The Lord of the Rings/Trivia

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

  • Shout-Out: There are several to Macbeth, all taken from Act IV, Scene i, when the Witches tell Macbeth their prophecies of his death. First of all, the phrase "Crack of Doom" was coined by Shakespeare in this scene. The Ents' besiegement of Isengard and the Witch-King's defeat by Éowyn are references to two of the three prophecies—namely, that it will not happen until "Great Birnam Wood...shall come against him" and that "none of woman born shall harm" him. Of course, the trees do come to the castle when Macduff's army uses their branches as camoflauge, just as the Ents come to Isengard, and Macbeth is killed by a man who was not born, but removed from his mother's womb, just as the Witch-King, who can be killed by "no living man," is killed by a woman.
    • To "Arabian Nights", oddly enough. Compare this tale from "1000 and 1 night" and chapter "The voice of Saruman" and try to find the differences.
  • What Could Have Been: Previously unpublished materials have a lot of examples of what could have been. Aragorn being a ranger hobbit named Trotter was one of them. Later, he was a man whose name kept changing back and forth between "Trotter", "Elfstone" and "Aragorn".
    • The History of Middle-Earth has many of these, including the above example. Others include:
      • Treebeard being a villain
      • Eowyn being Aragorn's love interest (before Arwen was created)
      • Eowyn dying on the battlefield defending Theoden and not getting to kill the Witch-King
      • Anywhere from two to five hobbits setting out on the quest instead of four
        • The original hobbit names were Bingo (Frodo), Odo (Sam), Marmaduke (Merry), and Frodo/Faramond (Pippin)
      • A Fellowship that consisted of seven instead of nine members (Legolas and Gimli were later additions, and at one point, another elf was supposed to go as well)
      • Treebeard and the ents appearing at the last battle in front of the Black Gate (and this is after they act as The Calvary for Lothlorien)
      • Boromir arriving at Minas Tirith and completely going over to the dark forces partway through the siege.
      • Denethor surviving the siege of Minas Tirith (but still suspicious of Aragorn)
      • Denethor originally being less harsh towards Faramir - in fact, in the first draft, it was Faramir's idea to retake Osgiliath, and Denethor reluctantly agreeing, but Tolkien eventually switched this around to make Faramir more sympathetic.
    • J.R.R. Tolkien tried at least three times to write a sequel to The Lord of the Rings. One such attempt, with the working title The New Shadow, was published by his son Christopher in The People of Middle Earth, which contained much of his father’s unpublished (at the time) work. Set 220 years after the destruction of the One Ring, after the death of Aragorn and during the last days of the reign of his heir, Eldarion (the story possibly resulting in his death); elves had vanished entirely, dwarves were becoming more and more distant, and orcs are the subject of mockery, being at most boogeymen used by parents to scare children. The thirteen pages have quite a lot of exposition; mostly it consists of a young man named Saelon talking to Borlas, the youngest son of Beragond (for those who don’t remember him, he was Pipin’s friend who prevented Denethor's guards from burning Faramir alive and then stopped Denethor from killing Faramir personally). Borlas is thus now be a very old man and one of the few still-living men in Gondor who remembers Sauron’s reign of terror, which to most is an old, barely remembered story. His discussion with Ceylon is that of mysterious disappearances in the night, and someone named Herumore, who is only mentioned. He discusses a concept called the Dark Tree, which states that when Evil is ignored, it spreads unchecked and becomes stronger. Saelon then invites the older man to come with him late at night; Borlas decides to do so, saying he “can still smell the old evil and know it for what it is”. And that’s where the unfinished work ends. Possibly the story would involve some sort of cult devoted to Sauron or Morgoth, waiting to strike when everyone had forgotten they had ever been a threat, though since other works stated that Aragon’s legacy would endure for a hundred generations, it seems the forces of Good would eventually triumph. While few doubt it would have been well-written and well-received, there are likely many reasons why Tolkien abandoned this project. Via his own explanation, it was too much of a Genre Shift from Lord of the Rings, going from high-fantasy to low-fantasy while shifting from an epic adventure to a darker conspiracy thriller. Critics have pointed out that the theme of a "forgotten evil" is incoherent with the original story, as it seems unlikely Aragon would have been so foolish as to let the memory of Sauron fade. In the end, it may have been that he could not have written such a work without cheapening the heroes’ epic victory in the original novel, so maybe it was for the best. It seems Tolkien knew that sometimes with great works of fiction, quality does not equal quantity. Read more about it here.