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Tropes from The Lord of the Rings (the book)

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  • Samus Is a Girl: Dernhelm aka Éowyn. The character does appear previously in the story, but when disguised, she is referred to as a new male character, mainly because the reader sees her through Merry's point of view, until the reveal. This isn't attempted in the live-action movies, probably for reasons of practicality, but is carried through to the audio drama.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Denethor, due to his use of the Palantir and exposure to Sauron's will, and not helped by the death of his elder son and near-fatal wounding of Faramir; these elements lead him to fall into despair and he chooses to die rather than live to see Sauron's final victory, which he believes is inevitable.
    • Inverted with Théoden, who is restored to his full self by Gandalf, healing him of Wormtongue and Saruman's influence.
  • Sapient Steed:
    • Gandalf's steed Shadowfax.
    • Merry and Pippin hitch a ride on Treebeard, and also the eagles when they rescue Frodo and Sam from Mordor.
    • Presumably some of the mounted orcs' steeds in the battle scenes were sentient Wargs.
    • Bill the Pony is this, according to Sam.
  • The Savage South: The land south of Gondor, called Harad, is considered savage land. Sauron musters an army from there.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Hama the Doorward of Meduseld. He allows Gandalf to keep his staff and returns Eomer's sword to him when the latter is released from prison, both in defiance of Wormtongue's edicts.
    • Also Eomer himself who takes his eored out to stop the party of orcs and uruk-hai transporting Merry and Pippin through Rohan, in defiance of Wormtongue's edicts.
    • And Beregond, who abandons his post and slays the porter and two guards to save Faramir's life.
  • Sealed Army in a Can: The Oathbreakers from the Paths of the Dead.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Balrog of Moria. Unusually for this trope, it sealed itself there, having survived the War of Wrath (when the Valar defeated its master Morgoth at the end of the First Age) and gone into hiding.
  • Sea Monster: The giant squid-like creature that inhabits a lake near the entrance to Moria known as the Watcher in the Water. It attacks the Fellowship as they try to enter the Mines of Moria.
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: Explained by Word of God that the story is mostly seen from a hobbit POV, since it was hobbits that wrote the tome professor Tolkien translated. Example events include Gandalf's imprisonment by and escape from Saruman, The Ents' attack on Isengard, Aragorn's adventures in southern Gondor. Also note that parts of the story with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli traveling away from the rest of the Fellowship (the majority of The Two Towers and the Paths of the Dead) are known to the Hobbits because they shared their stories with them at Isengard and Minas Tirith respectively.
  • Secondary Character Title: The Lord of the Rings refers to Sauron not Frodo as some believe. The full title of Frodo's book about the war is The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King. It is a particularly strange error to ascribe such a title to Frodo, as there is a scene where Pippin says, "Make way for Frodo, Lord of the Ring" and is quite strongly corrected about it by Gandalf.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • One view of the whole book is that the Ring is a secret test of character for all of Middle-Earth. The Ring is almost irresistible Schmuck Bait, and Frodo's habit of waving it around in public doesn't help. It tempts Bilbo, and Gandalf; Aragorn and Boromir; Denethor and Saruman; Galadriel and Faramir; Gollum, Sam, and lastly Frodo himself. Some of these people fail miserably (Denethor doesn't even have to get near it), others pass with distinction - but it's an effort for all of them.
    • Gandalf's horrified renunciation:
    Gandalf: With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly....Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.note 
    • Galadriel slides closest to the edge without actually failing:
    And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!'
    She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
    'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.' "
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Discussed by Galadriel when she shows her Mirror to Sam. "Some [visions] never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds."
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man:
    • Faramir and Boromir. Boromir is a mighty warrior and military leader, interested in warfare and little else, Faramir loves poetry and lore (although he's also a soldier). In this case, the difference is mostly one of attitude - Boromir loves fighting and being a soldier for its own sake (though he's guided by a strong sense of honor and duty) while Faramir views soldiering as a service he must render for the good of his people even though he's a scholar by inclination. Unlike most examples, both brothers truly love each other unconditionally and appreciate their differences.
    • To a lesser extent, Sam seems to be tougher and more inclined towards violence than Frodo, but this might be due to the ferocity with which he protects his master.
  • Sequel Escalation: LotR expands the relatively small-scale, personal adventure of The Hobbit to world-scale peril.
  • Sequel Series: To The Hobbit.
  • "Setting Off" Song: When he leaves the Shire, Bilbo sings a stanza of "The Road Goes Ever On", about following the road away from home and being drawn into the wider world and towards an unknown destination. Later, when setting out himself, Frodo speaks the same stanza but replaces the line "Pursuing it with eager feet" with "Pursuing it with weary feet", reflecting his uncertainty about the journey he is setting off on.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: While the other three hobbits are able in time to lead normal lives, Frodo carries too many physical and emotional scars. He cannot heal.
  • 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' storm 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 camouflage, 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.
    • In fact, Tolkien wrote the Ents and their destruction of Isengard specifically because of his memories of seeing a production of Macbeth as a boy and being disappointed that the trees of Birnam Wood did not actually get up to destroy Macbeth's castle themselves.
    • To "Arabian Nights", oddly enough. Compare this tale and the chapter "The Voice of Saruman" and try to find the differences.
    • Denethor's gradual and total self-destruction mirrors another Shakespearean work, King Lear.
    • The One Ring is a shout-out to the Ring of Gyges from Book 2 of Plato's Republic, a trinket that makes the wearer invisible and, free from observation by others, encourages them to commit evil acts.
    • The warg attack on the slopes of Caradhras, according to Tolkien himself, owes a lot to the werewolf attack in the Breton forest in The Black Douglas.
  • Shown Their Work: Tolkien's understanding of Mythology, Linguistics, Geography, Geology and Climatology are masterful.
  • Siege Engines: The assault on Minas Tirith, the mighty Battering Ram Grond being the most important.
  • Signature Item Clue: Peregrin Took drops his elven brooch while being transported by his orcish captors, in hopes his friends will pick up his trail. The gambit pays off.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: The problem of what to do with the One Ring gives rise to several simplistic solutions, none of which are kept because they're too dangerous or possibly even worse, such as dropping it in the ocean instead of destroying it (who knows what would find it, and Sauron is already powerful enough to Take Over the World with his armies), or giving it to Tom Bombadil or Gandalf to keep (they're powerful enough to hide it from Sauron, but Tom would eventually lose it and Gandalf would become a Knight Templar under its influence), or trying to destroy it with some other source of magical fire (only dragon fire could even theoretically destroy a Great Ring, and dragons are few and rarely cooperative).
  • Simultaneous Arcs: The main continuity splits off into two branches when the Fellowship breaks up near Rauros - one arc following Frodo, Sam and Gollum in the journey to Mordor, the other one following everyone else and the wars in Rohan and Gondor. The second arc itself splits, rejoins (at Isengard), and then splits into three (with Pippin and Gandalf to Minas Tirith, with Merry and the Rohirrim, with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli through the Paths of the Dead).
  • Single Line of Descent: Surprisingly, subverted. Aragorn is descended from the northern branch of the kingly line; the Gondor branch of the Númenórean kings diversified into several potential claimants, endured a civil war over the question of inheritance, and eventually no viable successor could be found (All explained in the appendices). Also there are other people appearing and mentioned who also descend from the same ancestor as the "main descendant" of that line. Further subverted in that although the Gondorian and Arnorian branches claim direct descent from Elros, first king of Númenor, they are not descendants of the last king, as their ancestor branched off from the eldest daughter of the 4th king. Also found All There in the Manual.
  • Sky Cell: Gandalf is confined on top of Orthanc until he is rescued by a giant eagle.
  • Sleep Cute: Gollum has a Pet the Dog moment when he catches Frodo and Sam doing this on the stairs of Cirith Ungol.
    For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.
  • Sleeping Dummy: The hobbits pull this off at the Prancing Pony in Bree, with the help of Barliman the innkeeper.
  • Sleeps with Both Eyes Open: Elves sleep with their eyes open, and Gandalf can sleep with his eyes half-open.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Heavily on the idealistic side. Evil may triumph temporarily, but in the long run it's made very clear that evil is nothing but a hollow mockery of good and is destined to lose in the end. That does not, of course, mean that in the immediate term Sauron is any less of a threat.

    The nature of Good and Evil in Middle-Earth is heavily influenced by Tolkien's Catholicism. Good and Evil are not equals, and while the latter may dominate for a time and seem unstoppable, when all is said and done the former is stronger.
  • Slippery MacGuffin: The Ring wants to return to Sauron, and will subtly influence events to make that happen. In the backstory, it abandoned first Isildur and then Gollum at a critical time. Downplayed with Frodo, who, while he is warned of the Ring's history of such behaviour, doesn't seem to have any trouble hanging on to it. Indeed, at the end he finds that he can't give it up.
  • Smack on the Back: Inverted when Bilbo gives Frodo the mithril shirt. He gives his nephew a hearty one of these and immediately exclaims "Ow! You are too hard to slap now."
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Saruman's actions have a major effect on the plot and his corruption is one of the major themes of the book. However, he only actually appears in four chapters (out of a total of 62): "The Council of Elrond" in The Fellowship of the Ring (in a flashback recounted by Gandalf), "The Voice of Saruman" in The Two Towers, and "Many Partings" and "The Scouring of the Shire" in Return of the King.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Pipe weed. Gandalf catches himself getting excessively tetchy with Pippin in the Mines of Moria, and eventually realizes what the problem is — he hasn't had a decent smoke in a week.
  • Sneaky Departure: Frodo embarking on a solitary trip to Mordor (though followed by Sam).
  • So Much for Stealth: Moria in particular.
    Gimli: That was the sound of a hammer, or I've never heard one.
    Gandalf: Yes, and I do not like it. It may have nothing to do with Peregrin's foolish stone; but probably something has been disturbed that would have been better left quiet.
    • Beginning outside Moria's doors, where the frustrated Boromir alerts the Watcher in the Water by tossing a stone into the lake while waiting for Gandalf to find the opening-spell. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!
  • The Soft-Hearted Warrior: Faramir, while captain of the Rangers of Ithilien, seeks only to defend his people from Sauron's forces, and has no love of violence.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Threatening Geography: Frodo and Sam travel from the peaceful Shire, to harsh wilderness, to well... Mordor.
  • Soul Jar: The One Ring
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Gollum. Who could ever account for all that he does in this story?
    • Saruman made the great mistake of leaving the Ents out of his calculations, meaning he's totally blindsided when they attack and completely trash Isengard.
    • Merry and Pippin qualify as well, as their meeting Treebeard leads directly to the Ents getting fully roused up to attack; Gandalf explicitly comments how things would have gone much worse for the good guys if the duo hadn't been present.
    • The whole first part of The Fellowship of the Ring just wouldn't have happened, had Barliman Butterbur not forgotten to just send Gandalf's letter to Frodo.
  • Speak Friend and Enter: Gandalf spends hours casting opening spells and trying passwords on the door into Moria. He finally realizes that he mistranslated the inscription on the door: instead of "Speak, friend, and enter", it was "Say 'friend' and enter" All he had to do was say the Elven word for "friend" and the door opened. Gandalf read the inscription aloud before, but in the common tongue, not in Elvish.
  • Split Personality: Gollum/Sméagol. It's highlighted even more in the films.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Gollum
  • Staff of Authority: The Istari, including Saruman and Gandalf have staffs that seem to be symbolic as well as practical. In their confrontation at Isengard after the Ents march on the place, Gandalf breaks Saruman's staff to show that his authority has been revoked by the Powers That Be.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: The Trope Maker, or at least the Trope Codifier.
  • Starfish Language: The language of the Ents is implied to be this. Even the simplest words are very long and elaborate, and so even the shortest conversations probably last several hours.
  • The Starscream: Saruman. He was one of the Istari, agents sent from Valinor to assist the Free Peoples against Sauron. His initial intentions were beneficial; he desired the One Ring from Sauron and planned to use it as a means to permanently defeat him. However, during his time in Middle-earth, Saruman grew more and more proud of himself, and decided he could use his skill as a highly persuasive Consummate Liar to fool Sauron himself into an alliance, and instead use the One Ring to make himself the ruler of Middle-earth. Sauron caught on pretty quickly though, and Saruman became so terrified of his wrath that after his army was defeated he locked himself in his tower for the majority of the War of the Ring.
  • Stay on the Path: Averted. Gandalf tells the hobbits to stay off the roads on their way to Bree.
  • Stealth Pun: Merry is given the name "Holdwine" by Éowyn and Éomer once, and it's never mentioned again. It means "loyal friend" in Old English, but in Modern English ...
  • Steel Mill: Saruman runs one at the basement of Isengard. Instead of coke, he uses charcoal made from trees as the iron reducing agent (as we used to, before the industrial revolution). Which, of course, the Ents find less than amusing, considering the sheer number of trees he's cut down.
  • Stinky Flower: The flowers that grow in the valley of Minas Morgul are described as, "beautiful and yet horrible of shape, like the demented forms in an uneasy dream; and they gave forth a faint sickening charnel-smell; an odour of rottenness filled the air."
  • A Storm Is Coming: When Gandalf came bearing news of Saruman's plans to the Rohirrim. King Théoden (still under Saruman's influence by way of Wormtongue) calls him "Stormcrow", and Wormtongue mocks him: "Láthspell I name you, Ill-news; and ill news is an ill guest, they say."
  • Storming the Castle: Subverted. Sam attempts to storm the Tower of Cirith Ungol alone, but the two orc units inside turn on each other, sparing him the trouble.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Gandalf goes offstage for hundreds of pages after the Balrog to allow other characters to struggle. He did this earlier in The Hobbit as well, as he would often leave Bilbo and the Dwarves to go on other business, leaving them to fall prey to spiders and elves.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: When they return home after the War and the Shire is back to normal after its occupation, all of the four hobbits do feel this effect to varying degrees. While the other three are coping with it, Frodo, with the additional burdens of the Ring and his other wounds, cannot "return home" or find peace again; he leaves the Shire to sail to the West with the Elves.
  • The Strategist: Gandalf.
  • Succession Crisis:
    • Gondor once had a brutal civil war, the Kinstrife, over who should inherit the throne, the half-Rohirric Eldacar or the 100% Númenorean Castamir. Eldacar won... after ten years in exile and losing his eldest son in battle.
    • The Steward Pelendur ruled Gondor for a year after the death of King Ondoher (and his sons) because both Ondoher's son-in-law King Arvedui of Arnor and his cousin Eärnil claimed the throne. He decided in favor of Eärnil.
    • After Eärnil's son Eärnur went on a Suicide Mission to Minas Morgul and disappeared, unmarried and childless, Pelendur's grandson Mardil became the first Ruling Steward rather than choose someone with a weak claim and start another Kinstrife.
    • Arnor was split into three smaller and weaker parts by the sons of King Eärendur, ultimately leading to its fall at the hands of the Witchking of Angmar. Again, it's All There in the Manual.
    • It's mentioned several times that Aragorn is specifically trying to avoid this by waiting until the end of the war to take the throne.
  • Suicide Dare: Denethor after passing the Despair Event Horizon: "Peregrin, son of Paladin, I release you from my service. Go, now, and die in what way seems best to you."
  • Suicide Mission: Aragorn leads a hopeless march against the gates of Mordor, to draw the orc armies out of Frodo's way.
    • Frodo believes his own mission is this, since he holds very little hope that he and Sam will make it to Orodruin and is certain that there won't be a return if they do.
    • Sam is the last to admit to himself that it's a suicide mission. And that's bad news for Sauron.
    Sam's plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim... as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.
  • Supernatural Aid: Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer:
    • The Ringwraiths are constantly surrounded by an "aura" of this. Hardened soldiers break and run in their presence, and it's strongly implied that Éowyn is only able to stand up to the Witch-King because she's been living in constant despair for years. She's used to it.
    • The Cavalry of the Dead has the same effect, either because of inherent magic or just the natural reaction to seeing a huge horde of nasty ghosts. In the book it's left ambiguous whether they can actually hurt people, but they don't need to because the fear is enough. In the film, because this sort of subtlety is hard to express in a visual medium, they kill people by more direct means, but their appearance still sparks a Mass "Oh, Crap!" from the enemy.
    • Tolkien's worldbuilding establishes that an aura of fear and terror is an innate trait to the undead, from ghosts to wraiths and anything else. The Ringwraiths are just particularly potent with it because they've got the power of the Nine Rings backing them up.
  • Super-Soldier: Uruk-hai, Olog-hai. Not really super though, just Elite Mooks. Then there are the Rangers and the Knights of Dol Amroth on the side of the heroes, playing it more straight.
  • Supervillain Lair: Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower that Sauron rules from, and Isengard, the tower that Saruman resides in.
  • Survivorship Bias: In thinking about the old heroic tales, Sam notes that the heroes had plenty of chances to turn back but didn’t, adding “And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on.”
  • Swamps Are Evil:
    • The Dead Marshes feature the usual treacherous footing, constant fog, and corpse candles. There were also horrible, pallid faces floating just beneath the water's surface. Looking at the faces too closely would cause you to become entranced and fall into the water.
    • There was also the insect-infested Midgewater Marshes in Fellowship of the Ring.
      "What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?"
  • Swan Boats: The Elves of Lóthlorien have swan-shaped boats — a symbol of beauty and high culture.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Éowyn. She is able to kill the Lord of the Nazgûl precisely BECAUSE she is not a man.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Wormtongue
  • Symbolic Wings: The Balrog. Fan opinion is hotly divided on whether its wings (mentioned once in text) are symbolic or literal.
    …the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Saruman expresses respect mixed with hatred for Frodo at the end of Scouring of the Shire.
  • Symploce: The Ring verse:
    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

  • Take Our Word for It:
    • Gandalf's description of the "nameless things" that dwell beneath Moria; Tolkien's description of many of the Orc's family-unfriendly habits, and of Sauron himself and his hideouts. If it's something of which Gandalf or Aragorn "will not speak... to darken the light of day", you know it's bad.
    • Aragorn seems to have encountered the Ringwraiths personally at least once before he met the hobbits in Bree; the only description he can bear to give is simply: "They are terrible!" And as he says it, his hands are clutching the arms of his chair.
  • Take That!: Both the Ents and the fate of the Witch-King were Tolkien's Take That! at Macbeth. He thought that the march of Birnam Wood just being a bunch of guys dressed as trees, and Macduff being a C-section baby rather than a woman, were cop-outs. Hence, Ents and Éowyn and Merry.
  • Take That, Critics!: In the Foreword: "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 kind of works that they seem to enjoy."
  • Take Up My Sword:
    • Isildur takes Narsil from his dead father, and 3000 years later Aragorn uses the same sword re-forged in the War of the Ring.
    • A literal, unspoken example when Sam, believing Frodo dead from Shelob's poison, takes Sting (and the Ring).
  • Taken During the Ending:
    • At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, as part of the climactic Breaking the Fellowship, Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by Saruman's Uruk-Hai. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas spend the next book trying to find them.
    • The Two Towers also ends this way, with Frodo being seemingly killed by Shelob and Sam realizing at the end of the book that he is actually alive and has been taken by Sauron's forces.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The Hobbits. Thanks to generations worth of intermarrying between the Tooks, Bagginses, Bolgers, and Brandybucks (all of them among the most respected families in the Shire), Frodo is Bilbo's first and second cousin, Pippin's second and third cousin, Merry's first, second, and third cousin, and his own third cousin! Sam, in fact, is the only major hobbit character who isn't related to any of the others - although once his children reach marriageable ages...
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Alluded to, but Frodo seems to have dream conversations with Gandalf while in Mordor.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Frodo seems especially prone to doing this. It also applies to Merry, Éowyn and Faramir in the Houses of Healing.
  • Terrain Sculpting: The Ents divert a river in order to flood Isengard. Once this is done, they put it back again.
  • That Was the Last Entry: The Book of Mazarbul ends with a hurriedly scrawled "They are coming."
  • Thermal Dissonance: The One Ring. The fire in Frodo's study fails to even heat it.
  • Think Nothing of It: Faramir has such a moment after Sam compliments him for rejecting the Ring.
    ‘Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.’ Faramir smiled. ‘A pert servant, Master Samwise. But nay: the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards. Yet there was naught in this to praise. I had no lure or desire to do other than I have done.’
  • This Is Reality: Halflings and Ents only belong in children's tales, not real life, according to one of the Riders of Rohan.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Appendix A has the following example: after Thror and his companion Nar make their way to Moria and Thror is murdered by Azog and his Orcs, Nar carries the story back to Thrain, Thror's son. Thrain wept and torn his beard, and then sat silent for seven days; after which he said, "This cannot be borne!"
    This was the start of the War of Dwarves and Orcs, which the Appendix notes was long and deadly.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Despite his short stature and lack of strength, Frodo is the perfect choice to deliver the Ring to Mount Doom since unlike, say, a human or many of his fellow hobbits, he's too pure and innocent to succumb to its temptation. For a while, at least.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: After spending time in Mordor, Frodo eventually declares that he'll "bear no weapon, fair or foul." He doesn't commit any acts of violence during the Scouring of the Shire, sets a strict rule against any of the rebels killing hobbits who've sided with Sharkey, and tries to keep them from killing Men who surrender as well.
  • Tightrope Walking: Legolas does this. Similar to the movie example, in Lorien, Legolas ran along a rope to get to the other side of a stream. It was mentioned that elves did this sort of thing a lot if a bridge was not available. He points out nobody else in the group is an Elf, so it is probably easy for them.
  • Time Abyss:
    • Treebeard, who's said to be the oldest of all living things, and Tom Bombadil, who claims to be older than the Earth. Lampshaded when Treebeard refers to the ancient wizard Gandalf as "young Master Gandalf".
    • Both Ents and Elves are not subject to dying of old age, though Ents get "sleepy" and more and more tree-like as they age, and Elves eventually get "weary" of watching all the death and decay in Middle-Earth and decide to leave it to go to the Undying Lands. Fangorn (Treebeard) is unusual in the fact that he's still active despite being one of the first Ents. Most of the really old Elves in Middle-Earth in Frodo's day have been forbidden to (re-) enter Valinor unless/until they humble themselves and repent.
    • Elrond has outlived every nation in the world, but he's still a kid compared to Glorfindel (well, kind of) and Galadriel, who is, in some materials, described as being older than the sunnote , though the sun is relatively young (about 7000 years old at the time of the War of the Ring).
    • Círdan, described and only actually seen once, is the oldest Elf around and mentioned at the time of the War of the Ring. He was probably among the first to awaken of the elves at least 11,000 years prior to the War of the Ringnote . He's old enough to have a long, white beard. Elves don't grow beards until their third cycle in life, each cycle takes a few millennia.
  • Title Drop:
    'Hurray!' cried Pippin, springing up. 'Here is our noble cousin! Make way for Frodo, Lord of the Ring!'
    'Hush!' said Gandalf from the shadows at the back of the porch. 'Evil things do not come into this valley; but all the same we should not name them. The Lord of the Ring is not Frodo, but the master of the Dark Tower of Mordor, whose power is again stretching out over the world. We are sitting in a fortress. Outside it is getting dark.'
    • And later, the title of the Red Book of Westmarch, which is the supposed source for the whole book, is given as: "THE DOWNFALL OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND THE RETURN OF THE KING (as seen by the Little People; being the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo of the Shire, supplemented by the accounts of their friends and the learning of the Wise.)"
  • Thirsty Desert: Northern Mordor, the part Frodo and Sam have to cross to get from Kirith Ungol to Mount Doom. They are in constant danger of dying from thirst.
  • Together in Death: Arwen chose a mortal fate (much like her ancestor Lúthien in The Silmarillion) so that she could die soon after Aragorn and follow his spirit out of the world.
  • To Serve Man: While the Orcs and Goblins do not condone cannibalism among themselves (or at the very least find it abhorrent), they are happy to eat Humans, Elves and Dwarves.
  • 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" aka 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 aka Old English (to appear vaguely familiar to the hobbits' Westron-English), and the language used by the Dwarves and the Men of Dale by Old Norse. Information on the 'translation' and what these languages 'really' look like, can be found in various appendices and additional texts.
    • If you read the appendices you also find out that the "original language" version actually has features which influence the plot, but which are not rendered in the English "translation". One of such is the contributing factor to the rumor in Minas Tirith that Pippin was a Prince of high status and power: "Standard" Westron as used in Gondor has a T-V distinction, with different pronouns and modes of address used for formal speech (used between people of unequal status) and informal speech (used for social equals). Hobbits no longer have/use a formal address, instead always using the informal, so Pippin's informal address to Denethor made the listeners think he would have to be of high status indeednote . It's better implied in some of the foreign translations, in languages that do have formal and informal variations of "you" (e.g., in French translations, Pippin uses tu rather than vous).
  • Trapped on the Astral Plane: This is indicated to be Sauron's ultimate fate at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Technically he cannot really die until Arda itself is unmade by the creator God, but his second defeat and the destruction of the One Ring has reduced him to a powerless spirit unable to build another body for himself, still wandering the world but unable to influence it in any way. Meanwhile, his former boss Morgoth is trapped in the Void Between the Worlds outside Arda.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The main hobbit characters start out as mild-mannered rustics, and by the end have become some of the greatest heroes of the Age.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Grí­ma Wormtongue, to Théoden, having himself fallen under the influence of Saruman.
  • Trope Maker: And how! The ISO Standard Fantasy Setting started here.
  • Trouble from the Past: If only Isildur had destroyed Sauron's ring when he had the chance. If only, if only, IF ONLY.
  • True Companions: The Fellowship of the Ring. The appendices only reinforce this; it's strongly implied that when Legolas finally sailed West, Gimli went with him, the only Dwarf ever to sail out of Middle-Earth.

  • The Undead: The Nazgûl and the Dead of Dunharrow. The barrow-wights however, are evil spirits possessing the remains in the barrows, so are functionally undead.note 
  • Underground City: Khazad-dûm, aka "the Mines of Moria," was one of the oldest and grandest Dwarven cities in existence until its inhabitants Dug Too Deep and awakened an angry and powerful Balrog.
  • Understatement:
    Gandalf: "The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Théoden son of Théngel."
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins has always been one of Bilbo and Frodo's least favorite relatives (in large part because of her greed and temper), and the feeling is mutual. When she dies some months after the Scouring of the Shire, Frodo is therefore surprised to find she's named him her sole heir (her husband died in the years between Frodo's thirty-third and fiftieth birthdays, and her only son Lotho was murdered by Wormtongue before Frodo's return), leaving him all her money to be used for helping the hobbits left homeless by the actions of Saruman, Wormtongue and Lotho.
  • Unexpected Kindness: When the Fellowship of the Ring visits Celeborn and Galadriel, Gimli expects Galadriel to act mostly cold towards him, because he's a dwarf. He's pleasantly surprised when it turns out not only Galadriel doesn't bear any ill feelings to him, she's actually empathic and understands his pain to the point Gimli becomes undyingly loyal to her.
  • The Unfavorite: Faramir, as Denethor openly prefers Boromir for being more loyal to him and having a better reputation in Gondor.
  • Unintentional Backup Plan: Gandalf and Aragorn's Batman Gambit pays off in getting the One Ring to Mount Doom, but the One Ring itself spans their plans by finally corrupting Frodo at the last crucial moment. Fortunately, Gollum shows up to take the ring for himself before accidentally falling into the volcano and destroying it.
  • Unishment: Aragorn's judgment of Beregond. To help save Faramir from his father's madness, Beregond abandoned his post as a member of the Tower Guard during the siege of Minas Tirith, and shed the blood of his comrades on the Rath Dínen when they attempted to force their way past him to carry out Denethor's will, all of which would have earned him a sentence of death in the past. Aragorn instead had the death sentence remitted in recognition of Beregond's valor during the subsequent Battle of the Morannon, and that his actions were out of his love for his Lord. He therefore decrees that Beregond would be removed from the Tower Guard and the City order to take up his post as Captain of the White Guard when Faramir departed to take up his posting as Prince of Ithilien.
  • Universe Chronology: More so in The Silmarillion, but the Appendices give a lot info too.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Twice in "The Taming of Smeagol," Frodo misquotes a previous passage:
    • When he recalls what Gandalf had said about Bilbo's mercy to Gollum: Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends. What Gandalf had actually said was "Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
    • When he reminds Gollum of the true nature of the One Ring: One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. There was no such line in any verse; the closest thing would be the inscription on the Ring, which read "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them."
    • In-Universe Gollum and Bilbo both give edited accounts of how the ring came into their possession, subconsciously attempting to justify their claim over it. Gollum in particular has spent so long insisting the ring was his birthday present that it borders on a case of Believing Their Own Lies. The similarity in their stories was what first clued Gandalf in that it was no ordinary magic ring.
  • Unseen Evil: Sauron is mentioned often but never actually appears, deliberately, to heighten the sense of his unfathomable, mind-breakingly evil power. He is, however, given some description in supplemental material, and going by those it's better that we don't see what's really behind all this craziness.
  • Unstoppable Rage: After seeing Éowyn apparently dead on the Pelennor fields, Éomer takes up the Battle Cry of "Death! Death!" and he and his men become an unassailable force of vengeance for the rest of the battle.
  • Untranslated Catchphrase: Gimli's recurring Khudzul Battle Cry Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu! is translated in the appendices as "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!"
  • The Usual Adversaries - Orcs mainly, but the Dunlendings, Easterlings and Haradrim as well to a lesser extent.