I think we can all agree that The Lord of the Rings is a simply massive work of fiction. Between the three movies and the three books, there is so much material to study that one could easily waste away an entire lifetime trying to comprehend every little detail Tolkien included in his work. This isn’t helped by the fact that Peter Jackson decided to go ahead and splice in some extra details that were otherwise found only in Tolkien’s personal notes.
So, it’s quite easy to miss some of the finer details in Tolkien’s work. And, of course, this being Tolkien, it is not uncommon for said details to be somewhat questionable, if not even grim, at times.
For die-hard Tolkien fans, this is something completely normal. They are used to the storytelling techniques of the father of modern fantasy and there is very little that can shock them. They have experienced so many fights, affairs, betrayals, and heartbreaks that they almost expect them already.
However, if you have not delved beyond what The Lord of the Rings movies and books tell us, you might be surprised by the following list. So, without further ado, here are 20 dark facts you probably never knew about Tolkien’s work.
One last thing before we proceed, though. Beware of spoilers for many works related to Middle-earth. So, if you are planning to read some of the lesser-known books any time soon, tread carefully. We will be touching upon a lot of Tolkien’s work here.
21. Gandalf Could Be Worse Than Sauron
In The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo presents the One Ring to Gandalf, he refuses to touch it under any circumstances. It is obvious that the wizard is afraid of its corrupting power, and for good reason. Some might believe that he is scared of losing himself to the ring, but it is not his own life he is worried about. In fact, he is far more concerned about Middle-earth itself.
Gandalf is such a powerful being that if he gains possession of the One Ring, he could easily become far stronger than Sauron and use this newfound strength to overthrow him. However, that will not be good news, because the ring will corrupt him and make him just as evil as his predecessor, no matter does he like it or not.
20. Gandalf, Sauron, And The Balrog Belong To The Same Race
Looking at the three side by side, one would be hard-pressed to find a resemblance. However, it is a fact that Gandalf, Sauron, and the Balrog all belong to one and the same race – the Maiar.
Long before Middle-earth was a thing and Hobbits existed, there were some celestial beings. They served as the de facto gods of Tolkien’s universe. These beings, called Valar, were created by the first celestial – Ilúvatar – who is basically the creator of everything.
The Maiar, including Gandalf, Sauron, and the unnamed Balrog of Moria, were later created to help the Valar and Ilúvatar shape the world. However, one Valar became kind of power-hungry and rebelled against the rest.
19. Aragorn Married His Cousin
You probably remember that Aragorn became king of Arnor and Gondor and married the lovely Arwen, daughter of Elrond Half-elven. What you probably don’t know, however, is that Aragorn and Arwen are actually related, despite it being very distantly.
Now, pay attention, because this is not the easiest one to follow. Starting from Aragorn and going up his family tree, all the way to his sixty-first great-grandfather, we get to Elros Half-elven. If the name sounds familiar to you, this is because he is the twin brother of Elron, and therefore – Arwen’s uncle.
Now, we have to admit that the distance between Aragorn and Elros is quite large. Elros died about 6,000 years before Aragorn was even born. However, this doesn’t change the fact that both he and Arwen are familiar with their family tree. If we were them, we would at least stop and think for a moment before the wedding.
18. There Are People Buried Alive In Arda
Speaking of Aragorn and the Men of Númenor, they weren’t always as valiant and just as they were under Elessar’s rule. In fact, when the Valar created Númenor, they forbid the Men from traveling to the Undying Lands and seeking eternal life with the Valar.
Needless to say, this didn’t sound like such a sweet deal to the Men after a while, so they set sail towards what they thought would be eternal life among the Valar. However, the Valar were not ready to let that happen. So, in order to punish the ones that tried to reach the Undying Lands, they encased them under a mountain in the Undying Lands.
17. Tolkien’s Heaven Is Racist
While we’re on the subject of eternal life, let us talk about what happens after someone dies in Middle-earth. One would think that all the worthy folk would go to some nice place, where they can meet up with their long-lost friends and allies. And this is probably true, assuming your friends are of the same race as you.
It turns out that there is a different Heaven of sorts for almost every race. For example, the Elves travel to the Undying Lands, where they are reunited with the Valar, but no one else is permitted there.
However, the Valar did make exceptions at times. They allowed the ring bearers into the Undying Lands, as well as a single Dwarf, who just so happened to be the best friend of a special Elf. For his service to Middle-earth, Gimli is the only Dwarf to be permitted into the Undying Lands.
16. There Is Cannibalism In The Lord Of The Rings
This may sound a bit harsh at first and you probably don’t know if you should believe it. After all, the Orcs do eat other sentient species, but they are Orcs. It doesn’t really count, right?
You are correct, of course, but this is not what I meant this time. Actually, I was talking about a Man of Rohan who ate a Hobbit of the Shire.
Saruman’s tyrannical rule over The Shire was responsible for the misfortune of many a Hobbit, but one of them was even less lucky than the rest.
According to the books, Lotho Sackville-Baggins got murdered by Grima and was either buried at an unknown location, or eaten by him. Truly, a gruesome faith either way. Then again, Lotho was a spy for Saruman through the entire story, so maybe he got what he deserved.
15. Game Of Thrones Is Not That Bloody After All
In case you watch the Game of Thrones TV show or you like the books it is based on, you might think that the body count there is pretty high. After all, George Martin is known for killing off more characters than some of us have ever created. Yet, you might be surprised to find out that it’s The Return of the King that is the bloodiest movie in Hollywood history.
The official record stands at 836 on-screen deaths. That makes The Return of the King the movie with the highest body count in the movie industry. And that’s in just one movie of the trilogy. I can only imagine the number we would get to if we add the body count from Helm’s Deep.
14. The First Dragon Was Hideous
In The Hobbit trilogy of films, we see something magnificent – Smaug. A creature of power and beauty that instills respect when it takes flight above Dale. As much as we love to hate the villains of the stories, I believe we can all agree that Smaug is a truly gorgeous creature.
However, dragons were not like that when they first arrived in Middle-earth. In fact, Glaurung, the father of all dragons, was absolutely hideous. According to his description, he was not only ugly, but his underside was also “pale and wrinkled”. All kinds of filth would get caught in his slimy skin and his huge body gave off a horrific stench that suffocated every living thing around him.
13. Aragorn Was Not The First
Speaking of the father of dragons, we also have to mention the man who killed him – Turin Turambar. Back in the First Age, well before Frodo and the One Ring were a thing, Turin was the heir of a noble family. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances, he had to flee his home as a child and go live with the Elves. His mother, though, stayed behind.
Many years later, Turin met a beautiful young girl, they fell in love and they were even about to have a child. There was just one minor hitch, though. The girl was actually Turin’s sister, Nienor.
12. Turin Accidentally Killed An Elf…
Speaking of Turin, he was sort of a bad egg from the get-go. He often disobeyed the orders he was given and would openly rebel against some of them. However, his greatest mistake was that he created an enemy among the Elves in Doriath.
Saeros was a high councilor for the king, who had little love for Turin and mankind in general. So, whenever he had the chance, he made sure to provoke the young Turin. That one time, though, he went a bit too far.
Saeros angered Turin so much that he grabbed him, stripped him naked and made him run around the wilds like that. Long story short, Saeros tripped over and fell to his death, which resulted in Turin being exiled from Doriath.
11. … Twice
The second time Turin killed an Elf of Doriath was actually when he killed his best friend as well. Beleg, a close friend of Turin from Doriath, set out to find the exiled man and bring him home. He found him among some outlaws and the two proceeded to fight alongside each other for a while.
However, Turin was later captured by some Orcs, while Beleg was gravely wounded. After the Elf was able to recover from his wounds, he set off to rescue the man once more. He snuck up to the enemy camp in the middle of the night and proceeded to cut Turin’s bindings while the Orcs were not paying attention. However, Turin woke up and did not recognize Beleg. He wrestled the sword out of the Elf’s hands and stabbed him with it.
10. The Shire Nearly Got Destroyed
One detail, which the movies sadly omitted, is The Shire’s fate after the War of the Ring. Peter Jackson chose to simply cut to the future when everyone was calm and happy. However, Tolkien had something else in mind.
With the war over and the ring destroyed, the Hobbits had one final quest to complete – freeing The Shire from the tyrannical rule of a man called Sharkey. Actually, that was Saruman, who fled Isengard after convincing the Ents to trade them the keys to Orthanc for his life.
The Hobbits returned just in time to prevent Saruman from ruining their home completely. They sparked a small rebellion and overthrew his rule. In the end, Frodo was still about to spare Saruman, but Grima Wormtongue killed him in front of Bag End.
9. Grima Is More Important Than We Are Told
Speaking of Grima Wormtongue, he is actually responsible for more than Lotho’s death and Rohan’s decay. He is actually the reason for the Nazgul to look for Frodo in the first place.
In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien describes how Grima was caught by the Nazgul in the fields of Rohan. He was on his way from Edoras to Isengard, about to deliver some intel to his master Saruman.
During the following interrogation, Grima told the Nazgul about Saruman’s interest in the Shire and his plan to find the One Ring. Prior to this, the Nazgul were not familiar with The Shire’s location, but after they set Grima free, they rode towards Hobbiton, determined to get the ring.
8. Gollum Is Not That Bad After All
With the gruesome and disgusting entries in this list out of the way, let us focus on some lesser known facts about the development of The Lord of the Rings.
Did you know that Gollum was originally not the horrible wretched creature portrayed in Peter Jackson’ movies? Actually, in the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum was not as corrupted by the One Ring, because back then, Tolkien didn’t know that this is the ring of Sauron.
Therefore, in the first edition, Gollum is a random creature Bilbo comes across. In fact, in that version, Gollum gives up the ring willingly, after losing the game of riddles to Bilbo.
However, in order to make the character a better fit for The Lord of the Rings, the entire encounter Bilbo had with Gollum was re-written. This gave birth to the corrupted creature we see in modern adaptations of the story.
7. Aragorn Was A Hobbit Once
And while we’re on the subject of character development, let us visit the fan-favorite King of Gondor, Aragorn.
Aragorn has changed a lot since the original drafts. At first, he was a Hobbit, but a ranger still. Tolkien couldn’t quite decide on his real identity, but the nickname Trotter stuck through most of this character’s creation. My favourite draft on Trotter suggests that he is a long-lost relative of Bilbo’s, who helped Gandalf track down Gollum.
The nickname Trotter came from the sound his wooden shoes made when he walked. However, no one actually knew that he used to be a prisoner of Sauron and the so-called “shoes” were actually the prosthetic feet he was given after Gandalf rescued him.
6. Bilbo Does Not Travel Through Middle-earth
Well, technically, he does. He does travel through the same land that Frodo later journeys through and that is in fact Middle-earth. However, back when The Hobbit was published, that name was not used anywhere at all.
It is highly likely that Tolkien had not devised a name for his newly-created world yet. Therefore, Bilbo’s adventure takes place in an unnamed fantasy world, and not Middle-earth, the name of which appears for the first time well after The Hobbit’s first publication.
Yet, this is how art works sometimes. Tolkien was not the first to alter previously published works to better fit his later ideas, nor will he be the last. Also, it all worked out pretty good in the end, so who am I to judge?
5. Sauron Was Once A Cat
Those of you who had the chance to read Beren and Luthien might remember Tevildo, the Prince of Cats. But did you know that he almost became the enemy that created the One Ring?
The first drafts on Sauron refer to him with the same name – Tevildo. He is also called “Lord of the Cats” and it was him who was Morgoth’s first general. Later, his name was changed to Thu, who became Thu the Necromancer, instead of a feline. In the end, Thu transformed into Sauron and this is how the legend was born.
However, with the recent publication of Beren and Luthien, Christopher Tolkien reintroduced the character his father created so many years ago. Now, Tevildo is a completely separate character, but still Prince of Cats and servant of Melkor.
4. Saruman Fooled Everyone… For A While
A little-known fact is that Saruman was corrupted many, many years before Gandalf first suspected him.
The original White Wizard was sent by the Valar to oppose Sauron in Arda. He became the leader of both the wizards and the White Council. However, he devoted so much time to studying his enemy that all of that knowledge drove him mad.
Saruman became power-hungry and began searching for the One Ring long before anyone realized. In fact, it was even before Smeagol found it in the river.
The first time Gandalf began suspecting his former friend and ally was when the Grey told the White Council that Sauron is residing in Dol Guldur, yet Saruman simply shrugged the information off. He convinced the council that it is impossible for anyone to find the ring, as his own agents were searching for it at the same time.
3. The Dwarves Owe Everything To Sauron
We all know what the Dwarves are famous for – songs, drinks, and piles upon piles of gold. However, if it wasn’t for Sauron, they would have been left with the songs and drinks only.
Apparently, the Seven Rings that Celebrimbor forged for the Dwarves by Sauron’s order, are the sole reason for the vast treasures of Durin’s Folk. However, they are also the reason for their downfall.
The Seven had the power of giving great riches to their bearers. And despite the Dwarves resisting Sauron’s control, the Seven themselves were powerful enough to bring misfortune to their owners. They made them extremely greedy, so the Dwarves amassed enough treasures to attract dragons.
In the end, the dragons mostly won, with the majority of the riches lying in different ruins. Also, four of the seven rings were destroyed in dragon attacks, with the last three remaining in Sauron’s possession.
2. The Hobbit Is All About Gandalf’s Plans
It seems somewhat strange that Bilbo Baggins, a simple Hobbit from The Shire, would be chosen by an immortal wizard to go on a grand journey with thirteen Dwarves of royal blood, trying to reclaim their long-lost kingdom. It just sounds so outlandish, that it has to be a part of some bigger plan, right?
Actually, yes. Gandalf knew that Smaug was dangerous and Sauron will soon rise. With the Dark Lord gathering strength, it was a matter of time for the dragon to join him. But Gandalf already had the key and map to the Lonely Mountain.
So, the pieces fell together – Gandalf was going to convince Thorin to kill Smaug, but for him to succeed, he needed to make sure Thorin is stealthy. Dwarves are not usually that, but the key and map convinced Thorin to take the quiet route. As for Bilbo, he was merely dust in Thorin’s eyes; a professional burglar, who further emphasized the need for stealthiness.
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