A Brief Synopsis of The Lord of the RingsI believe them, because I used to answer the general e-mail at Tor. We got what were essentially “Will you write my term paper for me? Please hurry, it’s due soon” requests from everyone from middle-school students to university upperclassmen. I understand librarians get the same treatment. The Tolkien Sarcasm Page provides a very thorough summary of the plot, viz.:
One of the often-recurring requests on the newsgroup rec.arts.books.tolkien is from students requesting a synopsis of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic work The Lord of the Rings. The work is extremely long, and because of this many students simply can’t find the time to give the work a thorough reading before giving a written report on it. In the interests of cutting down the number of requests for this material, I have written a short synopsis of the three volumes which make up the Lord of the Rings as well as an accompanying synopsis for Tolkien’s posthumous book The Silmarillion.
The story starts with the twentieth birthday-party for Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit who lives with his brother Sam in a mythical land called the Shire. Frodo owns a magic Ring which makes him invisible when he wears it, a gift from his cousin Bilbo who stole it from the hoard of a Dragon years ago.It goes on like that. I particularly like their run-in with wicked Queen Beruthiel, who imprisons them in Lothlorien, and her good sister Galadriel, who helps them escape by floating them down the river in barrels. The synopsis proceeds onward through The Two Towers—
One day the old wizard Gandalf comes to the Shire, and he tells Frodo of an evil being named Sauron who wants to capture the Ring for himself. In ages long past Sauron stole the Ring from the Elves, to protect him from the Powers of Good; but the Ring was stolen from him by a creature named Gollum,and then stolen from Gollum by the Dragons, and then from the Dragons by Bilbo, who finally gives it freely to Frodo. “Sauron has been searching for the Ring for years,” Gandalf tells Frodo, “and now he has sent his ally, the evil Witch-king, to the Shire to look for it.” Frodo and Sam consult with their loyal friends Merry and Pipsqueak, and when the evil Witch-king appears with his nine servants the clever hobbits trick them into going into a mushroom-patch, disorienting the witches just long enough to escape the Shire.But the tone of the book rapidly becomes more serious as the Witch-king and his evil servants pursue the hobbits through the forest. Frodo discovers that the witches have destroyed the village of Bree, and the Witch-king uses a magic spell to burn down the home of their old friend Tom Bombadil. Frodo, horrified, wants to go back and fight the evil witches, but at a hill called Weathertop he meets a noble man named Aragorn who convinces him to go to the city of Rivendell. “In Rivendell you will be safe from their magic,” Aragorn tells him, “for Elrond is a sensible man, and does not believe in it.” With that Aragorn leads them rapidly to Rivendell, with the witches in hot pursuit. As they ford the last river between them and Rivendell the Witch-king casts a spell on the river-water, causing it to rise up and try to drown them; only Frodo’s quick thinking can save them, and he uses the power of the Ring to make all the water evaporate into fog. The fog is so thick that the Witch-king and his servants become hopelessly lost, and our heroes make it to the safety of Rivendell.
Merry and Pipsqueak get kidnapped by forty-foot-high walking trees, but as the story goes on they convince the trees that it’s best to be kind to strangers; the lesson is well-learned, and when Aragorn and the others arrive the trees welcome them with open limbs. Just as this reunion is taking place Gandalf reappears, having ultimately defeated the evil Radagast; he reveals that there were actually two of him all along, and the other one is still trapped at Orthanc, now under the control of the wizard Saruman, Gandalf’s half-brother. …and The Return of the Kings:
… Meanwhile Sam chases the tarantula back to the lair of Ungoliant, the Queen of Spiders, and after a tense argument about the nature of good and evil she finally reveals to Sam the cure for the spider’s-venom which holds Frodo in thrall. Sam thanks Ungoliant for her mercy and wisdom and revives Frodo, and they set off into Mordor to find Gollum. “Oft help will come from the weak when the Wise are foolish,” Gandalf once said, and sure enough all the spiders of Mordor are willing to help Frodo and Sam in their quest. …It’s bound to make a powerful impression on your teacher, as will the suggested paper topics.
Most joyfully, the London Sunday Times appears to have used the Tolkien Sarcasm Page as one of its primary sources in a story about Cate Blanchett. And as we all know, if it’s printed in the Times, it must be true.