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Lord of the Rings Books in Order

Diving into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth can be a daunting task, given the breadth and depth of the lore crafted by Tolkien and his son, Christopher Tolkien, who served as the literary executor of the Tolkien estate.

For the uninitiated, the most common approaches include starting with either the ‘Lord of the Rings trilogy’ or ‘The Hobbit,’ a children’s book that narrates the tale of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle. These popular books serve as a fantastic introduction to the rings of power, including the One Ring, and key characters like the wizard Gandalf. However, the expansive Middle-earth books offer much more.

J.R.R. Tolkien is the well-known British author of famous fantasy novels The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In similar fashion to J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Tolkien also has worldwide fans dedicated to his fantasy books.

Early Life of J.R.R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, of English parents. He moved with his mother to England when he was three. As a young man he fought in World War I, and after the war he studied early forms of language. At age 33, he became professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. He stayed at Oxford until he retired.

Tolkien in Fellowship of Intellectuals

Tolkien was a distinguished scholar and an Oxford professor. He was deeply interested in Anglo-Saxon literature, Celtic and Teutonic myths.

At Oxford, Tolkien made friends with other writers, including his friend, C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles. He formed a writers’ group called The Inklings by which members have an interest in storytelling. All members were Christians. At their meetings they would read aloud versions of their work they would like to share.

The Hobbit and Middle Earth

When he was 45 years old, he published his first book, The Hobbit. It is a children’s story about the adventures of a fainthearted, apprehensive humanlike creature, set in an imaginary world called Middle Earth. Tolkien then further developed the history of Middle Earth in the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is an epic story on a wide scale. It is about the final conflict between good and evil in a world populated by dwarves, elves, magicians and such evil monsters. No other writer has created such a detailed and realistic imaginary world. He even made up languages for the races that inhabit his world.

The story of The Lord of the Rings is simple, and these days (thanks to the Peter Jackson film adaptations) most everyone knows it: when a young hobbit called Frodo Baggins inherits a magic ring from his uncle, he thinks it’s just a trinket. It can make its wearer invisible, which is terribly useful. But the ring is also the repository of a vast and evil power that must be destroyed, before its maker can regain it and use it to literally take over the world. Frodo and a few companions set out on a long journey to the one place the Ring can be destroyed. In the end they succeed, but at a great cost.

If you’re thinking that every third fantasy paperback has a plot like that, you’re right-because LotR started that trend.

The author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a philologist, not an author, and sometimes it shows. The book is extremely slow to get started; the first four chapters or so have been described as Eighty pages of how much hobbits love to eat. Tolkien never gives a short summary of anything if several long sentences can be crammed in instead.

The language varies from stately and archaic to colloquial and loose, sometimes within a few paragraphs, and the mood whiplash can be significant. Plus, if you’re not the type who reads poetry for fun you’re likely to occasionally get bored with the long quotes from songs and poems that the characters recite with fair frequency. Still, there’s nothing like Tolkien’s language for evoking a mood; you may not be able to picture precisely what a character looks like, but you’ll have a darn good idea of what they’d be like to talk to.

There are some problems with The Lord of the Rings, especially since times have changed since it was written. For one thing, you can count on the fingers of one hand the female characters with speaking parts, and one of them is a stereotypical gossiping old woman who’s got about five lines total.

There’s also racism, only thinly veiled-the evil orcs are described in terms that fit the early twentieth century’s idea of the Asian hordes, and anyone who isn’t pale is likely to be evil or at least morally ambiguous. These aren’t things that can be ignored, especially when introducing the book to a child, but they can be springboards for conversation and discussion.

Despite its drawbacks, however, Lord of the Rings is worth the read. Aside from its entertainment value-and it has a great deal, for many readers-it’s a cultural icon; a lot of other fantasy art and literature will make a great deal more sense if you’ve got Rings under your belt. And for all its flaws, it’s a great work of art.

To tackle the Lord of the Rings trilogy, start with ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ followed by ‘The Two Towers,’ and conclude with ‘The Return of the King.’ These books unfold in the Third Age and detail the rise and fall of the Dark Lord Sauron. Notable locations like Minas Tirith, characters such as the Riders of Rohan, and enigmatic figures like Tom Bombadil, an old friend of Gandalf with a pure heart, enrich the saga.

New adaptations like the Amazon Prime Video series focus on the Second Age of Middle-earth, making it an exciting time for new fans to explore the books.

With multiple rings of different powers, great tales from various ages, and characters both mortal and magical, there’s no specific time or best way to read Tolkien’s books. Your only motto should be to begin your journey through Tolkien’s Middle-earth at your own pace, making your first time a memorable one.

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