Where is this page in my Den? → The Virtual LibraryFantasyJ.R.R. Tolkien
The Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

"Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of
Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed:

The One Ring of Power

-- Gandalf the Gray to the Council of Elrond

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (nearly always called "J.R.R. Tolkien" or simply "Tolkien") is generally acknowledged to be the father and grandmaster of the entire sub-genre called epic fantasy. But he never set out to be any kind of writer. He started as a language professor who specialized in Old English, the language of such great epics as Beowulf. First he created languages of his own patterned after the ones he studied. Then he created peoples to speak those languages. And finally he began creating stories for those peoples to move through.

The saga of Middle-earth

Of course, Tolkien is best known for the realm of Middle-earth and the many stories and tales he set there. From the half-formed myths of its early years to the children's tale called THE HOBBIT, to the mighty epic that he connected the two, Middle-earth has become perhaps the most successful fantasy realm in literature. Since Tolkien died in 1974, the ever-present demand for more of his works has induced his son Christopher to bring out more books based on Tolkien's notes and uncompleted tales of Middle-earth. I haven't bought any of these, mainly because I feel that the original "Saga of Middle-earth" is complete in itself, and I'm simply not interested enough in the backstory to spend the large amounts of money required to get the more recent books. Others obviously feel differently -- after all, somebody is buying all those books!

  • HOBBIT, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-31858-7
    THE HOBBIT is the story of Bilbo Baggins, Hobbit of the Shire, who joins a group of thirteen dwarves on their journey to the Lonely Mountain, once a rich dwarvish kingdom, now property of an evil, powerful dragon. Along the way he fights spiders, goblins, and other creatures, and finds a magic ring which is much more than it appears to be. He also discovers some unexpected things about himself. THE HOBBIT was such an unexpected success that the publisher asked for a sequel, which became THE LORD OF THE RINGS. However, Tolkien was never satisfied with how he fit the two works together, and revised THE HOBBIT at least twice in his attempts to make it fit the overall story of Middle-earth better.
  • HOBBIT, THE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION
    Author: Tolkien
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-17711-1
    A high-quality green leatherbound edition of THE HOBBIT produced as a companion to the "Red Book of Westmarch" edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
  • FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1982
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-33970-3
    THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING tells of the reappearance of the Dark Lord Sauron the Great, onetime servant of Morgoth, now a Power in his own right. It also tells of Frodo Baggins, nephew and heir to Bilbo the Hobbit, who finds that the magic ring Bilbo left to him is in truth the One Ring of Power, a tool of tremendous power and pure evil, forged long ago by Sauron as part of his grand scheme to entrap the Free Peoples. The Ring also represents the only way to truly defeat Sauron: its power is such that destroying it will also destroy him. Frodo reluctantly volunteers to take the Ring to the place where it was forged, the volcano Orodruin in Sauron's land of Mordor, and there destroy it. For the first part of that journey he's accompanied by eight others: fellow hobbits Sam, Merry, and Pippin; two Men warriors, Aragorn and Boromir; Legolas the Elf; Gimli the Dwarf; and Gandalf the Wizard.
  • TWO TOWERS, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1982
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-33971-1
    continues the story from where FELLOWSHIP left off. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travel into the land of Rohan, following a band of Orcs who captured the other two hobbits, Pippin and Merry, and killed Boromir. The Orcs were sent by the wizard Saruman, who once was a white wizard fighting the Dark Lord, but now seeks to be a Dark Power himself. The three travelers meet up again with Gandalf, and together they play a major role in rallying Rohan to defeat Saruman. Merry and Pippin also have a role to play in the war against Saruman: they rouse the Ents of Fangorn Forest, and the Ents march on Isengard and destroy it. Meanwhile, Frodo and his servant Sam gradually work their way southward toward Mordor. On their journey they meet Faramir of Gondor, Boromir's brother, and also the creature called Gollum, who once owned the Ring and is still enslaved by his desire for it.
  • RETURN OF THE KING, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-29608-7
    THE RETURN OF THE KING tells of the final war against Sauron and the end of Frodo's mission in Mordor. Aragorn and his allies defeat a mighty army that Sauron had sent to conquer Gondor, then stage an attack on Mordor which is intended only as a diversion, to give Frodo time to complete his mission. For his part, Sam rescues Frodo from the Enemy, then aids his master on the final journey to Mount Doom, where the Ring can be destroyed.
  • LORD OF THE RINGS, THE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION
    Author: Tolkien
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-19395-8
    I enjoy THE LORD OF THE RINGS so much that eventually I decided I wanted it in a more permanent form. This is the complete epic in a single volume, a thick, heavy book bound in red leather to resemble the "Red Book of Westmarch" that was kept by the Hobbits of the Shire. Printed on special acid-free paper with a high-quality binding, this is a book meant to last.
  • SILMARILLION, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-32581-8

    The mythology and ancient history of Middle-earth. THE SILMARILLION comprises four works:

    • The Ainulindale is Tolkien's Creation Myth, the formation of his world and the spirits which inhabit it. It describes how Iluvatar, the One, created the lesser spirits called the Ainur, and how the Ainur combined their powers and their voices in a Great Music before Iluvatar's throne. It also describes how the Music was ruined by the Ainu called Melkor, who wove evil thoughts of his own into his song and so corrupted the whole.
    • The Valaquenta is a Dramatis Personae of the greater and lesser Ainur that entered Middle-earth, which Tolkien calls the Valar and Maiar respectively.
    • Quenta Silmarillion is the story of the First Age of Middle-earth: the origins of the races of Elves, Dwarves, and Men; the creation of the great jewels called the Silmarils; the rise to power of the Dark Lord Morgoth and his theft of the Silmarils; and the Wars of Beleriand fought between Morgoth's armies and those of the Free Peoples: the Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Here you can find many stories referred to in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: th
    • UNFINISHED TALES
      Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
      Copyright:1980
      Publisher: Ballantine Books
      ISBN: 0-345-35711-6
      A collection of bits and pieces from Tolkien's notes, published posthumously by his son Christopher.

    Close section

Tolkien's other works

Tolkien's specialty was the Anglo-Saxon period of Old English literature. He wrote a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that is still used today. He also wrote a few fantasy stories that weren't placed in Middle-earth.

  • SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-27760-0
    A very good translation of the Middle English Arthurian epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Still used today in many colleges and universities.
  • SMITH OF WOOTTON MAJOR/FARMER GILES OF HAM
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1967
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-27865-8
    Two very fun short stories set in medieval England at a time when magic worked and dragons and giants infested remote lands. "Farmer Giles of Ham" is about a reluctant farmer-turned-knight and the dragon he has to fight, although neither of them really wants to. "Smith of Wootton Major" is a "fairy-story," a story in the old fairy-tale tradition, about a boy who receives a faery-star and finds it opening all sorts of magical paths for him to walk.

Close section

About Middle-earth and its creator

Of course, any career as unlikely and as successful as Tolkien's is going to draw a lot of outside interest. These are some of the books by others that look at Tolkien and the worlds he created.

  • ATLAS OF MIDDLE-EARTH
    Author: Fonstad, Karen Wynn
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-53516-6
    Karen Fonstad is a master cartographer and artist. A few years ago she turned her talents to producing atlases of well-known and well-described fictional lands from SF and fantasy. One of her works is this atlas to Middle-earth. She used all four of Tolkien's main Middle-earth works as sources, and produced wonderful maps and sketches of most of the interesting places in Middle-earth, from the Shire to Khazad-dum to Mordor, and even across the Sea to Numenor.
  • COMPLETE GUIDE TO MIDDLE-EARTH, THE
    Author: Foster, Robert
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-27975-1
    A huge glossary to just about every significant person, place, and thing in the Middle-earth saga: people, places, events, battles, etc. It must have consumed a gigantic amount of time and energy. It's a very nice thing to have if you're trying to find specifics about something in Middle-earth.
  • INKLINGS, THE
    Author: Carpenter, Humphrey
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-27628-4

  • LOOK BEHIND THE LORD OF THE RINGS, A
    Author: Carter, Lin (ed)
    Copyright:1969
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-27539-X

  • MASTER OF MIDDLE-EARTH
    Author: Kocher, Paul
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-30636-8

  • TOLKIEN BESTIARY, A
    Author: Day, David
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Chancellor Press
    ISBN: 0-7537-0470-6
    An encyclopedia of the monsters, animals, giants, and other creatures that inhabit Middle-earth.
  • TOLKIEN COMPASS, A
    Author: Lobdell, Jared (ed)
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-28855-6
    A collection of critical essays about Tolkien's writings, particularly THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
  • TOLKIEN READER, THE
    Author: Tolkien, J.R.R.
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-29881-0
    A collection of poems, plus a couple of Tolkien's short stories. A nice light read. The poems come from the Red Book of Westmarch, which was also the (fictional) source for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and they contain many Middle-earth references.
  • TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY
    Author: Carpenter, Humphrey
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-27256-0
    Humphrey Carpenter's excellent biography of JRR Tolkien.

Close section