J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is the best story that humankind has ever written. Okay, that’s more of an opinion than a fact, but with good reason! From inspiring Fantasy writers all over the globe to becoming adapted into one of the most stunningly created film trilogies of all time, The Lord of the Rings is a big contender, at the very least. Without Tolkien’s work, perhaps the Fantasy genre would not be what it is for us today.
It’s well accepted that Tolkien created the orc as we see it today among other things, compiled from a long list of real life folklore to create the iconic tropes of modern fantasy. This staple of the genre was able to inspire a whole generation of fantasy writers and game designers, leading to things such as the tabletop role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons to the famous writings of Terry Pratchett. But enough praise of Tolkien as a writer, what about this specific work? It’ a story about a group of heroes looking to thwart the return of an evil overlord that threatens to blanket the land in darkness. Even when it was written, it was a very stereotypical plot line. There’s just something that this work of art does so much better than all the rest. Firstly, this is the first iteration (I can think of anyway) of an “adventuring party” as we can relate to it today. A mix of races and abilities to get the best edge over the struggles that stand before a group makes this story seem cliché, but this was the start, and honestly, it does it well. The personalities presented by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are almost conflicting at times but create an interesting and effective dynamic. Speaking of Legolas, The Lord of the Rings made elves so much more interesting than what traditional folklore made them. Elves became what humanity should have been; wise, immortal, beautiful, resourceful, one with nature. I will go so far to say that it not only invented this, but perfected it. The characters that are presented under elven-kind: Elrond, Logolas, Galadriel, etc., are clearly a part of the same race but are personified so completely different and well that if it weren’t words on a page, they were believable beings.
So besides all the ground breaking firsts that The Lord of the Rings presents, it still has so much more to offer. The thing that is most intriguing about the story is the obvious influence of previous events that the characters constantly allude to, but are not explained in detail in the story. It makes you hungry for more, it makes Middle Earth a part of history rather than a story. The environment of Middle Earth is so beyond huge that it’s impossible to know everything about the story and drags you deeper and deeper into it. The quality of the work is what makes all the history and lore interesting. How Tolkien split the books into two separate adventures and kept the whole thing flowing still amazes me to this day. When Frodo and Sam split paths with the Fellowship of the Ring, the easier path is to tell the tale of Frodo and Sam. But no! The Lord of the Rings tells three stories at once: Frodo and Sam, the triumph of Merry and Pippin and the heroic deeds of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas. Amazing still, is that it all meets at the end in a way that wouldn’t be expected. Yes, we all know that the ring gets destroyed and Sauron’s spirit is banished forever, but the stand at the black gate, the battle of Minas Tirith, it’s all so unexpected and, well, epic!
Now, I’m going to include the films as part of the overall work of The Lord of the Rings because they’re near and dear to me. The books themselves do a fantastic job of creating the camaraderie of all the characters, some being closer to the others, but the films really hammers it home. If you can watch The Fellowship of the Ring and not cry, I freaking commend you. That film captures everything Tolkien invisioned about the book (minus Tom Bombadil, sad) and brought it to fruition. The bonds betweent the hobbits is so strong that you almost become a part of it, Boromir’s realization on his deathbed makes you proud to call Aragorn king, Gimli’s despair at Balin’s death strikes sadness into your heart. This brings me to something that also makes this a very amazing work: the fact that the main character is hidden the entire time the story is being told. Samwise Gamgee is clearly the main character by the end of Return of the King but until then he was just the ring bearer’s best friend. It’s a simply stunning plot twist that contributes to why it stands so high on my list. Though a classic struggle of good versus evil, the subject of Tom Bombadil becomes interesting and also makes this trilogy stand out. Tom Bombadil embodies the idea that not all that are capable of good or evil have a mind to act upon it. It’s something I see missing from so much work that has been done in modern day.
Perhaps one of the best parts of The Lord of the Rings is the fact that it’s so quotable. I’m not talking about one liners, I’m talking about sayings that apply to the world outside of fantasy. It’s what makes it such an emotional piece and so relatable, despite being completely fictional. Even now, my favorite quote in the world comes from Gandalf in the Mines of Moria when Frodo wishes he had never had the ring come to him: “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that was given to us.” Let the water works flow.
In summary, The Lord of the Rings is the best story ever told because:
- It defined a genre for and inspired decades of work in literature, games and music
- It retold a common story in the biggest way possible to capture the hearts and imagination of generation to come
- It’s still insanely relatable to real life, more so than any other work
… And completely unrelated to the books, the music in the films makes your heart and mind travel to a different world in such a way that it can’t even be put into words.
Stay Metal \m/