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The Lord of the Rings
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The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy story by J. R. R. Tolkien, a sequel to his earlier work, The Hobbit.

For more information on the fictional universe the story takes place in, including lists of characters and locations, see Middle-earth.

The story's name derives from the Dark Lord Sauron of Mordor, the primary villain of the work, who created the Ruling Ring and is thus the "Lord of the Rings" the title refers to. However, he is but the servant of an earlier Dark Lord, Morgoth (Melkor), mentioned in Tolkien's The Silmarillion.

Table of contents
1 Books
2 Publication history
3 The Books
4 The Lord of the Rings on film
5 The Lord of the Rings on radio
6 Pop culture references to The Lord of the Rings
7 See also
8 External links


Tolkien did not originally intend to write another book after writing The Hobbit, but began to compose 'a new hobbit' after persuasion by his publishers. Writing was slow, mostly due to Tolkien's wish to achieve perfection; he looked on his works as a sub-creation and himself as the sub-creator, and believed it was his duty to create. The work was originally intended by Tolkien to be published in one large volume, but the post-war paper shortage ruled this out. Instead it 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, and 4 indices), and these were published from 1954 to 1955. 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 titles of the six "books" are:

Because the three-volume binding was so widely distributed, the work is usually referred to as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however this is technically incorrect, as it was written and conceived as one work.

A British 7-volume box set followed the six-book division authored by Tolkien, but with the Appendices from the end of Book VI bound as a separate volume. The individual names for books in this series were decided posthumously, based on a combination of suggestions Tolkien had made during his lifetime, title of the volumes, and whole cloth.

The name of the complete work is often abbreviated to LOTR or LotR, and the three volumes as FOTR or FotR (The Fellowship of the Ring), TTT (The Two Towers), and ROTK or RotK (The Return of the King).

Some locations and characters were inspired by Tolkien's childhood in Sarehole (which is now a part of Birmingham).

Publication history

The three parts were first published by Allen & Unwin; in 1954-1955 several months apart. They were later reissued many times by multiple publishers, as one, three, six or seven volumes. One current printing is ISBN 0-618-12902-2.

In the early 1960s, Donald A. Wollheim, science fiction editor of the paperback publisher Ace books, realised that The Lord of the Rings was not protected in the United States under American copyright law because the US hardcover edition had been bound from pages printed in the UK for the British edition. Ace Books proceeded to publish an edition, unauthorized by Tolkien and without compensation to him. Tolkien made this plain to US fans who wrote to him. Grass-roots pressure became so great that Ace books withdrew their edition and made a nominal payment to Tolkien, well below what he might have been due in an appropriate publication. However, this poor beginning was overshadowed when an authorized edition followed from Ballantine Books to tremendous commercial success. By the mid-1960s the trilogy, due to its wide exposure on the American public stage, had become a true cultural phenomenon.

The books have been translated, with various degrees of success, into dozens of other languages. Tolkien, an expert in philology, examined many of these translations, and had comments on each that illuminate both the translation process and his work.

The enormous popular success of Tolkien's epic saga greatly expanded the demand for fantasy fiction. Largely thanks to The Lord of the Rings, the genre flowered throughout the 1960s. Many well-written books of this genre were published (comparable works include the Earthsea books of Ursula K. Le Guin and the Thomas Covenant novels of Stephen R. Donaldson).

As in all artistic fields, a great many lesser derivatives of the more prominent works appeared. The term "Tolkienesque" is used in the genre to refer to the oft-used and abused storyline of The Lord of the Rings: a group of adventurers embarking on a quest to save a magical fantasy world from the armies of an evil "dark lord".

The Books

The Lord of the Rings began as a personal exploration by Tolkien of his interests in philology, 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 described The Lord of the Rings as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work". In it the great virtues of Mercy and Pity (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.

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, the servant of evil, attempts to regain the lost One Ring which will restore him to full potency.

The Ring poem

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
   Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
   One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
   One Ring to Rule them all, One Ring to find them,
   One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

The Lord of the Rings on film

There were plans for the Beatles to do a version of The Lord of the Rings but they came to nothing. It was even said that Stanley Kubrick had looked into the possibility of filming the trilogy, but he abandoned the idea as too "immense" to be made into a movie. In the mid-1970s, renowned film director John Boorman collaborated with film rights holder and producer Saul Zaentz to do a live action picture, but the project proved too expensive to finance at that time.

In 1978, Rankin-Bass studios produced the first real film adaptation of any "Lord of The Rings" related material with an animated television version of The Hobbit, which is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings.

Shortly after, Saul Zaentz picked up where Rankin-Bass left off by producing an animated adaptation of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and the first portion of "The Two Towers" in 1978. JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, originally released by United Artists, incorporated animation over live action sequences, and was directed by Ralph Bakshi. This film was of uneven quality (perhaps a result of budget pressure or overruns, or difficulty grappling with the magnitude of the trilogy). Some portions were fully- and well- animated, while others used Max Fleischer's rotoscope technique, where animation is laid over live action sequences. Additionally, the film ended somewhat abruptly after the battle of Helm's Deep, but before Sam, Frodo and Gollum traverse the Dead Marshes. Despite his best efforts, Bakshi was never able to do a Part II (covering the rest of the trilogy), leaving the door open for Rankin-Bass to do the work for him with their 1980 animated television version of The Return of the King.

Since these films were targeted to a younger audience, adult enthusiasts have complained that much of the depth and darkness of the stories was discarded.

These efforts seemed to imply that movie treatment of The Lord of the Rings was not credibly possible. Since overall interest in the trilogy waned somewhat, prospects for a visual treatment of the trilogy were poor. However, advances in filmmaking techniques, in particular the development of computer graphics, made a movie treatment more feasible.

Miramax Films developed a full-fledged live-action adaptation of the "Rings" trilogy, with Peter Jackson as director. When financing began to fall through, New Line Cinema assumed production responsibility (Miramax executives Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein remained on the production crew throughout the films' making).

The three live action films were filmed simultaneously with one another. ' was released in December 2001 (and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2001). ' was released in December 2002 and was released in December 2003.

Although some have criticized these films because they have altered the story somewhat and, arguably, have a substantially different tone from Tolkien's original vision, others have hailed them as remarkable achievements. Noted critic Roger Ebert wrote, "[Jackson] has taken an enchanting and unique work of literature and retold it in the terms of the modern action picture. [...] To do what he has done in this film must have been awesomely difficult, and he deserves applause, but to remain true to Tolkien would have been more difficult, and braver."

Peter Jackson's film adaptation garnered seventeen Oscars (four for the first film,' two for the second, ', and eleven for the third, ); these cover many of the awards categories (in fact, "Return" won all the awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture), but oddly, for none of the acting categories. "Return"'s Oscar sweep is widely seen as a proxy award for the entire trilogy.

The visual-effects work has been groundbreaking, particularly the creation of the emotionally versatile digital character Gollum. The scale of the production alone—three films shot back to back over a period of one and a half years—is unprecedented.

The films have also proven to be substantial box office successes. The premiere of the third film, , took place in Wellington, New Zealand on December 1, 2003 and was surrounded by fan celebrations and official promotions (the production of the films having contributed significantly to the New Zealand economy). It has made movie history as the largest Wednesday opening ever. "Return" was also the second movie in history (after Titanic) to earn over $1 billion (worldwide).

The Lord of the Rings on radio

The BBC produced a 13-part radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in 1956, and a 6-part version of The Hobbit in 1966. It is uncertain whether Tolkien ever heard either series. No recording of the 1956 series is known to exist, but The Hobbit has survived. It is a very faithful adaptation, incorporating some passing references to The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion.

A 1979 dramatization was broadcast in the USA and subsequently issued on tape and CD. No cast or credits appear on the audio packaging. Each of the actors was apparently recorded separately and then the various parts were edited together. Thus, unlike a BBC recording session where the actors are recorded together, none of the cast are actually interacting with each other and the performances suffer badly as a result.

In 1981 the BBC broadcast a new, ambitious dramatization of The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour instalments. See: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series).

Pop culture references to The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings books were an enormous influence on the Dungeons & Dragons; role-playing game, and hence continue to be a major influence on the entire field of role-playing and computer games having fantasy epic themes. Several games have been based directly on The Lord of the Rings and related works.

Satire and parody based on The Lord of the Rings

See also

External links

The Lord of the Rings movies links

The Lord of the Rings Volumes of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings book
The Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers | The Return of the King Movies in Peter Jackson's LotR movie trilogy
' | ' | Animated movies
The Hobbit animated movie | Lord of the Rings animated movie | Return of the King animated movie Miscellaneous
The History of The Lord of the Rings | Lord of the Rings radio series

J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium Finished works
The Hobbit | The Lord of the Rings | The Adventures of Tom Bombadil | The Road Goes Ever On | Bilbo's Last Song Posthumous works (edited by Christopher Tolkien)
The Silmarillion | Unfinished Tales | The History of Middle-earth
The Book of Lost Tales | The Lays of Beleriand; | The Shaping of Middle-earth; | The Lost Road and Other Writings; | The History of The Lord of the Rings; | Morgoth's Ring; | The War of the Jewels; | The  Peoples of Middle-earth; List of Middle-earth articles by category | articles by name | writings | characters | peoples | rivers | realms | ages