The Lord of the Rings continues the story of the ring of invisibility found by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit; it also draws on material published later in Tolkien’s mythology of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion. The Hobbit in tone and characterization resembles an extended fairy tale which children as well as adults can enjoy and understand. In this narrative Tolkien lays the groundwork for the ring motif in the trilogy, but as far as Bilbo and the reader are concerned the ring at this stage conveys no power other than that of invisibility. By what seems an accident Bilbo finds the ring and is able to use it to help his thirteen dwarf friends reclaim their ancestral treasure from the dragon Smaug. The previous owner of the ring, Gollum, and its creator, Sauron, try to recover the ring throughout the trilogy. The Silmarillion provides a more cosmic introduction to the trilogy, but it can probably be better appreciated by one who is already familiar with The Lord of The Rings.
In The Silmarillion Tolkien presents the myths and legends underlying the creation of Middle-earth and its inhabitants, especially the elves. Much of The Silmarillion is summarized in the appendix to the trilogy and in the many songs about the elves and about the ancestors of Elrond and Aragorn. The third volume of the trilogy, The Return of the King, tells of the reforging of bonds between the elven and human lines whose stories form the basis of The Silmarillion.
A video version of The Lord of The Rings (Thorn EMI Video, 1978) presents part of the story in animated cartoon. The film emphasizes the violence of battles, omitting the elements of the trilogy that make it significant as a work of literature, but it may help some students to follow Tolkien’s intricate plot. Directed by Ralph Bakshi and featuring the voices of Christopher Guard as Frodo, William Squire as Gandalf, Michael Scholes as Sam, John Hurt as Aragorn, and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum, the film disappoints many readers of the novels because it ends with only the second volume of the trilogy.