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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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1. Explore the elements of the old traditions of
mythology, legends, and folklore that Tolkien drew on.
Then discuss his changes to make these traditions
acceptable to a modern audience.

2. Around the time that Tolkien was writing The
Lord of the Rings, he also wrote a lecture, "On
Fairy-stories," which can be found under "Tree and
Leaf" in The Tolkien Reader (New York: Ballantine
Books, 1966). Discuss the ideas he presents in that
lecture, and show how he applied them to The Lord
of the Rings.

3. Discuss the ways in which The Hobbit seems
designed for children. Compare The Hobbit to a
children's classic, such as The Wind in the Willows,
or to another book supposedly written for children
but also enjoyed by adults, such as Alice in

4. Although Tolkien isn't the first writer of fantasy
novels, he is often considered the "father of
fantasy." Review the history of the fantasy novel,
and examine Tolkien's contributions to the genre.

5. Discuss similarities between The Hobbit and
The Lord of the Rings. In what ways may The Lord
of the Rings be said to be an expanded version of
The Hobbit? In what ways is it more than just an
elaborated version of The Hobbit's plot?


1. Discuss elements of Christianity that appear in the
trilogy. Also discuss the belief of some readers that The
Lord of the Rings is a Christian allegory. Tell whether
or not you agree, and why.

2. While he was writing his books, Tolkien read
them aloud to a group of friends called the Inklings.
Two other authors of fantasy also belonged to the
Inklings, C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams. Pick a
fantasy novel by one of these authors and compare
it with Tolkien's work. How are they similar, and
how are they different? Point out where you think
the authors may have influenced each others' works.

3. In what ways did Tolkien's life influence his


1. Compare the characters of Frodo and Bilbo. Then
discuss the significance of the differences between the
two characters.

2. The different races in The Hobbit and The Lord
of the Rings each have their own "personalities."
Choose three of these races, and briefly describe
their characteristics. Be sure to include at least one
strength and one weakness for each race. Then
compare and contrast the three races.

3. Choose two of Tolkien's evil characters and
show how they fit into his concept of evil. Next,
discuss how Tolkien's ideas about evil can be
applied to events in the world today.

4. Compare and contrast the characters of Frodo
and Aragorn as they develop through the course of
The Lord of the Rings.

5. It has been commented that Tolkien's books are
written in such a way as to invite comparisons
between characters. Choose two characters and
show how Tolkien draws comparisons between
them. Discuss the implications of these

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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