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Lord of the Rings


Part 1 Prologue
Book 1
Book 2
Comments Books 1&2
Book 3
Book 4
Comments Books 3&4
Book 5
Book 6
Later Events



Questions for study with some ideas for answers

Q: The main theme of The Lord of the Rings is the attainment of power, which can usually be found in three forms – personal – political – spiritual.  What are your thoughts on this?


Ideas: The one main symbol of power is the Ring in Frodo’s possession. Whoever possesses the Ring is eventually corrupted.  Depending on the individual, the corruption can be in different forms.

For Gollum, it was more a physical corruption.

For the likes of Sauron, Gandalf, Saruman and Galadriel, the corruption would be for them to become totally evil.  Saruman lusted after the Ring, and Sauron possessed the Ring, and both were corrupted to evil.  Gandalf and Galadriel rejected ownership of the Ring for fear of this evil corruption.

For Frodo and Bilbo, the Ring did not have a great influence over them at first. They viewed it as a trinket and only used it as a joke or when they were in real danger and needed to disappear. In this way, the forces of good deny the Ring maker possession of the power.  Part of the Ring’s power was dissipated through love and freedom.

Tolkien’s experiences in World War I must have affected him. The soldiers were powerless on both sides. Their lives were lost in their millions by the power struggle between the warring factions.

Tolkien recreates this to a certain degree in the battle scenes, but the difference is that Sauron’s army is driven by fear through him and his Ringwraiths, whereas the forces of good were there fighting to preserve their way of life and they love they have for Middle Earth.

It is interesting to note that Tolkien started to write The Lord of the Rings during World War II where the rise of an ambitious evil dictator in Germany was spreading a cloud of subjugation over Europe similar to the cloud Sauron sent out from Mordor.

One of Tolkien’s main points was that the innocence of the Shire had been preserved by the Rangers as Hobbits symbolized all that is good and free about Middle Earth. It is ironic to note that the Hobbits in the Shire were oblivious to this, and were largely unaware of the wars taking place in the south of Middle Earth.  Of course when Saruman wished to have power over them they had a rude awakening.

Q: Part III of The Lord of the Rings concerns the tactical abilities of Sauron against Gandalf.  Comment on both.


Ideas: Sauron’s whole strategy revolved round possessing the One Ring. All his efforts were geared to capturing the Hobbit who was the Ring bearer.  Unfortunately, he did not know what this Hobbit looked like, and when one showed himself to him using Saruman’s palantir, he assumed that this was the Ring bearer.

Later, when Aragorn, Isildur’s heir reveals himself in the same palantir, Sauron incorrectly assumes again that he now has the Ring.

He makes the tactical error of bringing his armies out of Mordor in order to capture the Ring. He hopes that through weight of numbers and using psychological warfare (black clouds), he will overcome his foes. His armies are led by the Ringwraiths, the Captain of whom cannot be killed by Man, but he is lost to the sword of 'owyn, a woman. The loss of this being is a severe blow to Sauron and is a turning point in the battle, especially when his army in the south has been defeated by supernatural means, the spirits from the Paths of the Dead.

Gandalf’s task is to keep Sauron’s attention beyond his borders so that Frodo and Sam can make the dangerous journey to the Mountain of Fire in order to destroy the Ring.  This is achieved through the subtle use of the palantir. 

The siege of Minas Tirith is broken with a classic pincer movement.  The King of the Ringwraiths has already broken the outer gates of the city when the first arm of the pincer, the Rohirrim announce their entrance with their horns. They have obtained help from the Wild Men who have shown them a secret route through the Stonewain Valley.  The second pincer comes from Aragorn. He has roused the spirits from the Path of the Dead who have defeated Sauron’s southern army. The spirits have returned having at last fulfilled their oath and Gandalf and Aragorn and his Rangers, have manned the ships and sailed up the River closing a trap on Sauron’s main army.  Although they are low in numbers, Aragorn uses the gift from Arwen, which is a banner announcing the return of the King.  This causes the army to panic and leave the city walls.

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