The Lord of the Rings
|The Lord of the Rings|
|Publisher||George Allen and Unwin (UK)|
Houghton Mifflin (US)
|Released||vol.1: July 29 1954|
vol.2: November 11 1954
vol.3: October 20 1955
|Format||Hardcover; paperback; deluxe-edition; audio-book|
|Preceded by||The Hobbit (1937)|
|Followed by||The Silmarillion (1977)|
- "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 an epic high-fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier work, The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. The writing began in 1937, and was published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955. The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling books ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.
The book's title refers to the story's main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power given to Men, Dwarves, and Elves, in his campaign to conquer all of Middle-earth. From homely beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land reminiscent of the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth, following the quest to destroy the One Ring mainly through the eyes of the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
- For the synopsis of volume 1, see The Fellowship of the Ring.
- For the synopsis of volume 2, see The Two Towers.
- For the synopsis of volume 3, see The Return of the King.
There are inscriptions in the title pages of all three volumes. Cirth is used in the upper inscription of the title page, where it reads:
- "The Lord of the Rings translated from the Red Book …"
The sentence follows in the bottom inscription, written in Tengwar:
- "... of Westmarch by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Herein is set forth the history of the War of the Ring and the Return of the King as seen by the hobbits."
Three maps in total have been included since the first edition, these are:
- A Part of the Shire (included in Volume 1)
- Map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor (included in Volume 3)
- The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age
- "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).
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 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".
For publication, due largely to post-war paper shortages, but also to keep the price of the first volume down, the book was divided into three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring: Books I and II; The Two Towers: Books III and IV; and The Return of the King: Books V and VI, 6 appendices). Delays in producing appendices and maps led to these being published later than originally hoped — on the 29 July and 11 November 1954 and 20 October 1955 in the United Kingdom, slightly later in the United States. The Return of the King was especially delayed. He did not, however, much like the title The Return of the King, believing it gave away too much of the storyline. He had originally suggested The War of the Ring which was dismissed by his publishers.
The books were published under a 'profit-sharing' arrangement, where Tolkien would not receive an advance or royalties until the books had broken even, but after then take a large share of the profits.
An index to the entire 3-volume set at the end of third volume was promised in the first volume. However, this proved impractical to compile in a reasonable timescale. Later, in 1966, four indices which were not compiled by Tolkien were added to The Return of the King.
Because the three-volume binding was so widely distributed, the work is usually referred to as the Lord of the Rings "trilogy". Tolkien himself made use of the term "trilogy" for the work, though he did at other times consider this incorrect, as it was written and conceived as a single novel.
The name of the complete work is often abbreviated to LotR, LOTR, or simply LR, and the three volumes as FR, FOTR, or FotR (The Fellowship of the Ring), TT or TTT (The Two Towers), and RK, ROTK, or RotK (The Return of the King).
- Seven-volume set
A 1999 (Millennium Edition) UK 7-volume box set (ISBN 0261103873) followed the six-book division authored by Tolkien, but with the Appendices from the end of Book VI bound as a separate volume. The letters of Tolkien appear on the spines of the boxed set which includes a CD.
The individual names for books in this series were decided posthumously, based on suggestions Tolkien had made during his lifetime.
- T Book I: The Ring Sets Out
- O Book II: The Ring Goes South
- L Book III: The Treason of Isengard
- K Book IV: The Ring Goes East
- I Book V: The War of the Ring
- E Book VI: The End of the Third Age
- N Appendices
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:
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
A note from this letter states a manuscript located at Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA, has a different set of titles: Vol. I The First Journey and The Journey of the Nine Companions; Vol. II The Treason of Isengard and The Journey of the Ringbearers; Vol. III The War of the Ring and The End of the Third Age.
In Letter 139 Tolkien writes again to Unwin with his new preferences: The Return of the Shadow, II The Shadow Lengthens, and III The Return of the King. On August 17th he writes his updated choices: I The Fellowship of the Ring, II The Two Towers (deliberately ambiguous), III The War of the Ring.
Original dust-jacket designs
In late 1953, Allen & Unwin asked Tolkien to create dust-jacket designs for The Lord of the Rings. Three were needed, because the work was divided into three volumes for reasons of cost. Tolkien proceeded to work on the book covers, creating multiple versions for each of the three volumes, before settling the design and sending them to Allen & Unwin. A description of the final designs and their meanings are given below.
- For the information please see Original dust-jacket designs.
Although Allen & Unwin chose instead to use a uniform design, with the Ring and Eye device, on each volume, in recent years (since 1997) editions have been published with dust-jackets closely adapting Tolkien's original drawings.
Influences on the book
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. 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. 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).
Religious motifs other than Christian can be discerned as strong influences in Tolkien's Middle Earth. The pantheon of the Valar and Maiar (greater and lesser gods/angels) responsible for the creation and maintenance of everything from skies (Manwë) and seas (Ulmo), to dreams (Lórien) and dooms (Mandos) suggest a pre-Christian mythology in style, albeit that these Valar and Maiar are themselves creations of a monotheistic entity — Illuvatar or Eru, "The One".
Other pre-Christian mythological references can be seen in the representations of: a "Green Man" — Tom Bombadil, wise-men — the Istari (commonly referred to as the Wizards, perhaps more of angels), shapechangers — Beorn, undead spirits — Barrow Wights, Oathbreakers, sentient nonhumans — Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, and, of course, Ents. Magic is utilised freely in Middle-earth, and may be found not only in the incantations of Wizards, but in the weapons and tools of warriors and craftspeople, in the perceptions and abilities of heroes, and in the natural world itself.
Tolkien did repeatedly insist that his works were not an allegory of any kind, and even though his thoughts on the matter are mentioned in the introduction of the book, there has been heavy speculation about the Ruling Ring being an allegory for the atom bomb. However, Tolkien had already completed most of the book, and planned the ending in entirety, before the first atom bombs were made public to the world during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. However there is a strong theme of despair in front of new mechanized warfare that Tolkien himself had experienced in the trenches of World War One. The development of a specially bred orc army, and the destruction of the environment to aid this have modern resonances. Nevertheless, the author's own opinion on the matter of allegories was that he disliked them, and it would be irresponsible to dismiss such direct statements on these matters lightly.
The book was characterized as "juvenile balderdash" by American critic Edmund Wilson in his essay "Oo, those awful Orcs", and in 1961 Philip Toynbee wrote, somewhat prematurely, that it had "passed into a merciful oblivion" . Although she had never read The Lord of the Rings, Germaine Greer wrote "it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century. The bad dream has materialized."
W.H. Auden also criticized the book in a 1968 Critical Quarterly article, "Good and evil in The Lord of the Rings," objecting to Tolkien's conception of sentient species that are intrinsically evil without possibility of redemption. (This is a criticism often directed at Dungeons and Dragons-like fantasy worlds as well as at fantasy literature in general, and a criticism that Tolkien himself increasingly struggled with during his last years.) On the other hand, in a 1956 New York Times book review, "At the end of the Quest, Victory," Auden also called the book "a masterpiece of its genre" that "succeeded where Milton failed" in depicting an epic battle between good and evil, and wrote that it "never violated" the "reader's sense of the credible."
Furthermore, like almost every fantasy book, Lord of the Rings is also accused by Evangelicals for its alleged references to quasi-pagan elements and "occultism".
Science-fiction author David Brin has criticized the books for unquestioning devotion to a traditional elitist social structure, their positive depiction of the slaughter of the opposing forces, and their romantic backward-looking worldview . These criticisms often supply also similar accusations about racism.
Another notable SF writer Michael Moorcock wrote a long and piercing critique of the book under the title Epic Pooh advancing the thesis that it was simply a child's tale written in the language of epic myth.
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.
- 1978 film
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film)
The film was part one of what was originally to be a two-part adaptation of Tolkien's story, Part I ending after the battle of Helm's Deep, but before Sam, Frodo and Gollum traverse the Dead Marshes, and Part II picking up from where the first film left off. Made for a minimal budget of $8 million dollars, the film earned $30 million dollars at the box office.
United Artists viewed the film as a flop, and refused to fund a Part II (covering the rest of the story), leaving the door open for Rankin/Bass to do the work for him.
- 1980 film
- Main article: The Return of the King (1980 film)
The 1980 animated television version of The Return of the King picked up from where the book began, and not from where Bakshi's film left off. Additionally, the change in style and character design was quite noticeable.
Since this film was targeted to a younger audience, adult enthusiasts have complained that much of the depth and darkness of the book was discarded.
- 2001-2003 films
- Main article: The Lord of the Rings (film series)
This is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema with the co-production of WingNut Films, the series is an international venture between New Zealand and the United States. The films feature an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis and Sean Bean.
The BBC produced a 13-part radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in 1955. It was panned by Tolkien, complaining about the "sillification" of it and the changing of characters, such as Old Man Willow in league with Mordor and Goldberry being Tom Bombadil's daughter rather than his wife. No recording has survived to date.[source?]
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.
- 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". .
- 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". 
- 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. 
- The Lord of the Rings came in 3rd in the Librarians' Poll. 
Publication history and gallery
- Poems in The Lord of the Rings
- The Lord of the Rings quotations
- Images from the illustrated edition by Alan Lee
- Related books
- The History of The Lord of the Rings by Christopher Tolkien
- The Art of The Lord of the Rings by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
- Poems from The Lord of the Rings
- Tolkien proves he's still the king Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011.
- Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
|The Lord of the Rings|
|Foreword · Prologue · The Fellowship of the Ring · The Two Towers · The Return of the King · Appendices · Index|
|Illustrators of The Lord of the Rings|
|Internal art||J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Eric Fraser/Ingahild Grathmer (The Folio Society: 1979, 1992-present) · Alan Lee (1997-present)|
|Cover art only||J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Pauline Baynes (1970-1989) · Roger Garland (1983-1991) · John Howe (1991-present) · Ted Nasmith (1990) · Geoff Taylor (1999)|