In this weekly series, we bring you the genre novels you really should have read by now…
The Fellowship of the Ring – 1954
The Two Towers – 1954
The Return of the King – 20 October 1955
Genre: High Fantasy
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” — Gandalf
Synopsis: Middle Earth is going to crap. Frodo, a short, fuzzy-footed, constantly hungry Hobbit must take a ring and chuck it in a volcano. A whole bunch o’ characters join him on his quest and other stuff happens. There’re elves and dwarves, and goblins, and wizards. Talking trees. But no entwives. Over the course of three books (well, six, if you count the fact that they were each split in two for initial release) he walks across Middle Earth, manages not to get killed, goes a little batshit crazy and loses a finger.
Why It’s Must-Read: It’s a long and sometimes difficult slog (all those Dwarven ditties!), but it is the seminal Fantasy novel, in multiple parts.
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937)
Tales from the Perilous Realm (1949)
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Adventures from the Red Book (1962)
Bilbo’s Last Song (1974)
The Silmarillion (1977)
Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth (1980)
The Children of Húrin (2007)
Thirteen volumes of The History of Middle-Earth (1983 – 2002)
On Screen: Peter Jackson took it, cut out half the story, and still made three of the longest films you’ll ever see. They’re good, and even won a multitude of Oscars… just don’t get the extended Making of Directors Cut, Cast Commentary box set edition, or you may never sleep again. Elsewhere, the Bakshi animated version of 1978 covers up to around the Battle of Helms Deep.
On Stage: There are several plays adapted from the trilogy, as well as a 2006 musical.
In Other Media: There are multiple audio books and radio plays, of course, and quite literally dozens of Lord of the Rings-related video, card and board games.
In Popular Culture: Parodies abound in the likes of The Simpsons and South Park; references are made everywhere, from Stargate Atlantis to Gilmore Girls; and Tolkien’s works have inspired songs by everyone from Led Zeppelin to Leonard Nimoy.
Awards and Nominations: The trilogy won the International Fantasy Award in 1957, and The Lord of the Rings is a ubiquitous choice in lists like Best Novel of the 20th Century and Best Fantasy Novel of All Time—and, of course, this one.
Did You Know? Tolkien did not like the titles that his publishers assigned to the three volumes of the tale, and would have preferred: The Lord of the Rings: Vol. 1, The Ring Sets Out and The Ring Goes South; Vol. 2, The Treason of Isengard and The Ring Goes East; Vol. 3, The War of the Ring and The End of the Third Age. Catchy.