Every week, or day when I can remember, I'll post an interesting article on a person, place, or thing from Lord of the Rings. So for our first entry, I think that Middle Earth would be a good subject.
Middle-earth is the name used for the inhabitable parts of Arda. Middle-earth's setting is in a period in Earth's own past. Tolkien, in one of his letters, estimated the end of the Third Age
to about 6,000 years before his own time. The action of the books is
largely confined to the north-west of the Endor continent, implicitly
corresponding to modern-day Europe. The history of Middle-earth is divided into several Ages: The Hobbit and the main text of The Lord of the Rings deal exclusively with events towards the end of the Third Age and conclude at the dawn of the Fourth Age, while The Silmarillion deals mainly with the First Age. The world (Arda) was originally flat but was made round near the end of the Second Age by Eru Ilúvatar, the Creator.
"Middle-earth" is a literal translation of the Old English term Middangeard, referring to this world, and the habitable lands of men. Tolkien translated "Middle-earth" as Endor (or sometimes Endóre) and Ennor in the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin, respectively. The north of Endor became the Eurasian land-mass after the primitive Earth was transformed into the round world of today.
Much of the knowledge of Middle-earth is based on writings that
Tolkien did not finish for publication during his lifetime. As a
consequence there has considerable controversy over what is deemed
"canonical"; for more information, see Middle-earth canon.
The term "Middle-earth" was not invented by Tolkien. Rather, it existed in Old English as middanġeard and in Middle English as midden-erd or middel-erd; in Old Norse it was called Midgard. It is English for what the Greeks called the οικουμένη (oikoumenē) or "the abiding place of men", the physical world as opposed to the unseen worlds (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 151). The word Mediterranean comes from two Latin stems, medi- , amidst, and terra, (earth/land), meaning "the sea placed at the middle of the Earth / amidst the lands".
Middangeard occurs half-a-dozen times in Beowulf, which Tolkien translated and on which he was arguably the world's foremost authority. (See also J. R. R. Tolkien for discussion of his inspirations and sources). See Midgard and Norse mythology for the older use.
Tolkien was also inspired by this fragment:
- Eala earendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended.
- Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / above the middle-earth sent unto men.
in the Crist poem of Cynewulf. The name earendel (which may mean the 'morning-star' but in some contexts was a name for Christ) was the inspiration for Tolkien's mariner Eärendil.
The name was consciously used by Tolkien to place The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and related writings.
Tolkien began to use the term "Middle-earth" in the early 1930s
in place of the earlier terms "Great Lands", "Outer Lands", and "Hither
Lands" to describe the same region in his stories. "Middle-earth" is
specifically intended to describe the lands east of the Great Sea (Belegaer), thus excluding Aman, but including Harad
and other mortal lands not visited in Tolkien's stories. Many people
apply the name to the entirety of Tolkien's world or exclusively to the
lands described in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
In ancient Germanic and Old Norse
mythology, the universe was believed to consist of nine physical worlds
joined together. The world of Men, the Middle-earth, lay in the centre
of this universe. The lands of Elves, Gods, and Giants lay across an
encircling sea. The land of the Dead lay beneath the Middle-earth. A
rainbow bridge, Bifrost Bridge, extended from Middle-earth to Asgard across the sea. An outer sea encircled the seven other worlds (Vanaheim, Asgard, Alfheim, SvartAlfheim, Muspellheim, Nidavellir, and Jotunheim). In this conception, a "world" was more equivalent to a racial homeland than a physically separate world.
Tolkien stated that the geography of Middle-earth was intended to align with that of our real Earth in several particulars. (Letters #294) Expanding upon this idea some suggest that if the map of Middle-earth is projected on our real Earth, and some of the most obvious climatological, botanical, and zoological similarities are aligned, the Hobbits' Shire might lie in the temperate climate of England, Gondor might lie in the Mediterranean Italy and Greece, Mordor in the arid Turkey and Middle East, South Gondor and Near Harad in the deserts of Northern Africa, Rhovanion in the forests of Germany and the steppes of Western and Southern Russia, and the Ice Bay of Forochel in the fjords of Norway. Far Harad may have corresponded with southern africa, and Rhûn corresponded with the lands of East Asia such as China, Mongolia, Korea, and Tibet.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are presented as Tolkien's retelling of events depicted in the Red Book of Westmarch, which was written by Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and other Hobbits, and corrected and annotated by one or more Gondorian scholars. Like Shakespeare's King Lear or Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian
stories, the tales occupy a historical period that could not have
actually existed. Dates for the length of the year and the phases of the
moon, along with descriptions of constellations, firmly fix the world
as Earth, no longer than several thousand years ago. Years after
publication, Tolkien 'postulated' in a letter that the action of the
books takes place roughly 6,000 years ago, though he was not certain.
Tolkien wrote extensively about the linguistics, mythology and history of the world, which provide back-story for these stories. Many of these writings were edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher.
Notable among them is The Silmarillion, which provides a Bible-like creation story and description of the cosmology which includes Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the primary source of information about Valinor, Númenor, and other lands. Also notable are Unfinished Tales and the multiple volumes of The History of Middle-earth,
which includes many incomplete stories and essays as well as numerous
drafts of Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology, from the earliest forms down
through the last writings of his life.
he supreme deity is called Eru Ilúvatar. In the beginning, Ilúvatar created spirits named the Ainur
and he taught them to make music. After the Ainur had become proficient
in their skills, Ilúvatar commanded them to make a great music based on
a theme of his own design. The most powerful Ainu, Melkor (later called Morgoth or "Dark Enemy" by the elves), Tolkien's equivalent of Satan,
disrupted the theme, and in response Ilúvatar introduced new themes
that enhanced the music beyond the comprehension of the Ainur. The
movements of their song laid the seeds of much of the history of the as
yet unmade universe and the people who were to dwell therein.
Then Ilúvatar stopped the music and he revealed its meaning to
the Ainur through a Vision. Moved by the Vision, many of the Ainur felt
a compelling urge to experience its events directly. Ilúvatar therefore
the universe itself, and some of the Ainur went down into the universe
to share in its experience. But upon arriving in Eä, the Ainur found it
was shapeless because they had entered at the beginning of Time. The
Ainur undertook great labours in these unnamed "ages of the stars", in
which they shaped the universe and filled it with many things far beyond
the reach of Men. In time, however, the Ainur formed Arda, the abiding place of the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men. The fifteen most powerful Ainur are called the Valar, of whom Melkor was the most powerful, but Manwë was the leader. The Valar settled in Arda to watch over it and help prepare it for the awakening of the Children.
Arda began as a single flat world, which the Valar gave light to
through two immense lamps. Melkor destroyed the lamps and brought
darkness to the world. The Valar retreated to the extreme western
regions of Arda, where they created the Two Trees to give light to their
new homeland. After many ages, the Valar imprisoned Melkor to punish
and rehabilitate him, and to protect the awakening Children. But when
Melkor was released on parole he poisoned the Two Trees. The Valar took
the last two living fruit of the Two Trees and used them to create the
Moon and Sun, which remained a part of Arda but were separate from Ambar
Before the end of the Second Age, when the Men of Númenor rebelled against the Valar, Ilúvatar destroyed Númenor, separated Valinor
from the rest of Arda, and formed new lands, making the world round.
Only Endor remained of the original world, and Endor had now become
J.R.R. Tolkien never finalized the geography for the entire world associated with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In The Shaping of Middle-earth, volume IV of The History of Middle-earth,
Christopher Tolkien published several remarkable maps, of both the
original flat earth and round world, which his father had created in the
latter part of the 1930s. Karen Wynn Fonstad drew from these maps to
develop detailed, but non-canonical, "whole world maps" reflecting a
world consistent with the historical ages depicted in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.
Maps prepared by Christopher Tolkien and/or J.R.R. Tolkien for the world encompassing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were published as foldouts or illustrations in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Early conceptions of the maps provided in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings were included in several volumes, including "The First Silmarillion Map" in The Shaping of Middle-earth, "The First Map of the Lord of the Rings" in The Treason of Isengard, "The Second Map (West)" and "The Second Map (East)" in the War of the Ring, and "The Second Map of Middle-earth west of the Blue Mountains" (also known as "The Second Silmarillion Map") in The War of the Jewels.
Endor, the Quenya term for Middle-earth, was originally conceived
of as conforming to a largely symmetrical scheme which was marred by
Melkor. The symmetry was defined by two large sub-continents, one in the
north and one in the south, with each of them boasting two long chains
of mountains in the eastward and westward regions. The mountain chains
were given names based on colours (White Mountains, Blue Mountains, Grey
Mountains, and Red Mountains).
The various conflicts with Melkor resulted in the shapes of the
lands being distorted. Originally, there was a single inland body of
water, in the midst of which was set the island of Almaren
where the Valar lived. When Melkor destroyed the lamps of the Valar
which gave light to the world, two vast seas were created, but Almaren
and its lake were destroyed. The northern sea became the Sea of Helcar (Helkar). The lands west of the Blue Mountains became Beleriand (meaning, "the land of Balar"). Melkor raised the Misty Mountains
to impede the progress of the Vala Orome as he hunted Melkor's beasts
during the period of darkness prior to the awakening of the Elves.
Additional changes have occurred when Valar have assaulted
Utumno. The North-west of the Middle-earth, where Melkor met the Valar
host, was "much broken". The sea between the Middle-earth and Aman
widened, with many bays created, including one which was the confluence
of Sirion. The highland of Dorthonion and the mountains about Hithlum
were also a result of the battles. Since the changes mentioned include
both the beginning and the ending points of Sirion, it is possible the
river itself was created at the same time.
The violent struggles during the War of Wrath
between the Host of the Valar and the armies of Melkor at the end of
the First Age brought about the destruction of Beleriand. It is also
possible that during this time the inland sea of Helcar was drained.
The world, not including associated celestial bodies, was identified by Tolkien as "Ambar"
in several texts, but also identified as "Imbar", the Habitation, in
later post-LoTR texts. From the time of the destruction of the two
lamps until the time of the Downfall of Númenor, Ambar was supposed to
be a "flat world", in that its habitable land-masses were all arranged
on one side of the world. His sketches show a disk-like face for the
world which looked up to the stars. A western continent, Aman, was the home of the Valar (and the Eldar).
The middle lands, Endor, were called "Middle-earth" and the site of
most of Tolkien's stories. The eastern continent was not inhabited.
When Melkor poisoned the Two Trees of the Valar and fled from
Aman back to Endor, the Valar created the Sun and the Moon, which were
separate bodies (from Ambar) but still parts of Arda (the Realm of the Children of Ilúvatar). A few years after publishing The Lord of the Rings,
in a note associated with the unique narrative story "Athrabeth Finrod
ah Andreth" (which is said to occur in Beleriand during the War of the Jewels), Tolkien equated Arda with the Solar System; because Arda by this point consisted of more than one heavenly body.
According to the accounts in both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, when Ar-Pharazôn invaded Aman to seize immortality from the Valar, they laid down their guardianship of the world and Ilúvatar
intervened, destroying Númenor, removing Aman "from the circles of the
world", and reshaping Ambar into the round world of today. Akallabêth
says that the Númenóreans who survived the Downfall sailed as far west
as they could in search of their ancient home, but their travels only
brought them around the world back to their starting points. Hence,
before the end of the Second Age, the transition from "flat Earth" to
"round Earth" had been completed.
The Endor continent became approximately equivalent to the Eurasian land-mass, but Tolkien's geography does not provide any exact correlations between the narrative of The Lord of the Rings
and Europe or near-by lands. It is therefore assumed that the reader
understands the world underwent a subsequent undocumented transformation
(which some people speculate Tolkien would have equated with the
Biblical deluge) sometime after the end of the Third Age.
Middle-earth is home to several distinct intelligent species. First
are the Ainur, angelic beings created by Ilúvatar. The Ainur sing for
Ilúvatar, who creates Eä to give existence to their music in the
cosmological myth called the Ainulindalë, or "Music of the Ainur". Some of the Ainur then enter Eä, and the greatest of these are called the Valar. Melkor (later called Morgoth), the chief personification of evil in Eä, is initially one of the Valar.
The other Ainur who enter Eä are called the Maiar. In the First Age the most active Maia is Melian, wife of the Elven King Thingol; in the Third Age, during the War of the Ring, five of the Maiar have been embodied and sent to Endor to help the free peoples to overthrow Sauron. Those are the Istari (or Wise Ones) (called Wizards by Men), including Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando. There were also evil Maiar, called Umaiar, including the Balrogs and the second Dark Lord Sauron.
Later come the Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men (men awoke in the first year of the sun), intelligent beings created by Ilúvatar alone. The Silmarillion tells how Elves and Men awaken and spread through the world. The Dwarves are said to have been made by the Vala Aulë,
who offered to destroy them when Ilúvatar confronted him. Ilúvatar
forgives Aulë's transgression and adopts the Dwarves. Three tribes of
Men who ally themselves with the Elves of Beleriand in the First Age are called the Edain.
As a reward for their loyalty and suffering in the Wars of Beleriand, the descendants of the Edain are given the island of Númenor to be their home. But as described in the section on Middle-earth's history,
Númenor is eventually destroyed and a remnant of the Númenóreans
establish realms in the northern lands of Endor. Those who remained
faithful to the Valar found the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. They are then known as the Dúnedain, whereas other Númenórean survivors, still devoted to evil but living far to the south, become known as the Black Númenóreans.
Tolkien identified Hobbits as an offshoot of the race of Men.
Although their origins and ancient history are not known, Tolkien
implied that they settled in the Vales of Anduin early in the Third Age, but after a thousand years the Hobbits began migrating west over the Misty Mountains into Eriador. Eventually, many Hobbits settled in the Shire.
After they are granted true life by Ilúvatar, the Dwarves'
creator Aulë lays them to sleep in hidden mountain locations. Ilúvatar
awakens the Dwarves only after the Elves have awakened. The Dwarves
spread throughout northern Endor and eventually found seven kingdoms.
Two of these kingdoms, Nogrod and Belegost, befriend the Elves of Beleriand against Morgoth in the First Age. The greatest Dwarf kingdom is Khazad-dum, later known as Moria.
The Ents, shepherds of the trees, are created by Ilúvatar at the Vala Yavanna's request to protect trees from the deprivations of Elves, Dwarves, and Men.
Orcs and Trolls
are evil creatures bred by Morgoth. They are not original creations but
rather "mockeries" of the Children of Ilúvatar and Ents, since only
Ilúvatar has the ability to give being to things. The detailed origins
of Orcs and Trolls are unclear (Tolkien considered many possibilities
and frequently changed his mind). It seems most likely that the Orcs
were bred largely from corrupted Elves or Men or both. Late in the Third
Age, the Uruks or Uruk-hai
appear: a race of Orcs of great size and strength. (Some claim that by
the end of the Third Age, the only Uruks properly called Uruk-hai are
those serving Saruman). Saruman breeds Orcs and Men together to produce
"Men-orcs" and "Orc-men"; at times, some of these are called "half-orcs"
or "goblin-men". (There is no consensus as to whether Saruman's
Uruk-hai were among these. The books contain no hint of the "pod grown"
Uruk-hai portrayed in Peter Jackson's recent movie trilogy.)
Seemingly sapient animals also appear, such as the Eagles, Huan the Great Hound from Valinor, and the Wargs.
The Eagles are created by Ilúvatar along with the Ents, but in general
these animals' origins and nature are unclear. Some of them might be
Maiar in animal form, or perhaps even the offspring of Maiar and normal
is an enigma; it is unknown to which of the peoples of Middle-earth he
belongs. He is clearly sentient and humanoid, though. As to the nature
of Bombadil, Tolkien himself said that some things should remain
mysterious in any mythology, hidden even to its inventor.
Tolkien devised two main Elven languages which would later become known to us as Quenya, spoken by the Vanyar, Noldor, and some Teleri, and Sindarin, spoken by the Elves who stayed in Beleriand (see below). These languages were related, and a Common Eldarin form ancestral to them both is postulated.
Other languages of the world include
The history of Middle-earth is divided into three time periods, known as the Years of the Lamps, Years of the Trees and Years of the Sun.
The Years of the Lamps began shortly after the Valar finished their labours in shaping Arda. The Valar created two lamps to illuminate the world, and the Vala Aulë forged great towers, one in the furthest north, Helcar with the lamp Illuin, and another in the deepest south, Ringol with the lamp Ormal. The Valar lived in the middle, at the island of Almaren. Melkor's destruction of the two Lamps marked the end of the Years of the Lamps.
Then Yavanna made the Two Trees named Telperion and Laurelin in the land of Aman. The Trees illuminated Aman, leaving the rest of Arda in darkness, illuminated only by the stars. At the start of the First Age the Elves awoke beside Lake Cuiviénen in the east of Endor, and were soon approached by the Valar. Many of the elves were persuaded to undertake the Great Journey westwards towards Aman, but not all of them completed the journey (see Sundering of the Elves).
The Valar had imprisoned Melkor but he appeared to repent and was
released on parole. He sowed great discord among the Elves and stirred
up rivalry between the Elven princes Fëanor and Fingolfin. He then slew their father, king Finwë and stole the Silmarils, three gems crafted by Fëanor that contained light of the Two Trees, from his vault, and destroyed the Trees themselves.
Fëanor persuaded most of his people, the Noldor, to leave Aman in pursuit of Melkor to Beleriand, cursing him with the name Morgoth. Fëanor led the first of two groups of Noldor. The larger group was led by Fingolfin. The Noldor stopped at the Teleri's port-city, Alqualondë, but the Teleri refused to give them ships to get to Middle-earth. The first Kinslaying
thus ensued; Fëanor and many of his followers attacked the Teleri and
stole their ships. Fëanor's host sailed on the stolen ships, leaving
Fingolfin's behind to cross over to Middle-earth through the deadly Helcaraxë
(or Grinding Ice) in the far north. Subsequently Fëanor was slain, but
most of his sons survived and founded realms, as did Fingolfin and his
The Years of the Sun began when the Valar made the Sun and it rose over the world, Imbar. After several great battles, a Long Peace ensued for four hundred years, during which time the first Men entered Beleriand by crossing over the Blue Mountains. When Morgoth broke the siege of Angband, one by one the Elven kingdoms fell, even the hidden city of Gondolin. The only measurable success achieved by Elves and Men came when Beren of the Edain and Luthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian,
retrieved a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Afterward, Beren and
Luthien died, and were restored to life by the Valar with the
understanding that Luthien was to become mortal and Beren should never
be seen by Men again.
Thingol quarrelled with the Dwarves of Nogrod and they slew him,
stealing the Silmaril. With the help of Ents, Beren waylaid the Dwarves
and recovered the Silmaril, which he gave to Luthien. Soon afterwards,
both Beren and Luthien died again. The Silmaril was given to their son Dior Half-Elven, who had restored the Kingdom of Doriath. The sons of Fëanor
demanded that Dior surrender the Silmaril to them, and he refused. The
Fëanorians destroyed Doriath and killed Dior in the second Kinslaying,
but Dior's young daughter Elwing escaped with the jewel. Three sons of Fëanor – Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir – died trying to retake the jewel.
By the end of the age, all that remained of the free Elves and Men in Beleriand was a settlement at the mouth of the River Sirion. Among them was Eärendil, who married Elwing.
But the Fëanorians again demanded the Silmaril be returned to them, and
after their demand was rejected they resolved to take the jewel by
force, leading to the third Kinslaying. Eärendil and Elwing took the
Silmaril across the Great Sea,
to beg the Valar for pardon and aid. The Valar responded. Melkor was
captured, most of his works were destroyed, and he was banished beyond
the confines of the world into the Door of Night.
The Silmarils were recovered at a terrible cost, as Beleriand itself was broken and began to sink under the sea. Feanor's last remaining sons, Maedhros and Maglor, were ordered to return to Valinor. They proceeded to steal the Silmarils from the victorious Valar.
But, as with Melkor, the Silmarils burned their hands and they then
realized they were not meant to possess them and that the oath was null.
Each of the brothers met his fate: Maedhros threw himself with the
Silmaril into a chasm of fire, and Maglor threw his Silmaril into the
sea. Thus the three Silmarils ended in the sky with Eärendil, in the
earth, and in the sea respectively.
Thus began the Second Age. The Edain were given the island of Númenor toward the west of the Great Sea
as their home, while many elves were welcomed into the West. The
Númenóreans became great seafarers, but also became increasingly jealous
of the elves for their immortality. But after a few centuries, Sauron, Morgoth's chief servant, began to organize evil creatures in the eastern lands. He persuaded Elven smiths in Eregion to create Rings of Power, and secretly forged the One Ring
to control the other rings. But the elves became aware of Sauron's plan
as soon as he put the One Ring on his hand, and they removed their own
Rings before he could master their wills.
The last Númenórean king Ar-Pharazôn,
by the strength of his army, humbled even Sauron and brought him to
Númenor as a hostage. But with the help of the One Ring, Sauron deceived
Ar-Pharazôn and convinced the king to invade Aman, promising
immortality for all those who set foot on the Undying Lands. Amandil, chief of those still faithful to the Valar, tried to sail west to seek their aid. His son Elendil and grandsons Isildur and Anárion
prepared to flee east to Middle-earth. When the King's forces landed on
Aman, the Valar called for Ilúvatar to intervene. The world was
changed, and Aman was removed from Imbar.
From that time onward, Men could no longer find Aman, but Elves seeking
passage in specially hallowed ships received the grace of using the Straight Road,
which led from Middle-earth's seas to the seas of Aman. Númenor was
utterly destroyed, and with it the fair body of Sauron, but his spirit
endured and fled back to Middle-earth. Elendil and his sons escaped to
Endor and founded the realms of Gondor and Arnor. Sauron soon rose again, but the elves allied with the men to form the Last Alliance and defeated him. His One Ring was taken from him by Isildur, but not destroyed.
The Third Age saw the rise in power of the realms of Arnor and Gondor, and their decline. By the time of The Lord of the Rings,
Sauron had recovered much of his former strength, and was seeking the
One Ring. He discovered that it was in the possession of a Hobbit and
sent out the nine Ringwraiths to retrieve it. The Ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins, travelled to Rivendell, where it was decided that the Ring had to be destroyed in the only way possible: casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo set out on the quest with eight companions—the Fellowship of the Ring. At the last moment he failed, but with the intervention of the creature Gollum—who was saved by the pity of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins—the Ring was nevertheless destroyed. Frodo with his companion Sam Gamgee were hailed as heroes. Sauron was destroyed forever and his spirit dissipated.
The end of the Third Age marked the end of the dominion of the elves and the beginning of the dominion of men. As the Fourth Age
began, many of the elves who had lingered in Middle-earth left for
Valinor, never to return; those who remained behind would "fade" and
diminish. The dwarves eventually dwindled away as well. The dwarves
eventually returned in large numbers and resettled Moria. Peace was
restored between Gondor and the lands to the south and east. Eventually,
the tales of the earlier Ages became legends, the truth behind them
Works by TolkienEdit
Tolkien died in 1973. All further works were edited by Christopher Tolkien. Only The Silmarillion portrays itself as a finished work — the others are collections of notes and draft versions.
The History of Middle-earth series:
In the prefatory information to the 2007 edition of Fellowship ('Notes on the Text'), Douglas A. Anderson explains that, since the Rings books
were published almost fifty years ago, numerous emendations and
corrections to grammar, word-choice, and punctuation (and repairs to
their internal consistancy) have been made through the various editions;
while many such corrections were by Tolkien's own request (such as
specific and intentional word choices made by Tolkien in his original
manuscript, but omitted or 'corrected' in later editions by
overly-zealous editors), revisions that would have required rewriting
portions of the narrative (instead of simple corrections) were left
unmade to preserve the integrity of the text.
Works by othersEdit
A small selection of the dozens of books about Tolkien and his worlds:
- 1978 The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (ISBN 0345449762, Robert Foster, generally recognised as the best reference book on The Lord of the Rings. This guide does not include information from Unfinished Tales or the History of Middle-earth series, which leads to some errors by our choice of "canon" above.)
- 2004 The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas Anderson, a comprehensive study of the publication history of The Hobbit.
- 1981 The Atlas of Middle-earth (Karen Wynn Fonstad – an atlas of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Unfinished Tales; revised 1991)
- 1981 Journeys of Frodo (Barbara Strachey – an atlas of The Lord of the Rings)
- 1983 The Road to Middle-earth (Tom Shippey – literary analysis of Tolkien's stories from the perspective of a fellow philologist; last revised 2003)
- 2002 The Complete Tolkien Companion (ISBN 0330411659, J. E. A. Tyler – a reference, covers The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales; substantially improved over the two earlier editions.)
In letter #202 to Christopher Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien set out his policy regarding film adaptations of his works: "Art or Cash". He sold the film rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969 after being faced with a sudden tax bill. They are currently in the hands of Tolkien Enterprises, which has no relation to the Tolkien Estate, which retains film rights to The Silmarillion and other works.
The first adaptation to be shown was The Hobbit in 1977, made by Rankin-Bass studios. This was initially shown on United States television.
The following year (1978), a movie entitled The Lord of the Rings was released, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi; it was an adaptation of the first half of the story, using rotoscope animation. Although relatively faithful to the story, it was neither a commercial nor a critical success.
In 1980, Rankin-Bass produced a TV special covering roughly the last half of The Lord of the Rings, called The Return of the King. However, this did not follow on directly from the end of the Bakshi film.
Plans for a live-action version would wait until the late 1990s to be realised. These were directed by Peter Jackson and funded by New Line Cinema with backing from the New Zealand government and banking system.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The films were a huge box office and critical success and together won seventeen Oscars (at least one in each applicable category for a fictional, English language,
live-action feature film, except in the acting categories). However, in
adapting the works to film, changes in the storyline and characters
were made, which upset some fans of the books.
The works of Tolkien have been a major influence on role-playing games along with others such as Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock.
Although the most famous game to be inspired partially by the setting
was Dungeons & Dragons, there have been two specifically
Middle-earth based and licensed games. These are the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game from Decipher Inc. and the Middle-earth Role Playing game (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises. A Middle-earth play-by-mail game was originally run by Game Systems Inc. and is now produced by Middle-earth Games; this game was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design's Hall of Fame in 1997.
Simulations Publications created three war games based on Tolkien's work. War of the Ring covered most of the events in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gondor focused on the battle of Pelennor Fields, and Sauron covered the Second Age battle before the gates of Mordor. A war game based on the Lord of the Rings movies is currently being produced by Games Workshop. A board game also called War of the Ring is currently published by Fantasy Flight Games.
The computer game Angband is a free roguelike
D&D-style game that features many characters from Tolkien's works.
The most complete list of Tolkien-inspired computer games can be found
EA Games has released games for the gaming consoles and the PC platform. These include The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Battle for Middle-earth, and The Third Age. Vivendi released The Fellowship of the Ring while Sierra created The War of the Ring, both games that proved highly unsuccessful.
Apart from this game, many commercial computer games have been
released. Some of these derived their rights from the Estate, such as The Hobbit — others from the movie and merchandising rights.
The University of California, Irvine has an undergraduate housing
village called Middle Earth, containing dormitory halls named Hobbiton,
Rohan, Isengard, and Mirkwood, among many others.