Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes

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The "Lord of the Rings" is hot!! The final installment of the trilogy, "The Return of the King," is expected to rake in over a billion dollars. The New York Film Critics Circle already picked it as the top film of the year. It's been called the "culmination of one of the most stunning achievements in the history of film." What can we learn about success from the author J.R.R. Tolkien and  producer Peter Jackson? Discuss some of these positive character traits with your children and students while their interest is highest! 

Resilience: Overcoming Adversity

J.R.R. Tolkien took the publishing world by storm. When the first volume of his Lord of the Rings first hit the book stores, The London Sunday Times said that from now on the world could be divided into two types of people: "those who have read The Lord of The Rings and those who are going to."  

Millions have since read Tolkien's works, such as The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Lord of the Rings. Thirty years after his death, his fan-base continues to grow, thanks to the epic big screen trilogy that  allows a new generation access to the fantastic world that he created. You might guess that such a brilliant author and professor at Oxford grew up in a stable home with plenty of money to fund his pursuits.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Tolkien's dad died when he was four, leaving his family in poverty. Ronald (JRR), his mom and brother moved in with grandparents until they found a place in the English countryside that was cheap enough to rent. At first, the local kids laughed at Ronald's accent and hair style, but eventually he made friends and fell in love with the regions' natural beauty. His mom loved him, taught him to read and write, and introduced him to foreign languages, music and art. But this delightful existence would last only four years.  School was four miles away and when he started, he had to walk most of the way. So his mom found a place in town that Tolkien described as "dreadful," and then moved yet again into a dwelling that was little better than a slum. 

Just when you'd think that things couldn't get worse, his mom was diagnosed with Diabetes. Since Insulin treatments were not yet available, she didn't last long, dying when Ronald was 13. This required his eighth move, this time to live with a widowed aunt who seriously lacked in the empathy department. One day Ronald walked into the kitchen to find a pile of ashes. It was all that remained of his beloved mothers' private letters and papers. Aunt Beatrice was getting rid of clutter and couldn't imagine why anyone would want to keep them. I can't imagine a less desirable person to live under. 

Sensing Ronald's misery, his guardian moved him to a boarding house  when he was 16. Although it was rather gloomy in appearance, it had a bright spot - a pretty fellow-orphan named Edith.  A friendship blossomed which turned into love. Yet, once again his happiness ended abruptly.  Their love affair was found out and his guardian ordered him to break it off, concentrate on his studies and cease communications with her until he was 21. Edith moved to a nearby home and soon to another city. Although this action was probably not deemed harsh in that day and culture, we can only imagine the anguish Ronald experienced.   

We can see why, as an elderly man, he would describe his childhood as "dreadful"  and spoke of his emotional wounds that never fully healed. 

Now, let's put ourselves in Ronald's place. He could have chosen either of two paths. He had every excuse in the world to turn to drinking, stealing, or anything to vent his rage toward God and the world for dealing  him such a bad hand of cards. But he chose a different path. Instead of envying kids with more stable childhoods, he was cheerful around people and thus made friends easily. Instead of giving into his private bouts of despair, he channeled his energies to an unusual passion he'd acquired from his mother - a love for words. He not only studied the Latin, Greek, French and German offered at his high school, but took it upon himself to study Anglo-Saxon, Spanish and Gothic.  He even began to invent his own languages. Rather than treating his deep emotional wounds by raging at those around him, he expressed his emotional highs and lows through his tales and myths. Rather than catching the next pretty girl on the rebound, he waited till he was 21, took a train to meet Edith, and asked her to marry him. She accepted and they got married three years later, living together for the next 55 years until her death. Rather than feeling cheated out of his childhood or whimpering about being a victim, he nurtured his imagination, developed his mind, went to college, perfected his writing style and became one of the most famous authors of the twentieth century.   

Don't we all get down about those tragedies and hard times that threaten to plunge us into despair? Next time I start feeling sorry for myself because of difficulties at home or at school, I want to think of young Ronald's trials, and how he used them to make something positive out of his life. What's bothering you this morning? Perhaps JRR Tolkien might say to you, "Don't despair. Hang in there. Life can get better. Keep your eyes on some worthy goals and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. One day it'll pay off big time."  


1 - What did Tolkien have going against him?
2 - How do you think his hard times might have actually helped his writing?
3 - How could life have turned out differently for Tolkien had he channeled his anguish in destructive ways?
4 - What aspects of your life make you feel gloomy about the future?
5 - What can we learn from Tolkien that gives us hope in spite of our problems?

(Written by Steve Miller, Legacy Educational Resources, Copyright 12/19/03, all rights reserved. Facts from JRR Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 2000, pp. 1-69, 105, 133)

Peter Jackson Uses Teamwork

Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, laments the fact that only the stars and the director get the glory for the making of great films. Rather, filmmaking is a team effort which succeeds or fails depending on the effort and skill of each member. 

In an interview about The Lord of the Rings, he said,

"The reality is that...all the different departments have been working on these films for as long as I did and were critically important in getting it made."   

" A DVD lets us show the army of people and skills coming together, and working hard. When you watch the interviews on the DVD, you can see the passion these people felt about their work, which is reflected in the spirit of the film."

(Peter Jackson: The Interview, Part I) at http://www.lordoftherings.net/index_editorials_peterjackson_fellowship.html  .)

Excellence: Attention to Detail

Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, showed painstaking diligence to make sure the details were realistic. For example, take a close look at Gollum, the computer-generated character. Even in close-ups he looks so real, so fully three dimensional, so alive. To Jackson, Gollum was more than a creature; he was an important cast member. To insure a superb performance, Jackson and his team of animators especially developed his eyes. According to Jackson,

" A lot of what makes a great performance is in an actor's eyes. We studied how eyes work, and we built the muscles around Gollum's eyes and face, so we can change the slightest nuance in his facial expressions and create those complex emotions."

(Peter Jackson: The Interview, Part I, at http://www.lordoftherings.net/index_editorials_peterjackson_fellowship.html  .)

Teamwork, Delegation

Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, knew that he needed to harness the creativity of others, not just rely on his own. For example, Andy Serkis was cast as the voice of Gollum, the computer generated creature. Rather than just hand Serkis a script to read, they treated him as a professional, asking for his input. According to Jackson, 

" We cast Andy Serkis originally as the voice of Gollum, but that was only the beginning. We told Andy to own the character, and tell us what Gollum should do and how he acts, just as Elijah is in charge of Frodo."

(Peter Jackson: The Interview, Part I, at http://www.lordoftherings.net/index_editorials_peterjackson_fellowship.html  .)

Purpose in Life

Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, doesn't just try to make blockbuster movies and rake in the cash. A greater vision drives his great efforts. In his own words,  

"I am interested in themes about friendship and self-sacrifice. This is a story of survival and courage, about a touching last stand that paved the way for the ascent of humankind."

(Found on the site: http://www.lordoftherings.net)


Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, gives us a great example of diligence in how he put together these movies. How much time do you think he spent on this movie? Six months? A year? Think again. In his own words, 

"Iíve spent seven years of my life on this project so far, pouring my heart into every single aspect of it. But I think thatís the least we owe to Tolkien and the legions of fans around the globe. They deserve our very best efforts."

His set his goal high, not wanting to merely "make a decent movie." Instead, he wanted not only a first-rate script, but also to visually " amaze, surprise and delight people who have never read the books or know anything about hobbits, dwarves and elves."

Here is some of what it took to pull off this mammoth undertaking: 

(Copyright December, 2003, Legacy Educational Resources. Sources: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003, p. L2; Taking on Tolkien: Peter Jackson Brings the Fantasy to Life on page  http://www.lordoftherings.net/index_filmmakers_int_pjack_tolkien.html ; http://www.iansmith.co.uk/lotr/weblogs/Sep15th2003PressKit.htm )

Eccentricity, Deciding What Matters

Peter Jackson, director of the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is his own person. At home and often at work, he wears no shoes. He saw no reason to change this habit at his Hollywood premier party. 

"The long curly black hair looks like it's never met a comb" 

(Written by Steve Miller. Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003, p. L1.)


Peter Jackson directed the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. How was he able to complete such a mammoth undertaking? According to actor Billy Boyd, who played the hobbit Pippin, "One of the main reasons the trilogy got made is that he can make decision after decision all day every day."

(Written by Steve Miller. Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003, p. L2.)


Peter Jackson directed the wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It took him three years of working long days to do the filming. During the last few months of filming, he felt he was drying up creatively. His solution? He watched great movies. "I wanted movies where the directing was flamboyant, where the directors are using every trick in the book and their imagination. I just watched films that are dynamic. And I'd think, 'OK, I know what I have to do now.'"

(Copyright Legacy Educational Resources, December, 2003. Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003, p. L2.)

Wisdom and Knowledge: Hang Around Wise People

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, hung out as a teenager with a group of fellow-students who were fascinated with literature. They called themselves first the "Tea Club" and later the "Barrovian Society," (or T.C.B.S.) named after a tea room at Barrow's Stores where they often met in a secluded compartment with a table for six. 

Who were these close friends?  Witty and a quick thinker, R.Q. Gilson loved Renaissance painting and excelled in scientific invention, drawing and design. Christopher Wiseman knew the natural sciences and music. He was also excellent in math and composed music. Geoffrey Smith was inducted partly because of his wit and partly because he excelled in English literature. He also wrote poetry, inspiring the T.C.B.S. in this regard. Tolkien was "versed in Germanic languages and philology, and had immersed himself thoroughly in Northern Writings." All had a "thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek literature." Wiseman would later say that they felt "four times the intellectual size," when they were together. 

What did they do together? Sometimes they got into mischief, like taking a tin of discarded fish and abandoning it strategically on the top of a library shelf to see how long it would take for someone to sniff it out. But more often they talked about their passionate learning. Tolkien 

"delighted his friends with recitations from Beowulf, the Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and recounted horrific episodes from the Norse Volsungasaga, with a passing jibe at Wagner whose interpretation of the myths he held in contempt." 

"Odd people," you might say. Wiseman admits that the T.C.B.S. was odd. Yet, such organized friendships among lovers of learning seem to come together quite often. Once students find something they're passionate about, they're naturally attracted to others who share that passion. It's simply fun to get together! Once together, they sharpen and inspire one another in interests that the rest of the student population may disdain.  

The influence on Tolkien was tremendous. A letter from Smith convinced him that he needed to begin writing his mythology. (p. 97) Tolkien met regularly with another such group called "The Inklings" when he taught at Oxford. Tolkien read his works to fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis. "Only from him did I ever get the idea that my "stuff" could be more than a private hobby." (p. 132) 

Do you have an interest? Why not seek out an organized club or a few individuals who share this interest? In a world of apathetic people, a small group of friends organized around a common interest may have more to do with your future success than anything else you do, by sharpening your skills and setting on fire your enthusiasm.  

(Written by Steve Miller, copyright December, 2003, all rights reserved. Source: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, paperback edition, 2000, pp. 53-55, 81-83, 93-97, 132. See also Carpenter's book, The Inklings, about the small club of writers at Oxford attended by both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.)

The Good of the Church (Priest who helped Tolkien)

By its very nature, the news tends to exclude the normal and expected in favor of the abnormal and unexpected.  Thus, when religious figures spend their days helping the weak and supporting the poor, these actions aren't news and thus don't tend to be reported. Yet, when a religious figure screws up royally, with sexual misconduct or money mismanagement, that IS news. Thus, newspapers and newscasts can give the impression that religious figures are all hypocrites, which  breeds unfair stereotypes and intolerance toward them.  

For this reason, I like to occasionally balance the news by reporting the everyday good that's going on in the name of religion. For example, I doubt that J.R.R. Tolkien could have produced such classics as The Lord of the Rings without the help of a kind priest.  You see, Tolkien's father died when he was three, leaving him, his mother and brother in poverty. Yet, a Catholic priest named Father Francis helped the children financially out of his private funds, so that they could attend a good school, where Tolkien would be encouraged in his love for literature and passion for languages. 

He didn't just give money. He gave of himself, visiting the family  regularly when Tolkien's mother suffered from diabetes. Tolkien's mother respected the kind priest so much that she appointed him guardian over her children. After her death when Tolkien was 13, Father Francis secured places for them to live, made up for the finances they lacked, and even took them on vacations during the summer. 

With the support of this kind priest and his religious mother, it's not surprising that Tolkien was highly committed to both God and his church throughout his life. So the next time you read one of Tolkien's works or see The Lord of the Rings in the Cinema, give some credit to Father Francis, without whom Tolkien may have never become a successful author. (Facts from JRR Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 2000, pp. 1-46)

Endurance and Excellence in Writing

Millions of people have read J.R.R. Tolkien's works, such as The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Lord of the Rings. Thirty years after his death, his fan-base continues to grow, thanks to the epic big screen trilogy that  allows a new generation access to the fantastic world that he created. 

Tolkien did much more than write books; he invented languages for the Elves and an entire mythology to go with them. (The University of Chicago has offered a course on the languages Tolkien invented.) According to biographer Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien's writings were a "grand and astonishing project with few parallels in the history of literature." (p. 100) 

Some might picture Tolkien waking up each morning, eating a leisurely breakfast and writing as he sits idyllically on a porch with pen and paper in hand and the beautiful countryside as a backdrop.  Actually, it wasn't so easy. He left home each morning to teach a full load of classes at Oxford and often tutored students after school.  Writing in his spare time, he took twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings. Those spare hours were often late at night after his wife and children had gone to bed. Sitting down at his desk, he'd find his dip pen and ink bottle and write until 1:30 or 2:00 AM.  When he typed out the manuscript for the publisher, he typed with two fingers. He'd never learned to type with all ten! (Copyright December, 2003, Legacy Educational Resources. Facts from JRR Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 2000, pp. 1-69, 105, 133; Movies Become a Class Act, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Monday, Dec. 29, 2003)