Clever Symbolism Details From 'The Lord of the Rings' That Fans Somehow Noticed

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J.R.R. Tolkien rejected symbolism. "There is no ‘symbolism’ or conscious allegory in [The Lord of the Rings]," he said in a 1957 letter. However, this hasn't stopped millions of fans from gleaning deeper meaning from Tolkien's fiction - or from artists adding allegory to their adaptations of Tolkien's work. 

Here are Lord of the Rings movie details that have symbolic meaning to certain fans. 


  • 1
    19 VOTES

    The Shire Is Old England

    The Shire Is Old England
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    Tolkien had an affinity for nature and simple ways of living. In viewing the Shire, with its gardens, hills, windmills, and small-town hospitality, it's hard not to think of pre-industrial England. Redditor u/NoPatada explained how the Shire fits into an allegory of the development of Britain:

    Shire = Old England Scouring of the shire = permanent damage. Is war worth it - even if you win? Materialism, industry being vehicles of change (some of it in a negative light) - think machines of war, Isengard, falling of Fangorn.

    19 votes
  • 2
    18 VOTES

    The Dead Marshes Were Inspired By The Battle Of The Somme 

    The Dead Marshes Were Inspired By The Battle Of The Somme 
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / New Line Cinema

    Tolkien was greatly affected by WWI, in which he served as a British Army lieutenant. Although he didn't consciously inject WWI lore in the story, the parallels are plentiful, such as Mordor being an aggregrate of the horrors of battle and Frodo experiencing something similar to PTSD after his mission. A few Redditors reminded us that one of Tolkien's only admitted war influences was the Battle of the Somme on his description of the Dead Marshes. From a 1960 letter:

    The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme.

    The Dead Marshes grew another layer of symbolic resonance when they were adapted to the big screen. We wonder if any veterans of the Somme watched that scene and were struck by the similarities. Could Albert Marshall have been a Tolkien fan?

    18 votes
  • 3
    18 VOTES

    Isengard Represents The Industrial Revolution

    Isengard Represents The Industrial Revolution
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / New Line Cinema

    Tolkien was not a fan of the industrialization of Earth. For this reason, Alexander Chavers of Medium believes that Isengard is a stand-in for the Industrial Revolution:

    In both the movies and books we see Isengard, the home of Saruman the White, go from forest to factory. Why: to build an army for the dark lord Sauron, who is coming to claim the world. Where trees once rested, swords and armor are being forged deep in the earth. And in the midst of this is the enemy. Their tool of destruction is steel. And flames.

    It is a nightmarish microcosm of technological imperialism.

    18 votes
  • 4
    24 VOTES

    The One Ring Has Literal And Metaphorical Weight

    The One Ring Has Literal And Metaphorical Weight
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    This symbolism is most apparent in the scene from Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo drops the Ring on the ground. According to Redditor u/ReeceInTheDarkness, "it doesn't bounce and falls straight to the ground with a loud thumping noise. This is symbolizing both the physical weight of the ring and the emotional weight and toll it takes on its bearer."

    24 votes
  • 5
    12 VOTES

    "Death And The Desire For Deathlessness"

    "Death And The Desire For Deathlessness"
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / New Line Cinema

    But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!

    - J.R.R. Tolkien

    There it is: LOTR boiled down by its creator to one symbol. The One Ring is deathlessness, which is pursued by different characters - and their groups - in different ways. Redditor u/WalkingTarget explained further that "it comes down to the fact that the Rings of Power are devices for preventing death and decay - if there wasn't a desire for that purpose then Sauron could never have ensnared the Elves of Eregion to their downfall. The fact that the Elves only need that effect focused externally is not important to the theme."

    12 votes
  • 6
    16 VOTES

    Sauron = Satan

    Sauron = Satan
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / New Line Cinema

    In the books, Morgoth is the closest thing to a Satanic figure, but this Ground Zero of Evil does not appear in the films. As such, Sauron is a cinematic stand-in for Morgoth and thus for Satan, at least according to certain Redditors - and common sense.

    Tolkien admitted that Morgoth is the Devil of Middle-earth. Sauron, as Morgoth's underling, got a nod as well: "...the absolute Satanic rebellion and evil of Morgoth and his satellite Sauron." The fire and brimstone surrounding cinematic Sauron seals the symbolism.

    16 votes