When J.R.R. Tolkien first published The Hobbit in 1937, it was an instant success. Although it is often considered a children’s book, the story of small, unassuming Bilbo Baggins going on an unexpected journey enchanted readers of all ages. Naturally, Tolkien’s publishers wanted a sequel, and what they got was a massive and dense story rich with history that had to be published in three volumes. That story is The Lord of the Rings, and although it wasn’t immediately successful, it has since been recognized as a seminal work in the genre of high fantasy. Its influence can be felt in countless sci-fi fantasy novels, movies and even video games, and it has been adapted into one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.
So, what is it that makes The Lord of the Rings so appealing? It has detractors that claim it is simply too long and dense to be enjoyed by the average reader, and fans of the sci-fi/fantasy genre probably won’t find a lot to love, but there are some very good reasons why this work is now considered a literary classic and why Peter Jackson’s film adaptations have been so successful.
A Rich and Detailed World
One of the reasons that Tolkien’s work has remained so popular is that he really did accomplish something special when he created the world of Middle Earth, the setting of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien spent most of his adult life creating Middle Earth, and he put an incredible amount of detail into it.
In addition to creating a history that spans thousands of years, Tolkien created maps of his lands and developed over 20 languages spoken by the various peoples of Middle Earth. What readers experience in the 1,000 or so pages of The Lord of the Rings is only a taste of the world created by Tolkien, but a world that often feels as real and believable as our own. That’s quite an achievement, one that few authors can claim. Whether they are reading the original books or watching the movies, fans get lost in Tolkien’s rich and detailed fantasy world.
Creating a fantasy world as detailed as Middle Earth is impressive, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot if it isn’t full of characters that fans can get behind. Fortunately, The Lord of the Rings has some of the best and most lovable characters in the high-fantasy genre. From the sarcastic yet gentle humor of the wizard Gandalf to the deceptively simple hobbits, Tolkien’s novel is full of iconic and memorable characters.
The hobbits in particular are the stars of the story in more ways than one. They are perhaps the least likely heroes imaginable, being only about three feet tall and more concerned with the comforts of home than the fate of the world. And yet, without losing their simple charm, they constantly prove to be just as brave, if not braver, than the rest of the heroes of the story. Making these relatable, country folk the heroes of the story was a stroke of genius, and it is perhaps one of the reasons that people remember both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so fondly.
Triumph Over Evil
Finally, the most important reason that The Lord of the Rings is so appealing lies in the way it depicts the struggle of good and evil. Evil is easily defined in the story, and at first, it’s clear who the heroes are. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s a simple story. The greatest evil exists as a seemingly simple ring, one that proves to be a constant temptation to all who come across it. It must be destroyed, but it becomes so powerful and so tempting that such a task is almost impossible. Characters fall to temptation and evil, and the destruction of the ring occurs after such great pain and suffering that nobody is left unchanged by it. The seemingly happy ending has a bittersweet quality to it. Evil can be defeated, but it leaves a mark that will never completely heal.
Perhaps that’s why The Lord of the Rings is so appealing to so many. It seems like a simple story, in which the greatest evil in the world can be thrown into a volcano and destroyed forever. But it is actually far more complex than that. When this deep and insightful story is combined with a rich world and even richer characters, it’s no wonder why The Lord of the Rings is considered a classic!