Most people have heard of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien. But what many people have not heard of is where the monsters and magic in it come from. The truth is, the creatures from The Lord of the Rings, which include giants, dwarves, orcs, trolls, elves, have origins that can be traced back to the beginning of civilization and can also be followed into the world of modern-day novels. The same is true with the magic from The Lord of the Rings. This legendary novel very deep roots in both the mythology of ancient times and the stories and books of modern days.
Many creatures from The Lord of the Rings come from Norse and Greek mythology and other ancient legends. These creatures include giants, dwarves, elves, orcs, and trolls. You can both trace these creatures’ origins very far back in history, or look at how they have impacted modern-day novels.
Giants are very ancient creatures. They are basically just enlarged humanoids and originate from Greek mythology. The “Gigantes,” Gaea’s (Mother Earth) offspring, were huge giants, even bigger than the Titans, that were birthed to overthrow the Olympians. Each Olympian had a corresponding giant made to defeat it; Porphyrion was made to defeat Zeus, Polybotes was made to defeat Poseidon, Alcyoneus was made to defeat Hades, etc. Polyphemus and the Titans were also giants. Giants pretty much always play an antagonist role; out of all the Titans and Giants, the only protagonists were Prometheus and Epimetheus. The Lord of the Rings is no exception; all of the giants fight for Sauron, the main antagonist in the novel. And the giants’ influence doesn’t stop there; they are also the main antagonists of the Percy Jackson (Titans) and Heroes of Olympus (Giants) series, both by Rick Riordan.
Dwarves originate from ancient Norse mythology. According to the site “Dwarves-North Mythology For Smart People”, dwarves were once called dvergr (Old Norse), dweorg (Old English), twerg (Old High German), and dwergaz (Proto-Germanic). In Norse mythology, dwarves are craftsmen. They crafted Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir, the chain that bound Fenrir the Wolf, Gleipnir, Freyr’s magical ship, Skidbladnir, etc. In The Lord of the Rings, the dwarves are also craftsmen; most of the weapons in The Lord of the Rings were crafted by dwarves. The most recent novel that incorporates dwarves is the bestselling series Artemis Fowl. However, they do not play a craftsmen role in this series. Rather, they are depicted as creatures that burrow through the dirt and get nutrition from the soil.
Nowadays, elves are often depicted as little creatures that help Santa deliver presents. But they are much older than the time that the myth of Santa Claus started. In Norse mythology, elves are depicted as demigod-like (half man and half god) beings. Elves have the power to cause human illnesses, but they also have the power to cure them. Elves are protagonists in many stories and are very wise. In fact, when Frodo, Sam, and Pippin depart on their journey, Sam wishes that he could meet some elves on the journey, and he was very glad when he did. Like Norse mythology, elves look very much like humans in The Lord of the Rings and also have magical powers. Elves are depicted in the same way in the new series Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger; the elves in this series are basically near-immortal humans, and some of them have magical powers.
Orcs also originate from Norse mythology. According to Britannica.com, the word “orc” was first used to describe a demon or an ogre in the poem “Beowulf,” a very famous epic from Norse mythology about a hero, Beowulf, and his friends fighting a monster. The word orc most likely derives from the Latin Orcus, which was the name of a god of the underworld. Like many other stories, orcs are antagonists in The Lord of the Rings, simply because of their reputation as evil creatures. While orcs may not be very common in modern-day novels, they are in many different board games, card games, and video games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Warcraft.
Trolls originate from the Scandinavian area. While many people think that trolls are usually short and stout, Mythology.net says that there is another type of troll in Scandinavian mythology that is as big as a giant! The short and stout type is called huldrefolk, and the big type is called jotnar. The jotnar is the type of troll in The Lord of the Rings; In the movie, they can grow up to be 10-50 feet tall! They are basically always antagonists, also because of their reputation as evil beings. However, a recent movie, Trolls, depicts the trolls as funny and happy. The trolls in this movie are short, but not as stout as the huldrefolk, and are very colorful and cheery.
Along with the amazing creatures in The Lord of the Rings, there is also a lot of magic. This includes elven magic, wizard magic, and dark magic. These ideas of these types of magic are also very old, and can also be found in modern-day novels.
Elven Magic (Enchantment)
As mentioned earlier, elves are magical creatures. Their magic is very powerful. In fact, the three rings that they crafted are the second most powerful Rings of Power out of all twenty rings; only the One Rings, which was crafted by Sauron himself, is more powerful, They were also able to enchant items and objects. One king had a river as a border that would make people fall asleep and dream deeply! Enchanters and enchantresses can be found in almost every major mythology; many weapons, such as Thor’s hammer, Odin’s spear, Helen of Troy’s dagger, etc. and other items used in war were enchanted to grant the wearer safety and/or give them an offensive advantage. Enchantment is a very commonly used type of magic in the modern-day series The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. This bestselling series combines modern-day life with Egyptian mythology, which uses enchantments a lot.
The Wizards (The Istari)
The Istari, also known as the Wizards, were five Maiar spirits that were sent to Earth to help battle Sauron. These people include Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast. Their powers include shapeshifting, immortality, foresight, telekinesis, immunity to fire, and enchantment.
Shapeshifting and immortality are very common powers that the Greek gods had possessed. Foresight, or telling the future, could be done by the Oracle, a beautiful woman who had the spirit of Delphi in her. Immunity to natural forces and enchantment are also very common in mythology. However, telekinesis is a relatively new idea. Nowadays, people think of wizards as being humans with supernatural powers; this is shown in the Harry Potter series.
Dark magic is what it sounds like: evil magic. This can involve possession, which is where you take control of other people’s minds and trying to retain longevity or power by performing evil deeds. In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron puts all his power into the One Ring so that he can control the other rings. He ends up possessing nine humans, which turn into the Nazgul, or the Black Riders. However, when the ring is sliced off his hand, he loses his power and turns into a spirit. Harry Potter has a similar storyline: Voldemort splits his soul into many different parts, called Horcruxes, and his body ends up nearly becoming just a spirit. He also tries drinking unicorn blood, which is said to give longevity but also makes the consumer someone have a terrible fate.
As you can see, The Lord of the Rings is inspired by many creatures from ancient mythologies, but it also inspired modern-day novels. This is why The Lord of the Rings is such an important book; it combines a lot of the creatures and magic from Western mythologies into one big novel and also gives inspiration to authors nowadays. So, I think The Lord of the Rings is one of the most legendary novels of all time. If you have read The Lord of the Rings, do you agree? And if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you read it!