Tolkien's Middle Earth is one of the richest fantasy worlds ever conceived; so rich that few are familiar with the entire mythos. The Silmarillion describes the history before The Lord of the Rings, and acts as an encyclopedic record of how the world of Arda came to be.
As it turns out, there are a lot of things that happened before The Hobbit. Tolkien's most well-known tales — those that have been brought to the screen — stick to covering events from the Third Age, and only allude to the millennia of lore that lead up to the destruction of the One Ring.
Some of the greatest characters Tolkien created aren't that well known. The general lack of knowledge regarding the extended LoTR universe has spawned some incorrect fan theories, and has left a lot of room for confusion among casual fans, even those who have read The Lord of the Rings.
Here are the most important things to know to understand The Lord of the Rings, the creation of the world known as Arda, and all the magical creatures that inhabit it.