The term Legendarium is used as a collective term for all the works of J. R. R. Tolkien set in the world of Arda/Middle-earthnote spelt with hyphen and lowercase e. (To be exact, Middle-earth is a continent in the world Arda, but the former is also commonly used to refer to the whole universe.)The earliest drafts of the great stories of the legendarium were written around the time of World War I, and continued to grow from there on. Tolkien worked on the legendarium for most of his life, continually exploring it further, developing and changing it again and again.The first book published, The Hobbit, actually wasn't intended as part of the legendarium, only to borrow some material. When Tolkien began writing the Hobbit-sequel that was to become The Lord of the Rings, he moved the story of both books into the Middle-earth setting. This fact is responsible for the seeming inconsistencies in tone and canon between The Hobbit and the other Middle-earth works; this is often mistaken for the world and story having matured up by those who do not know it existed before. He also made some minor changes in a later edition of The Hobbit to match better with The Lord of the Rings, while also providing an in-universe justification for the original discrepancies in the latter.The published books are:
Only the first three were published during his lifetime; the rest were published posthumously by his son Christopher. Of these, The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin consist of a single narrative edited together from Tolkien's texts, while the rest are collections of Tolkien's material (with commentaries and notes by his son), ranging from complete narratives to early and new drafts, to essays.Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien (1979) and J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (1995) contain numerous illustrations of Arda, although these books are not concerned solely with the Legendarium. Several of JRRT's linguistic texts which did not appear in The History of Middle-earth have been published in the periodicals Vinyar Tengwar, Parma Eldalamberon, and Tyalië Tyelelliéva.Additionally, there are several titles used for collective bodies of stories (which are used in the fictional world, and also real-world terms to include all relevant material independently of published books), among them:
The Ainulindalë (the creation of the universe)
The Valaquenta (the Account of the Valar)
The (Quenta) Silmarillion (the First Age and wars surrounding the Silmarils)
The Narn (i chîn Húrin) (the story of the Children of Húrin)
The Akallabêth (History and Downfall of Númenor in the Second Age)
Non-canonical works are additions to the legendarium by authors other than Tolkien, with various legal status. They are not considered proper Arda or Middle-Earth lore by Tolkien scholars or buffs, but rather form their own alternate continuities.
Always Chaotic Evil: Tolkien himself was troubled by the Unfortunate Implications of this trope. The problem is that races like the orcs were described in his published work as being almost genetically evil. As a believing and devout Catholic Tolkien realized the theological implications of this stance. Given the Catholic underpinnings of Arda's theology, Morgoth (the Big Bad) may have corrupted the souls of elves to become orcs, but even with all Morgoth could do, any living creature should still have a chance, however small, of redemption, repentance and forgiveness. Tolkien's characterization essentially denied the possibility of redemption for the orcs. It was in part this conflict that kept him from releasing any of the other parts of his Legendarium in his lifetime, as he could never quite reconcile this portion of his fantasy world with his deeply-held faith.
Angels, Devils and Squid: The Valar and the Maiar are the angels, Melkor and Sauron are the devils, and Ungoliant and her spawn are the... spiders.
Appropriated Appellation: Many names and bynames. E.g.: Bilbo's (and later Frodo's) sword (technically dagger, but big enough for hobbits to be a short sword), Sting, got its name from the Giant Spiders Bilbo fought with it. Aragorn is given the name Strider by the Breelanders and later on uses it (translated into Elvish) as the name of his dynasty.
Artifact of Doom: The One Ring and the Nine Rings are the kind of artifacts that take over your mind, turn you into a wraith, and usually make you Sauron's slave. Oh, and if Sauron ever gets the One Ring back he can take over the world.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Generally the great heroes and villains in the stories are the princes, lords, and other aristocrats. It's rare for a "common" person like Samwise to be a great hero.
Big Bad: Morgoth in the First Age, Sauron in the Second and Third.
Bittersweet Ending: Tolkien put one at the end of nearly every single story he wrote. The Dark Lords and their servants are each defeated, but only after the loss or destruction of yet more of the ancient beauty of the world. The exceptions are the real Downer Endings, such as the one in The Children of Húrin.
Con Lang: Tolkien stated that his interest in languages actually spawned Middle-earth as a place for them to exist. He created a world-full system of languages, language families and dialects (just read through them.), with an internal history, along with several scripts and modes in which they could be written. Although most of them are not actually fully detailed languages, several are more detailed, and at least the Elven languages Quenya and Sindarin are complete enough to be used, learned and spoken. The attempts by fan scholars and creators of adaptations (e.g. the Peter Jackson films) to extrapolate from and expand the existing material are usually referred to as Neo-(insert language name).
Common Tongue: Different lingua francas existed for different times and places:
In the westlands in the Second and Third Ages, the Common Speech was Westron, a mixed language developed from Mannish languages, mixing Adûnaic (Numenórean) and local Middle-earth languages. In the Third Age it was spoken by lots of peoples either as a mother tongue (e.g. hobbits and Breelanders) or as second language lingua franca. In The Hobbit and ''The Lord of the Rings it is substituted by English.
In Beleriand during the wars against Morgoth, Sindarin became the lingua franca between all Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Even the Orcs used a twisted, debased version of it.
Constellations: Some constellations are mentioned as having different names, e. g. Ursa major (the "Big Dipper") is the Sickle. The constellation Orion is called Menelmacar or Menelvagor, the Warrior of Heaven, orignally created by the Valar as a symbol of defiance against the forces of evil led by Morgoth.
Constructed World: Arda is a sort of border case: It's a highly detailed example of worldbuilding, yet it's intended to be our own world's prehistory rather than a separate universe.
Creation Myth: The Ainulindalë (aka "The Music (literally "singing") of the Ainur"). The Ainur are basically the equivalent of the angels in Christianity.
Cryptic Background Reference: Often characters and the narrative refer back to the broad well of Middle-earth's history and culture, but don't necessarily explain those for the ignorant reader. Some of these references are explained through other material, while some are left entirely unexplained.
“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
The people of Beleriand are relentlessly harried and killed by the evil Morgoth. The desperate remnant calls upon the Valar — extremely powerful gods or angels. The Valar come in force, launch the "War of Wrath"  and utterly defeat Morgoth — but in the process, nearly all of Beleriand is flooded and sinks under the sea, only a few mountain tops surviving as small islands. And what would become the Elven kingdom of Lindon, which was originally the eastern edge of Beleriand (the Blue Mountains being the border of Beleriand).
The setting also has a Ragnarok equivalent in which the evil of Morgoth will be entirely purged from Middle-earth. Fortunately or not it will also be The End of the World as We Know It as all of Eä will be remade.
Doorstopper: The Lord of the Rings is a simply enormous book. The History of Middle-earth, if taken together, is much longer.
Easter Egg: All of Tolkien's works about Middle-earth, as well as the many volumes of unpublished works edited by his son, have inscriptions (usually on the title page) that can be transliterated from his fictional alphabets into English.
Ungoliant in The Silmarillion. She might be merely a fallen Maia of incredible power, but nobody is quite sure. She's said to have come out of the Void, and she became so powerful that she nearly devoured Morgoth himself.
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things".
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Invoked several times. Saruman and Sauron make seemingly stupid mistakes, and are eventually defeated, because they can't figure out what their enemies are thinking. Morgoth likewise cannot comprehend the motives of good people, such as mercy.
Evil Overlord: The Dark Lords Morgoth and Sauron play up this trope as they fall more and more into evil. Saruman also tried to become one, although his career was cut off before he bacame the lord of anything other than Isengard.
Evil Tower of Ominousness: These appear frequently in Middle-earth where the Evil Overlords have set up: Barad-dûr, Minas Morgul, and the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Mordor, and Orthanc in Isengard. Morgoth's Thangorodrim, the Mountains of Tyranny, fill the same conceptual spot in the First Age.
Evil Weapon: One of the major themes of The Lord of the Rings is that evil can never be defeated by using evil methods. Using the One Ring could never have overthrown Sauron, except by setting up a new Dark Lord in his place, and Saruman descended into Dark Lord territory just from his lust for the Ring. In both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, warfare in general is largely ineffective; people can and must defend themselves by warfare, but war is not what finally eliminates the Dark Lords from Middle-earth. JRRT very much treated war as an evil thing.
Exploring the Evil Lair: Beren and Lúthien sneaking through Angband in disguise, Frodo and Sam sneaking through Mordor, Bilbo burglarizing Smaug's lair in Erebor, and Mablung poking around in Glaurung's lair in Nargothrond.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: With the exception of the Shire itself, which was modeled on the idealized 19th-century English countryside, the cultures of the westlands of Third Age Middle-earth are roughly equivalent to those of Dark Age Europe based on political situations and cultural aspects.
The political situation of Gondor and Arnor may remind one of Byzantium and Rome, who faced threats from the East (Huns, Ottomans, etc.) at various times in their history. Strangely, when Tolkien was asked about this comparison, he said that he regarded Gondor as being closer to Ancient Egypt—who admittedly often had the same problem.
Gondor was a direct descendant of Númenor, whose culture sounds Punic. The fact they were bilingual (speaking both a Semitic-like Adûnaic language and Elvish Sindarin), were a seafaring people and worshipped an evil god named originally Melkor ("He who arises in might") match Ancient Carthage: speaker of both Punic and Greek, seafaring, worshipped a nastynote Not precisely evil; evidence is scanty, with some suggesting him to be a deified former King of Tyre (Carthage was a Tyrian colony), and other suggest him to be more of a melancholy underworld god after the fashion of Hades god who demanded human sacrificesNB These sacrifices were rare; they were strictly made by the ruling elite—Carthage was an oligarchic republic (not entirely unlike Rome, truth be told)—who would sacrifice their own children in times of crisis, suggesting they were a last resort and a symbolic practice to show the populace that they were suffering, too. and was named Melkart (which can be interpreted as "Mighty one"note A more accurate translation is "King of the City.").
The Rohirrim have aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture, and have been compared to Vikings that rode horses rather than ships. Their Eotheod ancestors are based on the then-perception of Goths as a people of Germanic horse-warriors. The Rohirrim military is still this while their language has developed into the later Germanic language of Anglo-Saxon. The fact they had been a people of warrior-peasants whose entire culture ran around the horse and who lived on plains (as opposed to the hilly landscape of the British Isles) also makes them comparable 16th-19th century Russian Cossacks.
The Southrons are a vague, nonspecific representation of African and Middle-Eastern peoples, as in the medieval writings Tolkien emulated, which always spoke of these in exotic terms. Similarly, the Easterlings are a vague representation of nomadic peoples from the East (ie Huns, Tartars, Mongols). However, the Easterlings of Khand are called Variags, a term used for Viking mercenaries in Constantinople.
The Dwarvish language is inspired by Semitic languages and their displacement throughout Middle-earth draws comparisons with the Jewish diaspora, but the Dwarvish culture resembles more that of Early Middle Ages Germanic peoples: metalworkers, builders, axe-armed.
Please note that the languages he based his invented languages on do not necessarily determine the cultural equivalence of the people who use them. Sindarin was based on Welsh, and Quenya on Finnish, but Grey Elves aren't Welsh, and High Elves aren't Finns.
Fantasy Pantheon: The one creator god, Eru Ilúvatar, and his creations the Ainur, Valar and Maiar, who function as angels or minor gods.
Fantasy World Map: Most of the books have a helpful map of the lands, geographic features, and cities. Or two. Or three.
Franchise Zombie: As explained above, The Lord of the Rings came into existence only because the publishers wanted a sequel for the immensely popular Hobbit while Tolkien was more interested in working on his legendarium. Tolkien avoided the negative effects of this trope by incorporating both LOTR and The Hobbit into his mythos that was part of the (then unpublished) Silmarillion.
Giant Spiders: Ungoliant in The Silmarillion, Mirkwood's spiders in The Hobbit, and Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. They're all related: Ungoliant is Shelob's mother, and Shelob is the mother of the Mirkwood spiders.
Grand Finale: The Lord of the Rings marks the end of the Third Age of Middle-earth and is chronologically the very last installment.
Green Aesop: The destruction of nature by industry is a common theme in Tolkien's work.
Hidden Elf Village: The Elves generally survive in Middle-earth by hiding in out-of-the-way places such as Doriath, Nargothrond, Gondolin, Rivendell, and Lothlórien. They had larger countries too, but those tended to get destroyed first.
I Have Many Names: Rather common, due, among other things, to: 1) having names and their translations in various languages, 2) people (and places/things) gaining names and ephitets due to their archievements/history, and more so if they travel and gain lots more names in different places, 3) Elves being an especially language-and-name-loving people and thus being generous with names, e.g. Elven custom gifting them with several names.
Samwise Gamgee is the only person who ever resisted the lure of the One Ring after having worn it.
Of the Elves, only one, Maeglin, ever served the enemy willingly.
The Dwarves are interesting sort. Dwarves could be greedy and suspicious, but Aulë made them so stubborn in part to defend againsst Melkor's corruption that few Dwarves ever served Melkor or Sauron.
Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Elves in Tolkien's works are almost invariably described as being good-looking. The three best looking females in Middle-earth are all Elves. The Valar also count, although they cheat, since their bodies are artificial and custom-made, so their beauty is limited only by ego and imagination.
Left-Justified Fantasy Map: The main action in Middle-earth takes place in what is meant to be Europe in an imaginary time-period. The Great Sea (Belegaer) corresponds to the Atlantic Ocean.
Literary Agent Hypothesis: In-universe, the books are translations of the writings of Bilbo (who wrote The Hobbit: There and Back Again and translated The Silmarillion out of Elvish), Frodo and Sam (who wrote The Lord of the Rings), and the Anglo-Saxon sailor Ælfwine (who stumbled upon Tol Eressëa in the Middle Ages and learned of the Elder Days from the Elves).note Ælfwine was written out of the published Silmarillion by Christopher Tolkien, but since he appears in JRRT's writings after LotR, he apparently never abandoned the idea. Yet at the same time the The Silmarillion was also Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish. Elvish authors such as Pengolodh are credited with particular texts about the Elder Days and linguistics.
The Lost Woods: Despite Tolkien's great love for trees and forests, his mythopoeia doesn't neglect this common trope of European myths and legends. The Old Forest, Taur-nu-Fuin, Mirkwood, and Fangorn all make use of it. Generally, however, only the forests that were severely abused by loggers or directly corrupted by the Dark Lords ended up this way. The only real exception is Doriath, because Melian deliberately made it that way to defend the kingdom from invasion.
Manly Tears: Crying is not stigmatized, and there are many instances of manly men weeping, whether it is for grief, terror, joy, or any other reason. (As men do in the old epics that JRRT emulated.)
To cite just one example: Aragorn is so overwhelmed with grief at the death of Boromir, weeping bitterly over the latter's body, that when Gimli and Legolas come upon the scene, they think at first that Aragorn himself has been perhaps mortally wounded.
Gandalf encourages Sam, Pippin, and Merry to weep when Frodo is going away forever.
"I will not say 'do not weep', for not all tears are an evil."
Mithril: The trope started with the "truesilver" of Moria in The Lord of the Rings.
Mutual Envy: Elves and Humans envy each other. Humans are mortal and die after a comparatively short time, and our souls have to leave the World after we die, so we envy the Elves' "immortality." The Ageless Elves, who very slowly get tired of living but can't die of old age and certainly can't leave the World dead or alive, know that they're all going to be here when it comes to an end. They envy Humans for being able to leave when we get "weary," and for having the option to keep existing after the end of Time. Elves call death a "Gift," which can rub mortals the wrong way.
Mythopoeia: JRRT named this genre and was one of the earliest authors (though not the first) to write in it. All of Arda was conceived as a set of myths and legends for England, because England didn't have any and because Tolkien regarded a language without legends as lifeless.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The names of the Enemy are usually Elvish (Quenya or Sindarin, to be precise), and will usually reflect how the Elves feel about them. For example, Melkor is Quenya for "He Who Arises In Might" and Morgoth is Sindarin for "Dark Enemy/Black Enemy". Sauron is Quenya for "Abomination", and his lesser used Sindarin name is Gorthaur, which means "The Abhorred Dread".
Narrative Poem: Both as stories written by Tolkien in that format and as poems appearing or being referenced inside the narrative.
Near Villain Victory: Tolkien coined the word "eucatastrophe" to describe this trope, and he used it at the end of both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
Older Than They Look, Really 700 Years Old: Life expectancy varies considerably among various peoples, even various human peoples, and by time and place. Additionally, some individuals have been extraordinarily longlived even by the standard of their people.
Only One Name, Patronymics, and I Am X, Son of Y: Most cultures commonly have a given name(s) and use patronymics. Only the Hobbits and Men of Bree and the Shire use Western-style inherited family names.
Our Elves Are Better: Very much not, even if many people mistakenly think so. Yes, Elves are in many ways more powerful, "magical" and skilled than humans (they had better be, as they had long enough to practice), but they are just as capable as any human to be stupid, chauvinist, and screw up monumentally – possibly more able than humans in fact, as greater power can have bigger results. In addition, humans are created to be Immune to Fate, with the ultimate destiny of ourselves and the world left undetermined.
Doubters are referred, for a start, to the story of Fëanor, the greatest creative genius in the history of the Elves, whose stubbornness and selfishness led to the millenia-long exile of almost his entire branch of the High-elven people, the Noldor, from the Blessed Lands, to civil war in those same Blessed Lands between two of the three tribes of the High-elves, to the destruction of the Elven kingdoms of Beleriand and of Beleriand itself, and to the deaths of himself and almost all his sons.
They do, however, appear to be this in The Lord of the Rings, since it isn't concentrating on Elvish history, and so most of their bigger mistakes are found elsewhere. Now, since it's the most popular and well-known of Tolkien's works, this means it's easy for people to get the wrong impression. This being said, Galadriel is shown to be just flawed as susceptible to the One Ring's power as anyone, although she is one of the handful who resist its power.
This is partly justified by the fact that elven leaders in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (Elrond [Rivendell], Thranduil [Mirkwood] and Galadriel and Celeborn [Lothlórien]) have all lived to see the decline of their race in Middle-earth, and are trying to do what is best for their people while offering what assistance they can to the other races. Also, considering that Galadriel and Celeborn were alive during the war against Morgoth that destroyed Beleriand (caused by Fëanor, as noted above), and that Elrond saw what the folly of his people could do (it was Fëanor's grandson whom Sauron taught how to make the Rings of Power), they had all probably wisened up to not repeat the mistakes of their ancestors.
Palantir Ploy: The Palantíri in The Lord of the Rings are the trope-namers.
Phosphor-Essence: Especially Elves and sometimes members of other people are at times perceived as if a light shines through them or their eyes. With changed perception this can even be intensified, as Frodo while having ghostly vision sees the elf Glorfindel as a brilliant figure compared to the dark silhouettes of mortals.
Physical Religion: At least for the Elves living in the West, the Valar and Maiar live as neighbours and interact with them. In Middle-earth open contact has been more rare and increasingly so; mostly single Ainur interacting with smaller populations or single individuals. For most peoples in Middle-earth, they only know of the the Valar through legend, or they only have fragmented and filtered knownledge, if they even know of them at all.
Rightful King Returns: The whole Lord of the Rings ends on this note, with Aragorn taking the throne of Gondor after hundreds of years without a king.
Ring of Power: The twenty Great Rings of Power, and countless lesser Rings, forged in Eregion under the guidance of "Annatar" (a.k.a. Sauron).
Gollum is the Shadow of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins — and, to some extent, Samwise.
Sauron is to an extent the Shadow of both Gandalf and Galadriel, while Saruman is a more specific shadow of Gandalf.
Speak Friend and Enter: The Gate of Moria in The Lord of the Rings is the Trope Namer. That password would have been so much easier to figure out if only Celebrimbor had used a comma!
Stars Are Souls: There is the singular and slightly-off example of the star Eärendil; although he technically neither died nor is the star himself, he was tasked to cross the sky in a flying ship with the last glowing Silmaril jewel, which is visible to us as Venus.
Stellar Name: Very common with the Elves and their star-veneration; among others, the elements el-/elen- found in many names means "star".
Supernaturally Marked Grave: In particular, battlefields tend to become wastelands or marshes that last long after any sign of such events should. The same can happen where very evil beings die (such as the Witch-King of Angmar), and grass and flowers grow where good ones die.
Sweet Polly Oliver: Éowyn disguising herself as a man to join the army of Rohan during the War of the Ring, and successfully taking down the Lord of the Ringwraiths. Niënor disguising herself as a male elf to follow Mablung and Morwen out of Doriath, and subsequently...uh, getting Mind Raped. Ew.
Tender Tears: Tolkien is rare amongst Western artists for creating consistently sensitive and soft-hearted men who do not see crying as shameful or dishonorable.
Time Abyss: There are the Ageless people, like Elves and Ents, some many of them are thousands of years old. Then there's Tom Bombadil, who apparently came into existence the moment Arda was created, and still "remembers the first raindrop, the first acorn". Then there are the Ainur, all of whom were created before Arda and helped sing it into shape.
The Time of Myths: All the stories JRRT told about Middle-earth are set in our own world, but in an "imaginary time" before history and the Dominion of Men.
Translation Convention: All of our real-world languages do not exist in Middle-earth, and so the common Translation Convention applies. When not convention-translated, names and speech make use of either Tolkien's constructed languages, or of a real-world language used as stand-in for a fictional one. The latter ones are not chosen randomly, but to represent the relation between the respective "proper" languages, or a certain image. Languages regularly replaced by stand-in languages in the text are: "Westron" a.k.a. the "Common Speech" is always rendered as English (as it is the Third-Age-novel's POV-character's language), the Rohirric language by Anglo-Saxon a.k.a. Old English (to appear vaguely familiar to the hobbits' Westron-English), the language used by the Dwarves and the Men of Dale by Old Norse, and other Germanic languages for various Northmen people. Information on the "translation" and what these languages "really" look like, can be found in various appendices and additional texts.
Universe Chronology: Tolkien wrote a Tale of Years for the first three ages of Arda, listing major events and the births and deaths of main characters. He also wrote the Annals, among the major First Age narratives that went into The Silmarillion, as more detailed yearly chronicles.
The Verse: Well, duh. Also commonly referred to pars pro toto as "Middle-earth" and "Arda".
Vestigial Empire: Many over the course of Arda's long history, most famously Gondor.
Warrior Prince: Very common in Middle-earth. Most of the major characters are royalty or nobles, and nearly all of them (particularly the men) are warriors by inclination or necessity. Even Elrond, a healer and scholar in a culture where healers normally don't fight, is a capable military commander when he absolutely must be.
When Trees Attack: The Ents were created because Tolkien had seen a production of Macbeth as a child and was disappointed when it turned out that Birnam Wood itself didn't actually attack.
World Building: Arda is a wonderfully detailed example of worldbuilding, which Tolkien called "subcreation." He had a whole philosophy and theoretic about subcreation in relation to his Roman Catholic faith.
World Tree: The Two Trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin, provided light after Morgoth's destruction of the previous world lights. After he destroyed them too; their last flower and last fruit were made into the Moon and Sun; before, Telperion's dew had been used to kindle the stars.