Lord of the Rings

JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, is a three volume epic fantasy set in Tolkien’s created world of Middle Earth. LotR (a common abbreviation) is comprised of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings was, in many ways, the culmination of a life’s work for Tolkien. When the first volume of the “trilogy”, The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 1954, Tolkien had already spent the last 15 years working on the book.

He had begun writing parts of the tale in 1936, after submitting The Hobbit to the publisher.

Many years after Professor Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher Tolkien gathered together and published many of the early false-starts, backtracks, revisions, and name changes that plagued The Lord of the Rings as volumes VI-IX of the History of Middle Earth series.

Tolkien himself apparently hadn’t the foggiest notion where he was going with the story and struck out blindly on the path of creation. The demand at the time was for a sequel to The Hobbit. Readers, it seemed, had become very attached to his small, furry-toed creations.

Tolkien himself, as he stated in a letter to a friend in December 1937,

      “[prefer] my own mythology…to this rabble of Eddaic-named dwarves out of Voluspa, newfangled


    and gollums (invented in an idle hour) and Anglo-Saxon runes”.

But some names and places from Tolkien’s earlier “mythologies”, such as Elrond and Gondolin, had already made an appearance in The Hobbit, and as he began to write the early versions of The Lord of the Rings, the world of The Hobbit was slowly and inevitably drawn into the larger world of Tolkien’s mythologies.

It soon became quite clear to Tolkien that the magic Ring that Bilbo found in Gollum’s cave in The Hobbit must be more than simply a ring of invisibility. It was the One Ring. It was a link…and a foundation. But this was problematic.

In the original version of The Hobbit Gollum had actually given the ring to Bilbo. This is surprising to those who have read The Lord of the Rings and realize the importance (and the allure) of the One Ring. But at that point in its development, it was only a ring in Tolkien’s mind, not what it later became.

In 1951, before the publication of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien revised the chapter of The Hobbit entitled “Riddles in the Dark”, where Gollum supposedly “gave” Bilbo the ring, to fit with his new perspective of the Ring’s power and hold. In it, Bilbo actually finds the Ring in the darkness and then tricks Gollum into showing him the way out.

Shortly after beginning work on “a sequel to The Hobbit”, he wrote the rhyme that has become so famous, and later became the driving force behind the narrative:

      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.

These words propelled the story that has become one of the most popular and influential books in history.

To break things up into more “bite size” pieces of information, I’ve broken The Lord of the Rings into a variety of more focused pages.