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Bilbo123's avatar

What is the chronological order to read Tolkien's books?

Asked by Bilbo123 (165points) May 11th, 2011

I have downloaded all the books of J.R.R Tolkien. But I need a sequence of all. There are lots of characters in each book which make me think. I am not getting the sequence. I have watched the movie “The Lord Of The Rings” several times, but want to read the books prior to it. Anyone read all these books?. What is the sequence?.

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26 Answers

Qingu's avatar

LoTR is a single book. You should think of the three “books” (Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King) as three parts of a single book. That’s the order they must be read in.

You probably should read the Hobbit before LoTR. It was written before LoTR and takes place chronologically before. But really, the Hobbit is pretty standalone. It’s also written in a very different style; it’s basically a children’s book.

I would recommend reading the Silmarillion after LoTR. It’s a mythological history of the setting. But part of the fun of reading it is to see how it links up with the characters and places you meet in LoTR.

cbloom8's avatar

I would agree with @Qingu – go with the Hobbit, the main trilogy, and then the Silmarillion. The Hobbit is essentially a prequel to the main trilogy, and the Silmarillion is more of a pre-history that is best suited after the trilogy because it essentially gives you more depth and information regarding the main books.

If you have any other books, I would read those after the main five, and really in any order. There are a lot of other random ones, mostly finished by Tolkein’s son, and they all expand on different bits of the story.

Qingu's avatar

You could also probably skip the entire first half of “Fellowship of the Ring” because it really is godawful.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Qingu I always start reading from the point where they show up at the Prancing Pony, probably about 150 pages in. Everything before that is fluff.

yankeetooter's avatar

I disagree, @FutureMemory. I found the background story of the ring fascinating (second chapter, I believe). Also, the early plot is crucial when the hobbits are starting to see the Nazgul more and more, but are not sure what they are…

FutureMemory's avatar

Characterizing it as “fluff” was a bit much, but I definitely found it more exciting after they arrived in Bree and met Aragorn.

Qingu's avatar

The background story of the ring doesn’t come in until they get to the elf city.

And then it goes on, and on, and on, and on… and on…

I also don’t remember the Nazgul coming in until like 100 pages in. Basically the introduction of “Fellowship” is a short-novel-length exposition about how all these hobbits act like whimsical little Tories. Tolkien must have either been smoking too much or not enough weed when he started writing that book.

yankeetooter's avatar

I was referring to Chapter 2 (I think, it may have been 3), “The Shadow of the Past”, @Qingu. And the daily life of the hobbits is integral to the book; it helps emphasize the horror of Saruman’s temporarily taking over the Shire at the end of the last book.

Qingu's avatar

They had it coming

yankeetooter's avatar

No @Qingu, they didn’t. Why do you think this? If a group of people (well, hobbits) is innocent to the dangers around them, and enjoy life to it’s fullest, does this mean that they have something like Saruman coming to them?

Qingu's avatar

At least Saruman recognized the value of technology and industry. Maybe he treated the hobbits harshly, but he would have spread valuable technological knowledge that their descendants would have benefited from. Sort of like how the British did to the Indians!

Okay, I’m not actually serious. But I just really found the hobbit parts of LoTR insufferable

yankeetooter's avatar

Well, at least they have a somewhat minor role…NOT! Lol!

Ah, yes, Saruman, bringing cell phone technology to the little people…(no pun intended)...

Lightlyseared's avatar

The Hobbit. Then stop and watch the LOTR movies. Then, if you must, read LOTR.

yankeetooter's avatar

After reading The Hobbit and LOTR, do read The Simarillion. I also recommend Unfinished Tales…

asmonet's avatar

Nerds abound!

The question has already been answered, Qingu is right. Read it in the order he mentioned.
I just had to stop by and say <3.

flutherother's avatar

Start with the Hobbit and read it slowly. I thought this was a more satisfying read than the far grander LOTR. I also disagree that the start of the LOTR was dull. It is delightful and I loved the sense of distant and awakening evil. I have never managed to get interested in the Silmarillion.

yankeetooter's avatar

@flutherother It does start off reading like mythology, but if you get further into it, it tells the whole background story of Sauron and the Ring…

faye's avatar

I read so much and I just gave up on LOtR. I liked the movies. I hated the breaking into song, and so many descriptive passages. I’ll have to try again because I bought them but I think I need the Reader’s Digest version.

Qingu's avatar

@faye, I actually think the movies are better than the books. The characters are more one-dimensional in the books (Faramir is too noble and good to be tempted by the ring!). The books also have a weird fixation on race and “pure” bloodlines (probably because Tolkien, like many people writing in the 1950s, was a little racist… although you can be charitable and say he was just mimicking his medieval source material).

Also, Tom Bombadil is not in the movies.

faye's avatar

@Qingu The movies would be a reader’s digest version!

downtide's avatar

I don’t think it’s best to read them in chronological order. Chronologically the Silmarillion comes first, but most of it will make no sense until after you’ve read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Read the Hobbit first. Then LOTR. Then go back to the Silmarillion.

Jeruba's avatar

I read The Hobbiit about 35 years after first reading the LOTR trilogy and did just fine without it as a starting point. I don’t think all those endless battle scenes would have enticed me toward LOTR, and I don’t see them as children’s material at all.

As for the movies, I love them, but they do not follow the books very closely. See them, by all means, but don’t think that when you have, you know what’s in the books.

Bilbo123's avatar

Thanks folks! Your answers are really helpful. Then, It’s better to start off with “The Hobbits”.
Thanks once again.

everephebe's avatar

@Jeruba When my mother read me the Hobbit, I became a reader, just like that. The transition between being six to being seven was, night and day. I went from Seeing Spot run to 800 page fantasy books in one year. I do think it is a good book for children.

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