How Important is the Lore of a Book To You?

Of late, I have been thinking how much I love the fact that there is so many things to know about the Lord of the Rings universe. It’s truly incredible. You can read and enjoy the books without knowing any of it, but if you do, the story is so much richer for it.

I bet I could write an essay, at least 1000 words on the backstory and lore behind LOTR. Of the fall Numenor and the flight of the Noldor. However, I can read a book like ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’, which is a one-off, and still enjoy it. This leads me into ‘how important is it’ to have all of this stuff going on? To me, it can be very important. Did you know that the dream Faramir has of a great wave crashing over green fields in a destructive tide was a recurring nightmare for Tolkien as a child? The scene in which Beren espies Luthien a-singing and a-dancing in the woods was inspired by how Tolkien’s wife Edith danced and sang for him under trees, once upon a time? Indeed, the inspiration that Edith bore to Tolkien was so great that upon the gravestone they share, she is named Luthien and he Beren.


Tolkien has released many books relating to various parts of the history and lore of LOTR. First and most well known are ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘LOTR 1, 2, and 3’. Further, there is ‘The Silmarillion’, ‘Unfinished Tales’, ‘The Children of Hurin‘ and ‘The History of Middle Earth’. ‘Tales of the Perilous Realm contains information on Tom Bombadil, and there is of course the appendices in the rear of the Return of the King book.

Let’s compare this to some longer, modern series. Harry Potter, for example. A series of seven books I expect most of you will have read. There is a decent amount of history going on in these books. However, most of this information is only given in direct relation to the plot. We know of the ‘Old Order’ and the First and Second Wizarding Wars. There is, however, nowhere near as much as there is for LOTR. Rowling is still quite a young woman, and has now (probably) left Harry Potter behind for good. Tolkien was 62 when LOTR was published. It was his life’s work. He had worked on the Quenya and Sindar languages since he was around thirty years old. The Silmarillion is Tolkien’s story of those languages (that’s how the first notes came about). He only formed it into a full book after LOTR was published and many fans were begging him for more.The Hobbit was initially written only as a story for his children until a publisher got hold of it and begged for the right to release it. He also wrote LOTR much at the say of the publishers, although a lot of the story he already had formed. Tolkien knew that LOTR was his one chance at success, which is why he dedicated so much time to it; building backstory, writing timelines, working out family trees and so on.

This, for me, is what makes LOTR so special. The books are brilliant. It is the lore behind it all that makes the series magical. Any of you enjoy the subplot of Aragorn and Arwen? It is told in full in the appendices, as Tolkien couldn’t find a place to fit it into the book very well.Almost a full history of the modern age is given. There’s just so much information there wanting to be taken in! I think that more writers should ‘invest’ detail and lore into their books. Fantasy literature is often divided ‘pre’ and ‘post’ Tolkien, these being ‘classic’ and ‘modern’ fantasy respectively. The amount of detail Tolkien pours into his work is almost exclusively a feature of classical fantasy. Modern fantasy authors are unwilling to dedicate such time and effort into their novels. It seems to me that they would rather have the book published and get on with the next one. It really is a shame.

Well well well. This started out as a writing on the lore in fantasy books. It sort of evolved into a rant about how good Tolkien (and LOTR) is (better than a rant about fountain pens, eh?), so I apologise. It’s when the ink gets flowing and four pages later I’ve splurged a load of nonsense ready for the blog.

I’ve sort of drifted away from Hogfather, the Pratchett novel. I’m really not enjoying it. I might end of reviewing it when I finish it. If not, I’ll go back to other books.


One thought on “How Important is the Lore of a Book To You?

  1. The lore of Lord of the Rings – and the rest of Tolkien’s universe – is one of many reasons I am so in love with his books. I love the richness, the breath of antiquity that pervades his books, the sense of the eons behind his tales … I do think the amount of lore-building an author does depends on the type of writing. An epic fantasy such as LOTR absolutely demands at least a hint of the past that’s gone before, IMHO.

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