Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Tolkien's Tropes and Listings

Related Articles

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Franchise / Tolkien's Legendarium

Go on. Start humming it. You know you want to.

The term Legendarium*  is used as a collective term for all the High Fantasy works of J. R. R. Tolkien set in the world of Arda/Middle-earth. (To be exact, Middle-earth is a continent in the world Arda, but the former is also commonly used to refer to the whole universe.) The term is used mostly out of convenience, as Tolkien used it informally in private letters a few times but never really gave the entirety of his fictional universe or setting a proper "label" otherwise. So while not strictly a Fan Nickname, fans of his works, including academia, have gone on to use it more than he did.

The earliest drafts of the great stories of the legendarium were written around the time of World War I, and continued to grow from there on. Tolkien worked on the legendarium for most of his life, continually exploring it further, developing and changing it again and again.

The first book published, The Hobbit, actually wasn't intended as part of the legendarium, only to borrow some material. When Tolkien began writing the Hobbit-sequel that was to become The Lord of the Rings, he moved the story of both books into the Middle-earth setting. This fact is responsible for the seeming inconsistencies in tone and canon between The Hobbit and the other Middle-earth works; this is often mistaken for the world and story having matured up by those who do not know it existed before. He also made some minor changes in a later edition of The Hobbit to match better with The Lord of the Rings, while also providing an in-universe justification for the original discrepancies in the latter.

The published books are:

Only the first three were published during his lifetime; the rest were published posthumously by his son and literary executor Christopher, except The History of The Hobbit which is by John Rateliff, The Nature of Middle-earth by Carl F. Hostetter, and The Fall of Númenor by Brian Sibley. Of these, The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin consist of a single narrative edited together from Tolkien's texts, while the rest are collections of Tolkien's material (with commentaries and notes), ranging from complete narratives to early and new drafts, to essays.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981) includes some details and elaborations about the stories which are not found anywhere else, and Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien (1979) and J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (1995) contain numerous illustrations of Arda, although these books are not concerned solely with the Legendarium. Several of JRRT's linguistic texts which did not appear in The History of Middle-earth have been published in the periodicals Vinyar TengwarParma Eldalamberon, and Tyalië Tyelelliéva. Some of these were later collected in The Nature of Middle-earth.

Additionally, there are several titles used for collective bodies of stories (which are used in the fictional world, and also real-world terms to include all relevant material independently of published books), among them:

  • The Ainulindalë (the creation of the universe)
  • The Valaquenta (the Account of the Valar)
  • The (QuentaSilmarillion (the First Age and wars surrounding the Silmarils)
  • The Narn (i chîn Húrin) (the story of the Children of Húrin)
  • The Akallabêth (History and Downfall of Númenor in the Second Age)
  • The Red Book of Westmarch (Bilbo and Frodo's journeys, including supplementary material)

~  A very large section of Legendarium Tropes
will be found after the listings sections  ~


There have been adaptations in various media:

Audio Plays

  • The Lord of the Rings (1955-1956) - Twelve episodes adaptation for BBC Radio's Third Programm
  • The Hobbit (1968) - An adaptation for BBC Radio
  • The Lord of the Rings (1979) - Radio adaptation by Bernard Mayes, produced by The Mind's Eye for US National Public Radio.
    • The Hobbit (1979)
  • Der Hobbit (1980) - German radio series
  • The Lord of the Rings (1981) - An adaptation for BBC Radio
  • Hobit (1989) - Slovak radio series
  • Der Herr der Ringe (1991-1992) - German language radio adaptation
  • Pán prsteňov (2001-2003) - Slovak radio series

Comic Books

  • The Hobbit (1964-1965) - Published in Princess and Girl magazine in the United Kingdom.
  • The Lord of the Rings (1979-1981) - Based on the Ralph Bakshi animated adaptation, illustrated by Luis Bermejo. While available in several European countries and translated into their respective languages, it was never published in English.
  • The Hobbit (1989) - Three-issue series published by Eclipse Comics, adapted by Chuck Dixon, and illustrated by David T. Wenzel.



  • Tolkien Quest published by Iron Crown Enterprises using the QuestGame System.
    • Night of the Nazgûl (1985)
    • The Legend of Weathertop (1985)
  • Middle-earth Quest published by Iron Crown Enterprises using the QuestGame System.
    • Rescue in Mirkwood (1986)
    • A Spy In Isengard (1988)
    • Treason at Helm's Deep (1988)
    • Mines of Moria (1988)

Live-Action Television


Tabletop Games

  • Conquest of the Ring (1970)
  • The Battle of Helm's Deep (1974)
  • Siege of Barad-Dur (1975)
  • The Ringbearer (1975)
  • Quest of the Magic Ring (1975)
  • Battle of the Five Armies (1975)
  • The Siege of Minas Tirith (1975) - A board wargame published by Fact and Fantasy Games.
  • War of the Ring: The Game of Middle-earth (1976) - A board wargame published by Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  • Middle-earth Wargames Rules First Part: Mordor & the West (1976)
  • The Games of Middle-earth (1977) - Board wargames published by Simulations Publications, Inc.
    • Gondor: The Siege of Minas Tirith
    • Sauron
    • War of the Ring
  • There and Back Again (1977)
  • The Hobbit Game (1977)
  • The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game (1978)
  • The Hobbit: The Adventures of Bilbo in Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings (1978)
  • Riddle of the Ring (1982) - Tabletop game by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring (1983) - Tabletop game by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • The Lonely Mountain - Lair of Smaug the Dragon (1984) - Tabletop game by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • The Battle of Five Armies (1984) - Tabletop game by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • Middle-earth Role Playing (1984) - The Role-Playing Game by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • Ringgeister (1992)
  • The Hobbit Adventure Boardgame (1994) - Board game published by Queen Games in Europe and Iron Crown Enterprises in North America
  • Middle-earth Collectible Card Game (1995) - The CCG by Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • The Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck and Card Game (1997)
  • La Battaglia dei Cinque Eserciti (1997)
  • Lord of the Rings (2000) - A board game originally published in by Kosmos in Germany.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Search (2001)
  • The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game also known as The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game and Middle-earth: Strategy Battle game (2001) - The tabletop miniature wargame by Games Workshop that takes inspiration from both the Jackson films and the original books.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game (2001) - The CCG by Decipher.
  • The Hobbit: The Defeat of Smaug (2001)
  • Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten (2001)
  • The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game (2002) - The Role-Playing Game by Decipher.
  • Tri-Memo: The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers (2002)
  • El Señor de los Anillos: Las Dos Torres (2002)
  • Risk: The Lord of the Rings (2002) - A strategy game based on Risk.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Duel (2002)
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (2002)
  • Der Herr der Ringe: Die Zwei Türme (2002)
  • Lord of the Rings: Wizards' Duel (2003)
  • Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Combat Hex Tradeable Miniatures Game (2003)
  • Lord of the Rings: Battle of Destiny (2003)
  • Lord of the Rings Trivia Game (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings Labyrinth (2003) - A game based on Labyrinth.
  • Lord of the Rings (2003)
  • Der Herr der Ringe: Die Rückkehr des Königs (2003)
  • War of the Ring (2004) - A strategy board game published by Ares Games.
    • The Battle of Five Armies (2014)
    • Hunt for the Ring (2017)
  • Stratego: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (2004) - A game based on Stratego.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Board Game (2004)
  • The Lord of The Rings: Board Game (2007)
  • Middle-earth Quest (2009)
  • The Hobbit: Board Game (2010)
  • The One Ring / Adventures in Middle-earth (2011) - The tabletop RPGs by Cubicle 7. They're essentially the same game, but use different systems - The One Ring uses its own unique system, while Adventures in Middle-earth uses 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011) - The LCG by Fantasy Flight Games.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Complete Trilogy – Adventure Board Game (2012)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth (2012)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul (2012)
  • Der Hobbit: Eine unerwartete Reise – Das Spiel zum Film (2012)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Das Kartenspiel (2012)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Adventure Board Game (2012)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Board Game (2012)
  • The Hobbit Card Game (2012) - A trick-based card game featuring Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf, Smaug, and Bolg.
  • The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit Deck-Building Game (2012/2013) - An inter-compatible series of deck-builders by Cryptozoic Entertainment.
  • The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game (2013) - A dice-building game produced by Wiz Kids.
  • Der Hobbit: Smaugs Einöde (2013)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Journey to the Lonely Mountain Strategy Game (2013)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2013)
  • Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn (2013) - A story telling card game by Cubicle 7.
  • The Hobbit: Enchanted Gold (2014)
  • Love Letter: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies (2015) - Game based on Love Letter by Seiji Kanai.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Journey to Mordor (2015) - A press your luck dice game.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Quest to Mount Doom (2018) - A boardgame by Games Workshop.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (2019) - A boardgame by Fantasy Flight Games.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Party (2020) - A game from Weta Workshop set during the opening scenes of An Unexpected Journey.

Video games

Non-canonical works

Non-canonical works are additions to the legendarium by authors other than Tolkien, with various legal status. They are not considered proper Arda or Middle-earth lore by Tolkien scholars or buffs, but rather form their own alternate continuities.

  • Bored of the Rings - Parody of The Lord of the Rings written and published in 1969 by the staff of the Harvard University humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.
  • The Last Ringbearer - The novel by the Russian author Kirill Eskov, an alternative retelling of the Lord of the Rings.
  • Beyond the Dawn - The novel by the Ukrainian author Olga Chigirinskaya, set in the First Age of Arda.
  • Muddle Earth (Stewart) - Another parody of The Lord of the Rings by Paul Stewart.
  • The Soddit, a parody novel of The Hobbit by Adam Roberts that was marketed as a Spiritual Successor to Bored Of The Rings. It got a prequel called The Sellamillion that parodied The Silmarillion.

Tropes appearing in multiple books of the legendarium:

  • The Ageless: Elves are naturally immortal; death can come though physical injury, poison, or mental/psychological injury.
  • All There in the Manual: The Appendices made up nearly half of The Return of the King.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • Tolkien himself was troubled by the unfortunate implications of this trope. The problem is that races like the orcs were described in his published work as being almost genetically evil. As a believing and devout Catholic Tolkien realized the theological implications of this stance. Given the Catholic underpinnings of Arda's theology, Morgoth (the Big Bad) may have corrupted the souls of elves to become orcs, but even with all Morgoth could do, any living creature should still have a chance, however small, of redemption, repentance and forgiveness. Tolkien's characterization essentially denied the possibility of redemption for the orcs. It was in part this conflict that kept him from releasing any of the other parts of his Legendarium in his lifetime, as he could never quite reconcile this portion of his fantasy world with his deeply-held faith.
    • Even in The Lord of the Rings there are hints that Tolkien may have wavered on this, as Elrond's reflections on the Last Alliance states that of all beings in Middle-earth, only the Elves were undivided. This means not only that some Men and Dwarves fought on the side of Sauron, but also implies that there may have been Orcs and Trolls that fought against his forces (though, given the combative nature of Orcs, they may not have fought on the side of the Alliance per se, but used the conflict as an excuse to settle grievances between tribes).
  • Angels, Devils and Squid: The setting has angels called Ainur, devils in the form of fallen Ainur, and much stranger things that are neither.
    • Ungoliant is a colossal dark spider-like being of pure blight and destruction, said to come from the Void.
    • Gandalf briefly discusses "nameless things" that dwell deep underground. He doesn't go into much detail, but he mentions that they predate Sauron and are mysterious even to him.
    • Tom Bombadil may not seem like a "squid", but he still qualifies. There are suggestions he might be some kind of ancient elemental force, but his nature is vague and ambiguous (notwithstanding theories that he was a Maia who "went native"). Even Tolkien doesn't know what he is.
    • The Watcher in the water is commonly portrayed as a kraken-like creature, though Tolkien didn't describe the creature's attributes, save for having 21 tentacles. Because the Silmarillion notes that Morgoth's creatures universally shun water, it is likely that the Watcher, though malevolent, is not allied to Sauron.
  • Animal Espionage: Radagast's affinity with animals allows him to use them as his eyes and ears.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Many names and bynames. E.g.: Bilbo's (and later Frodo's) sword (technically dagger, but big enough for hobbits to be a short sword), Sting, got its name from the Giant Spiders Bilbo fought with it. Aragorn is given the name Strider by the Breelanders and later on uses it (translated into Elvish) as the name of his dynasty.
  • Artifact of Doom:
    • The One Ring and the Nine Rings are the kind of artifacts that take over your mind, turn you into a wraith, and usually make you Sauron's slave. Oh, and if Sauron ever gets the One Ring back he can take over the world.
    • The Seven Rings given to the Dwarves qualify to a lesser extent, causing them to fall to Greed. As for the Three Rings, which were made without Sauron's direct influence, they're not without danger, but only become a true example of the trope if subjugated under the One Ring.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Generally the great heroes and villains in the stories are the princes, lords, and other aristocrats. It's rare for a "common" person like Samwise to be a great hero.
  • Author Appeal:
    • In case you missed it, Tolkien likes linguistics, trees, music, and dark-haired grey-eyed women.
    • Tolkien's love of plants deserves a special mention, as academic botanists have examined the various descriptions of flora and its locations in different parts of the Legendarium and have found it to be highly accurate as regards real, non-magical plants. (Barring a couple of exceptions for artistic license.)
  • Author AvatarWord of God points to Beren and Faramir. In fact, "Beren" appears on Tolkien's tombstone under his real name. "Luthien" likewise appears on his wife's tombstone next to his.
  • Badass Book Worm: Examples include Faramir and Finrod Felagund.
  • Big Bad: Morgoth in the First Age, Sauron in the Second and Third.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tolkien put one at the end of nearly every single story he wrote. The Dark Lords and their servants are each defeated, but only after the loss or destruction of yet more of the ancient beauty of the world. The exceptions are the real Downer Endings, such as the one in The Children of Húrin.
    • In the Hobbit, Smaug's dead and the dwarves got their gold, but thousands have been killed in the destruction of Laketown and the Battle of the Five Armies.
    • In the Lord of the Rings, the Ring has been destroyed, but Frodo now has PTSD from all the things that he saw or experienced on his journey, the Elves all have to either leave Middle-earth or "diminish" from a proud race of Precursors into The Remnant, and ten of thousands of people have been killed in the war.
  • Black Speech: Sauron's Black Speech is the Trope Namer.
  • Bring News Back: As described in the extended account of the disaster of Gladden Fields.
  • Central Theme:
    • Throughout the Legendarium there is a continuing theme that being evil will end up destroying you, even if you started out with noble intentions. For example, Sauron began by wanting to bring order to the world and being one of the greatest Maia. However, by joining Morgoth to do so he became more ruthless and cruel, ending up becoming the evilest being after Morgoth. Similarly, Saruman starts out as the greatest of the Wizards, but after joining Sauron (with the intention of betraying him once he gets the ring), is cast from the Istari, loses most of his power, and ends up using his power to bully and oppress Hobbits For the Evulz.
    • The claim that "nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so." When Sam sees one of the Southrons who fought for Sauron die he wonders whether he was really evil and would have preferred to stay at home. Tolkien himself criticized the way that during the war civilians were being killed in the enemy countries and found the idea of judging whole races bad horrific.
  • Changing of the Guard: Between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
  • The Chosen People: The Atani — that is, humanity itself — are the Chosen People. Unlike other races such as elves and dwarves, the fates of Men are not bound to Arda until it ends, but through dying go beyond it. Therefore, they are said to have the ability to shape their destinies beyond the fate of the world, and were set apart by Eru for this purpose.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Both Sauron and Morgoth are fond of it. Orcs do it for entertainment.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: The five wizards who came to Middle-earth were Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, and the Blue Wizards Alatar and Pallando, who went farther east and never appeared in any proper Middle-earth stories.
  • Conlang: Tolkien stated that his interest in languages actually spawned Middle-earth as a place for them to exist. He created a world-full system of languages, language families and dialects (just read through them.), with an internal history, along with several scripts and modes in which they could be written. Although most of them are not actually fully detailed languages, several are more detailed, and at least the Elven languages Quenya and Sindarin are complete enough to be used, learned and spoken. The attempts by fan scholars and creators of adaptations (e.g. the Peter Jackson films) to extrapolate from and expand the existing material are usually referred to as Neo-(insert language name).
  • Common Tongue: Different lingua francas existed for different times and places:
    • In the westlands in the Second and Third Ages, the Common Speech was Westron, a mixed language developed from Mannish languages, mixing Adûnaic (Numenórean) and local Middle-earth languages. In the Third Age it was spoken by lots of peoples either as a mother tongue (e.g. hobbits and Breelanders) or as second language lingua franca. In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings it is substituted by English.
    • In Beleriand during the wars against Morgoth, Sindarin became the lingua franca between all Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Even the Orcs used a twisted, debased version of it.
  • Constructed World: Arda is a sort of border case: It's a highly detailed example of worldbuilding, yet it's intended to be our own world's prehistory rather than a separate universe.
  • The Corruption: Because the Rings of Power were made with Sauron's methods, who in turn made the One Ring to rule them all, wearing the Rings exposes one to his power; the Nine Kings of Men were eroded completely and became the Nazgul. The One Ring itself, which contained a measure of Sauron's power, was the ruin of Isildur and Smeagol and came close to corrupting Bilbo and Frodo. Sam bore the ring briefly and seemed unaffected, but at the end of his life he was taken across the Sea for healing. No one who touched the Ring was unscathed.
  • Creation Myth: The Ainulindalë (aka "The Music (literally "singing") of the Ainur"). The Ainur are basically the equivalent of the angels in Christianity.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Often characters and the narrative refer back to the broad well of Middle-earth's history and culture, but don't necessarily explain those for the ignorant reader. Some of these references are explained through other material, while some are left entirely unexplained.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Well, they usually are; there are exceptions.
  • Destructive Saviour:
    • The people of Beleriand are relentlessly harried and killed by the evil Morgoth. The desperate remnant calls upon the Valar — extremely powerful gods or angels. The Valar come in force, launch the "War of Wrath" [1] and utterly defeat Morgoth — but in the process, nearly all of Beleriand is flooded and sinks under the sea, only a few mountain tops surviving as small islands. And what would become the Elven kingdom of Lindon, which was originally the eastern edge of Beleriand (the Blue Mountains being the border of Beleriand).
    • The setting also has a Ragnarok equivalent in which the evil of Morgoth will be entirely purged from Middle-earth. Fortunately or not it will also be The End of the World as We Know It as all of Eä will be remade.
  • Direct Line to the Author:
    • The core of the story (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) exist In-Universe as Bilbo's diary and Frodo's account of his adventures, and is called the Red Book of Westmarch. This original Red Book was copied into an edition called The Thain's Book, to which someone added a few volumes of "Translations from the Elvish" by Bilbo. This was copied in turn by one "Findegil, the King's Writer" — the date this copy was made is the last dated event in the book, so we can presume Tolkien "discovered and translated" this copy.
      The story begins with Bilbo's homely descriptions of the hobbit characters' interaction, gradually changes to Frodo's scholarly and slightly purple narration throughout most of the rest of the book, and ending with Sam's down-to-earth, humble (but still educated) language towards the end — the second half of Book Six, detailing the Scouring and renewal of the Shire, is directly implied to have been written by Sam ("I have finished. The last few pages are for you").
    • In The Book of Lost Tales, the earliest version of The Silmarillion, the stories are told via a Framing Device of elves telling them to an Anglo-Saxon mariner, Ælfwine, who stumbled upon the Elvish island Tol Eressëa, who then writes them down and takes them back to England. His book is found long afterwards in the ruins of an old house and ends up with Tolkien who, being a Professor of Old English, translates it. The two contradict each other because the "Anglo-Saxon mariner" framing story gives us one version of events (The Book of Lost Tales), while Bilbo is the editor/author of Translations from the Elvish (aka The Silmarillion), a different account of the same myths.
  • Divine Birds: The Top God Manwë is associated with air and sometimes sends birds with tidings, particularly eagles. In The Hobbit, the eagles are independent yet prefer the forces of good over evil, whereas in The Lord of the Rings they are specifically ordered to help Gandalf and appear as Divine Intervention in the climax to help the army of Men and to rescue Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom.
  • DoorstopperThe Lord of the Rings is a simply enormous book. The History of Middle-earth, if taken together, is much longer.
  • Dragons Are Demonic: Dragons, such as Smaug and Ancalagon the Black, are described as creations of Morgoth (the setting's Satan Expy) that are inherently evil as a whole.
  • Dug Too Deep: The dwarves of Moria awakened a balrog in their excavations. It earned the epithet "Durin's Bane" and Moria was bereft of dwarves and populated with goblins by the time the Fellowship enter.
  • Easter Egg: All of Tolkien's works about Middle-earth, as well as the many volumes of unpublished works edited by his son, have inscriptions (usually on the title page) that can be transliterated from his fictional alphabets into English.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Tons. Utumno, Angband, Khazad-dûm, Menegroth, Nargothrond, Erebor...the list goes on.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Ungoliant in The Silmarillion. She might be merely a fallen Maia of incredible power, but nobody is quite sure. She's said to have come out of the Void, and she became so powerful that she nearly devoured Morgoth himself.
    • "Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. "
  • Enchanted Forest:
    • Despite Tolkien's great love for trees and forests, his mythopoeia doesn't neglect this common trope of European myths and legends. The Old Forest, Taur-nu-Fuin, Mirkwood, and Fangorn all make use of it. Generally, however, only the forests that were severely abused by loggers or directly corrupted by the Dark Lords ended up this way. The only real exception is Doriath, because Melian deliberately made it that way to defend the kingdom from invasion.
    • Most Men believe Lorien is supernaturally dangerous, but it's not; the lies of Morgoth and Sauron, and, admittedly, the acts of the Elves themselves to defend their kingdom, have made them fear it.
  • The Everyman: Hobbits, who also double as the Audience Surrogate in a world of mighty wizards and brave warriors.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Invoked several times. Saruman and Sauron make seemingly stupid mistakes, and are eventually defeated, because they can't figure out what their enemies are thinking. Morgoth likewise cannot comprehend the motives of good people, such as mercy.
  • Evil Counterpart Race: Many of the Evil races are counterparts to the generally Good races, which might be justified by the fact that Morgoth, the originator of all Evil in Middle-earth sans (possibly) Ungoliant, explicitly cannot create new life or matter but can only pervert and corrupt what already exists.
    • Orcs in particular are seen as evil counterparts to the elves. Both races serve members of the Ainur (the orcs are specifically loyal to the fallen Vala Morgoth and later to the fallen Maia Sauron, whereas the elves are loyal to the rest of the Ainur pantheon), and beyond that, they practically act in reverse of each-other: elves enjoy sunlight and protect forests whereas orcs despise and destroy both these things, elves are generally creatures of wisdom, beauty and merry music whereas orcs are creatures of hate and monstrousness. Furthermore, although the exact origin of orcs is uncertain, one origin that was popularized by the Fellowship of the Ring movie is that orcs were originally created from elves which Morgoth imprisoned and tortured beyond recognition.
    • Orcs can also be regarded as the evil counterpart of hobbits: both races are smaller than Men, but whereas hobbits like simple, rural living and are generally peaceful and kind folk beyond the odd gossip; orcs generally hate everything, even each-other, and tend to turn everything they can into monstrous industry.
    • The dwarves have a couple Evil Counterpart races: goblins and dragons. Goblins are said to be short and to enjoy living underground within mountains, whilst dragons are said to be greedy, covetous, apathetic to others, and prideful; and both species love hoarding treasure — these are all traits which are also present in dwarves, but dwarves differ in that they can also be fiercely loyal, kind and hospitable. Furthermore, dwarves put the effort into making many of their riches themselves, whereas dragons and goblins simply steal them (it's explicitly stated that dragons can't make "so much as a brass pan" themselves).
    • Trolls were explicitly made by Morgoth as his own counterpart to the Ents. Both seem to be elemental beings to a degree (the Ents are essentially tree people whilst the trolls turn to stone in sunlight). Ents are protective tree-shepherds which can be slow to act, whereas trolls are simply flesh-eating, murderous monsters which are slow to think.
    • The Balrogs are Evil Counterparts to the wizards. Both groups are Maiar in Middle-earth taking physical form, and some accounts even say there's a prime number of either group in total (there are five wizards, and some accounts hold that there were seven Balrogs in total although other accounts say there was many more). Whereas the wizards were sent to Middle-earth by Valinor to aid the Free Peoples and they're clothed in the forms of old Men, the Balrogs were created by Morgoth from Maiar who sided with him and were incarnated in the forms of shadowy, fiery demons.
  • Evil Is Sterile: A strong theme in both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings is that evil beings like Morgoth and Sauron are incapable of true creation, but can only corrupt what exists toward their ends.
  • Evil Overlord: The Dark Lords Morgoth and Sauron play up this trope as they fall more and more into evil. Saruman also tried to become one, although his career was cut off before he became the lord of anything other than Isengard.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: These appear frequently in Middle-earth where the Evil Overlords have set up: Barad-dûr, Minas Morgul, the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Mordor, and Orthanc in Isengard. Morgoth's Thangorodrim, the Mountains of Tyranny, fill the same conceptual spot in the First Age.
  • Evil Weapon: One of the major themes of The Lord of the Rings is that evil can never be defeated by using evil methods. Using the One Ring could never have overthrown Sauron, except by setting up a new Dark Lord in his place, and Saruman descended into Dark Lord territory just from his lust for the Ring. In both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, warfare in general is largely ineffective; people can and must defend themselves by warfare, but war is not what finally eliminates the Dark Lords from Middle-earth. JRRT very much treated war as an evil thing.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Beren and Lúthien sneaking through Angband in disguise, Frodo and Sam sneaking through Mordor, Bilbo burglarizing Smaug's lair in Erebor, and Mablung poking around in Glaurung's lair in Nargothrond.
  • The Fair Folk: Tolkien's treatment of the High Elves was a reaction to the way elves were dealt with in contemporary fiction — either as this trope or as childish fairies. In Arda only ignorant Men like Boromir regard Elves as The Fair Folk. However, Tolkien's conception then caught on among later fantasy writers and in the end people like Terry Pratchett reacted in turn back towards The Fair Folk.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: With the exception of the Shire itself, which was modeled on the idealized 19th-century English countryside, the cultures of the westlands of Third Age Middle-earth are roughly equivalent to those of Dark Age Europe based on political situations and cultural aspects.
    • The political situation of Gondor and Arnor may remind one of Byzantium and Rome, who faced threats from the East (Huns, Ottomans, etc.) at various times in their history. Strangely, when Tolkien was asked about this comparison, he said that he regarded Gondor as being closer to Ancient Egypt—who admittedly often had the same problem.
    • Gondor was a direct descendant of Númenor, whose culture sounds Punic. The fact they were bilingual (speaking both a Semitic-like Adûnaic language and Elvish Sindarin), were a seafaring people and worshipped an evil god named originally Melkor ("He who arises in might") match Ancient Carthage: speaker of both Punic and Greek, seafaring, worshipped a nastynote  god who demanded human sacrificesNB  and was named Melkart (which can be interpreted as "Mighty one"note ).
    • The Rohirrim have aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture, and have been compared to Vikings that rode horses rather than ships. Their Eotheod ancestors are based on the then-perception of Goths as a people of Germanic horse-warriors. The Rohirrim military is still this while their language has developed into the later Germanic language of Anglo-Saxon. The fact they had been a people of warrior-peasants whose entire culture ran around the horse and who lived on plains (as opposed to the hilly landscape of the British Isles) also makes them comparable 16th-19th century Russian Cossacks.
    • The Southrons are a vague, nonspecific representation of African and Middle-Eastern peoples, as in the medieval writings Tolkien emulated, which always spoke of these in exotic terms. Similarly, the Easterlings are a vague representation of nomadic peoples from the East (i.e. Huns, Tartars, Mongols). However, the Easterlings of Khand are called Variags, a term used for Viking mercenaries in Constantinople.
    • The Dwarvish language is inspired by Semitic languages and their displacement throughout Middle-earth draws comparisons with the Jewish diaspora, but the Dwarvish culture resembles more that of Early Middle Ages Germanic peoples: metalworkers, builders, axe-armed.
    • Please note that the languages he based his invented languages on do not necessarily determine the cultural equivalence of the people who use them. Sindarin was based on Welsh, and Quenya on Finnish, but Grey Elves aren't Welsh, and High Elves aren't Finns.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The one creator god, Eru Ilúvatar, and his creations the Ainur, Valar and Maiar, who function as angels or minor gods.
  • Fantasy World Map: Most of the books have a helpful map of the lands, geographic features, and cities. Or two. Or three.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Kings in Tolkien's works tend to die by fire, while queens tend to drown;
    • Feänor, Fingon, Turgon, Maedhros and Gil-Galad, all high-king of the elves, die by fire or heat.
    • Elwing and Idris both leave Middle-earth by sea, while Tar-Miriel of Númenor and Erendis drown.
  • Generational Saga: Parts of the Legendarium cover in detail the rise and fall of the great elf houses, most notably the house of Fëanor, but also that of Thingol and Melian, various houses of Men like Húrin, etc. In the case of the elvish houses, the previous generations are highly active in influencing (and possibly scuttling) the fortunes of their heirs while everyone is still alive thanks to immortality. In the case of Beren and Lúthien's heirs, the story covers their lines of descent from their immediate children all the way to Aragorn and Arwen hundreds of generations later. Even hobbits are covered with the adventure of Bilbo leading directly into the far graver adventures of his heir Frodo.
  • Giant Spider: Ungoliant in The Silmarillion, Mirkwood's spiders in The Hobbit, and Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. They're all related: Ungoliant is Shelob's mother, and Shelob is the mother of the Mirkwood spiders.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The Trope Namer comes from the Lord of the Rings films, but the reason that Gondor does call Rohan for aid is due to an event in the backstory of both nations. Back when the Rohirrim were the Éothéd, the ruling steward of Gondor sent Eorl the Young a last-ditch call for help during a siege, only to receive no reply. It turns out Eorl didn't answer because he only left a skeleton force to guard the noncombatants and brought every other capable warrior he had—not sparing one for a messenger. Thus, 7,000 cavalry and 500 archers turned up at Celebrant to everyone's surprise.note 
  • Grand FinaleThe Lord of the Rings marks the end of the Third Age of Middle-earth and is chronologically the very last installment.
  • Green Aesop: The destruction of nature by industry is a common theme in Tolkien's work.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Or, as Tolkien himself put it, Art versus Machine (or Magic). The Elves in his works are masters of Art (Harmony), which means using one's inherent potential of "subcreation" to the fullest, while the antagonists (Melkor, Sauron, Saruman) represent the Machine/Magic (Discipline), which means using whatever tools at hand to bend nature to one's will and rebel against the established order.
  • Heaven Versus Hell: The setting does not have a traditional Heaven or Hell, but the celestial creations of Eru Illuvatar, the Ainur, can be divided into the Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil, the latter being those fallen Maiar (lesser celestials) who have followed the fallen Valar (higher celestial) Morgoth in his ways. Thus, any fight between these beings fits the trope. Gandalf's battle against the Balrog, mostly an Offscreen Moment of Awesome in the books but depicted onscreen in the Peter Jackson films, comes to mind.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: A posthumously published essay ("Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals") reveals that Tolkien at least for a time entertained the idea that elves are ambidextrous (although this never actually showed in any of the Middle-earth books).
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Elves generally survive in Middle-earth by hiding in out-of-the-way places such as Doriath, Nargothrond, Gondolin, Rivendell, and Lothlórien. They had larger countries too, but those tended to get destroyed first.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Tolkien has a rather dismal view of humanity, and this reflected in his works. Of the races of Middle-earth, humans are the most easily corrupted by evil, and are painted as ambitious and power-hungry. The creator god Eru apparently made them this way, along with giving them the 'gift' of true death, to be able to supersede Arda. Thus, their fates are not tied to the world itself, which hopefully means that they can accomplish much more than the other races ever could.
  • I Gave My Word: Interestingly, the keeping of binding oaths ends up leading to trouble more often than not. The Oath of Fëanor drives him and his sons to numerous outrages against their would-be allies. It's probably for this reason that Elrond tells the Fellowship explicitly that they are not bound by an oath and should only go as far as their own will dictates.
  • I Have Many Names: Rather common, due among other things, to: 1) having names and their translations in various languages, 2) people (and places/things) gaining names and ephitets due to their archievements/history, and more so if they travel and gain lots more names in different places, 3) Elves being an especially language-and-name-loving people and thus being generous with names, e.g. Elven custom gifting them with several names.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Several.
    • Hobbits are resistant to the corruption of the Ring because of their humble, honest, and forthright natures. The only two beings to ever voluntarily give it up, Bilbo and Samwise, are both hobbits.
    • Subverted with elves. Although it's true that Maeglin is the only elf who ever served the Enemy willingly (and after being tortured by him), other elves frequently demonstrated their ability to be arrogant, nasty, selfish, and outright murderous when they put their minds to it.
    • The Dwarves are interesting sort. Dwarves could be greedy and suspicious, but Aulë made them so stubborn— in part to defend against Melkor's corruption— that few Dwarves ever served Melkor or Sauron.
  • Idyllic English Village: The Shire from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is basically Tolkien's idealized version or a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of an English Arcadia with hobbits.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Elves in Tolkien's works are almost invariably described as being good-looking. The three best-looking females in the history of Middle-earth (Lúthien, Galadriel, and Arwen) are all Elves. The Valar also count, although they cheat, since their bodies are artificial and custom-made, so their beauty is limited only by modesty and imagination.
  • Interspecies Romance: Very rare, and usually requires implicit or explicit divine dispensation, but it does happen from time to time.
    • Melian, an angel, and Thingol, an elf. Thanks to angelic Voluntary Shapeshifting, Melian gave herself a flesh-and-blood body and the two had children.
    • Lúthien, Thingol and Melian's half-angel half-elf (but biologically elven) daughter, and Beren, a human. They had to jump through some hoops to get the okay from daddy, though.
    • Tuor, a human and son of Huor, wed Idril Celebrindal, an elf and daughter of King Turgon of Gondolin. Their son was Eärendil the Mariner, who successfully sailed to Valinor to plead Middle-earth's case to the Valar.
    • Aragorn, a human, and Arwen, an elf, with many parallels drawn to Lúthien and Beren above, right down to Aragorn needing to defeat the local Dark Lord as an Engagement Challenge. This time, though, it wasn't because Arwen's father (Elrond) was being a dick— he was Aragorn's foster father, after all— but because the only way he was willing to leave his daughter behind in Middle-earth was if it were made safe from evil for the foreseeable future.
    • Tom Bombadil, the "eldest," and Goldberry, a river nymph. Even Tolkien isn't entirely sure what Bombadil is, but he's probably not a nymph.
  • Invisible Writing: There are several kinds of magical invisible writing. First is called "moon letters" and is written with silver pens and unknown ink that is only visible in moonlight. In The Hobbit, Thorin's map to Erebor has such invisible script. Second (not quite an ink but similar) is ithildin, a metal alloy that only reflects starlight and moonlight when certain magical spells are recited, and is normally transparent, used to decorate the Gates of Moria which blend seamlessly with rock. Revealing ithildin is the only way to see these gates.
    • Bilbo Baggins's magic ring seemed ordinary enough, with nothing apparent on its inner surface. However, once Gandalf the Grey threw that ring into the hearth fire and later retrieved it, it's fateful inscription appeared: "One Ring to rule them all ..."
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: The main action in Middle-earth takes place in what is meant to be Europe in an imaginary time-period. The Great Sea (Belegaer) corresponds to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Light/Fire Juxtaposition: Generally speaking, light is strictly divine in nature, while fire is originally a product of Melkor's Discord which marred the world's creation. Elves, Maiar and forces of good are mostly associated with light, whilst fire (though it has been utilized by heroic characters such as Gandalf) is mainly associated with forces of evil such as Sauron, dragons and balrogs.
  • Magical Weapon
    • Elvish swords glow blue, but only in the presence of orcs or goblins.
    • The swords found in the barrow downs after the Hobbits' imprisonment there in The Fellowship of the Ring were forged in old Arnor, and seem to have some enchantment which allow Merry to wound the Witch King of Angmar with it and thus allow Eowyn to finish him off.
    • In The Children of Húrin Anglachel/Gurthang was a black sword made of Thunderbolt Iron that on top of being abnormally strong and able to resist the potent acid of a dragon's blood also possessed some degree of sentience, enjoying fighting evil, and briefly talked to Turin before his suicide, promising to kill him quickly and drink his blood so that it could forget being used to kill its master Beleg.
  • Manly Tears: Crying is not stigmatized, and there are many instances of manly men weeping, whether it is for grief, terror, joy, or any other reason. (As men do in the old epics that JRRT emulated.)
    • To cite just one example: Aragorn is so overwhelmed with grief at the death of Boromir, weeping bitterly over the latter's body, that when Gimli and Legolas come upon the scene, they think at first that Aragorn himself has been perhaps mortally wounded.
    • Gandalf encourages Sam, Pippin, and Merry to weep when Frodo is going away forever.
    "I will not say 'do not weep', for not all tears are an evil."
  • Men Act, Women Are:
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel doesn't do much of anything beyond giving gifts and advice to heroes. However, Galadriel was a legit Action Girl in the The Silmarillion, leading her people across the local equivalent of the North Pole, on foot, when some Jerkass burned the ships that were supposed to come back for them.
    • Averted with Éowyn, even dispatching the Witch-King of Angmar, leader of the Nazgûl. Even then, her status as female is part of the Loophole Abuse to get around the prophecy that says "It is not by the hand of MAN that the Witch-King will be slain", a thing she points out. She also decides to Stay in the Kitchen upon meeting and marrying a Gondorian noble. In fairness, he also settles down and becomes a Non-Action Guy; he was never a warrior by choice, only taking up the sword in a defensive war against an imminent threat.
    • Aragorn's Love Interest, Arwen, and Sam's Love Interest, Rosie Cotton, are barely even characters, sitting at home and waiting patiently for the menfolk to come back from the war and marry them.
    • The effects of this trope are most obvious simply from how few mentionable female characters LOTR has, despite having tons of characters in total. Of the 38 entries on its character page, only four are female, and one of them is a giant spider. The Hobbit's page has no women at all. No female characters ever join the lead adventuring party, even temporarily.
    • Averted with Lúthien. Her father sends her suitor on an impossible Engagement Challenge and locks her in a treehouse, supposedly for her own protection. Lúthien promptly escapes and rescues Beren, her suitor, from a dungeon. She then helps him with the quest (and arguably contributes more than he does), despite not being an Action Girl in the traditional sense. She caps it off by putting Morgoth (Tolkien's equivalent of Satan) to sleep by singing. One does not need to be a warrior to be a badass.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: The presence of potatoes and pipe-weed. Middle-earth is based on Europe, and both potatoes and the pipe-weed plant (which is specified as being a variety of Nicotiana, or tobacco) are from the Americas. However, the colonial period had so entrenched them in English society that Tolkien included them even though they technically broke the rules of the setting.note 
  • Mithril: The trope started with the "truesilver" of Moria in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Mixed Ancestry is Attractive: Down the ages of Middle-earth, repeated mixed marriages first between the angelic Maiar and the elves, and then between elves and Humans, have produced people of unearthly beauty.
    • The Silmarillion: Dior, (the son of Luthien, herself the World's Most Beautiful Woman, and half-elf and half-Maiar) is called "Dior the beautiful" and "Dior the fair", and the narration emphasizes that his "threefold race" heritage contributed to his beauty.
      Then Dior arose, and about his neck he clasped the Nauglamir; and now he appeared as the fairest of all the children of the world, of threefold race: of the Edain, and of the Eldar, and of the Maiar of the Blessed Realm.
  • Mordor, although the real Mordor is only in part a wasteland. The whole south of it is fertile farmland to feed Sauron's armies, it just isn't visited in any story.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Part of Tolkien's aim in devising the Elvish languages.
  • Mutual Envy: Elves and Humans envy each other. Humans are mortal and die after a comparatively short time, and our souls have to leave the World after we die, so we envy the Elves' "immortality." The Ageless Elves, who very slowly get tired of living but can't die of old age and certainly can't leave the World dead or alive, know that they're all going to be here when it comes to an end. They envy Humans for being able to leave when we get "weary," and for having the option to keep existing after the end of Time. Elves call death a "Gift," which can rub mortals the wrong way.
  • Mysterious Backer: Eru and the Valar in all of His works.
  • Mythopoeia: JRRT named this genre and was one of the earliest authors (though not the first) to write in it. All of Arda was conceived as a set of myths and legends for England, because England didn't have any and because Tolkien regarded a language without legends as lifeless.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The names of the Enemy are usually Elvish (Quenya or Sindarin, to be precise), and will usually reflect how the Elves feel about them. For example, Melkor is Quenya for "He Who Arises In Might" and Morgoth is Sindarin for "Dark Enemy/Black Enemy". Sauron is Quenya for "Abomination", and his lesser used Sindarin name is Gorthaur, which means "The Abhorred Dread".
  • Narrative Poem: Both as stories written by Tolkien in that format and as poems appearing or being referenced inside the narrative.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Tolkien coined the word "eucatastrophe" to describe this trope, and he used it at the end of both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
  • No Man of Woman BornThe Lord of the Rings is co-Trope Namer with Shakespeare. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, the Witch-King of Angmar is certain no man can defeat him. The ones who defeat him are ultimately a woman and a non-human, neither of which qualify as "man" in the ways the story uses the word.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Leaving friends behind in danger is an anathema to most of the protagonists. Fingon went right into the heart of Morgoth's stronghold because he still had fond memories of his friendship with Maedros despite the subsequent kinslaying and betrayals of Maedros' father. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas chase an entire company of Uruk-hai across Rohan on foot for three consecutive days rather than leave the hobbits in their clutches.
  • The Numbered Things: There's the Two Trees, the Two Lanterns, the Three Rings, the Seven Rings, the Nine Rings, and of course the One Ring.
  • Nursery RhymeThe Adventures Of Tom Bombadil is an entire book of them. Scads more show up in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Older than They LookReally 700 Years Old: Life expectancy varies considerably among various peoples, even various human peoples, and by time and place. Additionally, some individuals have been extraordinarily longlived even by the standard of their people.
  • Only One NamePatronymics, and I Am X, Son of Y: Most cultures commonly have a given name(s) and use patronymics. Only the Hobbits and Men of Bree and the Shire use Western-style inherited family names.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves are an ancient race and the first mortal people to be created. They're The Ageless, and while they can be killed by violence they never succumb to old age. They're also more closely tied to the world than Men are; while Men's souls will depart the world for unknown destinations after death, Elves linger eternally as incorporeal wraiths. They're also a demising people, badly sapped in strength and numbers by ages of wars and calamities, and by the time of the War of the Ring the few to remain in Middle-earth are largely in the process of preparing to leave it for the earthy paradise beyond the western seas.
  • Phosphor-Essence: Especially Elves and sometimes members of other people are at times perceived as if a light shines through them or their eyes. With changed perception this can even be intensified, as Frodo while having ghostly vision sees the elf Glorfindel as a brilliant figure compared to the dark silhouettes of mortals.
  • Physical Religion: At least for the Elves living in the West, the Valar and Maiar live as neighbours and interact with them. In Middle-earth open contact has been more rare and increasingly so; mostly single Ainur interacting with smaller populations or single individuals. For most peoples in Middle-earth, they only know of the Valar through legend, or they only have fragmented and filtered knowledge, if they even know of them at all.
  • Playful Pursuit: Luthien does this to Beren in one of the early versions of their tale after she's seen him watch her in the woods with a dreamy expression on his face a couple of times. She's just wants him to meet her parents and inadvertantly sets the plot in motion.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: It's left implicit, but it seems the Barrow-Wights are dark spirits inhabiting the bodies of the dead, rather than regular undead as their mythological inspiration.
  • Precursors: Númenorean civilization.
  • Primordial Tongue: Quenya is the ancient language of the first elves, who called themselves the Quendi, "those that speak with voices", to distinguish themselves from non-speaking animals. The modern elvish language, Sindarin, is its descendant.
  • Prophecy Twist: The Witch-King of Angmar is confident that no man will slay him. He goes down to Eowyn and Merry, a woman and a hobbit.
  • Proportional Aging: Hobbits live to about 90-100 years, with proportionate aging. Merry and Pippin, in their thirties, are considered young adults, and Frodo, in his fifties, is just shy of middle age. Hobbits are also noted to have their adolescence in their "tweens" (which in this case means twenty, not twelve).
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Common, as part Tolkien's belief that War Is Hell. You may be able to defend yourself through war, and may even defeat your enemy, but it will always come at very high cost. A few specific examples:
    • The War of Wrath in The Silmarillion ends with Morgoth's defeat, but the continent of Beleriand was laid waste in the battle and sank under the sea. (Also as a result, the Valar and Maiar decide to no longer user their power to directly intervene in the war against evil, making the later battles against Sauron all the more difficult.)
    • The Last Alliance managed to defeat Sauron, but lost so many people that the kingdoms of Elves and Men ended up depopulated and ripe for attack by Sauron's human allies, which led to the destruction of Arnor and the reduction of the Elves to just a few small settlements.
    • The final victory over Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. The destroying of the Ring led to the final waning of 'magic' in Middle-earth and the departure of the remaining Elves to the West.
  • Rightful King Returns: The whole Lord of the Rings ends on this note, with Aragorn taking the throne of Gondor after hundreds of years without a king.
  • Ring of Power: The twenty Great Rings of Power, and countless lesser Rings, forged in Eregion under the guidance of "Annatar" (a.k.a. Sauron).
  • Roc Birds: The Giant Eagles are colossal, agelessbenevolent agents of the chief Physical God on Middle-earth. Their leader Thorondor was described as 180 feet tall and powerful enough to scar Morgoth himself. Although their true nature was left ambiguous, Tolkien speculated that they could be angelic Maiar in animal form.
  • Royal Blood: The kin of Númenor. Númenorians in general had longer lifetimes than baseline humans as a reward for fighting the forces of Morgoth, but the royal family took it even further by virtue of being descended from Tar-Minytaur, Elrond's brother and a half-elf. (more or less). Since the nobility of Gondor and Arnor are descended from Númenor's royals, they tend to have longer livespans and some magical powers. This is later deconstructed in Gondor, since it leads to a civil war when king Valacar marries Vidumavi, the daughter of Vidugavia, the King of Rhovanion.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Gollum is the Shadow of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins — and, to some extent, Samwise.
    • Sauron is to an extent the Shadow of both Gandalf and Galadriel, while Saruman is a more specific shadow of Gandalf.
  • Space Jews: In a late interview from the 1970s, Tolkien likened the Dwarves to Jews in terms of their Dwarvish language Khuzdul being Semitic-influenced, and in the way they maintained their own culture while living among others.note 
  • Speak Friend and Enter: The Gate of Moria in The Lord of the Rings is the Trope Namer. That password would have been so much easier to figure out if only Celebrimbor had used a comma!
  • Species-Specific Afterlife: Their respective fates after death are the most crucial difference between Elves and Men:
    • Elves, being strongly tied to the physical world, linger within it after death in the form of shades who are called to the Halls of Mandos, the dour lord of the dead. After an unspecified amount of time in the Halls, Elves are generally reincarnated into new bodies — the most notable such case in the stories is Glorfindel, who died in a Mutual Kill with a Balrog in the First Age millennia before the events of The Lord of the Rings, but reappears there living in Rivendell. Most afterwards remain in the Undying Lands where the Halls are located and the god-like Valar live, with only a few returning to Middle-earth.
    • Humans, instead, leave the world entirely after dying: where they go exactly isn't known, although it's often assumed that human souls are bound for the Timeless Halls of Eru — God — outside the world.
    • This poses a problem for the children of rare human-elven couples: half-elves inevitably have to choose to be either full Men or full Elves, in order to determine which afterlife they are to be bound to. The cost of this is that human-elven families and couples are forever separated after death, with the exception of the lovers Beren and Lúthien — Lúthien was an Elf, but chose to become mortal, die as a human woman and depart the world alongside Beren at her death.
    • There is no concrete information on the afterlife of dwarves, though the dwarves and elves both have opinions. The elves think dwarves simply turn back to stone, while the dwarves think their god Mahal (Aulë) looks out for them and takes them to his own, seperate halls, and after the end of the world, they will build another, Unmarred world alongside him.
  • Standard Fantasy Races: One of the primary Trope Codifiers. Arda is home to humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits as the Free Peoples, and to the Always Chaotic Evil orcs and monstrous, ogre-like trolls as the primary Mooks of the Dark Lord. Goblins, unlike in later works, are another name for orcs. There are also a few human nations (like the Haradrim and the Easterlings) who joined the Dark Lord. Other creatures are ents and giant eagles on the side of good, and wargs, dragons, the demonic balrogs and giant spiders (which are the spawn of the Eldritch Abomination Ungoliant) on the side of evil. There are at least also two types of undead: the Ringwraiths were mortal kings who have been corrupted and now serve the Dark Lord, whereas the Army of the Dead are oathbreakers who seek to fulfill their oath by aiding the True King of Gondor.
  • Stars Are Souls: There is the singular and slightly-off example of the star Eärendil; although he technically neither died nor is the star himself, he was tasked to cross the sky in a flying ship with the last glowing Silmaril jewel, which is visible to us as Venus.
  • Stellar Name: Very common with the Elves and their star-veneration; among others, the elements el-/elen- found in many names means "star".
  • Succession Crisis:
    • The Kin-strife was a civil war fought in Gondor between 1432 and 1447 of the Third Age, caused by one of these. Unlike most examples, there was a rightful heir, Eldacar, son of the previous king Valacar. However, Eldacar was son of Valacar and Vidumavi, the daughter of Vidugavia, the King of Rhovanion, resulting in a large portion of the country refusing to accept his legitimacy, instead supporting his distant relative Castamir. Eldacar eventually won the war, thanks to support from his mother's people and Castamir's own tyranny alienating the people, but Gondor was devastated, and the port city of Umbar was lost.
    • An earlier and more devastating example came after the death of king Eärendur of Arnor. His three sons all claimed the throne, resulting in the kingdom being split into Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur. King Amlaith of Arthedain was the eldest and considered legitimate, but never had enough support to reconquer the other kingdoms, which ultimately rendered it easy to conquer by Angmar. The line of Amlaith survives through the Dunedain chieftains, the last of which being Aragorn.
  • Superior Species: Subverted with the Elves.
    • Biologically, the Elves are immune to old age and disease, and can only die of injury (and even then they eventually reincarnate). However, Tolkien presents the Men's mortality as a case of Cursed with Awesome, as the Elves are forever bound to Arda and will never be able to leave it, while Men can and do leave it when they die.
    • The Elves are also generally presented as morally superior to everyone else, especially in The Lord of the Rings. Their leaders are the only ones to hold on to their rings and stay uncorrupted (although it was due to their rings being forged by Celebrimbor alone), and no Elves are known to have served in Sauron's army. This gets subverted in The Silmarillion, where several villainous Elven characters are introduced, and a darker past of some of LotR's characters, such as Galadriel, becomes known. The Silmarillion clarifies that the reason all the elves in Lord of the Rings are noble, wise, and good are because all the other ones got themselves killed in various hubristic ways over several millenia.
  • Supernaturally Marked Grave: In particular, battlefields tend to become wastelands or marshes that last long after any sign of such events should. The same can happen where very evil beings die (such as the Witch-King of Angmar), and grass and flowers grow where good ones die.
  • Supporting Leader:
    • Former Trope Namer (The Aragorn) and possibly Trope Maker.
    • Also Bard the Bowman and Gandalf in The Hobbit. Bard is the long-lost descendent of the last King of Dale and noted as a natural leader who rallies the Lake-men against Smaug, while Gandalf is clearly the most capable and sensible member of Thorin's company. Bard only appears in the very end of the book, and Gandalf is explicitly not in charge of the expedition, instead leaving for a substantial period of time.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Éowyn disguising herself as a man to join the army of Rohan during the War of the Ring, and successfully taking down the Lord of the Ringwraiths. Niënor disguising herself as a male elf to follow Mablung and Morwen out of Doriath, and subsequently...uh, getting Mind Raped. Ew.
  • Tender Tears: Tolkien is rare amongst Western artists for creating consistently sensitive and soft-hearted men who do not see crying as shameful or dishonorable.
  • Theme Naming, various kinds: Theme Family Naming (including Theme Twin Naming and Alphabetical Theme Naming), naming conventions along a dynasty (be they birth or ruling names), or general ones (e.g. the hobbit tradition of naming girls after flowers or gemstones).
  • Time Abyss: There are the Ageless people, like Elves and Ents, some many of them are thousands of years old. Then there's Tom Bombadil, who apparently came into existence the moment Arda was created, and still "remembers the first raindrop, the first acorn". Then there are the Ainur, all of whom were created before Arda and helped sing it into shape.
  • The Time of Myths: All the stories JRRT told about Middle-earth are set in our own world, but in an "imaginary time" before history and the Dominion of Men.
  • Tragic HeroBig time.
    • Frodo is the archetypical example. While the succeeds in his mission, he is forever marred by carrying the ring, and can no longer find the beauty in the world he helped save. In the end, he is taken into the West to find healing, but never returns to Middle-earth.
    • Túrin Turambar is beset by one tragedy after another. His kin die, he accidentally kills his best friend, he unknowingly marries his sister, said sister commits suicide when she realizes what she's done, he murders an innocent man in a fit of fury and despair when the man reveals the truth of all this, and ultimately kills himself when he realizes he hasn't escaped his cursed fate.
    • Húrin, Túrin's father, is a great hero among men, until he's taken and tortured by Morgoth for decades, released only when he's sufficiently filled with rage at the world to cause even more damage, and also ultimately kills himself, realizing that everything he has done has ultimately helped Morgoth.
    • Celebrimbor, the grandson of Feänor, tries to undo his family's mistakes by forging the rings of power, which would help preserve the magic and beauty of the world. By doing so, however, he plays straight into Sauron's hands. Sauron then captures, tortures and kills him.
    • Pretty much every hero in The Silmarillion counts, actually.
  • Translation Convention: All of our real-world languages do not exist in Middle-earth, and so the common Translation Convention applies. When not convention-translated, names and speech make use of either Tolkien's constructed languages, or of a real-world language used as stand-in for a fictional one. The latter ones are not chosen randomly, but to represent the relation between the respective "proper" languages, or a certain image. Languages regularly replaced by stand-in languages in the text are: "Westron" a.k.a. the "Common Speech" is always rendered as English (as it is the Third-Age-novel's POV-character's language), the Rohirric language by Anglo-Saxon a.k.a. Old English (to appear vaguely familiar to the hobbits' Westron-English), the language used by the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Men of Dale by Old Norse, and other Germanic languages for various Northmen people. Information on the "translation" and what these languages "really" look like, can be found in various appendices and additional texts.
  • Turtle Island: The Fastitocalon poem in The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil.
  • Universe Chronology: Tolkien wrote a Tale of Years for the first three ages of Arda, listing major events and the births and deaths of main characters. He also wrote the Annals, among the major First Age narratives that went into The Silmarillion, as more detailed yearly chronicles.
  • The 'Verse: Well, duh. Also commonly referred to pars pro toto as "Middle-earth" and "Arda".
  • Vestigial Empire: Many over the course of Arda's long history, most famously Gondor.
  • War Is Hell: Tolkien, a World War One vet, did not believe in "the glory of war."
  • Warrior Prince: Very common in Middle-earth. Most of the major characters are royalty or nobles, and nearly all of them (particularly the men) are warriors by inclination or necessity. Even Elrond, a healer and scholar in a culture where healers normally don't fight, is a capable military commander when he absolutely must be.
  • When Trees Attack: The Ents were created because Tolkien had seen a production of Macbeth as a child and was disappointed when it turned out that Birnam Wood itself didn't actually attack.
  • Worldbuilding: Arda is a wonderfully detailed example of worldbuilding, which Tolkien called "subcreation." He had a whole philosophy and theoretic about subcreation in relation to his Roman Catholic faith.
  • World Tree: The Two Trees, silver Telperion and golden Laurelin, provided light after Morgoth's destruction of the previous world lights. After he destroyed them too, their last flower and last fruit were made into the Moon and Sun; before, Telperion's dew had been used to kindle the stars.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Gandalf's speech in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring, while a slightly paraphrased variation of the speech in the book, is the Trope Namer.