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 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 06:31 GMT
A beginner's guide to Middle-earth
Frodo Baggins played by Elijah Wood
Frodo must destroy the one ring
If you missed out on the first Lord of the Rings film and feel you can't now go and see the new movie The Two Towers, don't worry. BBC News Online guides you through all the key events from The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is set within a world known as Middle-earth, a land made up of humans, Elves and Dwarves and creatures such as Orcs, Dragons and Trolls.

Tolkien's world, adapted from generations of folklore, fairytale and mythology may not be original but it has been the template for countless fantasy novels since.

The saga is essentially split into three books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Lord of the Rings
The good guys
  • Frodo
  • Gandalf
  • Aragorn
  • Legolas
  • Gimli
  • Merry
  • Pippin

    Click to read a review of the Two Towers

  • Like almost all such books the focus of the trilogy is a quest.

    In this case, the quest is to destroy a ring of power, which, if it fell into the wrong hands, would bring about the destruction of all that is good and kind in the world.

    The quest is entrusted to a hobbit, a race of creatures whose horizons do not usually extend further than the next pint of ale or good pipe of tobacco.

    The ring is in the keep of Frodo Baggins of the Shire, who was given it by his cousin Bilbo Baggins, who stumbled upon the artefact during a separate quest (which is covered in the book The Hobbit).

    Frodo Baggins is instructed to destroy the ring by the wizard Gandalf, a wandering magician who has aided and advised the powers of good for generations.

    The only way to destroy the ring is to melt it in the fires of Mordor, where the magical device was created.

    Evil stronghold

    Unfortunately, Mordor also happens to be the stronghold of Sauron, the evil figure who wants to destroy all of Middle-earth and whose agents are hell bent on crushing the races of the land.

    Apart from the onerous task of carrying the ring to Mordor there is a greater peril - the ring has a poisonous effect on whoever bears it, twisting the soul, infecting the heart.

    For Frodo the journey to carry the ring is not just a test of endurance but also a test of his goodness.

  • Mordor - Domain of Sauron
  • Rivendell - Home of the Elves
  • Rohan - Human kingdom
  • Gondor - Human kingdom
  • Shire - Home of the Hobbits
  • Isengard - home of Saruman
  • To undertake the journey Frodo is accompanied by fellow hobbits Sam, Pippin and Merry.

    He is also aided by a small band of heroes - the humans Aragorn and Boromir, a dwarf Gimli, and the elf Legolas.

    Their fellowship is the basis of Tolkien's first book in the trilogy.

    You may think it odd that the fate of the world is put in the hands of such an inauspicious creature as Frodo.

    But because of the peril connected to the ring, few are willing to undertake the journey. The hope is that such a small and unassuming creature will go unnoticed by the vast forces of darkness.

    Epic backdrop

    The quest is the focus of the trilogy but Tolkien placed this against a sprawling backdrop of epic nature.

    Sauron has recruited the once wise and good wizard Saruman, who was a teacher to Gandalf, and has started to create a giant army of Uruk-Hai, basically a smarter and more ferocious breed of Orc.

    The army he is preparing in the Fellowship is poised to strike against all races of Middle-earth.

    But the world of men has divided into smaller kingdoms - Rohan and Gondor - and lacks leadership to take the battle to the forces of evil.

    Elves and Dwarves take no part in the affairs of men and seen unwilling to help.

    Christopher Lee as Saruman in Lord of the Rings
    The bad guys
  • Sauron
  • Saruman
  • Orcs
  • Uruk-Hai
  • But there is hope.

    Frodo's companion Aragorn - who is also the paramour of the Elf princess Arwen - is the true descendant of the lost kings of all men.

    In the trilogy he will face his own personal quest to reclaim his birthright.

    Unhappy ending

    The Fellowship of the Ring ends in despair, however.

    Gandalf appears to fall to his death battling a demon in the mines of Moria while Boromir becomes obsessed with the ring and believes he could use its power to defend his homelands.

    He tries unsuccessfully to snatch the ring from Frodo, who then realises he must travel to Mordor alone because he cannot trust his companions.

    As Frodo flees, a band of Uruk-Hai attack the party, killing Boromir and kidnapping Merry and Pippin.

    Loyal Sam pursues Frodo and the pair set out once more on the quest together.

    Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas realise they can do no more for the pair. Instead, they vow to save Merry and Pippin and set off in pursuit of the Orcs.

    The Fellowship is broken, but the quest continues.

    In the second part of the trilogy the forces of evil attack the world of men, driven on and fuelled by the evil powers of the Two Towers, the dominion of Saruman and his master Sauron.

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