Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

The Lord of the Rings

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

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 Characters in the books
7 Pop culture references to The Lord of the Rings
8 See also
9 External links


The work is composed of 6 "books":

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.

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 sometimes abbreviated to LotR, and the three volumes as FotR (The Fellowship of the Ring), TTT (The Two Towers), and RotK (The Return of the King).

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. The "Ring that rules the world but betrays its bearer" idea was present in Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, which taps similar mythic and literary roots. Tolkien detailed his creation further; he created a complete mythology for his realm of Middle-earth, including genealogies of characters, languages, runes, calendars and histories. Much 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.

The plot of the Lord of the Rings builds from his earlier book The Hobbit and more obliquely from the history in The Silmarillion. The hobbits become embroiled in great events that threaten their entire world, as Sauron, the embodiment of evil, attempts to regain the lost One Ring which will restore him to full potency.

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.

United Artists produced 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 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.

Animated versions of the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit (1978) and "The Return of the King" (1980) were produced by Rankin-Bass for television broadcast. 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.

Three live action films, directed by Peter Jackson have been filmed. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in December 2001 (and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2001). The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released in December 2002 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 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 has garnered six Oscars to date (four for the first film,The Fellowship of the Ring and two for the second, The Two Towers); these include Oscars for the music score (Howard Shore, for Fellowship of the Ring), for cinematography (Andrew Lesnie, for Fellowship of the Ring), for visual effects (twice), and some more technical categories such as sound editing.

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, The Return of the King, 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.

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. It starred Ian Holm as Frodo Baggins, Michael Hordern as Gandalf, Robert Stephens as Aragorn and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum. Woodthorpe reprised his role from the animated Ralph Bakshi film, and Holm went on to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's movie trilogy, a role played by John Le Mesurier in the BBC version. The 26-part series was subsequently edited into 13 hour-long episodes with added material. This version was released on both tape and CD; more recently the BBC has reissued the series in three sets corresponding to the three books, with Ian Holm providing a new opening and closing narration for each set.

The script for this version was adapted by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell. They attempted to be as faithful as possible to the original novels, but there were some lapses. Minas Anor and Minas Tirith were referred to as though they were separate cities; these are merely alternate names for the same city. Part of the Riders of Rohan sequence is sung in an opera style rather than acted. Even so, the series has to be admired for its ambition; the BBC has not otherwise attempted anything of this scale for a radio series.

Characters in the books

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.

Satire and parody based on The Lord of the Rings

See also

External links

The Lord of the Rings movies links