The Demography and Diplomacy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’

by Shaun Manning on October 9, 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings presented an incredibly rich fantasy world, imbued with poetic language and an intricate system of relationships between characters, races, and nations. The epic trilogy–The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, along with prequel adventure The Hobbit–have inspired a passionate fandom but also, intriguingly, in-depth research into the fictional world.

Earlier this year, the University of Michigan Press published Abigail E. Ruane and Patrick James’s The International Relations of Middle-earth: Learning from the Lord of the Rings.  The book uses Tolkien’s multinational intrigues between Gondor, Lothlorien, Arnor, the Shire, and other regions to explore real-world issues of the international stage. The International Relations of Middle-earth also examines themes of good vs. evil and free will vs. fate as they pertain to global politics.

Recently, Emil Johansson, a student at Chalmers Institute of Technology in Sweden, created an online geneology of The Lord of the Rings, titled The Lord of the Rings Project. Its goal, Johansson states on the site, is “to place every character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional universe in a family tree.” In addition to the large and elaborate family tree–which can be sorted by race, canonical legitimacy, rank, and other factors–the site includes demographic statistics, a map of Middle-earth, and a timeline of major events. There is also an Android app, useful for settling bets while traveling on foot to distant lands.

Mr. Johansson’s project is not affiliated with the Press, but his impressive project could be a worthy classroom resource for courses studying The International Relations of Middle-earth.

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