The Lord of the Rings

From Tolkien Gateway
Revision as of 07:49, 11 March 2023 by Luotiansha (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
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).
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings 1954-55.png
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Releasedvol.1: 29 July 1954
vol.2: 11 November 1954
vol.3: 20 October 1955
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe-edition; audio-book
Pagesvol.1: 423
vol.2: 352
vol.3: 416
Preceded byThe Hobbit (1937)
Followed byThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962)
"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.[1]

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.


Similarly with The Hobbit, where Tolkien drew runes on the dust-jacket, 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."

The Cirth inscription is according to the mode of Angerthas Erebor, which Tolkien also used to write English (representing Westron) on Balin's Tomb and in the Book of Mazarbul.

In Appendix E Tolkien says that the "English mode" used in the tengwar inscription is not phonetic, but a improvisation between the phonetic values of the letters in Westron, and the traditional spelling of English ("what a man of Gondor might have produced").[2]

Tolkien had made some minor spelling errors, which were printed in the first release of the first two volumes, not corrected until the first print of The Return of the King.[3]:p. liii

More recent editions of the book(s) feature the Cirth inscription running along the upper and lower edges of the cover or dust-jacket.


Three maps in total have been included since the first edition, these are:

Since the first edition (and generally in many hardcover editions) the maps are printed in black and red, with the two latter as fold-out sheets.[3]:p. lv

The final original maps were drawn by Christopher Tolkien who signed as C.J.R.T. For the 1994 revised edition by HarperCollins, Stephen Raw was commissioned to redraw the maps in black and white, suitable for the smaller sizes.

Writing process[edit]

"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.

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". After many false starts and revisions, he made his method to making a fair copy of what he already had written each time he proceeded with a long new stretch of the narrative.[4] However the five final chapters of Book III were writen as a whole (not in consequence) during his spare time in summer and autumn of 1942.[3]:p. xxiv He wrote in intervals, juggling between obligations, and, during the War, Civil Defence.[5]

Proccupied with accuracy and realism, Tolkien also made time-schemes: chronological lists and tables to keep track of simultaneous events of the story, which he changed and emended according to the story's development, or rejected; since around the departure from Lothórien, the schemes become synoptic, across a series of columns, keeping track of the movements of the separate protagonists as well as the enemies.[3]:p. xlv Major revisions to those tables happened as late as while writing Book V, when Tolkien decided that Time passed normally in Lothórien, and introduced the Shire Reckoning.[3]:p. xlvi, xlvii Those entries also provide specific times (which don't appear in the narrative) of the rise and setting of the Sun and Moon, and when journeys began or ended, aiding him in deciding what sequences of events plausibly could be fitted into a given period.[3]:p. xlviii

"The writing of The Lord of the Rings is laborious, because I have been doing it as well as I know how, and considering every word"
― J.R.R. Tolkien to C.A. Furth, Letter 35

He seems to have abandoned the book during most of 1943, although, with the assistance of his son, Christopher, they worked on other projects, such as A Part of the Shire map, drawn by Christopher based on his father's four extant maps of the Shire[3]:p. lvi at least before leaving for South Africa to serve in the Royal Air Force that July.

Writing re-started in Spring 1944. This effort was written as a serial for Christopher (he would be sent copies of chapters as they were written while he was serving) and was also read to the Inklings, including C.S. Lewis, whose enthusiasm encouraged Tolkien.[3]:p. xxv Indeed, in retrospect Tolkien would be indebted to Lewis's friendship and support for ending the laborous writing.[6] In May, reaching the end of Book IV, the story came "to the nubb, when the threads must be gathered and the times synchronized and the narrative interwoven" while the story had grown much larger and deeper than he expected, obsoleting his previous sketches.[7] In the wake of the summer exams, he forced himself to write after-hours in order to reach the story to a suitable cliffhanger, the capture of Frodo, by the end of May.[8] However he was unable to find inspiration during the summer.[9] In October he made some failed attempts to start Book V, and struggled with the timeline of the narrative (to the point of not only stopping his progress but also interfering with his urgent duties) and had to make some map alterations, and changes in the text, like adding some extra days;[10] he also made a new, elaborate and synoptic time-scheme of the protagonists's movements.[3]:p. xxvi

1945 seems to have been a hiatus period. By that time the story had several drafts and copies. The "clean" one, that was presentable and readable, was home-typed by himself or hand-written with the assistance of his children. He never parted from it, or any of its chapters (being "so closely knit"), hoping that he would find time to resume work to any of its parts.[11]

After this second long gap, he felt that he had to study his own work to be able to resume[12] andmade another push in September 1946 with Book V, which he completed by the end of October. He also made more revisions to the Fellowship, and it was around that time when he decided to change the episode where Bilbo wins the Ring from Gollum, in the Hobbit, something that was altered in the later editions.[3]:p. xxvii

He showed a copy of the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the late summer of 1948, when Tolkien was vacating at Woodcote[3]:p. xxvii but Tolkien did not finish making fair copies and typescripts, revising and changing earlier parts of the work, until October 1949; during that time he elaborated on the backstory in the Prologue and the Appendices, and made late changes, such as deciding Arwen's name (from earlier "Finduilas").[3]:p. xxviii Almost all of the work had been typed by himself at home, as he could not afford the £100 to hire a local typist.[13]

He intended the Silmarillion (itself largely unrevised at this point) to be published along with The Lord of the Rings,[13] but his publishers, Allen and Unwin were unwilling to do this.[14] This dispute led to the book being offered to Collins in 1950. His contact at Collins, Milton Waldman, expressed the belief that The Lord of the Rings itself 'urgently needed cutting', although Tolkien seems to have further expanded the Appendix A.[3]:xxx Tired of the delays, in Spring 1952 he eventually demanded that they publish the book, but they declined and withdrew form the negotiations.[15] Unwin, aware of Tolkien's problems with Collins, had made known to him that his house never closed its doors;[3]:xxx Downhearted, worrying about the costs, and expecting a retirement in poverty, Tolkien wrote to Stanley's son, Rayner, saying "better something than nothing" and that he "would gladly consider the publication of any part of the stuff".[16] After a warm reply from Rayner expessing his interest, Tolkien retreated once more in Woodcote to read through, further correct and update the text, resulting to some adjustments to the story's chronology.[3]:p. xxxi

By April 1953 Tolkien had completed the revision for press.[17] By 1965 Tolkien continued to revise the text beyond the deadline. The text continued to be corrected as Tolkien and his son, Christopher, sent discovered errors to A&U.[3]:p. xl

Illustrations and maps[edit]

While writing the book, Tolkien created some illustrations and diagrams as concept art. But contrary to what he hoped, the cost was prohibitive for colored illustrations, resulting to minimalistic drawings of the Doors of Durin and the accompanying maps; the three colored pages of the Book of Mazarbul had to be excluded.[3]:xxxiii-xxxiv

Tolkien also made maps to help him with writing ("in such a story one cannot make a map for the narrative, but must first make a map and make the narrative agree") and felt that three maps were essential to help the reader and should come with the book[18] including a large-scale map necessary to illustrate the action of the later 2/3 parts of the book.[19] But as of 1953, and after spending a lot of time working in vain, he felt he had not enough skill or leisure to make a readable, black and white map to fit into a page.[20]

Eventually Christopher Tolkien (who signed as C.T. or C.J.R.T.) drew the three maps, a semi-pictorial general map of the Westlands (late 1953), the central parts of the Shire (March 1954) and a large-scale map (April 1955) focusing on the courses of Frodo, Aragorn and the Rohirrim.[3]:lv At first Tolkien was disappointed with the latter, because, being different from the general map, he struggled with keeping the distances and it revealed "all the chinks in the armour"; he briefly considered dropping it.[21] The process took several days adjusting and rescaling it, even around the clock, and then Christopher sat from "6a.m. to 6a.m. without bed" to re-draw it. Christopher insisted that readers would mispronounce the C in names such as Celos, Ciril etc, and preferred the clearer spelling with K, despite Tolkien settling with the classical spelling in the text.[22]

In preparation for the publication (1953 to 1955) the drawings were for the most part redrawn by a printer's copyist, and the maps were corrected.[3]:xxxiii-xxxiv

Preparing the second edition, Tolkien attempted to make some corrections but ran into some difficulties with he maps; the Shire-map was the most problematic and proceeded to some corrections. For the others, he decided to adjust the narrative to agree with the maps "where this is possible and does not damage the story".[3]:p. lxi, quoting previously unpublished parts of Letter 274

Suggested and alternative titles[edit]

J.R.R. Tolkien contemplated numerous alternative titles for The Lord of the Rings either for the six parts or "Books" or its three volumes. An early title for the book was "The Magic Ring".[23]

Tolkien wrote to Rayner Unwin:

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 list of contents to a manuscript of The Lord of the Rings located at Marquette University, 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 Ring-bearers; Vol. III The War of the Ring and The End of the Third Age.[24]

Tolkien wrote again to Unwin with his new preferences: I The Return of the Shadow, II The Shadow Lengthens, and III The Return of the King. On 17 August he wrote his updated choices: I The Fellowship of the Ring, II The Two Towers (deliberately ambiguous), III The War of the Ring.

Four of the proposed titles, The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring and The End of the Third Age, were used by Christopher Tolkien for the volumes of The History of Middle-earth.

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 as a separate seventh volume. The letters T, O, L, K, I, E, N 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 in Letter 136.

  • 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

Original dust-jacket designs[edit]

Original cover for Volume 1  
Original cover for Volume 2  
Original cover for Volume 3  
The Ring and Eye device  

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.

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.

For the information on the original designs and their meaning please see here.


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). Tolkien envisioned it a single work, whose natural division was in six "Books", and thought the division in three volumes as "artificial", citing that the Books III and IV, both published in The Two Towers, were unrelated and divergent.[25] In retrospect he blamed partly this artificial (but unavoidable) publication as a "trilogy" for the apparent shapeless and asymmetrical tone that some critics noted.[6]

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. Tolkien 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.[3]:p. xxxii

In order to have a review blurb printed on the front flap of the dust-jacket, proof copies of the Fellowship were sent to critics including C.S. Lewis, Naomi Mitchison and Richard Hughes, who wrote enthusiastic and triumphant reviews, comparing the work with classics.[3]:p. lii George Sayer wrote a blurb for the 1953 catalogue.[3]:p. xxxiv

The second edition was released in 1966, while in 1969 Allen & Unwin released a deluxe, one-volume edition, as was Tolkien's original intention.[3]:p. lii

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.

Influences on the book[edit]

See also: J.R.R. Tolkien's inspirations
"I wrote [The Lord of the Rings] as a personal satisfaction, driven to it by the scarcity of literature of the sort that I wanted to read (and what there was was often heavily alloyed)."
― J.R.R. Tolkien to W. H. Auden[26]

Tolkien had a deep desire to write a mythology for England, especially after his horrific experiences during the Great 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.

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 the face 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.

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


"I rarely remember a book about which I have had such violent arguments. Nobody seems to have a moderate opinion; either, like myself, people find it a masterpiece of its genre or they cannot abide it"
W.H. Auden, At the End of the Quest, Victory

Upon release of the volumes, some opinions were even enthusiastic, most positive, but there were also mixed and negative; some of them so much that Tolkien felt that those critics read his work carelessly.[3]:p. lxxiv Various reviewers likened the work to those by Edmund Spenser, Thomas Malory, Brothers Grimm, T.H. White and Ariosto, the pre-Raphaelites as well as the Mabinogion being an amalgam of those works and styles; such grand comments put off some readers. It was thought also that it tried to balance between classical and epic words and more simplistic and childish styles, such as the Light Programme and Boy's Own Paper (Tolkien was surprised and puzzled to see so variant and discrepant judgements on his style[6]). Some understood the book as an allegory of the struggle between "the West" and "the Communist East", with the Ring symbolizing nuclear power.[3]:p. xxxv-xxxvii

The books were a commercial success and more copies were ordered; The Return of the King was printed in more copies than the first two volumes.[3]:p. xxxv, xxxix

By the 1990s, the book came first in several opinion polls as readers' choice for best or favourite book.[3]:p. xxxix

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.


  • 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". [27]
  • Australians voted The Lord of the Rings "My Favourite Book" in a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian ABC.
  • In a 1999 poll of customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite "book of the millennium". [28]
  • 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. [29]
  • The Lord of the Rings came in 3rd in the Librarians' Poll. [30]


"''The Lord of the Rings is

one of those things: if you
like it you do: if you don't,
then you boo!"

J.R.R. Tolkien[31]

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" [32]. Maurice Richardson thought that although dialogues vary among some races, every line has the same "flat voice", as there is no fleshed-out characterization or individuality.[33] 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."

Edmund Fuller dismissed much of the criticism as a natural consequence, something that inevitably follows a critical acclaim.[34]

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 [35]. 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)

This film, originally released by United Artists, was directed by Ralph Bakshi and used an animation technique called rotoscoping in which footage of live actors was filmed and then traced over.

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?]

A 1979 dramatization was broadcast in the USA and subsequently issued on tape and CD. In 1981 the BBC broadcast a new, ambitious dramatization of The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour installments.

Main article: The Lord of the Rings Musical

Mirvish Productions made a stage musical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus with music by A. R. Rahman and Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale, being directed by Matthew Warchus. It opened on 23 March 2006 at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, and in London in autumn 2006.


  • 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". [36]
  • Australians voted The Lord of the Rings "My Favourite Book" in a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian ABC.
  • In a 1999 poll of customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favourite "book of the millennium". [37]
  • 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. [38]
  • The Lord of the Rings came in 3rd in the Librarians' Poll. [39]

Publication history and gallery[edit]

For 3-volume editions, see here.
For 1-volume editions, see here.
For 7-volume editions, see here.

See also[edit]

Related books


  1. Tolkien proves he's still the king Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E: Writing and Spelling, p. 1122, III: 400
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, p. 267
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 47, (dated 7 December 1941), p. 58
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 149, (dated 9 September 1954)
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 71, (dated 25 May 1944), p.80-81
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 72, (dated 31 May 1944), p. 83
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 78, (dated 12 August 1944), p. 91
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 85, (dated 16 October 1944), p. 97
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 98, (undated, written ca. 18 March 1945), p. 113-4
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 105, (dated 21 July 1946), p. 118
  13. 13.0 13.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 124, (dated 24 February 1950), p. 136-7
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 128, (dated 1 August 1950), p. 141
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 163
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 133, (dated 22 June 1952)
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 137, (dated 11 April 1953)
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 137, (dated 11 April 1953), p. 168
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 187, (undated, written April 1956), p. 247
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 141, (dated 9 October 1953), p. 171
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 161, (dated 14 April 1955)
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 187, (undated, written April 1956), p. 247
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, p. ???
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 136, (dated 24 March 1953), Note 1
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 136, (dated 24 March 1953)
  26. Template:L163
  31. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p. 223
  33. 'New Novels', New Statesman and Nation, 18 December 1954, pp. 835-6
  34. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo (eds.), Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1968), "The Lord of the Hobbits: J.R.R. Tolkien", p. 36

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)
The Lord of the Rings film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films The Fellowship of the Ring (extended editionThe Two Towers (extended edition) · The Return of the King (extended edition)
Music The Fellowship of the Ring (The Complete Recordings) · The Two Towers (The Complete Recordings) · The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings) · "May It Be" · "Gollum's Song" · "Into the West"
Tie-in books Official Movie Guide · The Making of the Movie Trilogy · Complete Visual Companion · Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic · There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale · Weapons and Warfare · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Sketchbook
The Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion · The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers Visual Companion · Photo Guide · The Art of The Two Towers
The Return of the King Visual Companion · The Art of The Return of the King
Video games The Two Towers · The Return of the King · The Third Age · Tactics · Conquest · Aragorn's Quest · Lego The Lord of the Rings
Characters Frodo · Bilbo · Gandalf · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Boromir · Legolas · Gimli · Elrond · Galadriel · Théoden · Éomer · Éowyn · Saruman · Sauron · Witch-king · Denethor · Faramir · Gollum · Gríma · Treebeard · Celeborn · Haldir · Lurtz · Sharku · Grishnákh
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by Tolkien or based on his writings
Of Arda Authorized by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand ·
iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow ·
vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring ·
xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not of Arda Short stories
and poems
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fiction works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · Finn and Hengest ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays ·
Tolkien On Fairy-stories · A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages · The Battle of Maldon
Other The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Reference books The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Scholarly books with Tolkien's writings J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · The Road to Middle-earth ·
A Question of Time · Tolkien and the Great War ·
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
Scholarly journals with Tolkien's writings Tolkien Studies various issues
Other published works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar issue 1-50 · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list only includes the major published works, for the full bibliography of Tolkien, see here or here