sauron, in turn, was the servant of an earlier Dark Lord, [[Morgoth]] (Melkor), who is prominent in Tolkien's ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', the history of Middle-earth.
 
=== Synopsis ===
 
:''See the articles on ''[[The Fellowship of the Ring]]'', ''[[The Two Towers]]'', and ''[[The Return of the King]]'' for plot summaries.''
 
  
 
==Books and volumes==
 
==Books and volumes==
 
===Writing===
 
===Writing===
{{quote|It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can do no other.|J.R.R. Tolkien to his publisher, [[Letter 109]] (dated [[31 July]] [[1947]])}}
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{{quote|It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can do no other.|J.R.R. Tolkien to his publisher.<ref>{{webcite|website=[https://www.biographyonline.net Biography Online]|accessed=28 September 2020|articleurl=https://www.biographyonline.net/writers/quotes/j-r-r-tolkien.html}}</ref>}}
 
Tolkien did not originally intend to write a sequel to ''[[The Hobbit]]'', and instead wrote several other children's tales, including ''[[Roverandom]]'' and ''[[Farmer Giles of Ham]]''. As his main work, Tolkien began to outline the history of [[Arda]], telling tales of the [[Silmarils]], and many other stories of how the races and situations that we read about in ''The Lord of the Rings'' came to be.  Tolkien died before he could complete and put together ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', but his son [[Christopher Tolkien]] edited his father's work, filled in gaps and published it in 1977.
 
Tolkien did not originally intend to write a sequel to ''[[The Hobbit]]'', and instead wrote several other children's tales, including ''[[Roverandom]]'' and ''[[Farmer Giles of Ham]]''. As his main work, Tolkien began to outline the history of [[Arda]], telling tales of the [[Silmarils]], and many other stories of how the races and situations that we read about in ''The Lord of the Rings'' came to be.  Tolkien died before he could complete and put together ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', but his son [[Christopher Tolkien]] edited his father's work, filled in gaps and published it in 1977.
  
Tolkien had a deep desire to write a mythology for England, especially after his horrific experiences during the First World War. He was also influenced by the effects of continued industrialisation, where he saw much of the England he loved passing away and became aware of the immense evil in the world. Thus to understand his writings we must be aware of how Tolkien the scholar influences Tolkien the author. His writing of this mythology emerges as an Oxford philologist well acquainted with Northern European Medieval Literature including the great mythic works such as the [[Wikipedia:Hervarar_saga|Hervarar saga]], the [[Wikipedia:Völsunga_Saga|Völsunga saga]], the influential ''[[Beowulf (poem)|Beowulf]]'' as well as other [[Old Norse]], [[Old English|Old]] and [[Middle English]] Texts. He was also inspired by non-Germanic works such as the Finnish epic ''[[Kalevala]]''. A man who had created his first language by the age of seven, he was driven by a desire to write a mythology for England influenced by his exposure and expertise of these ancient traditions.  The need for such a myth was often a topic of conversation in his meetings with the [[Inklings]], fellow Oxford scholars who have been described as Christian Romantics, meeting weekly and discussing Icelandic myths and their own unpublished compositions. Tolkien agreed with one of the other members of the group, [[C.S. Lewis]], that if there were no adequate myths for England then they would have to write their own. Tolkien's work has been commonly interpreted in this light.
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Tolkien had a deep desire to write a mythology for England, especially after his horrific experiences during the First World War. He was also influenced by the effects of continued industrialisation, where he saw much of the England he loved passing away and became aware of the immense evil in the world. Thus to understand his writings we must be aware of how Tolkien the scholar influences Tolkien the author. His writing of this mythology emerges as an Oxford philologist well acquainted with Northern European Medieval Literature including the great mythic works such as the [[Wikipedia:Hervarar_saga|Hervarar saga]], the   [[Wikipedia:Völsunga_Saga|Völsunga saga]], the influential ''[[Beowulf (poem)|Beowulf]]'' as well as other [[Old Norse]], [[Old English|Old]] and [[Middle English]] Texts. He was also inspired by non-Germanic works such as the Finnish epic ''[[Kalevala]]''. A man who had created his first language by the age of seven, he was driven by a desire to write a mythology for England influenced by his exposure and expertise of these ancient traditions.  The need for such a myth was often a topic of conversation in his meetings with the [[Inklings]], fellow Oxford scholars who have been described as Christian Romantics, meeting weekly and discussing Icelandic myths and their own unpublished compositions. Tolkien agreed with one of the other members of the group, [[C.S. Lewis]], that if there were no adequate myths for England then they would have to write their own. Tolkien's work has been commonly interpreted in this light.
  
 
Persuaded by his publishers, he started 'a new hobbit' in December 1937.  After several false starts, the story of the One Ring soon emerged, and the book mutated from being a sequel to ''The Hobbit'' to being, in theme, more of a sequel to the unpublished ''[[The Silmarillion|Silmarillion]]''.  The idea of the first chapter (''A Long-Expected Party'') arrived fully-formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo's disappearance, and the significance of the Ring did not arrive, along with the title ''The Lord of the Rings'' until spring [[1938]]. Originally he was going to write another 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 the powers it had and decided to write about that instead. He started to write it with Bilbo as the main character but decided that the story was too serious to use the fun loving Hobbit so Tolkien looked to use a member of Bilbo's family. He thought about using Bilbo's son but this generated some difficult questions &mdash; Where was his wife?  How could Bilbo let his son go into that kind of danger? &mdash; so he looked for an alternate character to carry the ring.  In Greek legend, it was a hero's nephew that gained the item of power, and so into existence came the Hobbit Frodo.  
 
Persuaded by his publishers, he started 'a new hobbit' in December 1937.  After several false starts, the story of the One Ring soon emerged, and the book mutated from being a sequel to ''The Hobbit'' to being, in theme, more of a sequel to the unpublished ''[[The Silmarillion|Silmarillion]]''.  The idea of the first chapter (''A Long-Expected Party'') arrived fully-formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo's disappearance, and the significance of the Ring did not arrive, along with the title ''The Lord of the Rings'' until spring [[1938]]. Originally he was going to write another 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 the powers it had and decided to write about that instead. He started to write it with Bilbo as the main character but decided that the story was too serious to use the fun loving Hobbit so Tolkien looked to use a member of Bilbo's family. He thought about using Bilbo's son but this generated some difficult questions &mdash; Where was his wife?  How could Bilbo let his son go into that kind of danger? &mdash; so he looked for an alternate character to carry the ring.  In Greek legend, it was a hero's nephew that gained the item of power, and so into existence came the Hobbit Frodo.  
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== The books ==
 
== The books ==
''The Lord of the Rings'' began as a personal exploration by Tolkien of his interests in philology, religion (particularly Roman [[Catholicism]]); fairy tales, and [[Norse mythology|Norse]] and [[Celtic]] mythology.
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''The Lord of the Rings'' began as a personal exploration by Tolkien of his interests in philology, religion (particularly Roman Catholicism); fairy tales, and Norse and Celtic mythology.
 
Tolkien detailed his creation to an astounding extent; he created a complete mythology for his realm of Middle-earth, including genealogies of characters, languages, [[runes]], calendars and histories.
 
Tolkien detailed his creation to an astounding extent; he created a complete mythology for his realm of Middle-earth, including genealogies of characters, languages, [[runes]], calendars and histories.
 
Some of this supplementary material is detailed in the appendices to ''The Lord of the Rings'', and the mythological history was woven into a large, biblically-styled volume entitled ''[[The Silmarillion]]''.
 
Some of this supplementary material is detailed in the appendices to ''The Lord of the Rings'', and the mythological history was woven into a large, biblically-styled volume entitled ''[[The Silmarillion]]''.
  
J.R.R. Tolkien once described ''The Lord of the Rings'' as "''a fundamentally religious and Catholic work''" he wrote to his friend, the English Jesuit Father [[Robert Murray]], "''unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.''"(''[[The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien]]'', 142).  There are many theological themes underlying the narrative, the battle of good versus evil, the triumph of humility over pride, the activity of grace, Death and Immortality, Resurrection, Salvation, Repentance, Self-Sacrifice, Free Will, Humility, Justice, Fellowship, Authority and Healing.
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J. R. R. Tolkien once described ''The Lord of the Rings'' as "''a fundamentally religious and Catholic work''" he wrote to his friend, the English Jesuit Father [[Robert Murray]], "''unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.''"(''[[The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien]]'', 142).  There are many theological themes underlying the narrative, the battle of good versus evil, the triumph of humility over pride, the activity of grace, Death and Immortality, Resurrection, Salvation, Repentance, Self-Sacrifice, Free Will, Humility, Justice, Fellowship, Authority and Healing.
 
In it the great virtues of Mercy and Pity (shown by Bilbo and Frodo towards Gollum) win the day and the message from the Lord's Prayer "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" was very much on Tolkien's mind as Frodo struggled against the power of the One Ring (''Letters'', 181 and 191).
 
In it the great virtues of Mercy and Pity (shown by Bilbo and Frodo towards Gollum) win the day and the message from the Lord's Prayer "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" was very much on Tolkien's mind as Frodo struggled against the power of the One Ring (''Letters'', 181 and 191).
  
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The plot of ''The Lord of the Rings'' builds from his earlier book ''[[The Hobbit]]'' and more obliquely from the history in ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', which contains events to which the characters of ''The Lord of the Rings'' look back upon in the book.
 
The plot of ''The Lord of the Rings'' builds from his earlier book ''[[The Hobbit]]'' and more obliquely from the history in ''[[The Silmarillion]]'', which contains events to which the characters of ''The Lord of the Rings'' look back upon in the book.
 
The [[Hobbits]] become embroiled in great events that threaten their entire world, as [[Sauron]], an evil spirit, attempts to regain the lost [[The One Ring|One Ring]] which will restore him to full potency.
 
The [[Hobbits]] become embroiled in great events that threaten their entire world, as [[Sauron]], an evil spirit, attempts to regain the lost [[The One Ring|One Ring]] which will restore him to full potency.
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=== The storyline ===
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See the articles on ''[[The Fellowship of the Ring]]'', ''[[The Two Towers]]'', and ''[[The Return of the King]]'' for plot summaries.
  
 
=== Criticism ===
 
=== Criticism ===
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China Mieville, a modern fantasy writer, criticised Tolkien's works as "reactionary."  Mieville is also a detractor of later fantasy which draws heavily upon Tolkien's work, based on the idea that such work is cliche.
 
China Mieville, a modern fantasy writer, criticised Tolkien's works as "reactionary."  Mieville is also a detractor of later fantasy which draws heavily upon Tolkien's work, based on the idea that such work is cliche.
  
===Alternative titles===
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===Alternative Titles===
 
J.R.R. Tolkien contemplated numerous alternative titles for ''The Lord of the Rings'' and its volumes before the final titles were chosen. An early title for the book was "The Magic Ring" ([[John D. Rateliff]], ''[[The History of The Hobbit]]''). From a letter to [[Rayner Unwin]], Tolkien writes:
 
J.R.R. Tolkien contemplated numerous alternative titles for ''The Lord of the Rings'' and its volumes before the final titles were chosen. An early title for the book was "The Magic Ring" ([[John D. Rateliff]], ''[[The History of The Hobbit]]''). From a letter to [[Rayner Unwin]], Tolkien writes:
 
{{blockquote|Would it not do if the 'book-titles' were used: e.g. The Lord of the Rings: Vol. I The Ring Sets out (sic) and The Ring Goes South; Vol. II The Treason of Isengard, and The Ring goes East; Vol. III The War of the Ring, and The End of the Third Age? "If not, I can at the moment think of nothing better than: I The Shadow Grows II The Ring in the Shadow III The War of the Ring or The Return of the King.|''[[The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien]]'', [[Letter 136]]}}
 
{{blockquote|Would it not do if the 'book-titles' were used: e.g. The Lord of the Rings: Vol. I The Ring Sets out (sic) and The Ring Goes South; Vol. II The Treason of Isengard, and The Ring goes East; Vol. III The War of the Ring, and The End of the Third Age? "If not, I can at the moment think of nothing better than: I The Shadow Grows II The Ring in the Shadow III The War of the Ring or The Return of the King.|''[[The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien]]'', [[Letter 136]]}}

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