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Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) - The Masterpiece of High Fantasy Books

Updated on March 17, 2011

When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), he did the world a great service. Fantasy was changed forever and the world has never been the same since. Before Tolkien, some work had been done in myths and legends and some early science fiction and fantasy. Jules Verne, Orson Wells, and a few others had written early science fiction. Wagner’s Ring, stories of King Arthur, fairy tale-type stories by George McDonald and some other proto-fantasy were around, but modern fantasy started with The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s blend of Norse, Celtic, and Germanic myths and legends, along with an enormous amount of his own brilliant imagination, has produced the greatest fantasy series ever written.


Middle Earth - The Land of the Ring

The world of Middle-Earth has ties to other fantasy and to our own world (“Middengard” [Middle Earth] – earth in Early English) and may have been influenced slightly by the Celtic concept of the “otherworld”. It is a land of extremes – high snowy mountains and dark waterless lands, the wilds of the west and the comfortable pastoral home of the hobbits. There is something in wilderness - in high mountains and rushing streams, in trees, rivers, waterfalls, wide prairies and woodlands that makes many of us pine for something different – something outside our experiences or even outside of this world. A world that is fresh and clean, full of danger, but also of much good like Middle Earth.  That is Heaven for those of us who are Christians, although we may not recognize it as such, but also a desire for the outside, for adventure and for rugged outdoor life. Middle Earth provides a safe escape, as does Narnia or the Wheel of Time world.  The continents are basically the same as our world, and even the cultures are similar. Rohan is a combination of the Vikings and early Anglo-Saxon culture. Gondor is like that of late Middle Ages Europe. The hobbit’s homeland of the Shire is England as it should be, so to speak, or pre-industrial England - Tolkien was not a fan of mechanization.The Shire was England's countryside as Tolkien remembered it from his boyhood. 

The Peoples of the Ring

Middle Earth is a hard world, yet a very good world and its inhabitants share in those characteristics. While other authors have created wonderful creatures since Tolkien, none have been able to create so rich a world – full of good and evil and the range of human (and non-human passions). Loyalty, love, power, greed and anger are on their best display. Elves, dwarves, hobbits, men, wizards, ents, and orcs make a wonderful backdrop and they are all necessary to the story. The majesty of the elves and the Kings of Men, the stolid durability and strength of the dwarves, and the cheerfulness and perseverance of the hobbits make the story a wonder to read. A tale of men alone could never have caught the imagination and desire like the other races did. Each plays an essential part in the outcome as Bilbo learns in The Hobbit. Tom Bombadil is one of the delights of The Fellowship of the Ring, and is one of my favorite parts of the book. He should never have been left out of the movie!


The Best in Fantasy

Some excellent fantasy has come out since Tolkien. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is one of the best, but all of it rests on the foundation of Tolkien’s work. If you have any interest in fantasy or just love a good story, please read The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings! If you have watched the movies, but have never read the books, do yourself a huge favor and read! The movies are very well done, but cannot match the majesty and glory of The Lord of the Rings.


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    • Quellin profile image

      Quellin 6 years ago

      Hmm, then you would be quite wrong, ruffridyer. :-)

      While there are certainly similarities shared between The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, they are surface similarities only. The Lord of the Rings is so much deeper and insightful, there is no real comparison.

      Tim_511, as one Tolkien scholar to another, excellent review! While I believe Bombadil would have translated poorly to screen, I do agree that he should not have been removed from the movie, as he actually plays a very integral role. While I count the films among my top five favorites of all time, they would have been far better if he had maintained the integrity of the characters and events of the book a little better.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      I started reading fellowship of the rings as a teen but got bogged down by all the songs. Now I would just skip over those parts. I believe Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are the same story.

    • Tim_511 profile image

      Tim_511 7 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Sorry, you are right. Yes, I meant the Rangers of the North.

      Putting Arwen in Glorfindel's place at the ford also drove me nuts, as well as the sub-story about her going to the Grey Havens. I understand that they wanted to give her a bigger part to enhance the romantic interest, but they should have just followed Tolkien for her proper role in the story.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "I also wanted to see the whole Rohirrim army ride through the paths of the dead."

      You mean the Rangers of the North, right? The Rohirrim took the long way around, guided by the Pukael Men/Woses. I can forgive the Woses being cut from the movie, but I'm really sad about the complete lack of Rangers of the North. They're only mentioned once in the movies, by Barliman Butterburr at the Prancing Pony. We never hear of any other rangers but Aragorn.

      Oh, I could go on for hours about things they cut from the movies that they could have had in there if they hadn't added a bunch of extra crap that didn't need to be in them.

      My favorite line in the LotR films is Samwise's, when they're in Osgiliath for some reason: "By rights we shouldn't even be here." Darn tootin', Samwise.

    • Tim_511 profile image

      Tim_511 7 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Thanks, Jeff! I kind of agree on Tom Bombadil, but I like him so much that it hurt the story for me. I love the whole part about leaving the Shire and traveling through the Old Forest.

      The other movie issues were the ridiculous Aragorn/Arwen/Eowyn love story and Aragorn's fall off the cliff. I also wanted to see the whole Rohirrim army ride through the paths of the dead. Overall, though, the movies were excellent.

      I didn't notice your Tolkien hub before, I don't think, and I'll check it out!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Good review, Tim, and rated up. Tolkien's work is still the yardstick we use to measure all later fantasy works. I disagree about Tom Bombadil in the movies; the digression did not further the plot (though it was one of my favorite parts of the book), and was a cut I approved of. Though it left a bit of a conundrum: where would Pippin get his Westron blade that he used to help Eowyn on the battlefield? I guess an Elven dagger was a pretty good substitute.

      Also, the movies were amazing, but I'm outraged that they cut Eowyn's mighty speech to the witch-king down to "I am no man. Aaaaaa."

      If you liked LotR, you would also like Tolkien's other works, including his translation of Gawain and the Green Knight, and a collection of his essays and stories called "The Tolkien Reader." I've got links to them up on a hub I wrote about Tolkien and Star Wars if you're interested.



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