Beginner's Guide for The Lord of the Rings & Tolkien's Universe – For People new to Tolkien's Lore

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Beginner's Guide for The Lord of the Rings & Tolkien's Universe – For People new to Tolkien's Lore

With the new Amazon series on the horizon, probably releasing 2021, there’s the potential for new people finding interest in Tolkien’s universe and his works As a huge Tolkien fan myself I want to share my passion and knowledge, welcoming everyone who is interested In this context the video is probably not for the hardcore fans I try to keep it simple and avoid spoilers as much as possible And here we are at the first thing you need to know about Tolkien His books and fictional universe are far more complex, than you might think, but diving into the complexity and all the details is really rewarding and often mind blowing Tolkien spent a huge time of his life to form the history of his universe and his languages In addition his main works are quite consistent too If you ask me: what makes his books so special? This would be the answer There’s so much authentic and consistent interconnected material, that discovering its details takes you to these fictional places and the process of exploring his world in your mind feels actually rewarding But let’s talk a bit about the films first In our modern times a lot of people probably know e.g The Lord of the Rings through the films made by Peter Jackson and his team released in 2001 to 2003, but not the books Even for me they were an entry point I started reading the books after seeing the Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 There are also the Hobbit films that came 2012 – 2014 You could ask: how well did they cover the source material and is there more in the books? The LotR films are quite long and you have probably heard about the “Extended Editions”, which are even longer, so the answer is yes, there is more and even in the extended editions there is still stuff missing In my opinion these extended versions are also far superior to the theatrical cut, so if you wonder which version of the films I would recommend: clearly the Extended Editions of the Hobbit and esp. of the Lord of the Rings, at least if you have no problem with the length Ofc I will also always recommend to read the books, we come to this in a moment But as mentioned even those longer more detailed versions don’t cover everything Just as an example Between Frodo and his friends on the Bucklebury Ferry and them entering Bree the book still has 4 chapters, that are missing completely in the film In it there is just a cut between those two events I have started a very detailed video series about the exact differences between the LotR films and the books, if you are interested In the case of the Hobbit it’s a bit weird The films added many things, that were not in the book at all, but leaving some other details out or changing them completely Here I also think the Extended Edition make the Hobbits films better and the first one was probably the closest to the books, but even here we find some changes The second film seems to be the most different film So esp The Lord of the Rings has story-wise much more to offer, than what you see in the films (and I’m not even talking about the lore or background story), but I think they still give a good overview of the main stories However be aware, that book fans often dislike the Hobbit films, because they changed so much and added things that didn’t exist in the book But there is more than those main stories (else Amazon wouldn’t make a series that plays over 3000-6300 years before LotR) As mentioned Tolkien worked a lot on the history of his universe Actually he wanted to create his own mythology for England and maybe rediscover the concept of mythology in a sense As a Professor in Oxford for Philology, he also loved languages He was an academic, who translated Old English texts (often with mythological content) and understood the importance of language for mythology – probably better than anyone at his time In this context languages are also a huge part of his works even on a scientific level He did not just make up some words, he even constructed how the languages developed in his world and lore over time Why people speak a certain language, use certain words and so on For this he took many inspirations from real world languages and the amount of detail here is really mind blowing So don’t wonder if you often stumble upon notions of e.g. etymology (which is the history or origin of words) There are also tons of names, sometimes even in multiple languages Tolkien also liked poems, so songs and poems appear a lot in the books too What always fascinated me about Tolkien is the sheer depth of his works

You can very often ask: who is this and what’s the story of his ancestors? And why did that happen?”, and Tolkien has most likely an answer for you (somewhere) A lot of those backstories and information were published in the Lord of the Rings Appendices and in a book called “The Silmarillion” The Silmarillion is basically backstory of the Lord of the Rings the book However there is an important detail with it: he worked on it since the early 20s of the last century, but never finished it His son and editor Christopher Tolkien completed the book instead To make it fit to The Lord of the Rings, he selected some specific writings from different times that would not contradict the main works, added some missing elements, had to make some slight changes here and there and then released it posthumously How true this book is to his father’s later ideas and visions, is much debated, but one thing is clear: if Tolkien himself would have finished it, it would be a very different book Still it’s well crafted and the best we have All these problems, but also drafts, unpublished texts, ideas and notes of his father are discussed in detail by Christopher Tolkien in the 12 or 13 History of Middle-earth books and in a book called Unfinished Tales There is even more than that It’s a very complex topic I can only show you the rabbit hole in this video and encourage you to read the books for yourself My channel is also dedicated to discuss and explain many of those elements in detail too, but nothing comes close to reading What you should know in this context: outside of The Lord of the Rings and the second edition of The Hobbit there is no real “canon” Tolkien fans debate a lot in this field and esp. about the posthumously published Silmarillion, which is pronounced “Silmarillion” In a way this also reflects real world mythology, where canon does not exist too and sometimes you can find very contradicting stories depending on your source In case you ask: why the second edition of the Hobbit? The original version from 1937 was not really part of the Lord of the Rings universe and was slightly changed to make it fit with the second edition (even though LotR was planned as its sequel, which sounds weird) It’s a bit complicated to explain, but there are only some slight changes, that were necessary to make the magical Ring from the Hobbit into actually the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings However if I would give a reading order recommendation, I would say: First The Hobbit in the second edition, then The Lord of the Rings as basic foundation If you want to know more abut the background stories read the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings next If you don’t want to learn more about the lore you can stop here Else the third book should be The Silmarillion (which can be a tough read, so be warned) and keep in mind, that there are three new separate books for the so called “Great Tales” playing during the First Age (I explain the Ages a bit, later in the video) Those three are The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien and the Fall of Gondolin These are three main story points of the Silmarillion, but in those new Great Tales books we find new information that was originally published in several different books (to which we come in a moment) and those three books are probably more precise or updated, than the versions we find in the Silmarillion itself With those we now also come to the “work in progress material” and background information on how Tolkien created everything A very interesting book in this context is the Unfinished Tales (the Great Tales take some of their new information from this book) and I would recommend it next or even directly after the Silmarillion After this, check Tolkien’s letters They give great insights into what Tolkien thought about certain parts of his lore (note that some letters were never sent and sometimes for a reason e.g. the information in letter number 155 is quite debatable when it comes to “canon”) And if you hadn’t enough by now, check the 12 or 13 History of Middle-earth books last I often read the last three: Morgoth’s Ring, The War of the Jewels and Peoples of Middle-earth, but that’s just me They are all very complex books and you often really need to know the 3 main books well, to fully understand them They explain and discuss the creation of Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion Esp. what’s not in it like drafts, notes, work in progress texts and ideas of Tolkien Beyond that we have e.g. Tolkien’s LotR related poems, which also include (beyond the poems)

some commentary and additional information you don’t find anywhere else E.g “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” They are a bit special and in theory you could read them much earlier, even directly after The Lord of the Rings, if you are into poems, because they are directly related I see them as part of the world, but special cases if this makes sense When I do research for a video I rarely need them too, which might be a reason why they are often not on my radar, but I wanted to mention them There are some other books like The History of The Hobbit, the Tolkien biography by Humphrey Carpenter or some other good books from Tolkien Scholars, but this list should keep you busy for some time He also wrote not LotR related books, like Beowulf: The Monster and the Critics But would I recommend reading the books first before watching the films or vice versa? I think this is hard to answer and depends on what medium you prefer If you don’t enjoy reading and can’t find motivation to start, watching the films might be a good start to potentially get the motivation Also if you have red the books, you probably don’t enjoy the films as much after it, because they are missing many things Some might also recommend to avoid the Hobbit films completely I would say read the book before you watch the Hobbit films and only watch the extended edition Some also might find Tolkien’s writing style archaic and slow paced Considering he was born 1892 that is probably no surprise, but in my opinion the books are beautifully written As not native English speaker I have to look up some words at times, when I read the books in English Actually I haven’t red the translated version in years However if you enjoy reading at least a bit in my opinion: read the books first Now in the last segment I want to talk a bit about the fascination of Tolkien and some details of his world What impressed me, was always Tolkien’s love for details This leads to a beautiful immersion When I read or even watch the films I’m in Middle-earth with my mind Almost every character, place or name has a background story and some thought behind it The world feels alive through this and when I re-read the books or parts of it, I always discover new details and thoughts I never noticed or had before Sometimes I also simply forget details, because there is such so much The main stories start in the The Shire It’s a relatable idealized anachronism in Tolkien’s world It feels like it does not really belong into the time of the world, but feels a bit like home for the reader Characters like Sam, Frodo, Merry and Pippin are also relatable They have no super powers, they are no scholars or wizards, they don’t even feel like the chosen ones, even though they are in a sense But they are just a bunch of friends on an adventure The power of the “heroes journey” I guess What might be surprising for people, who just watched the films: some of the characters are vastly different in the books Merry and Pippin are e.g. far more mature Esp Merry Aragorn pronounced Aragorn really wants to become King, because that’s the condition for him to marry Arwen, pronounced Arwen He worked extremely hard his whole life for this and went through many struggles Ofc in a film adaption, where you can’t cover his full backstory and the intentions of the character, this could look quite arrogant, which Aragorn definitely is not It could also take away from a potential character development (that we see in the film), which the Aragorn from the books almost completed, when the Lord of the Rings story begins and just finalizes this development throughout it It’s also interesting that there are so many little details, but almost all of them feel like a part of something far bigger Some might say that this is overused in the fantasy genre and I would agree, but Tolkien had a huge influence on the genre and he did it extremely good He did not invent fantasy (maybe the High Fantasy subgenre and orcs), but his influence in and around his genre is undeniable and very present in a lot of popular works, even in Star Wars or Dungeons & Dragons Some might say some elements are clichés, but it was not when Tolkien released it 1937 and 1954 Those typical fantasy elements became clichés, because so many other works were inspired by Tolkien – good and bad ones What’s a bit weird: we have so many Tolkien influenced works today, but somehow Tolkien’s story still feels different I think the combination of him being an expert philologist and a great writer plus the mythological influences create this uniqueness, you can’t rally put your finger on

I could spoil you the end and it would still be a fantastic story to watch or read Many other works e.g. go overboard with magic, but Tolkien chose a very “soft” and subtle approach when it comes to super natural elements in his world When they appear it’s epic and special Also typical for mythology is fate, which Tolkien also uses a lot This way everything makes sense, feels connected and seems to have a purpose, which creates a compelling depth, because Tolkien was very good at hiding it When something happens, it is not immediately clear what the purpose was and you will only understand it much later or even never, which can create these amazing “aha moments”, even after years, re-reading the books He connected so many story elements with each other, it’s truly amazing and brought almost everything to a satisfying end in The Lord of the Rings But Tolkien also understood how to play with it, by implementing few enigmas and mysteries, giving you the feeling, that the world is much bigger and there are still things to discover and find out, even though we will never know I think those elements make the reader curious, but at the same time Tolkien very often gives actual answers I always wondered who or what the antagonist Sauron, pronounced Sauron, was A very mysterious entity, but if we dive deep into the lore, we learn quite a lot about him He has thousands of years of backstory This is often the case, but not always So when you stumble upon one of the few actual mysteries in his world, you are motivated to find answers (because there were answers to almost all other questions), even though there might be no real answers in this case And here fan theories are quite popular, that are built upon all the other answers and lore They are also much debated in some cases It helps that his main stories and lore are very consistent with a few exceptions and known mistakes This fascination of his works and mythology seems to never go away and now Amazon plans a new series, which could be a reason why again new people find interest in Tolkien’s works Here a few quick explanations of some common “terms” you might hear or read in e.g news: The time in Tolkien’s world is often divided in ages Usually an age ends with a big event, like defeating the so called “Dark Lord” (the main evil antagonist A super natural evil entity in Tolkien’s world There were two Dark Lords in total) LotR plays at the very end of the Third Age The Second Age (which is where the Amazon series plays) ended with cutting the One Ring (a powerful magical artefact created by Sauron, that also has his will in it) from the finger of its creator The First Age ended with the defeat of the First Dark Lord and Sauron’s former master Morgoth, pronounced Morgoth And the mostly unknown Fourth Age starts after the main events of The Lord of the Rings The beginning of the First Age is quite difficult to determine But depending on your definition, there are still multiple eras before the First Age I usually separate the so called “Years of the Trees” completely from the First Age, but there are different opinions on that As mentioned the Amazon series will play during the Second Age, which starts over 6300 years before The Lord of the Rings It’s ancient and the world map looked quite different at this time and many well known places didn’t exist or were just built Also the ancient stories are quite epic, esp stories from the First Age and before I link you some maps of Middle-earth and some other useful resources in the description, like Tolkiengateway.net The title of Tolkien’s main work also suggests, that it’s about rings and a lord We already talked about the lord, but there are also at least 20 magical Rings (called Rings of Power) including the mentioned One Ring, which is the “Master Ring”, (all created in the Second Age and connected to the mentioned Dark Lord Sauron) But also the first Dark Lord had a Ring, which was the world itself This sounds quite weird, but is a quite philosophical concept of Tolkien’s world – you won’t stumble much upon it outside of the History of Middle-earth books though What exactly is “Middle-earth”? I used this term several times already It’s the main landmass or continent of Arda (pronounced Arda), which is Tolkien’s world Most stories play on this continent Some play on the western continent Aman and about the others we sadly don’t know too much The most common peoples you will encounter in Middle-earth are the mortal Men (they are

deliberately not called “humans”, because “human” is of Latin origin while “Men” is Germanic and Men have tons of Germanic connections; also hobbits are counted as Men), the immortal Elves, the sturdy dwarves and the Orcs, with their mysterious and much debated origin story Beyond that there are Ainur (that are spirit beings), Ents and maybe some others And this should give you a good overview – I hope Thank you for watching I for sure forgot something I always do I still hope it helped new people out and you enjoyed watching If so, consider pressing the like button, leave a comment (you can also ask questions) and in case you subscribe consider pressing the stupid bell If you want to dive deeper into the lore, I have tons of lore videos available on my channel Maybe check my recommended lore videos playlist I can also recommend my books and films differences series Playlists are in the description too I also do gaming content from time to time, if you are in to this Shout outs to the artists, who gave me permission to use their work in my videos: Niahti, Benef and Kimberly80 Maybe check their sites Again thank you for watching an good bye