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The Lord of the Rings

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The name The Lord of the Rings refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Lord of the Rings (disambiguation).
"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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The Lord of the Rings
Jrrt lotr cover design.jpg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
Released1954-1955
FormatHardcover
"The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them."
― Sunday Times

The Lord of the Rings is a book by J.R.R. Tolkien, the sequel to his earlier work, The Hobbit. It was published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955.

The story's 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.

Contents

Books and volumes

Writing

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 trilogy 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 Hervarar saga, the Völsunga saga, the influential Beowulf as well as other Old Norse, 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 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 — Where was his wife? How could Bilbo let his son go into that kind of danger? — 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.

Writing was slow due to Tolkien's perfectionism, and was frequently interrupted by his obligations as an examiner, and other academic duties. In fact, the first sentence of The Hobbit was written on a blank page a student had left on an exam paper that Tolkien was grading — "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit". He seems to have abandoned the book during most of 1943 and only re-started it in April 1944. This effort was written as a serial for Christopher Tolkien and C.S. Lewis — the former would be sent copies of chapters as they were written while he was serving in Africa in the Royal Air Force. He made another push in 1946, and showed a copy of the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not finish revising earlier parts of the work until 1949.

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

Some locations and characters were inspired by Tolkien's childhood in Sarehole, then a Warwickshire village, now part of Birmingham, and in Birmingham itself.

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Stage

Mirvish Productions has started rehearsals for a three-hour stage musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings that will have a cast of over 65 actors and cost C$27 million (£11.5 million). The show will be written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus with music by A. R. Rahman and Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale and will be directed by Matthew Warchus. It will open on March 23 2006 at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, with preview performances from February 2 until March 22. It is planned to premiere in London in autumn 2006 and New York City within two years.

The director explained his vision of the play’s format by saying, "We have not attempted to pull the novel towards the standard conventions of musical theatre, but rather to expand those conventions so that they will accommodate Tolkien's material. As a result, we will be presenting a hybrid of text, physical theatre, music and spectacle never previously seen on this scale. To read the novel is to experience the events of Middle-earth in the mind’s eye; to watch the films is to view Middle-earth as though through a giant window. Only in the theatre are we actually plunged into the events as they happen. The environment surrounds us. We participate. We are in Middle-earth."

Awards

  • In 1957 it was awarded the International Fantasy Award
  • In the 2003 "Big Read" survey conducted by the BBC, The Lord of the Rings was found to be the "Nation's Best-loved Book" [1].
  • Australians voted The Lord of the Rings "My Favourite Book" in a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian ABC
  • In a 1999 poll of Amazon.com customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite "book of the millennium". [2]
  • In 2002 Tolkien was voted the ninety-second "greatest Briton" in a poll conducted by the BBC
  • In 2004 he was voted thirty-fifth in the SABC3's Great South Africans, the only person to appear in both lists
  • In a 2004 poll inspired by the UK’s "Big Read" survey, about 250,000 Germans found The Lord of the Rings to be their favourite work of literature. [3]
  • The Lord of the Rings came in 3rd in the Librarians' Poll [4]


The Lord of the Rings
Foreword · Prologue · The Fellowship of the Ring · The Two Towers · The Return of the King · Appendices · Index

See also

References

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml
  2. http://archive.salon.com/books/feature/2001/06/04/tolkien/
  3. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/04/1096871805007.html?from=storyrhs
  4. http://tolkiensociety.org/news/librarians-poll.html