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JRR Tolkien: Lord of the Rings
Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
--J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Lord of the Rings"
Georgia Temple, Entertainment Editor
Published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram 12/12/2001
Before recorded time cast
history on mankind, there existed in Middle-earth a place
called the Shire. This was the home of an ancient and
peaceful folk -- who stood between three and four feet
tall -- called hobbits.
author served in the trenches in World War I, and
"The Lord of the Rings" was partially written
during the years of the Second World War. Following the
first printing, some writers and fans theorized that the
mythic battle between good and evil for a world known as
Middle-earth was inspired by events leading up to and
including World War II.
"It is neither allegorical nor topical," Tolkien wrote. "The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past,' is one of the oldest parts of the tale.
"It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels."
Tolkien introduced the world to Bilbo Baggins and his fellow Middle-earth residents -- dwarves, elves, wizards, hobbits, trolls, orcs and dragons -- in his 1937 children's book, "The Hobbit." He followed with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy in 1954. In both, he created a world with its own language, genealogy, history and geography. Few, if any, fantasy writers since have not been affected by his work.
"I don't think there's a single writer in the field of fantasy who doesn't own something to Tolkien," Terry Brooks, author of the "Shannara" series, told the Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela.
Those who don't like fantasy have difficulty understanding the passion fans bring to the discussion of all things Tolkien. Author Peter S. Beagle in his article, "Tolkien's Magic Ring," described the enthusiasm of fans, thusly, "'The Lord of the Rings' and its prologue, 'The Hobbit,' belong, in my experience to a small group of books and poems and songs that I have truly shared with other people.
"The strangest strangers turn out to know it, and we talk about Gandalf and mad Gollum and the bridge of Khazad-dum while the party or the classroom or the train rattles along unheard.
"Old friends rediscover it, as I do -- to browse through any book of the Ring trilogy is to get hooked once more into the whole legend -- and we talk of it at once as though we had just read it for the first time, and as though we were remembering something that had happened to us together long ago. Something of ourselves has gone into reading it, and so it belongs to us."
He credited Tolkien's success to his talent as a writer and the integrity he brought to his story telling.
"Tolkien believes in his world, and in all those who inhabit it," Beagle said. "This is, of course, no guarantee of greatness -- if Tolkien weren't a fine writer, it could not make him one -- but it is something without which there is no greatness, in art or in anything else."
Editor's Note: Peter S. Beagle's article was first printed in Holiday Magazine in 1965 and reprinted in "The Tolkien Reader." Other comments in this article are from the Ring trilogy, from the official Web site for "The Lord of the Rings" film, from other Web sources and from stories by The Associated Press.
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