RTC's Pocket Guide To The Lord Of The Rings
By Shorty LaBrea
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness to bind them
We here at Right Turn Clyde fully realize that we tend to be rather
harsh on Hollywood films. We thought it might be nice to take a
break from our usual caustic diatribes and spend a little time foaming
at the mouth over a series of movies that we are really excited
In 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor of English Language at Oxford,
published The Hobbit and the world was introduced to the mystical
land of Middle-Earth. Over the next twenty years he wrote his seminal
work, the fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings in three books, The
Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.
Over the course of the last few years, Peter Jackson, the director
who brought you the gore-fest classic Dead-Alive and the critically
acclaimed Heavenly Creatures, has been hard at work developing a
film adaptation in roughly the same trilogy format as the novels.
He started shooting The Fellowship of the Ring on October 11 in
his New Zealand homeland. One of the rather unique aspects of this
series of films is the fact that they are being shot consecutively
in an eighteen-month production schedule for release at Christmas
2000, Summer 2001 for the second, and Christmas 2001 for the final.
There is plenty of information available on the Internet, in the
trades and various entertainment publications about the advanced
technical achievements use to bring this story to the silver screen.
What most of these articles lack is information about the story
itself. Obviously the best thing for any interested party to do
is to pop on down to the local bookstore or library and actually
read the books, but we understand that many of you probably suffer
from various degrees of ADD. (Why else would you be reading this
zine?) So in an attempt to help our "special" readers, we've put
together a brief "Cliff Note" version of the background to The Lord
of the Rings.
Tolkien imagined Middle-Earth to be roughly equivalent to Northern
Europe. The events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take
place late in the Third Age of Middle-Earth, about 7000 years ago.
The Ages of Middle-Earth last anywhere from 3000 to 4000 years in
length and typically end with a radical change in political power
The world of Middle-Earth is populated with many fantastic creatures
that only exist now in our legends and fairy tales. Hobbits look
like miniature people typically only being around 3 feet tall with
hairy feet and tough leathery soles so the never wear shoes. They
are usually farmers or millers or hold other "country" trades and
live in nice homes dug into the sides of hills. Dwarves are slightly
taller, about 4 feet tall, but bearded and very stocky. They often
work as metal-smiths, jewelers or stone-cutters and live in expansive
underground cities carved under mountains. Elves are the ancient
woodland guardians of Middle-Earth, usually living for thousands
of years. They are roughly the same size as men but much fairer
and with pointed ears. There are also all manner of nasty creatures
like wolves, dragons, orcs (goblins), and trolls.
Like all good mythologies, the basis of Middle-Earth is the ultimate
struggle between Good and Evil. Sauron is the embodiment of this
evil. He and his minions have existed since the beginning in many
different forms with the goal of world domination. During the Second
Age, Sauron made the Rings of Power. Pretending to be for the good
of all, he gave these out to men, elves and dwarves. Unbeknownst
to these unfortunate individuals, Sauron also made the One Ring
for himself with which he could enslave the other races of Middle-Earth.
This lead to an apocalyptic battle that ended the Second Age when
the One Ring was cut from Sauron's hand by the mighty warrior, Isildur,
after which Sauron went into hiding. Unfortunately Isildur was possessed
by the evil of the Ring and decided to keep it for himself instead
of destroying it. One of the powers of the Ring is to impart invisibility
on to the wearer, which lead to the demise of Isildur. While trying
to slip away from an orc ambush, the treacherous Ring slipped from
his finger and was lost in a river. Isildur was discovered by the
orcs and killed.
The Hobbit takes place almost 3000 years later during a period
of decline and isolationism in Middle-Earth. The magnificent kingdoms
of the past have all but disappeared with most of the races retreating
into their own territories and distrusting the others. Bilbo Baggins,
a typical hobbit living a quiet life, is swept up into an adventure
with thirteen dwarves and the wizard Gandalf. The object of the
quest is to steal back the dwarves' treasure from a dragon that
has taken over their mountain kingdom. Along the way, in the darkest
caverns of Goblin Kingdom in the Misty Mountains, Bilbo comes across
the vile creature Gollum who sometime in the past discovered the
One Ring. Bilbo wins (steals) the Ring from Gollum in a riddle contest.
Some seventy years later, Frodo and his hobbit friends also set
out from their quiet lives in the Shire, the hobbit homeland, in
the series of adventures that are told in The Lord of the Rings.
Frodo inherited everything including the One Ring from Bilbo before
Bilbo went to live with the Elves. Gandalf the wizard had stayed
in touch with Bilbo and Frodo over the years suspecting that the
magic ring that Bilbo had found was the ancient evil One Ring. Sauron
who had been in hiding, growing his powers, returns to his evil
land of Mordor. After hearing rumors that his Ring had been found
he sends his Black Riders, possessors of the Nine Rings of Men,
to find the Ring and return it to him. When the Black Riders enter
the Shire, Frodo and his friends flee for Rivendell, the home of
Elrond the wise elf and where Bilbo has taken residence. There they
meet up with Gandalf and many representatives of the various races
who decide that the only way to finally defeat Sauron is to take
the One Ring into Mordor and destroy it in the volcano in which
it was forged.
The story is far too involved to fully recounted here not to
mention the fact that there might be some people who don't know
it and want to surprised by the movie. For those of you who cannot
possibly wait an entire year for the first of the films should really
think about picking up the novels. Read them again if it has been
a few years. I did for the preparation of this piece, and all I
can say is that I for one am VERY anxious to see Jackson's interpretation
of Tolkien's vision brought to the screen.
The Best Completely Unsubstantiated Rumor
It is not at all hard to believe that for years Disney has drooled
over the idea of getting their grubby little rodent paws on the
rights to Tolkien's work so that they can turn it into a shiny-happy
Disney-fied cartoon complete with hobbits as cute as buttons, and
a soundtrack full of positive, life-affirming and non-threatening
Elton John / Phil Collins songs. This is of course one hundred percent
conjecture on my part.
Here's the unsubstantiated rumor part: Supposedly Mr. Tolkien stated
in his last will and testament that in no way was Disney EVER to
be allowed to get their grubby little rodent paws on his Middle-Earth
A brief note from the author: I'm going to bet that J.R.R. Tolkien
never actually used the words "grubby little rodent paws". Those
words are mine but the ideas remain the same.
Need Help With The Intricacies Of Tolkien's World?
One of the most daunting tasks when trying to tackle the Lord Of
The Rings is keeping all the characters and places straight. Here's
a couple of suggestions for both the confused wanderer and the knowledge-thirty
The Complete Guide To Middle-Earth: From The Hobbit To The Silmarillion
By J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Foster
This excellent resource is a mini-encyclopedia of every name, place
and thing in all of Middle-Earth. Keep it next to you whenever you
need a quick reference.
The Atlas Of Middle-Earth
By Karen Wunn Fonstad
This book is simply amazing. Fonstad is an actual cartographer
and shows the depth of her skills by recreating maps and diagrams
for Middle-Earth in its first Three Ages with special attention
paid to the travels of the various adventurers in both the Hobbit
and the Lord Of The Rings. If you are like me, half the fun of the
story is continually flipping back to Tolkien's maps at the beginning
of his books, trying to trace their path.