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Free Study Guide for The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien


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The Lord of the Rings is set in Middle-earth, a fictional world created by Tolkien. Mystical creatures such as hobbits, orcs, trolls, ents, elves, wangs, wizards, dragons, dwarves and men inhabit middle-earth. Middle-earth is a magical world in which imagination rules, but it exists very much like "real" society, with political and economic problems and power struggles. Each of the races that inhabit this world have their own territories and are distinct from one another.

Part I is set in the Shire, a community of mostly hobbits. Bag End is in the Shire and is the home of Frodo, the hero. At the end of Part I, a group of travelling adventurers including Frodo leaves for Rivendell, an elf refuge. Part II takes place beyond the Shire in the rough worlds between Bag End and the citadel of Sarumon, the tower Orthanc at Isengard. It also takes place in the Tower of Sorcery, Minas Morgul, where the evil Sauron rules. Part III takes place in Mordor, a mountain range containing the volcano Orodruin. It also takes place on the road between Mordor and Bag End. The novel concludes just where it began, at Bag End.


Major Characters

Frodo Baggins

The adopted heir of Bilbo Baggins. Frodo is chosen to destroy the Ring, and in the course of this mission, he proves to be a brave and intelligent leader. It is because of Frodo that peace and happiness are once more restored to Middle-earth.

Sam Gamgee
The son of Ham Gamgee and Frodo’s inquisitive gardener. Sam turns out to be one of the crucial characters in the success of the quest. Not only does he accompany Frodo, he also risks his own life for Frodo. Sam is good-natured and content.

A wizard who guides the inhabitants of Middle-earth in their assault against Sauron. He is the most important advisor Frodo has in his fight against evil.

One of four Hobbits who accompany Frodo on his quest. He plays an important part in the quest, helping Eowyn to kill the lord of the Nazguls. He pledges life-long service to Theoden, King of the Mark, and helps restore order to the world.

Another hobbit who is indispensable to the quest. His impulsive and inquisitive nature makes him look into one of the seeing stones. By doing this he unknowingly saves Gandalf from being revealed to Sauron. He offers his services to Denethor, steward of Gondor, and his valiant fighting in the war earns him a knighthood.

A representative of the elves who goes on the quest.

A valiant dwarf and close friend of Legolas.

The elder and more loved son of Denethor. The power of the Ring corrupts him but he is redeemed in his death.

Known as Strider as well as Elessar, he is the rightful king and heir of Isildur of Gondor. He is a close friend to Gandalf and to Frodo, and is instrumental in destroying the ring and defeating Sarumon and Sauron.

The Dark Lord of Mordor. He is the principal source of evil in the novel and covets the Ring, by which he longs to conquer the world.

Also known as Smeagol. Gollum was once an ordinary hobbit, but he became obsessed with the Ring. He killed his best friend to get the Ring, then became evilly obsessed with getting the Ring back at all cost.

One of the wizards of the white council, he is corrupted by his own power and becomes a force of evil in the novel.

Bilbo Baggins
The principle hero of The Hobbit. He is Frodo’s mentor and benefactor.

Minor Characters

Valiant king of Rohan, he is killed by the Nazgul Lord in battle. He appoints Eomer, his nephew, as heir upon his death.

The brother of Eowyn and future king. Also, one of the officers of the Rohirrim.

The second son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. He is honest and just but his father grows angry with him for not bringing the Ring back to Gondor. Faramir, like is name, is fair-minded.

Steward of Gondor, father of Boromir and Faramir. Denethor is corrupted by lust for the Ring. He kills himself in madness and grief.

Queen of Lothlorien. She helps Frodo and his companions greatly by providing them with supplies throughout their journey.

An Elf who established Rivendell against Sauron. He is the father of Arwen and caretaker of Aragorn. He accompanies Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf and Galadriel into the Blessed Realm.

The granddaughter of Galadriel, sister to Elladan and Elrohir, daughter of Elrond. She gives up her immortality to wed Aragorn.

Tom Bombadil
The master of wood, water and hills. Tom Bombadil can take any shape or form, but is usually seen as a bear. He rescues the hobbits from the clutches of evil spirits called Barrow-wights and is generally a content and benevolent creature.

The Lord of the Eagles who he rescues Gandalf from Orthanc (and helped Bilbo in The Hobbit.

The oldest living thing on Middle-earth and the leader of the ents. He helps in the capture and defeat of Saruman.

Gandalf’s horse, who is loyal and as fast as the wind.

A wicked old spider who is even older than Sauron. She stings Frodo but is wounded badly by Sam.

Rose Cotton
Daughter of Former Cotton. She eventually marries Sam and bears him thirteen children, including Elanor.

Lotho Baggins
The self-appointed chief of Hobbiton and secret ally of Saruman. Wormtongue murders him in his sleep.

The evil adviser and counselor of King Theoden who is revealed as wicked. In the end he murders Saruman in an attempt to protect himself.

Barliman Butterbur
The Innkeeper of the Prancing Pony. He serves as a messenger between Gandalf and the hobbits.

Fatty Bolger
Frodo’s friend who stays behind at Crickhollow to provide a diversion for the Black Riders. Lotho imprisons him.

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