In 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien published one of the fantasy genre's seminal works with The Hobbit, which delighted adults and children alike telling an adventurous tale about hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who leaves the cozy comforts of his home to try to win a share of a treasure guarded by a dragon named Smaug. The popularity of the book made his publisher and audience want a follow-up involving his Middle Earth and hobbit creations.
To say Tolkien outdid himself in response would be a drastic understatement. What followed was the most famous trilogy of the fantasy genre, The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien drew upon his background and spent over a decade fashioning the history of his world and the characters, including some of the old (Gandalf and Bilbo) and a lot of the new (Frodo, Aragorn, Sam). Though Tolkien's epic fantasy was published more than 50 years ago, it remains a stalwart piece of writing today. More than 150 million copies have been sold in more than 30 languages, and the trilogy is among the top-selling novels of all time.
Tolkien's expertise with language and history inform the story, but The Lord of the Rings is a staggering, complex work for adults, not children. Tolkien took the themes from The Hobbit and revisited them, but this time he went even deeper. The corruptive nature of power and the many forms of bravery are once again front and center as major themes. Working together and the environmental degradation of industrialization and war are also themes woven through the work.
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