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Middle-earth Lore Details The 'Lord of the Rings' Films Don't Tell You

Updated May 18, 2021 1.9k votes 421 voters 128.6k views15 items

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When J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth for his Lord of the Rings novels, he didn't simply throw names around and pretend everyone knew what he was talking about. He created detailed languages and cultures as if they truly existed, and wrote it all down. His journals, notes, letters, and even poems written in various Middle-earth languages spell out detailed lore covering thousands of years of history.

You wouldn't know all of that, however, if you've only seen the film adaptations of his work. To really get into the lore of Middle-earth, you have to dive deep into the books and read through his various unpublished works. Fortunately, you don't have to get busy with that right now because this list features the fundamental details of Middle-earth lore.

Granted, you should still read the books at least once in your life, but for now, take a look at the items below to learn all you need to know about Tolkien's high-fantasy world. 

  • 1

    Middle-earth Is A Continent

    The first thing people get wrong about Middle-earth is they think it's the name of the world Tolkien's books are set in, but that's not exactly correct. The books take place in Middle-earth, but it's only a single continent of Arda (Earth) in what Tolkien described as the mythological past of Earth. In fact, the various stories and settings described in the books take place some 6,000 years before the 20th century.

    Middle-earth is the central continent of Arda. It lies north of the Hither Lands and west of the East Sea. Unfortunately, Tolkien never completed the geography of Arda as it pertained to the goings-on in Middle-earth. Still, his son, Christopher, has published some additional material he gathered from his father's notes. The name "Middle-earth" is called "Endor" in Quenya and "Ennor" in Sindarin, the languages of the Elves and the common tongue spoken throughout Middle-earth, respectively.

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  • 2

    Men Led, Including King Aragorn, During The Fourth Age Of Middle-earth

    The Fourth Age of Middle-earth was also known as the "Age of Men." The Fourth Age came after the end of the War of the Ring, and Men were left to rule, resulting in a long period of peace and prosperity. The Elves left Middle-earth at this time, heading to the Blessed Lands with only a few remaining. King Aragorn II Elessar ruled Gondor until his demise at the age of 210.

    Sauron's minions and his various allies were greatly diminished during this time, and most kingdoms lived in peace with one another. The period continued for around 6,000 years, and when it came to an end, so too did Middle-earth as it was known. Tolkien wrote in a letter in 1958 that the Fourth Age ended about 6,000 years before the present day, and he considered our current time period to be at the closing of the Fifth Age.

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  • 3

    Dragons And Balrogs Eventually Disappeared

    By the time of The Hobbit, dragons are all but extinct in Middle-earth. They were first created by Morgoth thousands of years before a young Hobbit stole into the hoard of a dragon named Smaug, but his demise brought about the species' extinction. Dragons were relatively active during the First and Second Ages, but by the Third Age, they had largely disappeared. Gandalf explained that the fire-drakes went extinct shortly before the War of the Ring, while other races persisted unseen by Men.

    Balrogs, also known as Valaraukar, were Maiar, seduced and corrupted by Melkor. They first dwelled in Utumno, but when Melkor was defeated, they escaped to Angband. They were prevalent during the First Age, but during the War of Wrath that brought that Age to an end, most were slain. The ones who remained managed to escape deep into the Earth. 

    A Balrog was awakened in 1980 of the Third Age when the Dwarves mined too deep in Moria. It managed to drive them from their land, slaying King Durin VI, earning the name Durin's Bane. When the Fellowship of the Ring passed through Moria, they encountered Durin's Bane as it pursued them to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. It was there that Gandalf the Grey fought the Balrog as they fell into the Abyss. When the conflict ended, both were slain, and Gandalf was reborn as Gandalf the White.

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  • 4

    Middle-earth Represents A Fantastical Prehistory Of Earth

    When Tolkien created his various lands and themes that would become Middle-earth, he designed it as a precursor to modern history. The author took inspiration from real-world locations in crafting his various places and the people who lived there. The Shire was designed in such a way that it was meant to evoke England. He did this to create a setting that wasn't fully fantastical and could be rooted in realism.

    Other locations took inspiration from familiar places in Europe and the United Kingdom. Of course, plenty of Middle-earth places are rooted entirely in fantasy elements, but by creating his world with aspects of our own, Tolkien designed a fantasy setting that hinted at real life. Doing so made his work more palatable to people who were new to high fantasy, and has helped keep his work alive.

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