100 votes

Was the title "The Lord of the Rings" picked on purpose to be ambiguous?

The phrase “the Lord of the Rings” is ambiguous in the same way in English: it might, in theory, refer either to the One Ring, which rules the other rings, or to Sauron, who can use it to rule all the ...
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  • 41.7k
78 votes

Why is Aragorn so weird to Pippin when they make their final farewell before going back to the Shire?

TL;DR: In this scene Aragorn confirms to Pippin that their relationship remains one of liege-lord and vassal within the feudal system of Gondor and Arnor. This confers high status and honour upon ...
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  • 41.7k
76 votes

What is Tom Bombadil's importance in The Lord of the Rings?

Tolkien said that Bombadil represented a sort of passive pacifism, which was important to represent in the story but couldn't play much of a role in the actual plot. From Tolkien's Letters, letter #...
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  • 64.5k
68 votes

Should I read The Silmarillion before or after reading The Lord of the Rings?

You should read The Silmarillion after reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. To start off with an analogy: The Silmarillion starts on such a gigantic scale that if you begin with it everything ...
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  • 729
42 votes
Accepted

What is Tom Bombadil's importance in The Lord of the Rings?

Bombadil is indeed an anomaly, and does not appear to fit very well into Tolkien's overall narrative. He comes from nowhere (although he has been there all along, unobserved), and disappears equally ...
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  • 1,289
41 votes

Does Gandalf ever say this in the book "The Hobbit", or is it made up for the movie?

No, this passage is not in the book; quite the opposite, it says that while Bilbo might have got "something a bit queer in his make-up from the Took side" of his family, that something never ...
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  • 771
39 votes
Accepted

Did Frodo want Bilbo to die?

He's referring to Bilbo's retirement to Rivendell. Bilbo's plan was to relax, listen to the songs, translate some books, and work on his memoirs. As Gandalf put it in the next line: ‘He felt better at ...
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  • 4,898
36 votes
Accepted

How could Thorin and co. journey all the way to Erebor without discussing how to deal with Smaug?

Partly: it's explored in the first chapter then hand-waved away. This "plot hole" is in fact the driver of the entire plot of The Hobbit: the reason why a hobbit is involved at all. "...
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  • 14.9k
36 votes

How could Thorin and co. journey all the way to Erebor without discussing how to deal with Smaug?

I first read The Hobbit as an adult. My interpretation was that there were three different views: The dwarves trust the competence of a professional burglar selected by Gandalf. The burglar will need ...
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36 votes

Isn't Gríma Wormtongue a very revealing name?

No, except yes TL;DR: ‘Wormtongue’ is a deliberately negative name given by his enemies, so it can’t be faulted for being pejorative, even if it’s not as unflattering as it might seem to modern ears. ...
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35 votes
Accepted

Bilbo’s song of Eärendil in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

This answer grew too long for a single post, so I’ve split it in two, with history and analysis in this part, and detailed line notes in the other part. Summary Bilbo’s poem retells the myth of the ...
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  • 41.7k
34 votes

Does Théoden actually say that he misses Gríma (his "old advisor") at one point in The Two Towers?

The word "to miss" usually means "to regret no longer having". But it may mean simply "to no longer have", "to have lost", without experiencing regret. This ...
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  • 565
33 votes

Why is Aragorn so weird to Pippin when they make their final farewell before going back to the Shire?

I agree with the content of the answers of Gareth Rees and hobbs, however, aside from the content of what he said, I think it's also important to address Aragorn's tone here. In particular: He's ...
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  • 431
31 votes
Accepted

If Tolkien disliked allegory, why are there so many allegorical readings of The Lord of the Rings?

It was an allegory because, in spite of his dislike, Tolkien felt it was necessary and inevitable that it should be one. In several lesser-known quotes, the author freely admits that the tale is ...
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  • 14.9k
30 votes
Accepted

Is there any animal internal monologue in The Lord of the Rings?

Yes. When leaving the Shire, the hobbits disturbed a fox: A fox passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed. 'Hobbits!' he thought. 'Well, what next? I have ...
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  • 1,800
27 votes

Bilbo’s song of Eärendil in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

This is the second part of my answer, containing detailed line notes for the poem. If I’ve omitted any difficulties, let me know in the comments. I have preferred to use illustrative quotations from ...
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  • 41.7k
24 votes

Why is Aragorn so weird to Pippin when they make their final farewell before going back to the Shire?

While I agree almost entirely with Gareth Rees' answer, I think it can be made simpler with a bit of cultural context. Aragorn is a king. He's in a position to command, and while he's not the king of ...
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  • 668
24 votes

What's the deal with Bilbo being some kind of "burglar"?

I've always interpreted that as 'being stealthy', not as 'being good at stealing'. Hobbits are nimble creatures (they're even described as being able to seemingly disappear without a trace), ...
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  • 1,106
23 votes

Should I read The Silmarillion before or after reading The Lord of the Rings?

Voronwë's answer is excellent, but I'm going to post the answer I was planning to anyway. LotR is a gripping tale; the Silmarillion is more like a textbook or encyclopedia. This is a slight ...
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  • 64.5k
23 votes

Does Gandalf ever say this in the book "The Hobbit", or is it made up for the movie?

In the book Bilbo is also torn between comfort and adventure, but the struggle is internal: As [the dwarves] sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by ...
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  • 41.7k
22 votes
Accepted

What's the meaning of Tom Bombadil's poem?

Here’s a bit more context from chapter 6: He [Frodo] turned round and listened, and soon there could be no doubt: someone was singing a song; a deep glad voice was singing carelessly and happily, ...
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  • 41.7k
20 votes

Isn't Gríma Wormtongue a very revealing name?

Grima calls Gandalf "Lathspell" -- Ill News -- because he hated him and wanted Theoden to mistrust him. Likewise, "Wormtongue" is what people who already hate him call him. It is ...
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  • 4,779
19 votes
Accepted

What are the Riddle Rules?

We don't really know, as they're not mentioned. We don't know all of the rules, because they're never really mentioned - this is the only time AFAIK, and they don't really say much: "Both wrong," ...
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  • 19.9k
18 votes

How much experience did Tolkien have in writing?

Tolkien started writing while on the Western Front. He wrote down his war experiences of the Great War down in Lost Tales according to his biography on the Tolkien Society. (Emphasis mine) During ...
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  • 1,001
18 votes

What were the ages of Bilbo and Frodo for these six major plot points?

The Lord of the Rings contains several appendices at the end of The Return of the King, and Appendix B, called The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands), contains a timeline of events. The ...
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  • 1,106
18 votes

Why does Tolkien use neither quotes nor cursive writing, and all lower-case, in this specific "quote"?

I've not been able to find a scanned early edition text in a quick search, but I have checked out the scanned copies of the 1994 Houghton Mifflin Edition and the 2001 Quality Paperback Book Club ...
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  • 15.8k
17 votes

How to read é, ä, û?

For vowels the letters i, e, a, o, u are used, and (in Sindarin only) y. As far as can be determined the sounds represented by these letters (other than y) were of normal kind, though doubtless many ...
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  • 19.9k

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