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A Legendary Literary Journey

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Gold ring

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, later to be widely known as J. R. R. Tolkien, was born in early 1892 to English parents in what is now South Africa. When he was four years old, Tolkien's father died of rheumatic fever.[1] As a result, his mother decided to raise her children in her native England, and they settled near Birmingham.

The Tolkiens converted to Roman Catholicism in 1900. In 1904, the mother died from diabetes. Ronald, as he was known to his family, and his brother Hilary were then looked after by Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan. While a member of the Officers Training Corps at King Edward's School in Birmingham, Tolkien assisted with the parade for the coronation of King George V and was posted outside Buckingham Palace.

Tolkien was an officer in the British Army during World War I. While on leave, he married Edith Bratt in 1916.[2] A few months after, Tolkien contracted trench fever during the Battle of the Somme. During his recovery, he began writing what he referred to as The Book of Lost Tales. After the war, he took up various jobs involving the English language and struck up a friendship with C. S. Lewis, the future author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit was published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937. It was originally created as a story for Tolkien's children.[3] He was later persuaded to have it published. The book takes place in a location called 'Middle-earth'. Middle-earth is a vast place, populated with humans, as well as with several other types of creatures. While many of the creatures were based on myths already long in existence, such as dwarves and elves, hobbits were a creation of Tolkien's. Possibly inspired by characters from Edward Wyke Smith's The Marvellous Land of Snergs and Sinclair Lewis' Babbit, hobbits are similar to humans, but are different in ways such as shorter and height and larger feet.

The plot centers on a hobbit called Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is reluctantly recruited by a wizard named Gandalf to aid a group of dwarves. Led by Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarves are attempting to reclaim a mountain that had long been a home to many of their race, but has been taken over by a dragon called Smaug.

The Lord of the Rings

A follow-up, The Lord of the Rings, was released in three volumes. The first two would be published in 1954 and the third in 1955.[4]

The first volume, entitled The Fellowship of the Ring, takes place several years after The Hobbit and deals directly with some of its events. In it, Frodo Baggins, cousin of Bilbo, and Gandalf are left to try to keep a mysterious and powerful ring that had been acquired by Bilbo away from its evil creator who wants it back. Others pulled into the events include three more hobbits (nicknamed 'Sam', 'Merry' and 'Pippin'), two humans (Aragorn and Boromir), an elf (Legolas, son of a character in The Hobbit) and a dwarf (Gimli, also son of a character from the first book).

The next two volumes would be called The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin and other works

Serving as a prequel of sorts, The Silmarillion was left incomplete at the time of Tolkien's death in 1973. One of his sons, Christopher, drew from his father's unpublished writings to fill in gaps and piece together a novel. It was published in 1977.

It would be a similar situation with The Children of Hurin, an unfinished prequel by Tolkien that was completed by his son. The story was eventually published by HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin in 2007.

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil was published in 1962 and featured several poems, some of which featured the character Tom Bombadil, who had been introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring.[5] Unfinished Tales featured a collection of stories and essays that, as the title implies, were left unfinished. The pieces were edited by Christopher Tolkien and published in 1980. Other works include The History of Middle-earth, which was released in twelve volumes from 1983 to 1996. Among the stories was The Book of Lost Tales.

The Lord of the Rings adaptations

In 1978, an animated movie title The Lord of the Rings was distributed by United Artists. The movie was based on The Fellowship of the Ring and, partially, The Two Towers. In 1980, an animated adaptation of The Return of the King aired on ABC. This movie was not an official sequel to the 1978 release, but it is often associated with it.[6]

Released in 2001, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was directed by Peter Jackson and distributed by New Line Cinema. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies and Sean Bean would play the members of the titular 'Fellowship' and Ian Holm would play Bilbo Baggins. Others of the cast include Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Any Serkis.

A major success, the movie was the second-highest grossing to be released in 2001. It won four Academy Awards and was nominated for nine more, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for McKellen. The movie received four BAFTA Awards, including in the Best Film and Best Direction categories, and eight nominations, including ones for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role for McKellan. Other recognitions it received at the time include four Golden Globe nominations (including for Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director), along with a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and a nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for May It Be performed and co-written by Enya. The American Film Institute ranked in the 50th position in its list of greatest movies in 2007 and listed it in 2nd place in its list of greatest fantasy movies in 2008.

The first sequel, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, was released the following year and new cast members included Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Bernard Hill, David Wenham and Brad Dourif. It was the second-highest grossing movie released in 2002 for the domestic box office and the highest overall. Additionally, it won two Academy Awards and received four more nominations, including for Best Picture, and won three BAFTA Awards and was nominated for seven more, including Best Film and Best Direction. Other awards the movie won include a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and other nominations it received included ones for Golden Globes in the Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director categories.

The final installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, came out in 2003 and became the second-highest grossing movie in history to that point. It would win all 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), tying the record for the most of all-time. Additionally, the movie won all four Golden Globes it was nominated for (which include Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director) and won Grammys for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Into the West performed and co-written by Annie Lennox. It also won five BAFTA Awards (including Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay) and was nominated for eight more, including in the Best Direction category, among various other accolades.

Other adaptations include various stage and radio productions.

The Hobbit adaptations

In 1977, an animated movie based on the book aired on NBC.[7] Later, in 1985, a Soviet adaptation aired on what was then called Leningrad Television.

A group largely made up of the same people who created the massively successful 2000s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings would go on to adapt The Hobbit into three major motion pictures. The first part, entitled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was released in 2012. Martin Freeman and Ian Holm would both portray Bilbo. Freeman's Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch had a dual role, including voicing Smaug. Ian McKellan, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis all returned in roles they had previously played. Richard Armitage played Thorin Oakenshield and other cast members included Sylvester McCoy and Lee Pace. It became the fifth-highest grossing movie to be released that year and the fourth-highest overall. Additionally, it was the recipient of a non-competitive Academy Award for its scientific and engineering achievements to go along with three competitive nominations. Other accolades it received include three BAFTA Award nominations.

The second part, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, came out in 2013. Orlando Bloom returned as Legolas and new cast members included Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans and Stephen Fry. The movie was the eighth-highest release of 2013 for the domestic box office and the fourth-highest worldwide. Accolades it received include three Academy Award nominations, three BAFTA Award nominations and a Grammy nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media for I See Fire by Ed Sheeran.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the last installment, was released in 2014 and became the year's sixth-highest grossing release for the domestic box office and the second-highest worldwide. Recognitions it received include an Academy Award nomination for its sound editing and a BAFTA Award nomination for its visual effects.

As with The Lord of the Rings, other adaptations include numerous stage and radio productions.

Lord of the Rings, The: The Motion Picture Trilogy
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  1. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Routledge, 2006.
  2. La Vergne Rosow Accessing the Classics. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2005.
  3. "The Hobbit." Barnes & Noble.com. 5/07/2016 <Web >
  4. Edward Willett J.R.R. Tolkien. Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 2004.
  5. "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." Wikipedia. 5/07/2016 <Web >
  6. "The Return of the King (1980 film)." Wikipedia. 7/07/2016 <Web >
  7. "The Hobbit (1977 film)." Wikipedia. 7/07/2016 <Web >

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