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J. R. R. Tolkien Interview about The Lord of the Rings (1964)
39:39In this BBC-interview from 1964 (released in 1971) Tolkien sits down for a talk with Denys Gueroult. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, best known as the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Inspired by British adventure stories, European mythology and catholicism, Tolkien created an enormous high fantasy (epic fantasy) world with its own languages, races, geography, mythologies and both heroic, evil and complex characters. Tolkien was also a close friend of his fellow fantasy writer C. S. Lewis. They were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as The Inklings.
57:42The Grey Havens -- The Shire’s brief police state overthrown, the Hobbits rebuild the villages of the region. Sam opens the box Galadriel gave him and finds a small silver seed, which he plants. In the Party Field, a sacred tree springs up to replace the old one. Many children are born that year. Merry and Pippin become heroes in the Shire, but Frodo quietly retires. That spring, Sam marries Rosie Cotton, Farmer Cotton’s daughter, and they live at Bag End with Frodo. Frodo decides to travel to Rivendell to see Bilbo. Frodo entrusts to Sam a history of the War, written in part by Bilbo. Frodo, Sam, and others set out. As they enter the Woody End, they meet Elrond and Galadriel, who now wear two of the Three Elven Rings. Riding slowly behind the two elves is Bilbo himself. Sam and Frodo accompany the travelers to the Great Sea. When they reach the gates of the Grey Havens, they find Gandalf waiting for them. Beyond him is a great white ship, ready to sail to the West across the sea. Pippin and Merry appear, wishing to be present at Frodo’s departure. Frodo sadly bids farewell to his three friends and boards the ship. Gandalf entreats the three hobbits to enjoy each other’s friendship as they quietly return to the Shire. Sam enters his warm home, where he finds Rosie waiting. She puts their young daughter, Elanor, in his lap, and Sam draws a deep breath and says, “Well, I’m back.”
1:07:12The Scouring of the Shire -- The hobbits find the bridge at Brandywine closed with a large spiked gate. When they demand entrance, a frightened gatekeeper informs them that he is under orders from the Chief at Bag End to let no one enter between sundown and sunrise. Frodo guesses that the Chief must be Lotho, his greedy relative. Merry and Pippin climb over the gate. The four hobbits set out for Hobbiton and encounter a large group of Hobbit Shirrifs, who inform them they are under arrest. The four hobbits laugh and move on. One of the Shirrifs quietly warns Sam that the Chief has many Men in his service. Leaving the Shirrifs behind, the four hobbits find a half-dozen Men who claim they do not answer to Lotho, the Hobbit Chief, but to another mysterious boss named Sharkey. The men threaten Frodo, but the other three hobbits draw swords. The men turn and flee. Sam rides on to find Tom Cotton, the oldest hobbit in the region. Farmer Cotton and his sons gather the entire village to fight. The band of Men returns, but surrenders after a brief fight. After the battle, Farmer Cotton explains that shortly after the Hobbits first left, Lotho began to purchase farmland, causing a shortage of food in Hobbiton. Cotton says that a gang of Men from the south took over the town. The next morning, a band of nearly one hundred Men approaches Hobbiton. Pippin arrives with his relatives, and a fierce battle ensues. Seventy of the Men die in the Battle of Bywater, as the conflict is forever remembered. The three remaining companions lead an envoy to Frodo’s home, Bag End, to deal with the new Chief. To their surprise, the hobbits find Saruman standing at the gate to Bag End. Saruman—who, it turns out, is the mysterious boss Sharkey—pronounces a curse upon the Shire if any hobbit should harm him. Frodo assures his friends that Saruman has no power, but he forbids them to kill the wizard. As Saruman passes by Frodo, he draws a knife and stabs Frodo, but Frodo’s armor shields him. Frodo again demands that his companions show mercy on the old wizard. Frodo’s clemency, however, enrages Saruman. Frodo asks about his relative Lotho, and Saruman informs Frodo that his servant, Wormtongue, killed Lotho in his sleep. Wormtongue, standing nearby, cries out that Saruman ordered him to do so. Saruman kicks Wormtongue, but Wormtongue stabs the old wizard. Wormtongue flees with a yell, but three Hobbit arrows kill him. From Saruman’s corpse, a gray mist rises and blows away.
25:35Homeward Bound -- The hobbits are nearing home. Gandalf asks if Frodo feels much pain. Frodo answers that he has been wounded by a knife and by the other torments of his long and heavy burden. Gandalf is silent. The next day, Frodo feels happy, and they travel onward in relative ease. They arrive at Bree and speak to Butterbur, the innkeeper who aided them early in the quest. Butterbur, after welcoming them and making them comfortable by the warm fire, tells Gandalf and the hobbits that their strange warrior gear has scared many locals. Gandalf laughs at this. Gandalf assures Butterbur that now that Sauron has been vanquished, business at the inn will once again pick up, as people will feel more free to travel. Butterbur asks about the dangerous region known as Deadmen’s Dike, which he imagines no one will be visiting. Gandalf asserts that the rightful king will return to that area, and it will become safe and prosperous again. He adds that the king is none other than Aragorn, once known in the inn as Strider. Butterbur is astonished at this news. The next day, business in the inn is brisk, as many visitors, unable to restrain their curiosity, come to gawk at Gandalf’s party. Many people ask Frodo whether he has written his memoirs yet. Finally, the Company sets off. Gandalf tells the hobbits that he will not accompany them to the Shire. His horse, Shadowfax, makes a leap, and Gandalf is gone. Frodo remarks that it feels as though he is falling asleep again, his adventures now over.
49:28Many Partings -- After many days, when the festivities are over, the Company sets out for Rivendell. Aragorn tells Frodo that he knows the hobbit wishes for nothing more than to return home. Frodo answers that he wishes first to stop off at Rivendell to visit Bilbo one last time, as the older hobbit will likely die soon. On the way, they stop at Rohan and bid farewell to Éomer, honoring the memory of Théoden. After a brief stay in Rohan, they set off again. Arriving in Isengard, they meet Treebeard, the Ent leader who orchestrated the march on Saruman in The Two Towers. The Ents had promised to guard Saruman’s old stronghold of Orthanc, ensuring that the corrupt wizard would never escape. Treebeard tells them of the flight of many Orcs and the doom the Orcs met in the forest. He relates that he reported news regularly to Saruman, who would come to the window of Orthanc to listen. But then the wizard withered away. Treebeard, to Gandalf’s dismay, has released Saruman, for he did not wish to keep such a miserable creature caged. Gandalf warns Treebeard that Saruman still has the power of his voice—a power he has used to his advantage in the past. Proceeding onward, the group comes upon an old, ragged man leaning on a staff. They recognize him as Saruman. Another beggar in his company is Wormtongue, his former servant. The deposed Saruman is bitter but powerless. Galadriel and Gandalf offer Saruman mercy and reprieve. Their kindness irritates Saruman, who claims that with his demise, theirs will soon follow. After a few more days of slow and pleasant travel, Galadriel and Celeborn turn eastward and return home. The remaining travelers reach Rivendell and the House of Elrond, and they find Bilbo. The old hobbit sits quietly in a small room, surrounded by bits of paper and pencils. The next day, all of Rivendell celebrates Bilbo’s 129th birthday. After a fortnight, Frodo realizes that he must return to the Shire. Bilbo chooses to remain in Rivendell, for he is far too old for any more travel. Bilbo gives Frodo three books of collected lore entitled Translations from the Elvish, asking Frodo to finish editing them. Before Frodo leaves, Elrond takes the hobbit quietly aside, assuring him that in time he himself will visit the Shire, and he will bring Bilbo with him.
44:45The Steward and the King -- The narrative jumps back to the time before the quest is finished, now focusing on the perspective of those in Minas Tirith. While Aragorn and the forces of Gondor are away, the city remains shrouded in fear. Faramir meets Lady Éowyn in the Houses of Healing. Éowyn longs for Aragorn and the chance to fight with the Riders against Mordor. Her sadness, mixed with pride and beauty, leads Faramir to fall in love with her. For days, they stare to the east, waiting for word of Gondor’s success, until they eventually see the Darkness break. As sunlight breaks through the sky, the citizens of Minas Tirith break out in song. Messengers soon arrive telling of Aragorn’s victory. The conflict resolved, Éowyn’s longing for war fades, and she and Faramir agree to wed. When Aragorn returns, Faramir rides out of the gate of Minas Tirith and offers him the keys of the city and an ancient crown. To everyone’s amazement, Aragorn calls for the Ring-bearer and Gandalf. Frodo hands the crown to Gandalf, who places it upon -Aragorn’s brow. The city of Minas Tirith begins to revive. Its walls are restored, and the city is filled with trees, fountains, and laughter. Ambassadors from many lands arrive in Gondor, and Aragorn shows mercy by rewarding both the faithful and the enemies of the West. Gandalf explains that the Third Age of Middle-earth has passed: the war against Sauron is over, and Aragorn’s reign in the age of Men has begun. The group climbs up an ancient, snowy path, at the end of which, amidst a pile of debris, Aragorn finds a sapling of the great White Tree—the symbol of ancient Elendil, Gondor’s kingdom. Aragorn takes the sapling back to the Citadel. The old, dead tree is removed and laid to rest, and the new one planted in its place. The day before Midsummer, a group of Elves approaches Minas Tirith. Celeborn and Galadriel, Elrohir and Elladan, and all the Elf princes arrive in the city. Behind them, mightiest of all, is Elrond with his daughter, Arwen. On the day of Midsummer, Aragorn (now called King Elessar) and Arwen are wed. Queen Arwen, seeking to repay Frodo for his immeasurable service and suffering, offers him a gift. When the time comes, he may sail in her stead across the Great Sea to the unknown West, where the Elves dwell in eternal youth and joy.
30:14The Field of Cormallen -- The narrative returns to Gandalf and those outside the Black Gate. To the north, the Captains of the West founder on the hills outside the Gate, surrounded by a dark, rolling sea of Orcs and Wild Men. Gandalf stands proudly, white and calm, with no shadow falling upon him. Suddenly, a great cry rises up: “The Eagles are coming!” Out of the north arrives a company of great eagles, led by Gwaihir the Windlord. The will of Sauron falters, and all the armies of Mordor quail in terror. A great roar shakes the hills. Gandalf cries in victory that the Ring-bearer has completed his quest, and that the reign of Sauron has ended. As Gandalf speaks, a huge shadow rises in the south, extending across the sky like a giant hand, and then vanishes in the wind with a great rush. Aragorn leads the Captains in a great sweep over the plains. Gandalf then soars into Mordor on the back of Gwaihir. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam, still in the heart of Mordor, have given up all hope of survival. As they talk quietly below the ruin of Mount Doom, Gwaihir spots them. Two eagles sweep down and lift the hobbits into the air. When Sam wakes, he finds himself on a soft bed in Ithilien, the eastern lands of Gondor. He first comments on the extraordinary dream he has just had and then cries out in astonishment that his dream actually happened. Frodo sleeps next to Sam, and Gandalf watches over the two of them. The wizard says that a great Shadow has departed, asks the hobbits to dress in their worn and ragged attire, and escorts them out of the wood. They are to attend a reception hosted by the King of Gondor. A great throng of people awaits the hobbits. At their emergence, the crowd bursts into thunderous applause, singing songs in praise of the hobbits. Frodo and Sam approach a great throne, where Aragorn welcomes them. He lifts them and sets them on the throne, and the joy of the people flows over them like a warm wind. In a regal ceremony, Frodo bequeaths his knife Sting to Sam, who initially resists but finally accepts the gift. That evening, Frodo and Sam attend a generous feast. They reunite with their old companions. Sam is greatly surprised by Pippin, who seems to have grown several inches. The next morning, King Aragorn prepares to enter the great city of Gondor as its rightful ruler.
49:47Mount Doom -- The next morning, Sam gains new strength and a grim sense of responsibility. He wakes Frodo and pushes him on toward Orodruin. The land before them is cold and dead, dotted by countless craters and hollows. The hobbits crawl eastward from hiding place to hiding place. After a few miles, Frodo is nearly spent, his mind and body tormented by the terrible weight of the Ring. He refuses to give the Ring to Sam, for he knows he is held by its power. The two decide to take to the road once again. All eyes in Mordor are turned to the west, where the Captains march toward Morannon. After three draining days of travel, Frodo’s limbs give way and he falls, exhausted. Sam picks Frodo up and carries him on his back. Before nightfall, they reach the foot of the mountain. Sam carefully makes his way up the slope. It is nearly morning. For a moment, the shadows dissipate, and Sam can see the flicker of the piercing Eye from Sauron’s Dark Tower. Its gaze passes by the hobbits and turns to the north, focusing on the Captains of the West. However, the glimpse of Sauron’s power causes Frodo to panic. His hand grasps for the Ring around his neck, and he cries for Sam’s help. Sam kneels beside Frodo and gently holds his master’s palms together in his lap. Afraid Sauron has spotted them, Sam takes Frodo upon his shoulders once more and continues up the mountain. With much difficulty, they finally reach the top. Sam looks down over a great cliff into the burning Cracks of Doom below. Suddenly, a cruel weight hits Sam from behind, and he falls forward. Behind him, he hears the voice of Gollum, cursing Frodo viciously for his treachery. Frodo and Gollum engage in a violent struggle, and Gollum proves stronger than the weakened Frodo. Suddenly, Frodo commands Gollum, “Begone, and trouble me no more!” and the creature falls to his knees. Frodo presses on to the Cracks of Doom. Sam, tempted to slay Gollum with his sword, refrains out of pity. Gollum slinks away. Reaching the Cracks, Frodo turns to Sam and, with a voice clearer than Sam has ever heard, informs him that he will not complete the quest. The Ring, Frodo declares, is his. He puts the Ring on his finger and vanishes. Sam is once again flung aside, and then he sees a dark shape leap over him. Just as Sam looks up, the Great Eye of Sauron suddenly becomes aware of Frodo. The eight remaining Nazgûl hurtle toward the mountain at terrifying speed. Sam sees Gollum struggling with an invisible enemy, biting at the air viciously. Frodo suddenly reappears, his hand bleeding from his severed finger. Gollum pulls Frodo’s finger and the Ring from his mouth joyfully, but then steps backward, unaware that he is close to the edge of the cliff. Gollum then falls, along with the Ring, into the Cracks of Doom. Mount Doom shakes violently as it accepts and consumes the Ring. Sam runs out into the daylight, carrying Frodo. The Nazgûl wither in the fiery ruin of the hill. Frodo stands by Sam’s side, himself again. Sam feels overjoyed, and Frodo explains that, were it not for Gollum, he would not have been able to finish the quest. Frodo says he is glad to be with Sam “at the end of all things.”
50:45The Land of Shadow -- Sam and Frodo run away from Cirith Ungol as horns peal in the tower. They run onto a long bridge, but as they approach the other side, they hear a company of orcs quickly approaching. The orcs cannot see the two hobbits, but are heading straight for them. Frodo and Sam jump over the edge of the bridge, landing safely on the side of a cliff. With great difficulty, they clamber down to the valley below. Mount Doom lies to the east, but the hobbits travel northward, hoping to evade any Orc search parties. Frodo and Sam have only some of Faramir’s provisions, a few lembas, and no water. After a night of weary travel, they find a small stream and joyously refill their water bottles. The Ring grows heavier around Frodo’s neck with every step. Mount Doom is still nearly forty miles to the east, across a great valley. Behind the mountain sits Barad-dûr, Sauron’s home, from which the Dark Lord directs his will over Mordor. Scattered all over the valley, as far as the two hobbits can see, the armies of Mordor await the final battle. There is no hope of moving undetected through so many enemies, but Frodo and Sam again have no choice but to go on. They continue moving northward, looking for a good place to leave the mountains and move east. They overhear two orcs quarrelling, speaking of a rumor about a great Elf in bright armor who is on the loose. On the third day, Frodo and Sam turn into a narrow eastward road and travel over it for several miles in the darkness. After some time, they hear a great company of orcs approaching from behind. The hobbits are unable to move aside, and the company overtakes them, but in the darkness its leader assumes the hobbits are orcs and forces them into line with the others. For what seems like hours, they travel with the Orc company at an excruciating pace. Frodo is in agony from the Ring’s increasing weight. After a time, they reach a busy crossroads. Armies from the south are moving in anticipation of Aragorn’s army. In the confusion of the converging companies, Frodo and Sam jump aside and crawl behind a nearby boulder.
57:10The Tower of Cirith Ungol -- As Book VI begins, the narrative returns to focus on Sam and Frodo, who are still in the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Mordor. Sam wakes to find himself in the dark, outside the Orc stronghold. He knows he needs to rescue Frodo, but a massive door blocks his path. He turns and makes his way through the tunnel behind him. Without reason or purpose, Sam puts on the Ring. Immediately, he feels the great physical weight of the Ring’s power. His hearing improves, but his sight becomes hazy. He hears the sound of savage fighting in the tower. He turns and runs back toward the door, hoping that the two Orc-captains have come to blows. Spurred by an intense love for Frodo, Sam takes off the Ring and approaches the main gate of Cirith Ungol. As he does, he sees Orodruin, or Mount Doom, in the distance to the east. He again feels the wild, heavy pull of the Ring and begins to fantasize about becoming “Samwise the Strong,” a great hero. Remembering his love for Frodo, Sam shakes off such thoughts. He is convinced that he is too much of a plain hobbit and a humble gardener to control the Ring. Pressing on with a shrug, Sam halts helplessly before the gate, as if held by a web. He is under the influence of the Two Watchers who forbid all entrance into Cirith Ungol. Sam unconsciously draws the phial of Galadriel from his breast and extends it forward. Its great light pierces the gloom, and Sam is able to pass quickly through the gate. The Watchers let out a shrill cry. Inside, Sam notices the bodies of dead orcs as he reaches a narrow staircase. The dark figure of an orc moves down the stairs. The orc sees Sam and halts, perceiving Sam as a great, grey shadow brandishing an Elf blade that shines bitterly in the darkness. The terrified orc turns and runs up into the tower. Sam follows stealthily, jovially terming himself the “Elf-warrior.” Upstairs, Sam can hear the orc, Snaga, speak to another, Shagrat; they are the only two orcs left in the tower. Shagrat orders Snaga to descend, but Snaga will not go back downstairs. Snaga runs into an unknown chamber of the tower, leaving the furious Shagrat alone. Sam reveals himself to Shagrat and moves to attack, but the orc, overwhelmed by the power of the Ring, runs in panic around Sam and out the door. Sam looks desperately around for Frodo, but cannot find him. He begins to sing to himself. His song draws a snarl from Snaga, who mistakes Sam’s voice for Frodo’s. Sam follows the sound of the snarl and finds the orc climbing a ladder through a hidden door in the ceiling. Sam climbs after Snaga and attacks him in the secret chamber. In a panic, the surprised orc charges Sam, trips over him, and falls through the hidden door to the hard floor below. Frodo lies naked on a heap of rags in the middle of the room. He is surprised to see Sam and utterly elated to find that Sam has saved the Ring. Suddenly, Frodo demands that Sam hand over the Ring, calling Sam a thief. Grabbing the Ring, Frodo apologizes to Sam. Frodo and Sam outfit themselves in Orc gear and climb down the ladder. With the phial of Galadriel, the two hobbits move past the Watchers and out into Mordor. Suddenly, the terrifying cry of a Black Rider rends the sky above them.