A Tolkien Reading Order

Middle Earth Challenge

In light of doing the Middle Earth Challenge I inflicted upon myself. I’ve had a few people as me what would be the best order into which you should read these novels.
I have to say this is the best line I have found so far. Plus I love the fact that the author takes the time to explain why and personal side stories. So if you want to dive into the Middle Earth, this is a good stop to make a list of what you need to read.
Thank you Daniel Stride for making this list!!!

A Phuulish Fellow

The question of Tolkienian reading order has popped up in a couple of places recently. It’s a basic question, but a fair enough one too – fifteen years after the last Jackson Rings film came out, there is now an entire generation who know the story from that source, rather than the original. And, well, The Fall of Gondolin has come out since I offered my opinion on The History of Middle-earth series – my earlier advice to read Book of Lost Tales Volume II is now redundant.


My opinion, as far as the Middle-earth texts go:

  1. The Hobbit. – I myself read The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings, but while it is perfectly do-able, I think it’s a mistake. Reading The Hobbit first will give much more insight into certain aspects of Rings (such as the grief at the tomb of Balin), plus it’s less likely to…

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Middle Earth Challenge: The Dark Powers of Tolkien

Middle Earth Challenge

The Dark Powers of TolkienJ.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion are some of the greatest tales of good versus evil ever told. From the creation of Arda to the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has seen war and rebellion, devastation and loss, in which the powers of darkness emerged.

Here in his latest book, best-selling author and Tolkien expert David Day explores Tolkien’s portrayal of evil, and the sources that inspired his work: from myth, literature and history.


I found this book at a local Costco for $10.00. I wasn’t expecting groundbreaking, but it did look cool and filled with useful information into the Middle Earth. Most the darker side of Middle Earth that is. This is Book 5 in a series, here are the other ones if you are interested.

  • The Heroes of Tolkien
  • An Atlas of Tolkien
  • The Battles of Tolkien
  • The Hobbits of Tolkien

First and foremost, the art work is amazing and the maps/timeline are well planned out. That’s where it kinda ends really.. Where it does history of the characters, it’s rather basic. It spends more time focusing on the parallels between Christian icons and Middle Earth icons. As well the Norse and Geek mythology themes/icons. Which is well and good, but it comes off as Sunday school lesson and I found myself loosing interest after awhile.


I think it was my fault in the end really. I was hoping that there was more history and insight of Middle Earth and it’s people/monsters. But like I said before the art work is amazing and the timelines that are laid out are great. In the end I am happy I got it and it fits in with my collection of Tolkien books. I just had higher hopes for it.

Middle Earth Challenge: The Two Towers

Middle Earth Challenge

Two TowersOne Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Frodo and his Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in a battle in the Mines of Moria. And Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs. Now they continue the journey alone down the great River Anduin—alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

Book III:

BoromirThe death of Boromir…

Like so many before me, this was always heart breaking read and to watch for that matter. The way the book are split up the first chapter in The Two Towers is (Book III) The Departure of Boromir. At least with my copy of the book it is broken up into two parts: Book III & Book IV. The Book III part introduces the Riders of Rohan, Uruk-Hai, the great Treebread, The white Rider and the epic Battle of Helm’s Deep. Now keep in mind in the films they had added this chapter at the end of the movie. The whole visual of Boromir taking on all the orcs to protect the Hobbits, to only be pierced by many arrows and fall. While Boromir was still alive when Aragorn found him. The book states that there was at least 20+ Orcs lay slain around him and still holding on to his sword, even tho the blade was snapped into two, same thing with the Great Horn. Before Boromir died, he told Aragorn that Halflings were not dead. But the Orc had taken them.

“”Farewell , Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.”

“No!” Said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. “You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!”

Boromir smiled.”

Helm’s Deep..

Jumping ahead here a bit. The events that took place right before the Battle of Helm’s Deep are as follows:

  • Eomir and the Riders of Rohan destroy the Uruk-Hai army and Merry and Pippin escape unnoticed.
  • The Riders of Rohan inform Aragorn of the Uruk-Hais’ destruction.
  • Merry and Pippin have been taken under the protection of Treebeard the Ent.
  • At the last moment, Smeagol convinces Frodo to take a secret route into Mordor, as an alternative to the Black Gate.
  • Gandalf meets Aragorn in the Fangorn Forest and finds out that Merry and Pippin are safe.
  • With the help of Gandalf, Theoden banishes Wormtongue and is healed from sickness.
  • Feramir captures Frodo while he is traveling to the Crossroads.
  • Treebeard and the Ents lay seige on Isengard, destroying all exept the Orthanc.
  • Frodo convinces Feramir to let him leave to go and destroy the ring.

Gimli_9d7bc0_2011386On the second day of their journey to Isengard, a messenger who told them that Saruman had almost won met the group. Gandalf left them with the excuse of having an errand to run. When they reached Helm’s Deep, the battle was fierce and the Orcs seemed to be winning. Suddenly, Théoden and his men rode up from behind, trapping the Orcs. Gandalf appeared with a contingent of reinforcements, led by Erkenbrand. The Orcs fled into the nearby forest, but the Ents captured them and the battle was over as quickly as it had begun. Following after the the Battle of Heml’s Deep, Merry and Pippin rejoin Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli at Isengard. At which point Gandalf offers Saruman a chance to return to good, but Saruman declines and is stripped of his honor. Now in the film Saruman is killed and his staff is broken by Gandalf. He is pushed off the balcony by Grima and is impaled on one of his machines, a spiked wheel. In the novel Saruman dies after Wormtongue slashes his throat in the Shire at the end of the War of the Ring.

Book IV:

Frodo avoids being seen by the Nazgul at Minas Morgul, and begins to climb the staris of Cirith Ungol.

Sam and ShelobSam and Frodo encounter Shelob the Great Spider and offspring of Ungoliant. Shelob would later attack the Hobbits after Gollum had lead them to a trap. Frodo was poisoned by her venom, Sam then attacked Shelob using Sting. After stabing Shelob in the eye, cutting a leg off  and stabbing her under belly. Shelob would runaway, mostly do to the fact that no one had ever wounded her that badly. Now after looking some information as to what might have happened to Shelob. No one really know… If she is alive or dead after the battle with Sam. The only other time we hear anything about Shelob is when Sam puts on the One Ring and it is said Sam heard her “bubbling in her misery”.

But still, she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness.“—The Two Towers, “Shelob’s Lair”

Unlike in the books, Shelob makes her appearance in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, rather than The Two Towers, because if she had appeared in The Two Towers, there would be very little for Frodo and Sam to encounter in the final film. Also in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, she is visible in human form in the wraith-world. In the game, she has Celebrimbor’s ring for quite some time while giving Talion visions about the fate of Minas Ithil (Minas Morgul) and the Ringwraiths. It is also seen in the game that Shelob was working with Sauron during the period he was posing as Annatar, and was implied to be his lover before he betrayed her. The mobile version of Shadow of War classifies Shelob as a Maia, though J.R.R. Tolkien never specified her exact nature. (which I did not know about this. Thank you Tolkien Gateway.net)

Choices of Master Samwise…

Frodo is captured by orcs after being paralyzed by Shelob’s sting. Sam follows the guards who carry off the paralyzed Frodo. Upon hearing them mention that Shelob only devours living creatures, Sam is shocked to realize that his friend is alive. He chastises himself for taking the Ring for himself, unaware that he has actually saved the Ring and kept it from Sauron by taking it from Frodo. Sam realizes that Frodo is alive at the very moment when the guards enter Mordor, slamming the gates in Sam’s face. As The Two Towers ends, Sam is anguished by the thought that he and Frodo are separated.

Over all this is a great read and it makes you want to pick up the Return of the King right away to find out what happens next. Now the Book vs Film:

  • Film Opens With Gandalf’s Battle with the Balrog
  • Film: The film begins with a gorgeous panoramic view of the mountains, a voice is heard in the background yelling “The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass… ” Then the camera turns into the rocks nearby and smashes through them as Gandalf yells “Fly, you fools!” – we then see a repeat of the shot from Fellowship but instead of Gandalf falling away from the camera into the darkness, this time the camera races after him, following him down – and then we see a great battle between Gandalf and the Balrog.
  • Book: Gandalf merely discusses his battle with the Balrog several chapters into the book.
  • Treebeard Makes Short Work of Grishnakh
  • Film: After meeting Merry and Pippin, Treebeard “makes short work of Grishnakh,” who has pursued them into Fangorn forest.
  • Book: Grishnakh is killed by the Riders of Rohan, providing Merry and Pippin with an opportunity to escape into Fangorn, where they meet Treebeard.
  • Gandalf’s Resurrection Shown on Screen
  • Film: Gandalf is shown being resurrected as Gandalf the White while lying naked upon the snowy mountain-top after his battle with the Balrog.
  • Book: Gandalf merely discusses this event when he meets up with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.
  • Théoden Gives Wormtongue The Bum’s Rush
  • Théoden and Wormtongue go mano-a-manoFilm: After Gandalf heals Théoden and reveals Wormtongues treachery, Théoden tosses his old advisor down the stairs.
  • Book: Grim ran down the stairs without “assistance.”
  • Éowyn Leads Rohan Refugees To Helm’s Deep
  • Film: With Saruman’s forces destroying Rohan villages, Éowyn leads Rohan civilians to the refuge at Helm’s Deep. Aragorn accompanies her.
  • Book: Éowyn lead the Rohan civilians to the refuge of Dunharrow. None of the story’s other main characters accompanied her.
  • Boromir’s Death Discussed in Faramir’s Refuge
  • Henneth Annûn: The Window on the WestFilm: After being led blindfolded to Henneth Annûn, Frodo discusses Boromir’s death with Faramir.
  • Book: Frodo discusses Boromir’s death with Faramir before being taken to the refuge.

Middle Earth Challenge: The Fellowship of the Ring

Middle Earth Challenge

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

Now.. As much as I love this book. It does lag on for a bit, as it might feel like an eternity for the Fellowship to finally begin their journey. Now this is only the first half of the book really. It’s musty full of characters and their backstories, as well as the history of the Middle Earth. At least the events leading up to task at hand. Personally I rather enjoy reading about the history and backstories of the characters. But I can see why most people don’t like reading LOTR. Another thing to keep in mind is that LOTR book trilogy was never written as such. Tolkien wrote LOTR as one book. It was the publishing company that made the change and broke it up into 3 novels.

What is odd about this “first” book, most of the scenes aren’t presented in real time. Only to be told after the fact, sadly taken away any drama or thrill story. It doesn’t hurt the story by any means, just makes things move slowly. Now the way they spit the books up, cause this book to not have a ending per se. The Fellowship of the Ring serves as a history guide and backstory for the The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Jackson’s version incorporates the first chapter of  The Two Towers and shows its events in real time rather than flashback. It also makes them simultaneous with the Breaking of the Fellowship. This finale is played as a climactic battle. In the book Aragorn (and consequently the reader) misses the entire battle and is only told about it later by Legolas and Gimli. In the film he engages in a vicious combat with the Uruk-hai, including their leader, referred to as Lurtz in the script. In the book, Boromir is unable to tell Aragorn which hobbits were kidnapped by the orcs before he dies, and Aragorn deduces Frodo’s intentions when he notices that a boat is missing and Sam’s pack is gone. In the film, Aragorn and Frodo have a scene together in which Frodo’s intentions are explicitly stated.

Now in the Mines of Moria sequence was altered. In the book, following the defeat on the Caradhras road, Gandalf advocates the Moria road against the resistance of the rest of the Fellowship, not Gimli. Suggesting “there is a hope that Moria is still free…there is even a chance that Dwarves are there,” though no one seems to think this likely. Frodo proposes they take a company vote, but the discovery of Wargs on their trail forces them to accept Gandalf’s proposal. They only realize the Dwarves are all dead once they reach Balin’s tomb.

The Movie chose instead for Gandalf to resist the Moria plan as a foreshadowing device. Gandalf says to Gimli he would prefer not to enter Moria, and Saruman is shown to be aware of Gandalf’s hesitance, revealing an illustration of the Balrog in one of his books. The corpses of the dwarves are instantly shown as the Fellowship enter Moria. One detail that many critics commented upon is the fact that, in the novel, Pippin tosses a mere pebble into the well in Moria, then hear what sounds like a hammer tapping in the distance. In the film, he knocks an entire skeleton in the well, also dragging down a chain and bucket. We all know what happens next hahahah.

That is just a few examples in the differences between the movie and novel. Over all The Fellowship of the Ring is worth the read, it makes you become attached to the characters and give you an idea on how grand scale the world is.

The_Lord_of_the_Rings_(1978)Before I forget, there is the animation that was made. The film makes some deviations from the book, but overall follows Tolkien’s narrative quite closely. Of the adaptation process, Bakshi stated that elements of the story “had to be left out but nothing in the story was really altered.” The film greatly condenses Frodo’s journey from Bag End to Bree. Stop-overs at Farmer Maggot’s house, Frodo’s home in Buckland, and the house of the mysterious Tom Bombadil deep in the Old Forest are omitted. Maggot and his family and Bombadil and his wife Goldberry are thus all omitted, along with Fatty Bolger, a hobbit who accompanied Frodo at the beginning. According to Bakshi, the character of Tom Bombadil was “dropped” because “he didn’t move the story along.” The character Glorfindel is amalgamated with Legolas.

The film is a product of it’s time and the animation always jarred me. It’s a mix of the Disney’s The Black Cauldron and the first Heavy Metal movie. While I like some parts of it, most of it dragged on and on. Even tho they put the Fellowship and Two Towers together in one movie. There was to be a sequel, going more into the The Two Towers. But it never happened. The Director Bakshi said:

“I told them they can’t drop the Part One, because people are going to come in thinking they’ll see the whole film, and it’s not there. We had a huge fight, and they released it as Lord of the Rings. So when it came to the end, people were stunned in the theater, even worse than I ever realized they would be, because they were expecting to see the whole film. People keep telling me I never finished the film. And I keep saying, ‘That’s right!’

“Had it said ‘Part One,’ I think everyone would have respected it. But because it didn’t say ‘Part One,’ everyone came in expecting to see the entire three books, and that’s where the confusion comes in.”

Oddly enough the Rankin-Bass studio, who made the Hobbit 1977 animation. Came back and made the Return of the King as a sequel to the Hobbit not the Lord of the Rings. I shouldn’t say that, I mean it completes the story yes. But the animation styles are two completely different things. As the studio said:

“completing the story begun in Bakshi’s film by adapting the final novel, though the Rankin-Bass production offers no stylistic continuation from the earlier film.”

But I’ll get more into that another time.

Middle Earth Challenge: The Hobbit

Middle Earth Challenge

“Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless Dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo–alone and unaided–who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside.”

20200328_1216016288655749656073878.jpg“Where did you go to, if I may ask?’ said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along.
To look ahead,’ said he.
And what brought you back in the nick of time?’
Looking behind,’ said he.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

This is not the first time I’ve read the The Hobbit, nor will it be the last. I can’t tell you how many times I have read it over the years. Between Middle School, High School and even as a bedtime story for my kids. This goes for all the stories of the Middle Earth. Unlike my Star Trek Challenge, where they were completely new adventures to me. Where I have love for some and hatred for others haha. The Middle Earth as a whole has been a love of mine for sometime now. I’ve always wanted to do a reading train on the novels for awhile and now that I have free time on my hands. I think I will.

Now I will odiously be going over the books of Middle Earth in this challenge. But to add a twist at the end I wanted to compare them to the movies. I know there is a number of people who love the movies and others who hate them, there really is no middle ground with them. I for one love them, over all I’m just happy I get to live in a time where they were made and done well . Not slapped together like the D&D movie…….

Now the The Hobbit is a much lighter tale then the LOTR trilogy. A lot of I believe is do to how Hobbits live and their views on life. It’s funny because I’m having a hard time writing a review for the book and explain my joy in this adventure. At it’s core it is an adventure novel, dare I say one of the most charming adventure stories ever told? Oh sure there are a few parts where it gets long winded, but it’s not as bad as George R.R. Martin.

Nowadays People have the good fortune of seeing Peter Jackson’s films, but I and many folks of an earlier generation recall the 1977 animated film with voice talent from John Huston, Orson Bean and Richard Boone. This cartoon was my first introduction to Tolkien’s work and would later lead me to read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Thorin, the lead Dwarf and company leave from the Green Dragon, accompanied by the wizard Gandalf and employed Mr. Baggins as their lucky number 14 and as a burglar. And Bilbo’s unexpected adventure had begun.

Riddles in the Dark. After some fairly pedestrian undertakings Tolkien has Bilbo getting lost in a deep cave and introduces us to one of his strangely likeable villains, Gollum. Later readers would learn the deeper truths of his history, but Tolkien’s guests in this chapter see him as a eccentrically troubled scoundrel.

Songs. A reader in the twenty-first century, and especially one who has enjoyed the Jackson films, may discover that Tolkien’s original story was not as martial as the films. Jackson produced his Hobbit films to be less war-like than his LOTR films, but Tolkien’s prose contained a fair amount of poetry and song, casting his story. If you happen to find yourself a copy of this book, read it. It’s a charming novel that can stand by itself.

Now!! Lets get into the differences between the movies and the book:
i-feel-thinWow.. Okay after going over my notes I have realized this post will be come a small novel in itself. While there are a number of changes between the 1 book and the 3 movies hahaha. I feel that some had to be made.. A lot of people complained that there was to many changes or they just added random things in. When you read though the complains, they seem to be rather small. The Hobbit trilogy’s storyline draws on material from the appendices at the end of the Return of the King novel, especially Dwarven history and the White Council’s dealings with the Necromancer, who proves to be Sauron. As well as some elements of the The Silmarillion. While yes, there are a few parts in the movies where I found myself tilling my head going, “what?”. But I had a smile across my face and enjoyed the movies as a whole.

91VBFn334yL._RI_Now the 1977 animated production in most respects similar to the book. The criticism focused on adaptation issues, with unfamiliar style of artwork used by the Japanese-American co-production team. Tolkien fans questioned the appropriateness of repackaging the material as a family film for a very young audience. Douglas A. Anderson, a Tolkien scholar, called the adaptation “execrable” in his own introduction to the Annotated Hobbit, although he did not elaborate; and a few critics said it was confusing for those not already familiar with the plot. On the other hand, critics praised the adaptation as “excellent”, saying the work received “big points” for being “faithful to Tolkien’s story” and that the “vocal cast can’t be improved upon.” I myself loved this as a kid, the LOTR animated film left me going WTF? The Return of the King was good, from what I can remember.