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  • Accidental Aesop: Tolkien's anti-war message conflicts rather badly to modern readers with Éowyn's position as an amazingly progressive Action Girl for the time, giving the impression that her ending up happily hanging up her sword is saying that women should Stay in the Kitchen. It does not help that she is the only human to explicitly do so (along with the Hobbits and Gandalf, who aren't), but is mitigated by the fact that in this action, she stops being a Death Seeker.
  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • From Chapter 3 of The Fellowship of the Ring: "Just why Mr. Frodo was selling his beautiful hole was even more debatable than the price."
    • And only a little while later, in "The Old Forest": "Tom put his mouth to the crack and began singing into it in a low voice. They could not catch the words, but evidently Merry was aroused."
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Many are prone to this.
    • Gollum: A nasty sort of character to begin with, he killed his friend for the Ring and escaped with it (so far this is canon), but resisted the Ring's attempts to completely subjugate him even as he was driven insane by it and actually trapped it away from Sauron's attempts to retrieve it, fighting its influence and his twisted impulses the whole time while aware that he was doomed to fail due to his envy.
    • The Orcs, helped by the fact that Tolkien was worried about the implications of the Always Chaotic Evil trope (that he detested) and apparently intended for them to be Proud Warrior Race Guys serving Sauron only because of his power over them. He had actually planned to have Frodo meet some helpful Orcs but hadn't figured out where to work their scene in. He would have introduced this part of them and expanded their role in future editions too, except...
    • Who was the real hero - Sam or Frodo? (Or both? Word of God favored Sam.)
    • A darker interpretation of Frodo's decision to take the Ring to Mordor - maybe partially motivated by a desire to be close to the Ring again.
    • Many readers just take it for granted that the Ringwraiths attack the inn at Bree and trash the hobbits' room personally, as both film versions have done, but it's not actually confirmed in the text if they did. Many argue that it was actually their (and/or Saruman's) minions/spies who did the legwork.
    • Similarly, Legolas's hair color is often taken for granted to be blond, since his father the Elvenking in The Hobbit has explicitly "golden" hair, and most visual depictions have gone with this. But some readers argue he is actually brunet, pointing to a scene where he shoots a Ringwraith and his fell beast out of the air, where "his head was dark". However, this takes place at night.
    • More notoriously, readers also disagree about whether the Balrog has physical wings or just an shadow aura that looks like wings, but both movies and many illustrations have gone with the former.
  • Applicability: Tolkien discussed this in the foreword to a later edition. He pointed out that a lot of the things people insisted were allegories of World War II (e.g. the Ring as the A-Bomb) were conceived of before the 40s and any similarity people find is due to hindsight, as well as detailing what the story would have been if he had actually written a WWII allegory. He disclaimed allegory and used the word applicability instead - allegory is an intention of the author, but applicability is free for the reader to determine.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Tom Bombadil big time. Whether you enjoy his portion of the book or find it unnecessary is completely up in the air.
    • Denethor, opinions vary as whether he was a pitiable character or a total Jerkass who deserved what he got. It doesn't help that he was less fleshed out in the movies and made into somewhat of a villain.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Early on in The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien briefly stops the action to describe a fox's train of thought, which runs something like this: "three hobbits, out at this hour, beneath a tree? I sense a disturbance in the fox." Tolkien concludes with: "and he was absolutely right, though he never found out any more about it." This was likely a holdover from the early drafts of the story, which were more in the vien of the Hobbit explaining the narrative aside.
  • Broken Base:
    • Whether the many songs and poems in the books are any good or not.
    • Whether the books are better than the movies or vice versa.
    • Some consider the end to be too long. Hence the whole subplot of the "Scouring of the Shire", taking place after Sauron is defeated, was dropped in the movies. Yet Tolkien wasn't eager to pawn off a pat "happy-ever-after" ending. Instead, the heroes' homecoming is just as important a part of the journey as it was in the old epics it emulates.
    • Whether or not Éowyn giving up her Action Girl and Glory Seeker tendencies to become a noble consort and healer is (even if unintentionally) a case of Stay in the Kitchen on the part of Tolkien is still hotly debated to this day.
    • To a lesser extent, whether or not her Pair the Spares with Faramir is a case of Strangled by the Red String. Tolkien justified it through personal knowledge of romances formed in wartime, which may seem hasty compared to peacetime but fueled by the increased stress of such periods.
  • Complete Monster: Sauron is a demonstration of how those who were once noble can fall to great evil. See his entry here.
  • Critical Backlash:
    • Did you know that if we had the internet in the 1950s, people would probably be describing this in the same way they do popular 21st century whipping boys like Twilight and the Inheritance Cycle? The Lord of the Rings didn't catch on until the 1960s.
    • Peter S. Beagle expressed it well in the foreword: "The '60s[...] were when the word progress lost its ancient holiness, and escape stopped being comically obscene."
  • Die for Our Ship: Poor, poor Arwen. Aragorn/Boromir, Aragorn/Legolas and Éowyn/Aragorn fans hate and bash her like there's no tomorrow. The fact that she was a late addition (Tolkien didn't create her until the third draft) really doesn't help her any, and her love story with Aragorn is in the appendices.
  • Even Better Sequel: The Hobbit is to this day considered a good fantasy story for younger audiences. The Lord of the Rings, partially thanks to its more mature tone and epic scope, is regarded as superior in every way, with far more dynamic and interesting characters and huge emotional stakes involved, in addition to its farther reaching lore and Worldbuilding.
  • Fair for Its Day: While Éowyn may not exactly measure up to modern standards of the Action Girl concept, she was still meant to reflect female valour. In one of his letters Tolkien wrote that she was neither an Amazon soldier nor a nursemaid, but "like many brave women, was capable of great military gallantry at a crisis". So she's probably best described not as a Xena-type warrior woman, but more like a female member of the Home Guard.note  Worth noting that in the third book she was supposed to stay at home to lead her people in the king's absence, and in case he and the direct heir (her elder brother) didn't come back - not merely because she was a girl. And that they decked her out in war gear for the occasion. Only her sneaking off with the war host anyway was secret.
  • Fandom-Enraging Misconception:
    • Many fans are grumpy about anyone spelling his surname "Tolkein" or pronouncing it "Tol-kin", "Tol-kyen" or "Tolky-yen" rather than "Tol-Keen". And even spelling "Middle-earth" as "Middle-Earth" in extreme cases.
    • Referring to The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy of novels, or even as one big novel. The author sometimes used "novel" and "trilogy" loosely to refer to the work as a whole, but also said that either term isn't quite right in a formal sense, which some fans get hung up on in order to respect his wishes. The work was first published in three parts so it is a trilogy, but it was one big book first Divided for Publication only for budget reasons, so it's not a trilogy in the sense of "three distinct but connected works", especially works created at different times. Then it's a work of fiction of substantial length so it is a novel, but it wasn't really intended to conform to the modern standards of the novel form so it's not a novel, and he called it a "heroic romance" instead. Thus some fans just shrug this issue off and stick to "book(s)".
    • Whenever someone mispronounces any proper name beginning with the letter C (always a hard-c or "k" sound, never a soft-c or "s" sound), e.g. Cirdan, Celeborn, Celebrimbor, etc.
    • It was never an option to simply have the Great Eagles of Manwë simply fly the One Ring to Mount Doom (a misconception enhanced by the films, but which wasn't directly explained in the original novel trilogy either). The Eagles are not a general-purpose taxi service to begin with (Gwaihir was paying back a debt when he rescued Gandalf from Orthanc), they would have been too obvious to successfully get into Mordor and would have been intercepted and killed by Sauron's forces, and nobody on Middle-earth was mentally strong enough to intentionally destroy the One Ring anyway, Eagles included: in the end it was destroyed by accident when Gollum put a foot wrong and fell in.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • It must be awkward looking at the title of The Two Towers after September 11, 2001. In fact, at least one person sued to block the release of the movie given that it was "obviously" referring to the events of 9/11. It was no doubt a surprise to that person that the book had been released in the 1950s.
    • The Rings of Power number at 1 (The One Ring), 9 (Men), 7 (Dwarves), and 3 (Elves) for each race. J. R. R. Tolkien himself would pass away at the year 1973.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • When Galadriel gives gifts to the members of the Fellowship, most of them get some pretty cool items. Sam, on the other hand, gets a box of dirt, leaving the reader to ask "is the box of dirt going to help?"
    • The lighthouse imagery of the Eye of Sauron gets stronger throughout the books, up to and including a red beam sweeping over the Hobbits as they climb Mount Doom. Then come the movies, and the Eye of Sauron as a giant evil lighthouse become very literal.
    • Hobbits don't consider a person a full adult until 33, and those between their teenage years and adulthood are referred to as "tweens". Then come the naughties and that term entered general use meaning the complete opposite.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient: The first book features Gandalf, the kindly, yet somewhat grouchy old wizard introduced in The Hobbit, dying at the hands of the Balrog. He comes back, of course, but holy shit!
  • Ho Yay:
    • Hi, meet the fandom. Read the books. Go on the Internet in general. Tolkien himself apparently stated that Sam and Frodo were not in love with each other, and Sam gets happily and heterosexually married anyway, and it didn't slow the fandom down a bit.
      "At that moment there was a knock on the door, and Sam came in. He ran to Frodo and took his left hand, awkwardly and shyly. He stroked it gently and then he blushed and turned hastily away."
    • Legolas and Gimli get their fair share, too.
      When King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea. We have heard that Legolas took Gimli Glóin's son because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The Entwives, who lived in what is now the Brown Lands, after a campaign by Sauron. Extends to the whole Ent race, because without the other sex, there will be no new Ents. (Word of God confirms that the Ents did "die out" after a fashion - the ones that weren't killed by something basically turned into trees.)
  • It Was His Sled: Boromir dies. Gandalf comes back. The Ring is destroyed. Aragorn gets crowned King of Gondor. Though arguably the last of these was heavily foreshadowed in the poem about him early in the story, and the third is almost a given in a story like this.
  • Iron Woobie: As a small boy, Frodo lost both of his parents in a tragic boating accident, and had to move cross-country when he was (luckily) Happily Adopted. As an adult, he leaves his comfortable, upper-class lifestyle for a lengthy, dangerous quest to take the Ring to Rivendell to protect his homeland, suspecting even then that he might not come back. He winds up going on another, even longer, more exhausting, and more dangerous quest to get rid of it. He has to deal with increasing problems, not least of which is an Artifact of Doom messing with his head. Yet he remains committed, even when he's so wounded and exhausted he can barely move. As reward for his troubles, he becomes the only hobbit of the four who can't recover from what happened to him and return to life in the Shire.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Gollum, in a Jekyll/Hyde split personality example: the Sméagol persona is a sniveling Woobie, while Gollum (his desire for the Ring given form) is pure Ax-Crazy Jerkass.
    • Less of a Jerkass or a Woobie than Gollum, but still qualifying, is Boromir. He has several bad ideas (and to be fair, some good ones) on how to conduct the quest and never quite understands that the Ring cannot be used for good until he actually tries to steal it. However, he has more immediate fears for his homeland than anyone else, as he's actually been on the front lines against Mordor and knows that his homeland will fall if there isn't some major intervention, so it's not surprising that the Ring finds him a willing listener.
    • The orcs as a race, arguably. First there's the way they were made, created from captured elves who were tortured until they broke and then transformed against their will. There's mention of rebels, and constant spying on each other, which suggests that a) there's a significant amount of orcs who don't actually want to work for Sauron, and b) the ones who do something about it come to horrible ends. But they can't get any help, because practically everybody else in Middle-earth hates and fears them after all they've done in Sauron's service. The only Men who don't have a (justified, by this point, to be fair) kill-on-sight mindset towards them are the Haradrim and Easterlings, who work for the same Big Bad who enslaves them. Small wonder they're violent and ruthless; they're not exactly swimming in options.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Ugluk is the leader of Saruman's fighting Uruk-Hai. A surprisingly intelligent and savvy Uruk who is wholly loyal to Saruman, Ugluk leads his "lads" to surround the Fellowship and capture the Hobbits while also causing the death of Boromir whom Ugluk is indicated to have delivered the mortal blow to. Keeping control of a divided force of orcs, Ugluk is able to keep ahead of the Rohirrim by his own tactics and seeks to deliver the Hobbits Merry and Pippin to his master in Isengard.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: The book is a humongous bestseller (often ranking as second bestselling novel of all time) and practically revered in the Fantasy fandom for being a trendsetter, but for the general audience, the actual content is best known through the film versions (and videogames).
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Frodo Lives!" and "Gandalf for President," both popular rallying cries from The '60s.
    • "Tolkien is Hobbit-forming." Also, anything having to do with Hobbits.
    • Political discourse: "Frodo failed, X has the ring" or "Y is like the One Ring, everyone wants it"... Strangely influential, perhaps because many poli-sci geeks see the Ring as an allegory for nuclear weapons or the corruption of tyranny.
    • "Another piece of Mordor," often seen scrawled on ugly building projects under construction.
    • "My prrreciousssss..."
    • You cannot pass.
    • It was this series that popularized the entire concept of telling a story in three parts.note . Ironically, Tolkien intended it to be published as one work and hated that he had to split it up.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • The endless suggestions that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War II, even after Tolkien himself shot the idea down in a later introduction to the book and bluntly noted his distaste for allegory, would also qualify.
    • The same goes for those who consider it an allegory for Christianity; Tolkien similarly Jossed the idea that Gandalf's death and rebirth as Gandalf the White was supposed to be an allegory for Jesus's Resurrection. This is borne out by the rest of the mythos, where it's revealed that Gandalf's "race"note  is basically a lesser Angel, and Tolkien did consider having the God figure appear as a mortal to drive out evil but ultimately discarded the idea.
    • Even the One Ring itself gets this. Way too many people have used replicas of this symbol of evil as wedding rings. The film using an actual wedding band didn't help.
    • Similarly, the Black Speech gets this, because people thought it sounded cool. Tolkien emphatically disagreed with this, hating the Black Speech so much that he deliberately used as little as possible (most notably in the inscription on the Ring itself and then in a few snippets of dialogue).
    • The book is popular with white supremacists due to its narrative of a good, pure coalition of western nations being threatened by insidious barbarians from the east. This ignores the fact that the Southrons, Easterlings, and Haradrim are explicitly established to not be inherently evil and had been indoctrinated and lied to by Sauron, that they in some cases had legitimate grievances over the Colonialist actions of Númenor, and that the book does not hesitate to point out that the Men under Sauron's sway always fought with valor (as opposed to the Orcs, who were unreliable and prone to routing if things started to look bad).
    • Burzum, which is an example of the previous two points (the band's name itself is in Black Speech and Varg Vikernes is well-known for his white supremacist ideas).
    • Éowyn settling down with Faramir does NOT equal to her either "just settling for second best" or becoming a boring housewife. Her and Faramir's relationship is a part of An Aesop of the book that peace, healing and nurturing are better than war and violence (especially when the war is over) with language evoking a Call to Agriculture. Éowyn befriends and eventually falls for a man who helps her realize that she was more of a Death Seeker than anything else, so ultimately she chooses life over death, and falls for someone who even as a Forest Ranger ordered his men never to kill without need. Also, becoming a ruling lady of a princedom is different from becoming a housewife: it's a very tough position. The fandom, and specially fangirls, insists that Eówyn was chickified and "reduced" to a Trophy Wife or a House Wife. Ironically for modern readers, shieldmaidens in actual Norse sagas hung up their weapons whenever they married ("maiden" refers to being an unmarried woman), so Éowyn is perfectly in line with her legendary forebears.
  • Moral Event Horizon: With all the evil that Saruman does, it's instructing his orcs to start denuding Fangorn forest in order to fuel his forges that causes him to cross it. As Treebeard says, ''A wizard should know better!" Ultimately, it's also what brings about Saruman's downfall.
  • Narm:
    • Some lines in the book come off as rather narmy, like "praise them with great praise" note  and "their joy was like swords".
    • The fact that Sauron specifically stole the black-haired horses of Rohan. Come on Sauron, are you trying to be stereotypical? In fact, he may have been trying to do just that. One point that Tolkien makes repeatedly in his works is that evil lacks creativity.
  • Newer Than They Think:
    • Orcs and Balrogs - you'll find them in many generic fantasy settings alongside mythological creatures, but The Lord of the Rings is the first (published) work to use them. "Orc" is an Anglicized Elvish word ("Orch" in Sindarin, which gives the wonderfully apropos plural "Yrch"), while Balrog is Sindarin for "powerful demon."
    • The word "orc" actually existed in Old English, but it was a vague term for a monster or demon ("ogre" is a related term, originally a cognate of "orc" in French) . Same goes for "ent", which was a generic term for a giant (the related word "eoten" is a cognate for the Norse "jotunn", all referring to giants). It was only after LOTR that they started being used to refer to very specific fantasy creatures.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • The idea of a ring that makes you invisible goes back to the Ring of Gyges from Plato's Republic. Considering how well-read Tolkien was, it's probably where he got the idea in the first place.
    • Prior to the popularization of the Middle-earth books, the term "elf" usually made people think of what we would now call Christmas Elves. There was usually little difference in most peoples' mind between elves and fairies, or other sprites. Imagining them as tall, beautiful beings is usually credited to Tolkien, but the first known usage of this type of elf was in Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter. Since these writings, however, all fantasy elves are presented this way. Incidentally, Tolkien's original name for elves was Gnomes. However, their similarity to dwarves in European folklore led to the name change.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Balrog is easily as famous as the other monsters from the books despite only appearing very briefly.
  • Only the Author Can Save Them Now: At the climax on Mount Doom, Frodo has ultimately fallen to The Corruption and will not choose to throw the ring into the cracks. So Gollum has to try for the Ring and fall in himself, taking the Ring with him. In this case, the trope fits in with the previously-established themes of the book: No one could resist the Ring's corruption long enough to complete the quest and the event that ultimately saved the Quest resulted from an apparently independent choice made earlier (the pity shown by Bilbo, Frodo, and finally Samwise).
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: A slew of imitators followed in Tolkien's wake, some more blatant than others. Still other writers used Tolkien homages, and almost every fantasy-based game has used Tolkien-esque elves, dwarves, Orcs, etc. Then there's Dragon Lance and Forgotten Realms, which draw heavily from the sort of worlds that Tolkien created. Add to that the number of times other writers are compared to Tolkien that by the time a reader gets to the Real Thing, they've seen it before...
  • Self-Fanservice: With a bit of justification in the case of the Maiar characters:
    • Olórin (Gandalf) is stated in The Silmarillion to have sometimes worn an Elf-like form while living in Aman. As you'd expect, this inspires a lot of fanart of him looking like a handsome young Ian McKellen.
    • Sauron assumed a "fair" form while deceiving the Elves of Eregion and the Númenoreans, which is of course a very popular subject, but the trope really kicks in when fanart showing his "black and hideous" form after the fall of Númenor looks like a Long Haired Prettyboy with an Evil Makeover. Truly hideous depictions are vanishingly hard to find.
  • Sequel Displacement: While The Hobbit is still considered a literary classic, it is The Lord of the Rings which is considered the defining work of High Fantasy.
  • Signature Scene:
    • The Fellowship of the Ring: The Balrog.
    • The Two Towers: Shelob (moved to the third movie).
    • The Return of the King: Mount Doom.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: It takes around half of The Fellowship of the Ring to properly start the quest of the Ring.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The faceoff between Gandalf and the Witch-King beneath the broken gate of Minas Tirith has all the makings of a truly EPIC showdown... and then the cavalry arrives (literally). The way it plays out is still awesome, but many a reader has wondered how that battle would have gone if it hadn't been interrupted.
  • Stock Parody Jokes:
    • Tolkien will spend whole pages describing forests, but can't tell us wether or not balrogs have wings.
    • The elves are stodgy and racist against humans. This is a bit of "Common Knowledge"; the book consistently depicts them as kind, jolly folk.
  • Values Dissonance: Since J. R. R. Tolkien was a man of his time in many respects and deeply drew on medieval European history and culture, some elements may not go over well with some modern readers. Though of course, the book was not intended to be an allegory or a manual about "how things should be done" in the real world, but a fantasy inspired by the distant past where people certainly didn't think like modern people do.
    • There are few significant roles for women and generally the fighters and commanders are all men. Even among the Elves, men are usually the warriors, while women are primarily shown as engaging in the healing arts. Other lore published after Tolkien's death suggests that the Elves draw a strict boundary between healers and warriors in general (with rare individuals such as Elrond who have been both), and it just happens that women tend to take on the healer role more often, and that elves considered males and females equals and there were no tasks or jobs considered improper for a male or a female.
    • When the Fellowship departs Rivendell, Arwen remains behind as Aragorn's prize for becoming king, and plays little real role in the story proper, as she is most prominent in the Appendices in Aragorn's backstory. Had the story been written today, Arwen would almost without question have become a member of the Fellowship herself and accompanied Aragorn. Additionally, the entire concept that Elrond can set conditions in the first place for Aragorn to have his daughter's hand in marriage is alien to many modern audiences, though this is both reflected in mythology and in Tolkien's own experiences regarding his wife. Incidentally, Arwen's character did not show up until the third draft (before that, Éowyn was going to be Aragorn's love interest), so that she has a very small role is understandable.
    • It's also expected that Éowyn's role in Edoras is to take care of her uncle, though she does ultimately achieve one of the greatest feats of arms in the entire book by slaying the Witch-King. On the other hand, Éowyn is also placed in command of the defenses of Edoras by Théoden when he rides out to attack Saruman, and later when the Rohirrim ride to answer Gondor's call for aid. This is no small charge, as it means that she is the one who will be responsible for the last defense of their people should Sauron be victorious. Unfortunately, Éowyn is unable to see it herself in her current state. It must also be noted that she complains bitterly about being forced to be her ailing uncle's caretaker when she was a warrior, and the main characters sympathize with her point of view.
    • Galadriel plays with this, as she's one of the most important leaders of the White Council, and though Celeborn officially rules Lothlórien, she holds a great deal of power herself. She leads the defense against the attack by Dol Guldur during the War of the Ring, and the counter-attack in which she personally throws down the tower. In fact, in The Silmarillion, it's made clear she left Valinor and came to Middle-earth precisely to have lands of her own to rule.
    • The relationship between Frodo and Sam can also raise eyebrows among modern readers living in a time and place where class distinctions have been much downplayed. Tolkien based their relationship on that between British officers and their loyal "batmen" from the First World War. Frodo is clearly the upper-class gentleman and Sam his servant, and that difference in social classes heavily affects their interactions in the early part of the story. On the other hand, Tolkien certainly expresses a high opinion of such "lowly" individuals, with Sam as perhaps the single most courageous character in the entire book, while making it quite clear that without Sam, the Quest would have failed.
    • Along with this, the frank displays of emotion between Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and Boromir, and many other male characters has created a tremendous Fountain of Memes regarding the story containing an excess of Ho Yay to modern audiences. Many modern readers aren't accustomed to seeing platonic relationships between men depicted with such outward showings of emotion.
    • In general the heroes tend to be nobles in some measure with few examples of commoners, most notably Samwise alone in the Fellowship. Frodo, Meriadoc, and Peregrin are members of highly-esteemed hobbit families and Merry and Pippin in particular eventually assume hereditary offices that place them in control of parts of the Shire (the Oldbuck and the Thane of the Tooks, respectively). Gimli is the son of one of Thorin Oakenshield's companions, and thus a prominent member of the Line of Durin, though not actually the heir. Legolas's father is the ruler of the elves in Mirkwood. Boromir is the son of the Steward of Gondor and Aragorn is the long-lost heir to its throne. Gandalf is a literal demigod. Other heroes from the nobility include Boromir's brother Faramir, and Éomer, Éowyn and their uncle King Théoden of Rohan. Besides Sam, other "common" people include the man-at-arms Beregond, and Ioreth the wise-woman and healer, both civilians of Gondor. Beregond helps save Faramir from the pyre, and Ioreth helps along Aragorn's recognition as king among the people of Gondor.
  • Values Resonance: Although it's fairly subtle, there's a good case for to be made that the text encourages diversity, internationalism, and openness to others while rejecting isolationism and xenophobia.
    • The Fellowship itself is in essence a Multinational Team with representatives from numerous races and places, all of whom have different specialties, points of view, etc. They are also helped by still other people who are not present in the Fellowship, (elves from Lorien, ents, Tom Bombadil, men from Rohan and Ghan-buri-Ghan's tribesmen, etc.) without whose help the quest would have certainly failed.
    • Every time someone from the "good guy races" acts in a xenophobic manner or follows isolationist orders against outsiders, it gets called out as stupid, counterproductive, and helping only Sauron.
    • At first glance the Shire seems like it's being held up as a paragon of Arcadia, but there's also a fair bit of criticism of the Shire: the Hobbits living there are quite small minded, ignorant, and provincial, which makes them easy marks for Saruman when he chooses to set up a tin pot dictatorship there. (With the most small minded, ignorant and provincial hobbits generally being the ones most likely to turn into Saruman's lackeys, ala Ted Sandyman.) When the Shire needs to be saved from Saruman, it's not the good old hobbits who are uncorrupted by foreign influences and the outside world who do the saving (or at least lead the charge) it's the ones who have experience in the outside world and have forever been changed by its influences and their experiences in it. When the Shire needs to be rebuilt after Saruman is defeated, it isn't made more beautiful and wonderful than it was before by going back to the way it was, (or by trying to reject outside influence and become more Shirish or properly hobbitish) but because Sam uses the gift of Lady Galadriel to introduce new trees and plants that had never been present in the Shire before. The story even goes so far as to have Gildor, an elf noble, rebuke the isolationism of the Hobbits, pointing out that however much hobbits try to isolate themselves in the Shire they are still part of a larger world that affects them regardless of how much they try to ignore it or remain separate from it. In the divided and increasingly xenophobic and isolationist days of the early 21st century, there is certainly some food for thought and resonance there.
      Frodo: I knew that danger lay ahead, of course; but I did not expect to meet it in our own Shire. Can't a hobbit walk from the Water to the River in peace?
      Gildor: But it is not your own Shire. Others dwelt here before hobbits were, and others shall dwell here when hobbits are no more. The wide world is about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.
    • Masculinity isn't defined solely through raw strength. Plenty of conventionally manly characters are shown crying, displaying physical affection with each other and can appreciate both nature and the arts when they're not fighting for noble causes.
  • Viewer Name Confusion: Some casual fans think that Legolas's surname is "Greenleaf." "Greenleaf" is simply an English translation of his first name (Sindarin laeg = "green" and golas = "collection of leaves").
  • Vindicated by History: The book wasn't really popular until the Vietnam War and then the reading public started seeing parallels between Vietnam and the War of the Ring.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?:
    • Just as the only evil in Lothlorien is evil that the visitor brings there, the only symbolism in Lord of the Rings is symbolism that the reader brings there. See Tolkien's quote under What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?.
    • Some critics have tried to find Christian symbolism in it (similar to C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, which is more openly Christian), with Frodo, Gandalf and/or Aragorn being classified as Messianic Archetypes, Boromir's death by arrows evoking St. Sebastian's martyrdom, or some such other connection. It is true that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, yet the only symbolism he admitted to was the Elven "energy bread" lembas being reminiscent of the Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion. In fact, as noted below, Lewis and Tolkien got into such big fights over how proper it was to put overt Christian allegory into fantastic fiction that it soured their friendship for some time.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: While its predecessor, The Hobbit, was geared towards a younger audience, this story was intentionally targeted towards adult readers due to Tolkien becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fantasy genre being used solely for children's stories. Nonetheless, until Peter Jackson's films came out it was often seen as a children's work and the Ralph Bakshi The Lord of the Rings and especially the Rankin/Bass The Return of the King are aimed at younger audiences.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
    • There are many, MANY interpretations of the book as a thinly veiled allegory of World War II. In particular, according to this view, Sauron is A Nazi by Any Other Name, and the whole Scouring of the Shire episode is a satire on Communism. Tolkien started to shoot down these interpretations when he was still alive, but when has Word of God ever stopped fans (or not-fans)? He famously responded to this in a forward to a later edition of LotR:
      I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
    • Tolkien's old buddy CS Lewis adored allegory, hence his Narnia books being nothing but allegory. They had such a falling out over allegory in Narnia (and other things Lewis did that pissed Tolkien off) that Tolkien and Lewis didn't speak for awhile. They agreed to disagree and got over it, buddies again, but it must have really rankled Tolkien to the end of his days when people saw allegory in The Lord of the Rings.
    • The first complete Russian translation of LotR, and still one of the best known, ran with the "Scouring as a parody of communism" idea by translating Lotho's titles as those once used by Stalin.
    • The Ring is a force of great power that is alluring to men, but cannot be controlled even if its power is harnessed and will twist you into a monster before it kills you. This is in no way a metaphor for nuclear power and weapons or radiation poisoning, the Ring's powers are completely literal.
    • Tolkien stated that if the books were an allegory of World War II, the Ring would have been used against Sauron at once, and Saruman would have made his own, turning the war into an Evil Versus Evil situation in which whatever side was victorious would have wiped out the Hobbits.
  • The Woobie: Faramir. For one, his father says straight out that he would have preferred that Faramir die. Then he essentially tells Faramir to go try and die anyway. This isn't as pronounced in the books as it is in the film, mind - Faramir pretty much goads his father into putting it in so many words (and their relationship wasn't nearly so antagonistic until the very last draft).

    Ralph Bakshi Animated Film 
  • Awesome Art: Sure, the character animation is inconsistent at best, but the backgrounds are breathtakingly gorgeous.
  • Broken Base: Either you'll hate the film and/or watch it to mock it, or you will be intrigued by and at least appreciative of what Ralph Bakshi made with all the limitations he had to deal with.
  • Can't Un-Hear It:
    • John Hurt as Aragorn.
    • Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum, who would reprise his role for the BBC Radio version a few years later (as would the voice for Boromir, Michael Graham Cox).
  • Continuity Lockout: A common complaint about this film, since it smushes the first two books into a mere two hours of runtime. To some viewers, this film is difficult to understand if you have not read the books first. For example, it doesn't explain why Aragorn's broken sword is important.
  • Creepy Awesome: The Orcs, in one of the few areas where Bakshi did something better (or at least scarier) than the Jackson films. They come across much less like the ugly goblin-dudes we're familiar with and more like the Legions of Hell, especially in the march to Helm's Deep.
  • Critical Research Failure: The prologue states that Sauron learned how to forge magic rings after the first 19 were already made, when in the books it was Sauron who instructed the elves into making them. This is a pretty glaring detail considering Sauron was originally apprentice to the Middle-Earth equivalent of Hephaestus.
  • Cult Classic: Following tradition with Bakshi's work, this film has gained a cult following after being released on home video.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: One of the reasons this film never got a sequel was that producers doubted that anybody would be willing to see a story split into two different movies. Fast-forward to present-day, and not only did Peter Jackson's films split up the story and still make billions, but the trend continued with The Hobbit film series (which also made a pretty penny). Bakshi was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Ho Yay: If you thought the Jackson films made Frodo and Sam look gay...
  • Nightmare Retardant:
    • While the orcs looks scary for the most part, don't get too close to their faces, or you'll see rotoscoped Halloween masks that will take away the scare factor.
    • Then there's the Balrog, which looks less like a demon of the ancient world and more like a mix between the Cowardly Lion and a butterfly. Or a gorilla with demon wings.
    • The Nazgul in the scene where the Hobbits hide under a tree. It limps like Igor and moans like an old man getting ice water poured on his nether regions in the middle of a yawn. It alone takes the pertinent scene straight from So Okay, It's Average to So Bad, It's Good.
  • Presumed Flop: The film is often written about as though it were a flop — and to be fair, it only covered half of the trilogy. But it was actually a financial success, earning more than $30 million on a mere $4 million budget. The only reason a sequel wasn't made was because the studio didn't think audiences would want to see "half a movie".
  • Retroactive Recognition: With many people likely now coming to the film after seeing the Jackson films, the parts he took direct inspiration from really stand out. Most notably, the scene of the hobbits hiding from a Nazgul under a tree was duplicated almost shot for shot. He also elected to end the Two Towers film in the exact same spot this film does in both storylines rather than where the book ends.
  • The Scrappy: The animated version of Samwise is universally accepted to be a terrible portrayal of the character. Instead of the loyal if simple and likeable Hobbit in the book or other adaptions, he's a whiny, obnoxious buffoon who acts like a child on top of having a silly design complete with a comically large nose and is given an annoying voice to go along with it. This is partly because the shortened film only hinted at Sam's Character Development; one might notice as Frodo gets weaker late in the film, Sam loses his buffoonish manner and starts becoming serious and assertive, but regardless, nobody liked this version of the character, and he remains one of the only things that is universally disliked about it.
  • Signature Scene: The nightmarish sequence of the Orcs marching on Helm's Deep like demons from Hell is one of the more talked about parts of the movie.
  • So Okay, It's Average: In relation to other adaptations. While clearly ambitious, it's also clearly a strained effort, so it doesn't match the visual highs (or lows) of the live-action trilogy or the non-visual highs of the BBC Radio series, and the less ambitious Rankin-Bass movies feel better put together despite being shorter and toned down.
  • Special Effects Failure: When Gandalf falls from the bridge, it looks more than anything like the animators didn't bother to actually animate him and instead just took his previous standing cell and turned/moved it slightly relative to the background. This is really obvious in the photobook, which chose to illustrate this with a frame that looks like one of those rub-on transfer books done by a kid who didn't quite get the transfer lined up properly.
  • Uncanny Valley: A rare 2D animated version. Since each cell was traced from live-action black and white film, the character's faces go through uncomfortable morphing to suit both the character and the actor, and the effect can be...off-putting.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?:
    • In fairness, Bakshi didn't have the benefit of the most famous Tolkien illustrators (Alan Lee and John Howe) cooperating with him unlike Jackson, nor had he as big a budget, but many of his choices are strange, like Boromir as a Horny Viking.
    • For some bizarre reason, Aragorn is depicted wearing a tunic without pants during the Prancing Pony scenes. It's distracting to say the least.
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    Peter Jackson Films 
  • Adorkable: Sam is a sweet-natured gardener who is endlessly supportive of his best friend and too shy to talk to the girl he likes (at least until the last film). His awkward adorableness accounts for his popularity among the fandom.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The relationship between Frodo and Sam is subject to Ho Yay interpretations just like in the books.
    • And just like with the books, fans debate whether Frodo was the real hero of the book or if the real hero was actually Sam, since Sam was able to resist the ring's influence despite being in close proximity to it as opposed to Frodo, who eventually did become corrupted by it, if only temporarily, after carrying it for so long. A third party argues that Sam and Frodo are both heroes and saying that either of them could have finished the quest on his own misses the point.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Saruman, who despite getting a more formidable showing with his magical powers than his book counterpart, is still undone by an act of villainy whose consequences he didn't consider, and he's killed in an even more abrupt manner than he was in the novel. In the theatrical release, he didn't even get that much: his death scene was cut entirely and he was not confronted at all; Gandalf was content to let him rot powerlessly in his tower.
  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: The success of the films has dramatically colored public perception of the work, since the films put their own dramatically different spin on various themes. The number of people who read the books for the first time prior to seeing the films or knowing everything that happens therein is pretty small. The studio struggled for a while to get The Hobbit off the ground, due in part to the pressure of making it conform to the existing films and turning it into a trilogy.
    • In particular, many people seem to have forgotten that The Hobbit was originally a children's story and not an action-adventure tale for grown-ups. Or, for that matter, that Tolkien came up with the Middle Earth mythology merely as a hobby and only gradually worked out the details of the entire saga.
    • Some specific aspects that have colored perception include Frodo's age. He was played by Elijah Wood, then 18, which was appropriate seeing as Frodo, at 33, was the Hobbit equivalent to 18. The problem is the movies leave out the 17-year time gap between Gandalf's leaving the Shire and returning to tell Frodo he must leave. Frodo in the novel was 50 for most of the story, not a child; although he still looks young due to possessing the One Ring, he's considerably more mature and educated than the other hobbits.
  • Award Snub:
  • Better on DVD: The extended editions of all three films included better depth to the films as well as scenes that are more faithful to the book.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The Watcher in the Water from Fellowship of the Ring. It shows up, attacks the Fellowship, gets shot in the face with an arrow, destroys the entrance to Moria behind them, and then it's never even given a passing mention afterwards.
    • The appearance of Minas Morgul in Return of the King. The only purpose of the place was to have Sauron's army depart from it to begin the march towards Minas Tirith, and what's actually inside the city is never seen. The beam into the sky that served no purpose other than perhaps as a warning to the people of Gondor that Mordor is on the move certainly didn't help.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Most, if not all, of the main cast. Some notable examples:
    • Sean Astin's distinctive accent for Samwise Gamgee is very similar to one of the most famous (extant) audio dramatizations of the book, done by BBC Radio in the 1980s, though Astin claims he wasn't aware of the audio version. Eerily, Sam is never actually written with such an accent in the books, making it all the weirder.
    • Sean Bean as Boromir. Despite or perhaps because of his distinctive Sheffield, Yorkshire accent (as in all of his roles) that no one else in the films has.
    • Christopher Lee was born to be the voice of Saruman. He even mentions this trope during a behind the scenes featurette.
    • Speaking of distinctive accents, Billy Boyd's Scottish tone as Pippin, Dominic Monaghan's slight Manchester twang as Merry and John Rhys-Davies' deep, guttural Welsh-Scottish mix as Gimli (and Treebeard).
    • Ian McKellen as Gandalf, to the extent that the thought of re-casting him in The Hobbit was deemed unthinkable.
    • And of course, Andy Serkis as Gollum.
  • "Common Knowledge": The Nazgûl are the Ringwraiths, not the giant dragon-like beasts they ride on in Two Towers onward. To a book reader this is obvious, as would it be to anyone who actually listened to Aragorn call them that in a single line in Fellowship, yet there were still numerous people who referred to the flying mounts as Nazgûl when the movie first came out. Part of this can be blamed on marketing, however, as in various other mediums such as toys, commercials, and video games the Nazgûl were only referred to as "Ringwraiths". Also Faramir shouting out "Nazgûl!" as the creatures fly over them at the end of Two Towers led people to believe he was just calling out the winged beast.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Consolation Award: While Return of the King finally won the Best Picture Oscar, many believe it won as proxy to the whole trilogy and not as its own film. It thus caused an Award Snub in turn to Mystic River, Lost in Translation, Seabiscuit or Master and Commander.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: In The Two Towers, the Uruk ring-leader decapitates a hungry orc who tries to eat Merry and Pippin. That's quite frightening, until he yells "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!" and the other orcs and uruks starts ripping the corpse apart within seconds.
  • Ending Fatigue:
    • Common complaint of the end of the third movie. It doesn't help that the screen fades out in about five places and really looks as though the film is ending there, only for it to reappear again. Slightly different cinematography may have made this a much less common complaint.
    • Discussed on the cast commentary track, where somebody says that the fade after "Here, at the end of all things" could be the end of the movie, albeit a very artsy and far-out ending.
    • Inverted for some fans of the original books, who actually claimed that the ending was too short due to the Scouring of the Shire being turned into a vision that Galadriel gives to Frodo in the first film.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Figwit, an unnamed elf played by Bret McKenzie, is probably the epitome of this trope. One scene, no lines, and an entire Wiki article. He returned in specially reshot scenes for the third movie precisely because of the fandom around him, and he gets a few lines.
    • The Haradrim leader in Return of the King only appears in around four scenes, is unnamed, and dies relatively quickly. Yet his Large Ham, Blood Knight personality, combined with the great costuming, and how Eomer takes him out, made him a surprisingly popular character among viewers.
  • Evil Is Cool: Heavy amounts of appeal to the villains, with their menacing weapons and armor. At its peak in the final film with Sauron's army looking badass, with huge menacing trolls in armor and giant War Elephants.
  • Franchise Original Sin: The things people complain about in The Hobbit trilogy like Padding, Slapstick, and Romantic Plot Tumors have their seeds here, showing up more and more as the trilogy progresses. Similarly, the awkward pacing was also very prevalent in the original theatrical cuts of both trilogies.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Dwarf-tossing being played for laughs, after Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage gave a Shout-Out to dwarf Martin Henderson, who was injured in such an event, and stirring up a controversy about similar events. It gets worse when you realize the films probably inspired such events (even more, at least).
  • Genius Bonus: A little bit of extra awesome for those versed in The Silmarillion. In the scene in the extended edition where Sam tells Frodo, "There's light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch," the star he sees is no ordinary star. That's the Star of Eärendil, the Evenstar - yeah, the one Arwen was named after. We would call it Venus. In Middle-Earth, though, it's an elf (Arwen's grandfather, no less,) on a flying ship with one of the three Silmarils, which contain the light of the Two Trees; holy light that predates the sun and moon. The Star of Eärendil was the source of the light contained in Galadriel's Phial.
  • Genre Turning Point: Along with the Harry Potter series, the LOTR trilogy proved that fantasy films didn't have to belong to cheesy B-movie fare and could be critically and commercially successful. A literal torrent of high-budget, CGI-heavy fantasy, sci-fi and superhero blockbusters followed in the next few years, and there seems to be no end to it. This extends to television, with Game of Thrones following in its footsteps and launching a slew of its own imitators, and being (in terms of cinematic production values) to the television landscape what LOTR was to the film landscape.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Gimli's Fantastic Racism against elves becomes this in light John Rhys-Davies' controversial stance on Islam and Brexit.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the 1950s, Tolkien was contacted by producers who wanted to make an animated adaptation (unconnected to Ralph Bakshi's effort, which happened after his death). He was sent a draft script to review. His response, included in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (#210), was filled with complaints that sound a lot like the ones some fans would make about the live-action trilogy, including "a preference for fights."
    • On the flip side, Tolkien was willing to accept changes if the financial benefits were satisfying enough - as he put it (letter #202): "Art or Cash: Either very profitable terms indeed; or absolute author's veto on objectionable features or alterations". While he greatly objected to some aspects, such as beaks and feathers on the Orcs, he actually suggested some changes that would be more acceptable. So he wasn't as unyielding as some fans can be.
    • Legolas riding the Uruk-hai shield like a surfboard in The Two Towers becomes a lot funnier when you learn that Tolkien originally intended for Bilbo to kill Smaug in the earliest drafts of The Hobbit. How? Bilbo would have infiltrated Smaug's lair, then stabbed him through the bare spot in his chest with Sting (which went so deep it vanished completely), and then ride a golden bowl like a surfboard on the massive amount of blood pouring out of Smaug's belly before triumphantly exiting the mountain.
    • Peter Jackson joking about giving Treebeard his own spin-off detective show in the commentary ("He solves crimes!... Very slowly".) Then in The Hobbit trilogy Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock were both cast. So alternate universe Bilbo and Smaug have three seasons of a detective show!
    • In The Two Towers, Treebeard commenting that Saruman now has a mind of metal. Christopher Lee would later work with metal bands like Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar, as well as release two Concept Albums of his own: Charlemagne.
    • After David Wenham was a victim of horrible Parental Favoritism as Faramir, in Iron Fist (2017) he's the one dishing out a case just as bad.
    • The original trilogy cast Brett MacKenzie from Flight of the Conchords as an elf. His co-collaborator Jemaine Clement would eventually play Sauron in The LEGO Batman Movie.
    • That infamous Nazgûl scream now sounds a bit like 4chan's REEEEEEE meme.
    • Galadriel's big speech about what would happen if she took control of the ring, since she's played by Cate Blanchett. Cate stars in Thor: Ragnarok as Hela - a death goddess who is indeed as "terrible as the dawn" and it takes a literal apocalypse to stop her.
    • Never trust an elf!note 
      • Even better knowing that Arwen and Tauriel went on to become heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Liv Tyler as Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk and Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp in Ant-Man and the Wasp. It would seem that many Middle Earth elves are destined to become a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they will only stay on the side of good if they had an on-screen Love Interest during these films or its prequel trilogy.
    • Hiroshi Yanaka, Japanese dub actor for Lord Celeborn, would go on to voice white-haired elven prince Nuada in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
    • In 2019, the first image of a black hole was released. It looked a great deal like the Eye of Sauron.
  • Ho Yay: Kind of inevitable given the gender ratio of the main cast.
    • Frodo and Sam, as usual. Actor Ian McKellen, who is gay, was interested in the close relationship between the two characters. He noted the attention to detail in the pair's close relationship from page to screen, such as when Sam grabs Frodo's hand after he awakens from unconsciousness. In fact, both pairs of hobbits can reasonably be called Heterosexual Life-Partners. It's worth noting that Sam is ironically the only hobbit to show interest in any specific woman in the films. In this regard, Merry and Pippin might be closer to this trope than Frodo and Sam. This is pushed Up to Eleven in the DVD cast commentaries for the three films (but especially The Two Towers), where all four hobbit actors play with this trope at one point or another.
    • The cast commentary even provided some for the actors. Sir Ian rather comes off as if he has a little crush on Elijah Wood. Everyone else sounds like they've got a crush on Sir Ian.
    • Aragorn/Legolas also get a lot of this. Actually, Aragorn/anyone do. Viggo kind of encourages it.
    • It really doesn't help that some scenes with just Aragorn and Legolas together (like after the battle of Helm's Deep) were originally supposed to be romantic scenes of Aragorn and Arwen.
    • And not only Legolas. Viggo kissed Billy Boyd offscreen. Really
  • Like You Would Really Do It: There are numerous instances when Jackson attempts to psych the audience into thinking a character is going to die - when even someone who has never read the book can tell, just by looking at the running time, "It's twenty minutes into movie one, the four main characters are not going to all die" or "No way Aragorn is going to be killed by an anonymous drop off a cliff." Although for those not familiar with the books, there are several heroic characters who die, subverting our modern traditions of hero-immortality.
  • Memetic Mutation: Has its own page.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • A lot of fans cheer for Éowyn because, unlike Arwen, she's an Action Girl who gets a lot of action and fighting, while Arwen does no fighting and her arc mainly revolves around her love for Aragorn. Modern fans tend to miss that Tolkien chose to write strong heroines whose dreams are portrayed as equally valid to one another, as well as that Arwen's choice is a difficult one and entirely her own and no less right than Éowyn's choice to fight (and they sometimes forget Éowyn retires from war once it's over and happily settles with Faramir). Also, they tend to not realize that Tolkien was heavily anti-war, and that Éowyn's fighting, and indeed the entire war, was meant to be seen in a negative, What a Senseless Waste of Human Life kind of way. There's a list of the major and minor dead after every large battle. Not to mention that Éowyn is a Death Seeker who is not fighting to show she's as strong as the guys, but to die in battle due to her severe depression.
    • Theoden's line, "You have no power here!" has become a memetic way to mock someone's real or perceived powerlessness, ignoring what happened next in the movie.
  • Mis-blamed: No, Frodo didn't send Sam away because he thought he was the one that ate all the Lembas. He turned him away because Sam offered to "share the load" and carry the Ring for a while after Gollum convinced Frodo that Sam might try taking the Ring. The fact that Frodo was also under the Ring's influence didn't help, either.
  • Narm Charm:
    • Many lines were perfectly fine originally, but have become Narm due to Memetic Mutation. One does not simply walk into Narm Charm.
    • "They're taking the Hobbits to Isengard!"note 
    • Just about every bonding scene between the Hobbits, Frodo and Sam, rely on the film earning audience respect for them beforehand.
    • Gollum again.
    • Boromir's anguished rant at no one in particular in Fellowship of the Ring, punctuated by falling into a pile of leaves. In any other film, utterly ridiculous. But Boromir's Tragic Hero status and Sean Bean's acting sell the hell out of it, and it's a near-Tear Jerker.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • While more of a Base-Breaking Character than a scrappy, Frodo is often accused and criticized for doing nothing but get his ass saved from the trouble he's in and abusing poor Sam. Many, however, tend to forget that he chose to bear the weight of the One Ring which is physically and mentally wearing him down throughout the entire trilogy, and that said "abuse" is due to the Ring warping his mind. The results would no doubt be the same if another person were to take up the task.
  • Older Than They Think:
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Figwit, aka "Frodo Is Great... Who Is That?", a random elf that got a sudden fanbase.
    • Sauron in his physical form in the prologue.
    • The Mouth of Sauron in the Return of the King Extended Edition.
    • The Easterlings in the Two Towers. In an army comprised mostly of ragged orcs, these highly disciplined, heavily armored human warriors marching to aid Sauron would certainly stand out. Unfortunately, after the scene of them marching into Mordor, they are never seen again.
  • Signature Line: Gandalf's "YOOOOOOUU! SHAAAALL NOT! PAAAAAAAASS!" is arguably the most remembered and most often quoted line out of the trilogy. Even if he only said it a couple times in one scene in the first movie.
  • Signature Scene: Oh, so many.
  • Special Effect Failure: These start to pop up to the trained eye after repeated viewings:
    • In the aerial shot where the ring is destroyed and the ground under the orcs surrounding the good guys is collapsing, the dust is obviously swirling on a plate behind the little CGI orcs, as it doesn't pass in front of them.
    • The montage of the Minas Tirth warning beacons being lit. Yes, it's a climactic moment in the film and the music and sweeping landscapes were breathtaking, but the fire effects were on the whole poorly done, with the Minas Tirith and Amon Din beacons being engulfed within five seconds with an obvious flame superimposed over the wood stacks, which just as obviously aren't burning at all. Plus, most of the montage has beacons alighting atop the very narrow peaks of towering, snow-covered and wind-blasted mountains (a task that would redefine being Reassigned to Antarctica), with nobody shown to be lighting them even in shots where the beacon is close enough to the screen where such details should be seen.
    • In fight scenes, it's quite common for people being "stabbed" to actually have the sword tucked under their arm, which is one of, if not the oldest tricks in the moviemaking book. It's always in the background of shots, but once you start to notice...
    • When Aragorn and Frodo are on the Collapsing Stairs of Khazad-Dum, it is...rather obvious that they are in front of a green screen, with a fan blowing at their hair. (Understandably, since they couldn't possibly be filmed on a collapsing 500-ton staircase...) This was a very rare case of a failure that was quite easily visible on first viewing.
    • Another obvious green screen: when Saruman descends the stairs at Orthanc the first time he's seen.
    • Not so much "special effects failure" as much as "director didn't catch it when filming" but in the scene in the first film when Aragorn runs to the dying Boromir (It's the next wide shot after he kills Lurtz, specifically) pay attention to the Uruk-Hai corpses. One of the extras raises his head to look around after Viggo moves past him.
    • When Legolas tries to shoot the torch bearing Orc during the battle of Helms Deep he is shooting his normal green and brown arrows but the arrows that connect are the white ones of Lorien.
    • When the Fellowship is running from the Orc army in Moria, there is a scene just after their escape from Balin's Mausoleum where the tiny, running figures are clearly CGI characters rather than the actors themselves. If you look at them, rather than the Orcs gathering around them, you can see their legs aren't bending as they run, and their heads are swiveling evenly, as if they were all made of Lego.
    • In the final movie, as Frodo is hanging over the edge in Mount Doom, Frodo's "missing finger" is just done by him bending his index finger to hide the rest of it from the camera. Occasionally it doesn't quite line up and the rest of his supposedly bit-off finger is clearly noticeable, most notably when he grabs Sam's hand.
    • Some of the methods used to depict the height differences between the main characters are more easily noticeable than others. In particular the very cheap method of rarely showing their faces at the same time, so you see Elijah wood and the back of a seven foot tall scale double dressed as Gandalf; then the camera cuts to a different angle and you see Ian Mckellen talking to a four-foot-tall scale double dressed as Frodo. Once it's pointed out to you that the character with their back to the camera isn't the same person who plays them when facing the camera, it becomes very hard not to notice the wigs and body proportion differences between cuts.
    • The Two Towers is hit the worst with this. While Gollum looks good, he is often poorly composited against the ground he is on, particularly during the final scene or when he is curled up after Faramir’s rangers beat him.
    • During Theoden’s epic charge at the end of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, take a closer look at the bridge and the mountains around the horses, and you will see graphics out of an early 2000s video game, with visible pixels on the bridge. Considering this is the only place anywhere in the movies with special effects this poor, it’s possible that this was just missed before it could be finished.
    • The fact that Minas Tirith and Edoras are scale models built in the middle of nowhere becomes really apparent when you notice, for example, the lack of a roadway leading to the city and the complete absence of farms. This is especially egregious in the case of Minas Tirith, a fantastical stand-in for Constantinople built on a barren steppe, somehow able to feed its hundreds of thousands. This is something of a recurring problem with the third film where Gondor is basically a land of empty steppes and its metropolis is decontextualized from the setting as a mere set piece. In the books, this is averted. The Pelennor Fields are composed of farmland and villages enclosed by the Rammas Echor.
  • Ugly Cute:
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Notably lessened as allusions to Aragorn's inherently "kingly" status and bearing (explicitly magical in the book's backstory, as mythology was wont to do; basically he's descended from Atlanteans, who the gods turned into supermen - the "Kings of Men" - but were mostly corrupted by Sauron), as well as a sense of great destiny looming over him since birth (most explicit in the "Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" in the Appendices), are greatly reduced in the movie. His major character arc is reversed as he has a personal reluctance to be king and fulfill his destiny. While in the book he didn't exactly go trumpeting that he was the rightful heir to everyone and he spent decades incognito working against Sauron in many lands in different guises, his acceptance of his heritage was never in doubt, and he had embraced the cause against Sauron even before he learned of it. His final "labor" or "quest", so to speak, involved the matter of the Ring and Sauron's final defeat, which would fortitutiously take him to the throne. Unknown but to a few, the labor was also out of love. While the book's account is steeped in classic mythological motifs, Peter Jackson's theories of "character growth" were at work here, as he felt that seeing Aragorn go from "zero to hero", so to speak, would be more realistic and acceptable to modern audiences.
      • This change also results in Aragorn's folk, the Rangers, being cut from the movies which thus give the impression he is the very Last of His Kind. By downplaying his determination to take up the duties of his ancestors, the movies gloss over his doing just that for decades already as the leader of the Rangers, let alone through his adventures in other lands (which do get a brief nod). Since they are Aragorn's kin, they are all also superhuman.
      • It's still present in Gandalf's speech to Pippin in Return of the King (given lines that were spoken by Denethor in throes of madness in the book), how the rule being given to "lesser people" caused Gondor fall to to ruin.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The trilogy was basically the Star Wars of its time, shattering the boundaries of visual effects.
  • The Woobie:
    • Frodo. Perhaps overly so, as a common criticism of the character (or at least Elijah Wood's portrayal thereof) is how he spends basically the entire trilogy with a pained expression on his face.
    • Faramir is hated by his own father- who even tells him that he wished his older brother Boromir had lived instead of him, and he loses said brother, whom he loved so dearly.
    • Treebeard. He witnesses Saruman- who once appreciated the trees- turn to evil, and loses several beloved tree friends that he knew since they were "nut and acorn" to Saruman and the orcs.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Some older LotR fans objected to Elijah Wood being cast as Frodo, as they believed that he looked too childlike. However, it can be justified, as the book specifically points out that the Ring (which he acquired just as he came of age) stopped Frodo's aging. The timeline is different to the book anyway. Frodo is 33 (the cusp of adulthood for a Hobbit) at Bilbo's party. In the book, seventeen years pass before he sets out on the adventure; the film is a bit vague but certainly implies that Frodo sets off far sooner, possibly as little as a few days later. Also, contrary to popular belief, Hobbits mature at the same rate as humans. The 33 thing was college professor Tolkien's droll way of commenting that Hobbits, as a sensible folk, didn't consider young people in their "irresponsible tweens" adults.
    • Most of the Elves are played by Pretty Boys and Angelic Beauties, which makes the rough, perpetually scowling Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond stick out like a sore thumb. Of course, Elrond is only half-elven, a fact the movies slough over.

    BBC Radio Adaptation 
  • Can't Un-Hear It:
    • Ian Holm as Frodo (yep), who is considered Truer to the Text than Elijah Wood's for being more mature and steely, while also sounding appropriately younger than he would as Bilbo decades later.
    • Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum, reprising his role from Bakshi's film a few years earlier (as did the voice for Boromir, Michael Graham Cox).
    • Bill Nighy as Samwise. Rather interestingly, Nighy is physically about as far from a hobbit as you can imagine, but being able to use just his voice fits perfectly.
    • Michael Hordern as Gandalf.
    • Robert Stephens as Aragorn.
  • Cult Classic: Already fondly regarded by older fans since 1981, it has been since rediscovered by some newer fans. It's appreciated for being Truer to the Text than the movies in hindsight, even successfully integrating most of the often-dismissed songs and poems. Bill Nighy's rendition of Sam's song in the Tower of Cirith Ungol ("In Western lands, beneath the Sun...") is often considered as a particular Tear Jerker.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Ian Holm's Frodo muses about Bilbo's saying that "it's a dangerous business, going out your door..." Two decades later, in the Jackson trilogy Ian Holm's voice is saying these lines again, but as Bilbo while Elijah Wood's Frodo muses about them.

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