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Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Updated on December 24, 2009

The Lord of the Rings has narrative sweep, picturesque charm, and careful attention to detail. However, Tolkien's musty belief in political hierarchies, his distrust of the modern world, and his excessive reliance upon such sources as Norse and Germanic mythology often flaw his vision and the flow of his legendary tale.

Movie poster from the original 1978 Lord of the Rings film directed by Ralph Bakshi.
Movie poster from the original 1978 Lord of the Rings film directed by Ralph Bakshi.

The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy trilogy by the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien, begun in 1936 but not published until 1954-1955. An earlier related volume is The Hobbit (1937).

The trilogy was started as an exercise in linguistics but grew into an intricate adventure story, a moral allegory about the struggle between good and evil, and a serious warning against power, greed, and materialism.


The Lord of the Rings tells of the last years of the Third Age of Middle Earth, an imaginary land whose geography often resembles that of Britain. The first volume. The Fellowship of the Ring, introduces Tolkien's heroes. Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, has accepted the perilous task of bearing the baleful One Ring of power to Mount Doom in the Land of Morder in order to destroy it. Among his helpers are Sam, a faithful servant; Aragorn, an exiled prince; elves; and Gandalf, a mysterious sage.

The second volume, The Two Towers, exposes Tolkien's villains, particularly the diabolical Sauren, who wants to become the Lord of the Rings in order to control Middle Earth. The third volume, The Return of the King, celebrates the precarious triumph of good. Frodo, despite physical suffering and moral temptation, manages to achieve his quest. The restoration of peace and order ushers in the Fourth Age of Middle Earth.

Tolkien's heroes are successful, not only because of their courage, stamina, and compassion but because of their willingness to sacrifice even their lives for the common good.


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