Created by an English Oxford scholar of dead and forgotten languages and inspired by fabled Norse sagas and the events of World War I, Tolkien wanted to write an ode to the quiet English countryside and simpler times when people lived in harmony with nature before the industrial revolution polluted the environment and mankind’s innocence.
The story follows Frodo Baggins of the Shire and three of his close happy-go-lucky Hobbit friends, who are entrusted with an extremely dangerous mission that literally holds the fate of the world in their hands. These unlikeliest of characters accidentally find themselves in possession of a powerful weapon that can destroy the evil that has gripped the land.
Drawing on a wealth of knowledge, steeped as he was in ancient Norse mythologies and legends, Tolkien conjured up his own magical world of dark caves, enchanted forests, misty mountains, deep mines and great winding rivers, and populated it with ancient supernatural beings; Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Trolls, Orcs, Dragons, Ents, and called it Middle-earth. So much detail and history went into this world that readers became entranced by it all and wanted to know more about the history behind it. Soon fan clubs sprang up and an international following took on a life of its own.
In the form of a magical golden ring, the terrible weapon must be taken into a distant volcanic mountain, Mount Doom, which is the only place on Middle-Earth it can be destroyed. It sounds simple enough except that this evil talisman can only be controlled by the Dark Lord Sauron, who wants to use it to enslave the peaceful people of the world, plus the ring has powers of its own. It’s constantly trying to find its master, manipulating the wearer of the ring to do wicked things that he has no control over.
Readers who were curious about all the references in the books were inspired to study the history of Europe and its many mythological tales. In a way it has become a sort of Epic heroic poem of Dark Age Europe, which was once called Middle-earth by ancient European inhabitants.
Throughout their epic journey, the Hobbits come across all manner of friend and foe, gathering, as they go, a number of characters who are committed to helping them achieve this most important task on which all their fates depend. Known as the Fellowship of the Ring, the group consists of a Dwarf, an Elf, a couple of human warriors, and a wise Wizard known as Gandalf, who is a longtime friend of the Hobbits.
Many have tried to make this tome into films over the years but the sheer scope and breadth of Tolkien’s world was much too daunting to make into a single movie. The budget of such an undertaking would be way too prohibitive and so it remained an un-filmable project for many years. It wasn’t until digital technology revolutionized the film industry that this type of story could finally be tackled, but even with these new digital tools there were still many obstacles and it would still be a monumental undertaking to bring the great number of Rings characters to life.
Eventually the Fellowship is split up into separate groups as they do battle with Sauron’s evil forces. Meanwhile Frodo and his faithful friend, Samwise Gamgee, continue on their journey toward Mount Doom alone, still in possession of the powerful ring but now they find themselves battling each other as the ring exerts its evil will.
Only one man had the will, the passion and the ability, not to mention an array of untapped resources in his home country of New Zealand at his disposal to do these beloved epic books justice. Now, if he could only convince Hollywood of this, it would be nothing short of a major miracle. He came in the form of the most unlikeliest of people, the relatively soft spoken and shy but determined Peter Jackson, who had only a couple of low budget horror films to his name. Circumstances eventually came together in such a way that we now have a fantasy film trilogy masterpiece that lives up to the legendary books of Tolkien in every way.
The coming together of Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings with a studio that believed in him and his abilities was a miracle that produced a lasting and timeless adventure series on film that will be enjoyed be generations to come. It’s unlikely that there will be anyone in the foreseeable future that could improve on these films based on the literary legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien.