The Lord Of The Rings is the granddaddy of modern fantasy. Sure, there were earlier fantasy works that had inspired LOTR itself, like The Legends of King Arthur and Greek Mythology. But no other story set in the fantasy genre grabbed the public's consciousness and brought the genre into the mainstream the way J.R.R. Tolkien's saga of Middle Earth did.
Almost every successful present-day fantasy author has acknowledged the influence of Tolkien's writing on their own work, from George R.R. Martin to J.K. Rowling. With such a huge fanbase spread across the continents, a lot of time has been spent dissecting the world of Middle Earth and the characters that populate it. Tolkien's own notes on the past and future of the world he had created make for a fascinating study of how one mind plotted and planned for decades to create a believable world of elves and sorcerers.
So complete was the history and geography of Middle Earth that it became the default setting for future fantasy stories whether the authors acknowledged the similarities or not. Every game of Dungeons and Dragons and most other fantasy games are set in some version of Tolkien's world.
Of course, Tolkien was only one man. As much care as he showed in creating the world of Middle Earth, his work does not always stand up to the scrutiny of millions of fans poring over his writings every day. Here are 25 things in the LOTR novels that don't really make any sense:
25 No Security Detail Over Mount Doom?
The final stage of The Lord Of The Rings saga sees Frodo and Sam make their way to the top of Mount Doom at the heart of Mordor. The two hobbits manage to make their way to the innermost part of the mountain, which is the one place in all the land where the ring of power can be destroyed before Sauron becomes aware of their presence and sends his emissaries after them.
And that's just terrible management on Sauron's part.
Considering the importance of Mount Doom, shouldn't he have had some sort of army guarding the entrance to the mountain? Or maybe just put in an enchanted door that will only open for him?
24 The Eagles Are Not Coming
Perhaps the most hotly contested issue that fans have with the story is the absence of the giant Eagles for most of the fellowship's journey. After all, what could be more simple than hopping onto an army of eagles to take you right up to the mouth of Mount Doom?
The most popular defense against this theory is the argument that the Eagles were not a delivery service but a separate species that had no personal stake in the war of the rings or it's outcome. But if they were truly so indifferent, then why did they help Gandalf escape Saruman's tower? Or carry Sam and Frodo out of Mordor at the end of the story?
23 Gandalf's Baffling Code Of Conduct
Gandalf appears in the guise of an old man to the people of Middle Earth. But that is just a disguise. In reality, Gandalf is a literal angel sent to Earth by God to guide mankind towards progress. Despite being immensely powerful, second only to Sauron in terms of pure magical strength, Gandalf has sworn a strict oath not to use his powers to solve Middle Earth's problems but only give guidance.
But Gandalf seems to have no problem using his power when it's personally convenient to him. He fights the Balrog one on one in the first novel and joins the battle against the armies of Mordor in the final novel. He even takes on a Nazgul while he's at it. So why didn't he just keep using his powers all the time to make the task of destroying the ring and wiping out the armies of Mordor easier?
22 Can The Balrog Fly?
A question of anatomy that has dogged the fire demon Balrog is whether or not it can fly. The original novel carries a description of the Balrog's wings that can either be seen as literal or metaphorical.
And fans can't stop arguing over which one it is.
Even the movie chose to stay neutral on the topic. The Balrog we finally get to see appears to have a constantly changing physical shape, slipping in and out of shadows and melding into fire and smoke. We can see two wing-like appendages at the back, but it's unclear whether they're actual wings, and whether or not they can help the Balrog fly.
21 Gandalf Forgets About The Ring
This one is about the movies rather than the novels. When The Hobbit was being made, the writers had to find ways to work in as many references to Lord Of The Rings as possible, to keep fans of the original franchise hooked. One way they did this was by including a side-plot about Gandalf being on a quest to find the one ring that winds up in Bilbo's hands.
But that makes Gandalf look pretty dumb in Fellowship of the Ring. There it's shown that he spent months poring over books in distant lands trying to understand the true nature of the ring Bilbo left for Frodo. Shouldn't he have known right away that it was the one ring if he had been searching for it since The Hobbit?
20 No Bad Ring Effects On Bilbo?
The wearing of the ring was always a huge deal for Frodo. Twice while wearing the ring, Sauron was able to locate Frodo all the way from Mordor. Even the physical act of putting on the ring had a negative effect on Frodo, making him feel tired and weak, and almost physically ill.
Yet, Bilbo was able to put on the ring any number of times without any ill-effects. He never saw Sauron or felt like the ring was sucking the life out of him. Even though he was unaware of the ring's true nature, and took no precautions while wearing it, unlike Frodo.
19 The Ill-Equipped Fellowship
It's been repeatedly stated that Frodo was the only person who had the strength of mind to resist the lure of the ring. That is why he had to be the one to take the ring to Mordor and throw it into the mountain from whence it was wrought.
But did the fellowship created to assist him have to... be so bad?
Think about it. All through the story, the company finds itself overcome by creatures of dark magic who cannot be destroyed by swords alone. Yet, Gandalf was the only company member who knew how to deal with such threats. Wouldn't it have made more sense to send Frodo to Mordor on this most important mission in the company of wizards and elven lords who could use white magic to assist him?
18 Frodo Being An Ungrateful Idiot
Near the end of the journey to Mount Doom, Sam and Frodo have just about had it with the whole 'throw the ring into the fire to save middle Earth' schtick. They're tired, they're hungry, and the ring's influence has convinced Frodo that Sam is trying to steal it from him. So he orders Sam to go back home so Frodo can continue the journey to Mount Doom alone.
Really, Frodo? You're in the middle of Mordor, and you're expecting your faithful servant to hoof it back all the way to the Shire on his own? We get that the ring was corrupting Frodo's mind, but it still feels like a particularly petty thing to say considering Sam's years of faithful service and selfless nature.
17 Who Was The Eldest?
The people of Middle Earth are really, really old. They measure their lives in centuries rather than decades. That means that the oldest person in Middle Earth would be unimaginably old by our standards.
Problem is, we're not really sure who that person is.
Tom Bombadil is a mysterious but immensely powerful creature that lives in the forests near The Shire. He doesn't say much about his past but mentions that he is the eldest being in Middle Earth. Later, Elrond himself confirms Tom as the oldest and fatherless. And then we have Treebeard, the Ent. Gandalf claims that Treebeard is the oldest of all living things. So was Elrond telling the truth, or was Gandalf?
16 Knowledge Of The Palantir
In earlier editions of the novels, after Denethor reveals that he possesses a Palantir, Gandalf asserts that he had long been aware that Denethor had the enchanted stone in his keep. This was in direct contradiction to his earlier remarks to Pippin that he and the White Council had believed all the Palantirs had been destroyed long ago.
Later editions changed the lines of the text, so the latest editions state that Gandalf had only guessed that Denethor possessed a Palantir. Which quite frankly doesn't sound as impressive, and simply makes it look like Gandalf was unwilling to admit to his oversight.
15 Gimli Doesn't Remember His Own Slayings
After the company splits up during the events of The Two Towers, Gimli and Legolas get sidetracked from their mission to rescue Merry and Pippin when war comes calling for them. Upon arrival in Edoras, Gimli mentions that his ax has not been put to use destroying the enemy, and has touched nothing but firewood since Moria.
Except that Gimli had clearly forgotten the scores of Orcs that he and Legolas had dispatched at Amon Hen. That kind of forgetfulness is kind of... disturbing. You hear of people forgetting where they left the remote, but not how many enemies they've slaughtered past week.
14 Sauron Hates His Own Name
Aragorn mentions at one point that 'Sauron' means 'Abominable.' It is a name given to the Big Bad by his enemies. Sauron himself dislikes the name and does not allow it to be spoken in his presence. Kind of like how Voldemort doesn't like being called 'Tom Riddle', 'Tommy Boy', or 'The Noseless One.'
But then the messenger to Dain referred to his master as 'Lord Sauron, The Great'. There was also that other servant of Mordor who identified himself as 'The Mouth Of Sauron'. Way to honor your dark master, d-bags.
13 Forget About Keeping A Low Profile
While riding away from Isengard, Gandalf observes that Sauron's all-seeing eye will be keeping a close watch on Rohan. So it was important that the company keep a low profile while riding to Dunharrow. No more than three riders could be allowed to travel together.
That sensible precaution was then casually tossed out the window.
King Theoden stated he would travel in a group of twelve, and Gandalf just kind of shrugged and agreed. When the trip to Helm's Deep started, the number increased to twenty-six. From Helm's Deep to Dunharrow, the numbers swelled to five hundred.
12 Galadriel Doesn't Interfere. Then She Does.
Galadriel makes a big deal out of not wanting to influence the decisions of the fellowship one way or the other. She specifically tells them that she will not give them counsel. She later repeats a similar line to Frodo.
But then she sends a rhyme to Aragorn advising him on a very specific course of action. Likewise, she also sends a message to Legolas and Gimli advising them to join Aragorn in Rohan. Seems Galadriel's policy of non-counsel was only valid until she realized the fellowship was making a hash of things on their own.
11 Galadriel's Mind Reading Powers
It seems that Galadriel was capable of reading people's mind, even Sauron's. The mind of the Dark Lord who posed the greatest danger to Middle Earth in centuries was an open book to Galadriel. Yet, she did very little to take advantage of this ability to anticipate Sauron's moves to warn the fellowship about his plans.
And if reading people's minds was so easy for Galadriel, how come she did not become aware of Saruman's corruption some nineteen years earlier? She might have given Gandalf a heads up about Saruman turning evil before Gandalf entered his domain and was captured.
10 Who Keeps The Nine Rings?
'Nine rings given to mortal men' is how Gandalf describes the nine rings that are given to the Ringwraiths by Sauron. These rings possess great power on their own, and Gandalf specifically mentions in the council of Elrond that the rings are currently worn by the Nazgul.
Yet, when Frodo wears The One Ring on Weathertop during the attack of the Ringwraiths, he sees no rings on their fingers. This inconsistency was later revised in the movie adaptation, where the Ringwraiths can be clearly seen wearing their rings while descending upon Frodo.
9 Dwarves Made Fun Of Their Own Home?
The Mines of Moria are deep, treacherous caverns that once housed a great dwarf civilization that labored within the earth to mine precious metals and minerals. But Moria was originally not named so. The term 'Moria' means 'Black Chasm', and it was a negative nickname that stuck after the underground city was overrun by orcs.
But then if Moria was a form of curse directed at the city after the arrival of the orcs, why do we find the name carved into the Doors of Durin, which were made in the second age with the full consent of the dwarves? Would you call your home 'The Black Chasm' while sending out invites for your housewarming party?
8 Elrond Did Nothing
Elrond is a pretty big deal in the story. He's the king of the elves, a respected counsel for Gandalf, father of Lady Arwen, and mentor to Aragorn. But most significantly, Elrond was beside Isildur when they fought Sauron and defeated him during the first great war.
At the end of the war, Elrond implores Isildur to throw the ring into Mount Doom, where they had come for that express purpose.
Isildur refuses and claims the ring for himself.
And Elrond... just lets him. How difficult would it have been for Elrond to wrestle the ring away from Isildur and cast it into the lava himself? So much tragedy could have been averted that day if Elrond had acted quickly.
7 How About A Ringuard For The Ringbearer?
All through the story, Frodo's greatest challenge is an internal struggle with claiming the ring for himself. It is repeatedly emphasized that the Ring acts as a powerful corrupting force on anyone who puts it on their finger. Every time Frodo touches the ring or rolls it between his fingers, he's fighting the urge to become its slave.
So how about some sort of box to keep the ring in so it doesn't make contact with anyone's skin? It probably won't completely erase the ring's corrupting power, but it would make the task of carrying it around easier for Frodo.
6 Broadcasting The Password
Middle Earth may not have computers, but that didn't stop them from using passwords. The fellowship encounters a password-guarded door barricading the Mines of Moria against intruders. Gandalf tries long and hard to guess the password, before realizing it's actually written on the wall itself:
The dwarvish word for 'Friend.'
And that has to be the worst security system in all of Middle Earth. That's like writing the password to your mobile over the back of the mobile itself. We actually judge Gandalf for not guessing the password more quickly.
5 Gandalf Gets To Keep His Staff
When Gandalf goes to consult with his superior Saruman the White at the beginning, he realizes too late that Saruman has now turned evil. The white wizard keeps Gandalf imprisoned atop a white tower from which there is no escape... unless you're a wizard with a magical staff.
Fortunately, Saruman very kindly allowed Gandalf to keep his staff while being kept prisoner. It's like he'd forgotten what staffs can do, especially in the hands of a wizard who was very nearly his equal. Sure enough, Gandalf uses his staff to make his escape by summoning the eagles.
4 The Tom Bombadil Dues Ex Machina
For many lovers of Tolkien's work, the character of Tom Bombadil is the one thing wrong with an otherwise perfect narrative. The character is only mentioned in a couple of chapters, yet is apparently even more powerful than Gandalf and the Elven lords, and possibly Sauron himself. He helps out the hobbits that one time, and then disappears entirely from the narrative.
Such a way of writing the character has made many readers see him as nothing more than a Dues Ex Machina (a device to solve a problem with the story and mask poor writing). So many questions about Tom remain which were never answered satisfactorily, from his ridiculous levels of power to his complete absence from the war against Sauron.
3 Saruman The Not-So-Mighty?
Saruman is the leader of the council of which Gandalf is a lesser member. That's right, Saruman, in the beginning, is an even more powerful entity than Gandalf. Yet we never actually see Saruman display his raw power, even when it would have made way more sense if he had. Even the fight between Saruman and Gandalf from the movie wasn't a part of the novel.
While Gandalf gets plenty of scenes where he's fighting the Nazgul, fighting the Balrog and basically making anyone who isn't Sauron feel small and weak, Saruman is only ever shown scheming and plotting, raising an army, and trying without much success to bend the heroes to his will using only his voice. Not a very strong showing for the one-time most powerful wizard in all of Middle Earth.
2 The Trolls Refuse To Talk
The trolls that showed up in the Lord Of The Rings movies were fearsome creatures. Mute, hulking and savage, they destroyed entire battalions single-handed and were the most formidable part of Sauron's armies.
Then The Hobbit happened, and suddenly the Trolls were reduced to being comic relief.
The trolls that Bilbo encounters are a far cry from the savage creatures we saw in LOTR. Most intriguingly, the trolls in The Hobbit were able to speak to each other and other races in perfectly understandable, albeit heavily accented tones. Where had they been hiding this ability during the events of LOTR?
1 Aragorn Equal To Nine Ringwraiths?
We get that movies are a visual medium, and often times scenes will be added to films which weren't there in the books. But still, a scene where Aragorn takes on all nine ringwraiths and drives them away single-handedly does more to damage the credibility of the wraiths than it makes Aragorn look cool.
After all, the wraiths are mystical creatures that even Gandalf has trouble with. Watching Aragorn drive them all away using a sword and a piece of burning wood makes us wonder why Sauron didn't pick more powerful henchmen.