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Fantasy Genre: Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The fantasy genre offers its readers with a hidden world where one’s mind can escape and envision a magical world of heroism, chivalry and bravery. It presents the world with creatures that live and myth and of wizards and warlocks that save or destroy the world. What is the common denominator in all fantasy books and the most gripping is a hero, from a non-descript beginning, who rises above the others in a process of adventure showing outstanding courage to save the world and mankind (at least mankind as per the races in the storybook) as part of his destiny.

It cannot be doubted that these stories of fantasy bring about a good feeling in one’s readers, and evokes the feeling of hope. However, most of these fantasy books, although illustrating a world far from reality mimics, tries to revise and challenges the reality that we know and the world that we live in. Exemplary to this would be the fantasy book that has influenced numerous fantasy books after it – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.

The story is divided into 3 books telling of a world called Middle-Earth which is currently at threat by an evil wizard named Sauron whose great desire is to come in possession with a ring he made that will allow him to dominate and rule the world. In the midst of this is a hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who inherited this ring from his uncle, Bilbo, unknowing of the power behind the ring. Gandalf, an old friend of Bilbo, visits Froddo to inform him of the history of the ring and the need for Froddo to bring the ring to the Elven country, Isildur so that the high elves could decide as to what to do with the ring.

Arriving at Isildur, a group, consisting of all the main races of Middle-Earth (dwarves, elves, hobbits and man), decide to destroy the ring by bringing it to Mordor, the territory of Sauron, with Froddo being the bearer of the ring after every other race refused to bear it. The first book recounts the adventure of Froddo from the moment he left The Shire, his home, until the breaking up the group, leaving Froddo and his good friend Sam alone to venture into Mordor.

The second book, The Two Towers, relates the treachery of the leader of wizards, Saruman, who initially was an ally but was so attracted by the power of the ring that he decided to get it for himself. Except for Froddo & Sam, the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring – namely Aragorn, The King of men, Legolas, a prince of the high elves, Gimli, a great warrior of the dwarves, and the hobbits, Peregrine Took and Meriadoc Brandy Buck (otherwise known as Merry & Pippin) – fought against Saruman with the help of the Ents (a humanoid tree) and the Riders of Rohan (men specialized with horses).

Meanwhile, Froddo and Sam head towards Mordor with Gollum as their guide. Gollum, who kept ring for centuries, is a disfigured hobbit corrupted by the ring. Finally, the third book, The Return of the King, tells the story of the war against Sauron led by Aragorn and the destruction of the Ring by Froddo inside Mordor. The main focus of this last book is Frodo’s personal battle in conquering the ring and finding the will to destroy it. In the end, The Ring gets destroyed not because Froddo willingly did so but because of the extreme corruption of Gollum. Upon the destruction of the Ring, Mordor falls and the whole Middle-Earth is saved.

The book ends with the return of the King of man – Aragorn and the guardians of the rings leaving Middle-Earth and going to the Elysian Fields as the One Ring has been destroyed so will all the rings made leave Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings is a classic tale of good versus evil, but it echoes far more about the real world than any other fantasy book. The trilogy resound the events transpiring during the time it was written as well as possess a level of universality that portrays human nature. It should be noted that the trilogy was written between the years 1939 to 1947, the latter years being the time when most of the book was written.

Thus, it could be that Sauron represented Hitler wanting to rule the world and Saruman, being the Japanese people who wanted to rule their own area of the world – Asia. The Fellowship of the Ring can represent the Allied forces which consisted of the main powers of the world in the same way that the Fellowship consisted of the main races of Middle-Earth and the whole World War II is represented by the war against Sauron which involved the whole world and all the races – humanoid and mythical – of Middle Earth.

Apart from the book echoing the events of the time, it also shows Tolkien’s religious inclinations. It should also be known that when J. R. R. Tolkien wrote this book, it was with his friend C. S. Lewis in mind, both of whom decided to write books which have very strong religious inclinations. The trilogy, although not as strongly Christian as the Chronicles of Narnia, reflect the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

” The same that Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the desert, so is Frodo being constantly tempted by the ring in his trip in the gloomy wastelands towards Mordor. In Chronicles of Narnia the parallelism to Jesus Christ is very clear when Aslan, the Great Lion, had to die to save Edmund, the traitor. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however, this is not very apparent but is present. Frodo, the savior, didn’t physically die the same way that Aslan did to save Edmund. In the case of Frodo his death was more internal than anything else. Frodo is a hobbit filled with joy and innocence.

Essentially, he too died in a more metaphysical sense where he has lost his joys, his innocence and ultimately himself. This makes the sacrifice of Frodo more effective than the death of Aslan because it is the kind of sacrifice that the readers will be able to relate to, empathize with and understand making Frodo’s sacrifice more cathartic. This catharsis challenges the reader’s and the world’s sense of good and selflessness. Another aspect of the book that challenges the world is the very representation of each of the characters in the book.

The very first is Aragorn. Aragorn represents those that have the capacity to lead but shies away from the responsibility of it and thus just lives hiding and thinking that he can help in his small little way –by being a ranger. Through Aragorn, Tolkien dares those kinds of people who essentially by not stepping up do a great disservice to their country and literally abandons them. This is Tolkien’s way to call citizens to their sense of duty. King Theoden, the King of the Rohirrim (the Riders of Rohan) represents puppet leaders.

In the story, King Theoden is shown as a wilting King who does nothing but the bidding of his advisor Wormtongue, an evil ally of Saruman. Theoden represents the leaders of the world who are not leaders by themselves but just follow the dictates of their advisors. These kinds of presidents or prime ministers are not unheard of in the real world. Eventually, in the story, with the help of Gandalf, the eyes of Theoden are opened to the poisoned tongue of Wormtongue, after which Theoden takes control of his realm once again.

In the characterization of Theoden, Tolkien shows, what is and what should be for world leaders, urging them to stand up for themselves for the sake of their countries. In World War II, Romania did as they were told by the Germans without question, which may be one of the targets of Tolkien’s Theoden example. Saruman represents the ultimate traitor. Not only did he betray the wizards that he was bound to protect, but he also betrayed Sauron by aligning himself to the Dark Lord and later on secretly desiring the power for himself.

Saruman represents the turncoats in society who behave solely for their own interests and selfish motives. Sauron’s character symbolizes pride. He, in his intelligence and greatness, believed that he could be God and dominate the whole world. He represents evil not only in deed but in being. As a matter of fact, if one reads the Silmarillion, one will realize that Sauron is similar to Lucifer, in the same way that Lucifer was once the greatest angel of God, so was Sauron the greatest amongst the Maia.

Both, because of their pride, fell from grace and so any form of alliance with Sauron is similar to selling one’s soul to the devil. The presence of Sauron serves as a warning to those who are great and whose fall will be equally great. Sauron even echoes Adolf Hitler as Hitler was also a very intelligent man and whose pride brought the Holocaust. Finally, there is Frodo. The character of Frodo can be fully understood best by relating it to the characters of Sam Gamgee, his best friend and Gollum, a long time owner of the ring.

All three are hobbits and as such, they all have the qualities of being a hobbit – sturdy, fun-loving, innocent and child-like. However, each character represents 3 different kinds of child-likeness. Gollum, represents the child that is selfish and who wants everything nice to be his. Due to this selfishness, Gollum, whose real name is Smeagol, was susceptible to the temptations of the ring. Eventually, in time, everything that made him a hobbit was corrupted. In contrast, Sam Gamgee is the most simple of Hobbits, who could not want anything more than what he already has and thus, the ring could not possibly tempt Sam in anyway.

Frodo is neither Gollum nor Sam, but it is the presence of both that allowed him to become strong. He has the qualities of a hobbit but differed in them because he was adventurous when hobbits are not supposed to be adventurous. Hobbits, like Sam, are satisfied with their small little world. It is this sense of adventure that put Frodo’s disposition in between Gollum and Sam, the two serving as the counterpoints that keeps him balanced. Gollum is the constant reminder of the consequences of evil and Sam the paragon of good. In the end Frodo succumbed to the ring.

It was never stated what made Frodo succumbed to the ring, however, Tolkien was very detailed in the manner in which he explained the thoughts and the plight of Frodo making Frodo extremely familiar to his readers. In the end, it is up to the reader to deduce what made Frodo weak. It is Tolkien’s way of allowing the reader to look within himself to find the possible reasons for this weakness. However, having read all three books, the plight of Frodo has become close to the reader so much that Frodo’s character very easy to empathize with.

Frodo took upon himself the responsibility of destroying the ring for the salvation of the world. He was able to resist the temptation of the ring until the end. But it is this sense of adventure, the curiosity and the inability to let go that caused the downfall of Frodo. This is also human weakness. It is a wake-up call for the readers showing that harmless qualities can serve as weaknesses. In conclusion, Lord of the Rings is a fantasy book that tells of the story of a magical land very much unlike the real world.

It is an adventure that entertains the reader and livens up the reader’s imagination of a far away land where the reader can escape his everyday life. It is a story of good versus evil, of heroes and of wizards, of magic and of dreams. However, Lord of the Rings goes way beyond the realm of fancy and entertainment. Tolkien has created a world that mirrors the world that we belong to. It showcases what is in reality and what should be – our ideals. It portrays human flaws and weaknesses that eventually are converted to strengths.

It serves as an eye opener to the potential of what man can do to improve his world. Middle Earth is a play on words signifying that it is not heaven and it is not the Earth that we currently live in, but it is in between. It is a stepping stone to the best that we could be. Therefore, Tolkien has done his duty by writing his book, it is up to the world and to each individual person to take up Tolkien’s challenge to become better for the sake of the rest of the mankind.

Reference: Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy 50th Anniversary Edition. New York: Bantam Books.

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