Frodo Baggins, the Hobbit, inherits the "One Ring" of power from his uncle, Bilbo (who has just reached the ripe old age of eleventy-one). Now he finds out that the Ring has more than just the ability to make its wearer invisible. It is the one Ring that may rule all of Middle-Earth. A handy tool?
No, the Ring has a dark side. In the end, all that is created with it becomes dark and leads to evil. In the hands of an evil power such as Sauron it could turn all of the planet into a hell-hole. There is only one thing to do with the Ring, destroy it. To do so, Frodo must carry it over far distances to the very lair of his enemy, to the Cracks of Doom!
The Lord of the Rings is a quest unlike any other quest. It is not a search for something, it is not a conquest, it is an effort to give up ultimate power for the good of all.
On his quest, Frodo has powerful allies, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir. He has friends such as Merry and Pippin and Sam. He also has powerful enemies, Sauron, Saruman and Smeagol. Withall, his most important asset is his own indomitable will.
"The Lord of the Rings" sprang from the fertile mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a sort of "sequel" to his children's book, "The Hobbit". But this sequel was written for adults. It contains high drama, history and even moral sense.
It is a complex story, told in three volumes. Yet it hangs together wonderfully, because there is a vast history and mythology behind it. For the book is not based merely on "The Hobbit" which preceded it. Much of its depth comes from Tolkien's scholarship and interests.
Tolkien was an Oxford Professor. He studied ancient languages, mythology and literature. He became so interested in the subject of philology (study of language) that he created several of his own languages. He felt he needed to give the languages depth, so he created his own mythology (some of which was later published as The Silmarillion.
This work would later result in his monumental, "Lord of the Rings". There are hundreds of references in the books that stand alone, yet achieve deeper meaning when one understands the frame of reference. The result is a rich tapestry, that becomes fresher and deeper with every reading.
Tolkien once said that he wrote the "Lord of the Rings" first forward, then backward so that he could heavilly lace it with forwarnings and references.
Though he may not have intended to do so, Tolkien injected his own belief system into the "Lord of the Rings". He believed in destiny, yet he also believed in Free Will - that every person may choose his destiny. He also believed in the indomitable spirit of man, and its ability to persevere in spite of odds. His characters often struggle on, without hope of success, to find their efforts finally fruitful.
His characterizations are marvelous, we have heros and anti-heros. We have every aspect of conflict that a story teller can provide, man against man - as armies clash to determine the fate of continents; we have man against nature as the "Fellowship of the Ring" struggles to go over a resistant mountain pass. The ring itself highlights the struggle of man against himself as various characters are tempted by the power of the ring.
His imagination, backed by his mythological history, produces marvelous creatures, Ring wraiths, Balrogs, Orcs, Tom Bombadil and more. The names of the characters and places are drawn from ancient languages or his invented ones. "Theoden", for example, is old English for "Lord of the People." and "Cirith Ungol" means "Spider Pass". "Saruman" means "Crafty Old Man".
"The Lord of the Rings" is perhaps the greatest adventure story ever written. Tolkien, in his writings, once said that he was working to create a mythology for England. He has succeeded beyond his hopes.