Every Race In Middle-Earth Explained | WIRED

published on July 2, 2020

– The story of the "Lord Of The Rings",

the story of Middle Earth,
grew over his entire life

He really spent his entire life working

[dramatic music]

Hi, I'm Dr Corey Olsen,
the Tolkien professor,

and this is every race in Middle Earth

We're gonna be looking at
the races in Middle Earth,

as Tolkien created them,
mapping his creative process

over time, Tolkien
professionally was a philologist

That is to say he studied
the history of languages

So what was his hobby?

His hobby was inventing languages

– [Tolkien] Languages have a flavor to me

which I never understand
people saying the same phrases

that's awfully dry and double

'cause a new language to me
is just like taking a new

wine or some new sweet potatoes, I mean

– The very first stage of
Tolkien's creative life

was what I call his early mythology

when he was writing these ancient myths,

trying to sort of explain
how things came to be

Then he began in the middle of his life,

this new little story, right?

He started "The Hobbit" and
the "Lord Of The Rings"

And originally those weren't
connected to that first stage,

but then he decided to marry his new story

with his early mythology

So put together all of these
things span his creative life,

and we're going to look at
how every race in Middle Earth

developed over the course of that time

[calm music]

He loved traditional fairy stories

He loved stories about elves

There are lots of places in England

where a certain river, or well, or ruin,

or something associated with
elves from ancient days

So one of the things that
he really wanted to do,

he wanted to write a
mythology for England

England didn't have a really
good fairytale tradition

The kinds of fairytales that they told

were mostly fairytales
from other countries

So what he ended up doing then

was going back to the languages

They form a story because he's talking

about how the languages change over time

He wanted to have peoples who
were speaking these languages

and a history that would
lead them to do the things

that he was imagining happening

The core story of his original mythology

is that the elves live off
to the West across the sea,

pretty much inaccessible most of the time,

but there is a Mariner,

a human sailor who makes it
across the sea to Elvenhome,

right, to Tole Acier and meets the elves

and talks with them and they
tell him all the stories

he writes down the set of stories,

which Tolkien called the
"Book of Lost tales"

There's a lot that could be said there,

but I wanna focus on what's important

for Tolkien's creative development

The history of the elves as a vehicle

for his language creation

was the thing that was
really central for Tolkien

In the end, the major
division between the elves

are those who stayed in Middle
Earth and never left it

And those who went to
Valinor the ones who remain

in Middle Earth are the two
primary groups called the Sindar

and the Nandor, these
are basically wood elves

The Nandor are the ones
who will become famous

in "The Hobbit" and the
"Lord Of The Rings"

The ones who go across,
the elves who go to Valinor

who make it to Valinor are the high elves

The primary thrust of the story

is that there's a rebellion
among the high elves,

some of the high elves
return to Middle Earth

rebelling against the Valar yet banished

from Valinor as a consequence,

but they come back in order
to fight the big enemy

Melkor was his name and the
elves rename him Morgoth

And the wars between the high elves

who returned to Middle Earth and Morgoth,

that is the central drama of
the whole early mythologist

The elves are very strong
and they're very heroic,

but they're fighting
against essentially a God

And they get beaten down and beaten down

And until finally they
are almost all destroyed

in Middle Earth and then
there is the sudden shift

and the Valar relent and come to their aid

and stomp Morgoth in the
War of Wrath at the end

of what will later be
called the first stage,

this early mythological period,

Tolkien in the middle of his life begins

to write a new story

– It began long ago

– "The Hobbit", it was started as a story

that he wrote for his kids, right

Which almost accidentally
got shared with the publisher

who really liked it and
wanted to publish it

So this was not like a
major creative undertaking

that Tolkien took, it was a
thing that kind of happened

by chance, he'd been trying
to get published for years,

mostly failing anyway, with
his core major stories

And then this funny little
story that he had made up

for his kids gets published
and becomes a massive success

But in that story, he basically
recycles a lot of material

He had all this great material,
and so we can see the elves

in "The Hobbit", both the
wood elves of Mirkwood

and the high elves, which we
primarily meet in Rivendell

are very much borrowed
from very similar to

not identical to, but
very similar to the elves

of his mythology

The sequel of course grows
into the "Lord Of The Rings"

So even when Tolkien enters what I call

the integration stage of his
career, when he's writing

this new story and the sequel,
the The "Lord Of The Rings"

really begins to kind of
take off on him and become

something bigger and greater
than "The Hobbit" was

And he decides at that
point that it should be part

of the world, that he's gonna combine it

with the early mythology

So that it's all gonna
make one big, huge story

Even after he makes that decision,

the elves don't really change

The elves are a baseline for Tolkien

They were the core
element of his mythology

from the very beginning in a lot of ways,

they were the premise, the
point of the whole mythology

from the beginning

Now, in this mythology
that Tolkien has invented

for his world, started
with stories about elves,

but they have to have a world first

So how is the world created
and how does it work?

And so he invented a
sort of higher mythology,

which involves a Pantheon of gods

Now, the gods that he included
are inspired by Greek gods,

Norse gods, and Finnish mythology as well

Tolkien's world that he
invented was from the beginning,

fundamentally monotheistic,
there is one creator, God

who created all things and
his name was Eru The One,

or Iluvatar, Tolkien almost
always gives everybody

at least two names,
Iluvatar creates all things,

but Iluvatar, Tolkien's
God is a delegator, right?

The first thing that he does is he creates

a group of spiritual beings
who are his companions,

and those are called
collectively the Ainur,

these sort of angelic spirits,

they help to create the world
and the way that Tolkien

describes this is what he
calls the music of the Ainur

It is through music that
the world is created

They sing a song, the chorus of the Ainur

and their song is the song
of the creation of the world

After the world is
created some of the Ainur,

some of these spiritual beings
who are with the Iluvatar

in the timeless halls, decide to enter

into the world itself

Arda, you've got the universe that is,

and you've got Arda,
which is the little world

Some of the Ainur decide

that they are going to
enter into that, right?

That they're gonna go down
and they're gonna shape it

And they're gonna guide its history

just as they participated in its creation

Those of the Ainur who descend
in the greatest of them

are called the Valar

These are the primary gods
of Tolkien's mythology

They are often called gods
by the mortals, elves,

and men, and others who
live in Middle Earth

There are also a lot of minor spirits,

which are associated with the Valar

So there are spirits of the air,

and there are spirits of the earth

And there are spirits of the water

The minor spirits are called Maiar

but of course there was conflict, right?

And the conflict starts
at the very beginning

The conflict starts during the music,

the greatest of all of the Ainur rebelled

And he created a discord within the music

His name was Melkor and many other spirits

attuned their song to
his instead of to the

sort of the greater music
that Iluvatar had originally

propounded to them was Tolkien's word

So Melkor, he is the bad guy, right?

And he also descends into Arda as well

and claims it for his own
thinking that he should rule it

and the conflict between
the Valar and Melkor

and then between the elves and Melkor

is the primary plot line of Tolkien's

early mythology and one of
the greatest of his servants

is the guy who will
later be known as Sauron

the primary villain of
the "Lord Of The Rings"

When Tolkien's story then shifts, right,

when he starts writing his new story

"The Hobbit", there are a bunch of ways

in which we can see these
old mythological concepts

of the Ainur influencing the story,

but probably the most famous moment

where these spiritual beings
appear in Tolkien's new story

is Tom Bombadil and Goldberry,

Tom Bombadil is a strange
character, he's clearly one

of the Ainur, he talks about
coming in from the outside

He talks about being there in Arda,

in Middle Earth from the very beginning,

he is one of these spirits who has taken

on physical form and
entered into the world

And his wife Goldberry, is
the daughter of the river,

the biggest and most dramatic
effect of the integration

of his new story with his old mythology

As far as the Ainur are
concern is the wizards

If you just read "The
Hobbit" and focus on nothing,

but "The Hobbit", Gandalf
seems to be a dude

who is a professional
wizard, this idea changes

And when it changes most dramatically

is when Tolkien decides to
integrate the old mythology

with the new story

And so here he decides the
wizards are, in fact, Ainur

powerful, but lesser
spirits and not Valar

But they are some of the more
powerful servants of the Valar

the Valar have looked at in this third age

as Sauron is growing more powerful

And the great elf
kingdoms of old are gone

The great human kingdoms of old are gone,

who can possibly oppose Sauron

As he rises to power again,
the wizards are the help

They are incarnated into
bodies and they are brought

to Middle Earth and they
go about Middle Earth

trying to help the peoples

Gandalf is the one who
is the highest profile

he does the most good, Saruman
of course fails, right?

Saruman fails and he
fails most spectacularly

There are of course, three other wizards

The one who has mentioned in
the text is Radagast The Brown,

who we're told is a particular
friend to beasts and birds

We're not told very much at all else

about Radagast The
Brown, we know even less

about the other two wizards,
whom Tolkien later said

were blue wizards, they went
off into the East and Tolkien

never did tell the story
about what happened to them

But Gandalf as I said
becomes the centerpiece

He becomes the wizard who succeeds

and who is the primary
instrument of the Valar

in helping Middle Earth
in this final stage

and his primary role,
the thing that he does

is he goes around and he
inspires hope in people

That is the primary mission
of Gandalf The Gray,

who becomes Gandalf The White

This by the way, is why Gandalf
is able to be resurrected

because he's not just a
guy, he is one of the Maiar

who is given a body and that's why

when Gandalf comes back he's different

– Gandalf, yes that's
what the used to call me

– But he's more powerful because
he's been given a new body

and been given a new job,
he's done his job well

And he is empowered to
return and finish the job

which he does through the
end of the war he raids

We have elves and we have men,

those two together are called
the children of Iluvatar

The primary difference between
elves and men is longevity

Elves do age very, very slowly,

but they don't die of old age

Their life is coterminous with the earth

Humans only live a short
time here within Arda,

and then they die and their
spirits go somewhere else

The primary dimension that
differentiates elves and men

is their connection with Arda

Humans however, when their spirits depart,

they leave Arda behind entirely

The humans are called the after comers,

the ones who are born second,

the most important human
story that Tolkien wrote

was the story of Numenor

There are some surviving men
who have survived the wars

and who have been faithful,
who have been the allies

of the elves and the Valar say,

"We're gonna make you a special land"

So they create them an
island called Numenor,

in the Island of Numenor

The men grow to be wiser, greater

They are longer lived, they
live like 25,300 years

They become taller, they're
just blessed in every way,

the Numenoreans

And they become the most
amazing group of men ever

in the history of the world,
but they become discontented

They long for immortal life,
they don't want to die

They don't want to leave the world

And so they try to find ways
to make themselves immortal

So increasingly the
Numenoreans become discontent

and then they meet Sauron,
the last Numenorean king

sets out to conquer him and
he takes Sauron captive

And he's brought back to Numenor

And when Sauron is in Numenor,

he swiftly becomes the
chief counselor of the king

and convinces him to
attack the Valar themselves

and to take the immortal land by force,

where they have become convinced

that they will live immortally,

if they manage to
conquer the undying lands

and Iluvatar smites the Island of Numenor

And it sinks beneath the sea,

almost all of the Numenoreans died,

but a few of them survive,
there are a few Numenoreans,

a subset of the population
who are still faithful

to their old friendship with
the elves and the Valar

And they establish themselves
the last exiled remnants

of Numenor in Middle Earth itself

The survivor of Numenor was named Elendil

and he gets together with the last king

of the high elves
remaining in Middle Earth

And the two of them
formed the last Alliance

of elves and men and they
go and they attack Sauron

and they throw him down for good and all

Isildur, Elendil's son cuts
the ring from his hand

He overthrow of Sauron, is the
end of the early mythology

But as he's writing the
"Lord Of The Rings",

things start to come together

And in particular, that story of Numenor,

which was so important to
Tolkien, Frodo and the hobbits

as they're leaving the
Shire encounter Strider,

the ranger in green,
Strider becomes their guide

and takes them to Rivendell,
and this is how we meet

the character of Aragorn,
who is the heir of Isildur

and the future King of Gondor

The air of Numenor, he
becomes the dunedain

Now dunedain is the word that's used

in the "Lord Of The
Rings" for the descendants

of Numenor, the descendants
of Numenor are still among us

in Middle Earth, their
descendants are lesser

It's been a long time since Numenor,

but there are still
descendants of the great people

among us, Gondor in
particular is where the people

of Middle Earth joined
together with the descendants

of the Numenoreans and
together they made a kingdom

which in Middle Earth
recalled the splendor

of Numenor that was

[eagle wings flipping]

The eagles are really important characters

in Tolkien stories from the beginning,

in the early mythology,
the eagles are spirits

They are Ainur they are some
of the servants of Manwe

Some of the chief servants
of Manwe, Manwe of course,

was the leader of the Pantheon, right?

He was essentially the
king of Middle Earth

and he was the God of the air

And when the Eagles come rolling in,

it means that Manwe is taking
a hand directly in events

They are also one of the elements

where we can see most clearly

that Tolkien was not just
imagining "The Hobbit"

as part of his old mythology
world from the beginning,

even in "The Hobbit",

the eagles come by the end of the story,

to recall the eagles of Manwe

In some ways, the high point
of the whole Hobbit story

is Bilbo crying out

– The eagles are coming

– Which is not only this
miraculous rescue there,

but again, there's an almost
supernatural element there

in the "Lord Of The Rings",
as the story develops

And as he integrates the new story

with the old mythology,

the Eagles become the
mechanisms by which the Valar

are still taking a hand and helping

the people of Middle Earth

This of course, bears on the question,

which many people have asked,

why don't they just fly on eagles,

to take the ring to Mordor?

One reason why they don't do that

is that that would be a really bad story

The second reason they
would be really easy

to see coming and Sauron
has an air force too,

the third reason, the eagles
are not mounts, right?

It's thinking of them completely wrong

They are not just birds

They are certainly not just mounts

And so when they come in, they are allies

who might be able to intervene
as they do intervene again,

at the very end of the "Lord Of The Rings"

of the battle of the Black Gate,

they are allies and
they seem by implication

to be allies sent even
by the Valar to help

in extreme times of need

– You know what they awoke
in the darkness of Khazad-dum

shadow flame

– One of the most dramatic characters

in the "Lord Of The Rings"
is the Balrog of Moria,

right, and everybody loves the
confrontation between Gandalf

and the Balrog on the
bridge of Khazad-dum

– You shall not pass

– The Balrogs are really old characters

They are they're almost from the beginning

in Tolkien's mythology, Melkor of course,

the big bad guy when he comes
into Arda at the beginning,

he brings with him many spirits

The Balrogs are the chief of those,

the Balrogs and Saurons
served together under Morgoth

So when Gandalf is confronting the Balrog

on the bridge of Khazad-dum,
it is a big, big deal

They are associated with
shadows and darkness,

but mostly with flame and
especially their whips of flame

– If this is some lush head's
idea of a joke [laughs]

I can only say it is
imbearable, more taste

– Whoa

– Dwarves have perhaps the
most dramatic evolution

of any of the races in Tolkien's world

in the original mythology
dwarves are bad guys

They're servants of Morgoth

They're like right alongside the orcs

Tolkien not only does not emphasize

that there are very skilled craftsmen

He says explicitly that
they're not skilled craftsman

All they care about is the bottom line

When Tolkien is writing his new story,

his Hobbit story, he
wants to include dwarves

heavily influenced by the
dwarves of his mythology

And remember the dwarves in his mythology

are not anything to brag about

They are not heroes, but here's the thing

As he's writing the story,
the dwarves transform,

the dwarves change a lot

over the course of "The Hobbit" itself

In chapter one, when they
show up on Bilbo's doorstep

and they're explaining
to Bilbo what happened,

Thorin sings a song

[Thorin singing]

– All the sudden the
dwarves are craftsman

And they talk about their works of hand

and all of the beautiful
things that they made,

that idea emerges there in "The Hobbit"

and becomes this dominant
part of the story

so that when the dwarves
get back to their treasure,

it's no longer just about the money

It's now about recovering
the work of their fathers

and their homeland of old

And it becomes a really moving story

And Thorin becomes a really
interesting character

He has his really bad moment
where he's threatening

to throw Bilbo off the wall,
victim of the dragon sickness

and becoming overwhelmed by
his desire for the treasure

and his greediness, but
he turns away from it

And in the end, Thorin Oakenshield
dies a sacrificial death

dwarves kind of become heroes

over the course of "The Hobbit"

The new story changes the old mythology

So when he brings the two things together

in his later career, he
ends up having to change

stuff about dwarves, but over the course

of the "Lord Of The Rings" in particular,

we can see him beginning to
develop further this idea

of who the dwarves are
and what they're like

They become clearly one of the free people

and now dwarves, elves, and
men together become the core

of what Tolkien calls the
free peoples of Middle Earth

There are several places
in the "Lord Of The Rings"

that allude to the fact that the origins

of the dwarves are uncertain, right?

That nobody's really sure about
where the dwarves came from

Well, one of the reasons for this

was that Tolkien was unsure [laughs]

where dwarves came from

He invented some stories
and he eventually decided

that they were made by the God Aule,

the Valar who is in charge
of the earth, of stone,

but also a craftsmanship,
He was the smithian God

And he makes dwarves to be his helpers,

but he doesn't really have the authority,

but Iluvatar has pity
on them and spares them

And he infuses them the dwarves
with some of his own will

So we still have the two
children of Iluvatar,

elves and men and the dwarves
become the stepchildren

of Iluvatar, red conning
in Tolkien mythology

Now the orcs are the primary bad guys

If you're fighting the armies of evil

on the fields of Middle
Earth, it's probably orcs

that you're fighting

Orcs were part of the original mythology

The word orc was derived from
Tolkien's Elvish languages

orcs were basically constructs

They were manufactured by Morgoth

These were not independent races

Tolkien says that Morgoth
made them in mockery of elves

Morgoth filled the orcs
with his spirit of hatred

and cruelty, that's the role of orcs

in Tolkien's early mythology

And this is a really important idea,

this mythic concept of this embodied evil

is an important element
that we can see running

through the "Lord Of The Rings"

When Tolkien starts writing his new story,

in his Hobbit story, he included goblins

Now he calls them goblins instead of orcs,

orc and goblin are in Tolkien's world

Really synonyms, goblins
of fairytale tradition

had a lot of similarities with the orcs

of Tolkien's mythology

However, the orcs create what is probably

the single biggest problem
in Tolkien's world

He decided in writing
the "Lord Of The Rings",

that his old mythology wouldn't
work in this new context

At the end of the day, he
decided that the Morgoth

could not actually create
creatures of his own, right?

It becomes part of his
mythology that only Iluvatar,

only God has the ability
to create a sentient race

Aule made the dwarves, but
Iluvatar helps them along

and adopts them, well if that's true,

if only Iluvatar can create
sentient races then Morgoth

couldn't have made the
orcs as simple constructs

So Tolkien develops a second
story, a second version

for where orcs came from and he goes back

and he changes the mythology

If all sentient creatures can
only be created by Iluvatar,

then logically orcs have
to be not a new species,

but a corruption of an old species,

Morgoth back in the very early days,

right after the elves awoke
by the shores of Queanbeyan,

Morgoth captured some of them

And he brought them
back to his dark domain

and he tortured them and he twisted them

And the result was the orcs

The orcs are corrupted, twisted elves

Cause now, there are several
different breeds of orcs

We know that the orcs
of the Misty mountains,

are sort of one way and the orcs of Mordor

are bigger and stronger, but
there's one major innovation

that we see in the "Lord Of The Rings"

And that is the group called the Uruk-hai

And the Uruk-hai are the orcs of Saruman

We are not told definitively
within the narrative exactly

where the Uruk-hai came from

The speculation that we were
given believes that they

are a blending of the
races of orc and men,

that the Uruk-hai are the
results of crossbreeding

between orcs and men, the
interbreeding of orcs and men

does not bear thinking about,
because that could only

have happened in one of
several truly horrifying ways

[dragon roars]

Dragons are a really important
part of Tolkien's world

And Tolkien's mythology,
in the early stages

of the wars between Morgoth and the elves

Morgoth decides he's got to do
something to tip the scales

And so dragons are his answer,
he designs the first dragon

and the first dragon,
the father of dragons

was named the Glaurung, and
the dragons were originally

wingless, Glaurung comes
out and he does the job

Glaurung becomes one of
Morgoth's chief captains,

and he deals some devastating
blows to the elves

in the wars with Morgoth

And he releases the winged dragon

during the War of Wrath at the
end, the bad guys almost win

So the dragons have a major, major role

in the early mythology

Now, when Tolkien begins his
new story, his Hobbit story,

ultimately, it's gonna be a dragon story

[dragon roars]

One minor, but really interesting
bad guy in Tolkien's world

are werewolves, now
these are not werewolves,

in the like European
tradition, who are human beings

who get infected and transform
into wolves at the full moon

But these are just especially evil wolves

They're sort of more products of Morgoth's

research and development department

They are the bodies of
large wolves combined

with fellow spirits

And it's interesting
because Sauron is actually

the one who spearheads
the werewolf project

The werewolves don't come in
for a whole lot of stories

However, in the new story,
he brings the wolves back

in "The Hobbit", the wargs
are encountered of course,

right near the goblins

and they're the allies of the goblins

They're kind of borrowed
from the old werewolves

of the old mythology tradition

They're intelligent, they
speak their own language

and they are the mounts of the goblins,

but they're the allies,
when Tolkien begins

to integrate these things, the wargs stay,

but he kind of downplays the wolves

The wolves get really kind of put aside

some orcs still ride wolves,

but the wolves themselves
become a lesser character

– My dear Frodo, hobbits
really are amazing creatures

– You may be interested
by the fact that we're

only now getting to hobbits

Hobbits are really the
iconic Tolkien race

He might have thought about
elves, first and foremost,

but for the modern reader,
in the modern audience,

it's all about the hobbits,

hobbits emerged when he
started writing his new story

In fact, Tolkien was so poor

that he signed up to grade exams

So there was one essay
he was in the middle

of grading it, right?

And he flips over the page
and they left a page blank

And so on this blank
page, he takes his pen

and he writes in a hole in the
ground, there lived a hobbit

and he had no idea what a hobbit was

So the first story of the Hobbit story

was him figuring out what a hobbit was

And he decided that hobbits
were these funny little people

And he developed the whole hobbit culture,

which has become absolutely
beloved by modern readers

The world of the hobbits
really kind of took over it

The original seed of the
"Lord Of The Rings" story

was the long expected party,
Bilbo's farewell party,

where he brings in all of his relatives

and then insults them and shocks them all,

and vanishes and hands
things off to Frodo

But Tolkien didn't know
what Frodo was gonna do

or where he was gonna go

As the story of the "Lord
Of The Rings" developed

the hobbits don't really
change very fundamentally

Their culture remains very much the same

Their role of course
becomes really important

And them as the representative
of the little people

of small people who are not
themselves very important

yet accomplishing big things
becomes one of the major themes

of the "Lord Of The Rings"

Now, Tolkien never really explains,

though it seems the
most likely explanation

within Tolkein's mythology of hobbits

is that they are somehow
a sub-species of men

that at some point and for
some reason became small

There are other sub-races
of men that he introduced

kind of like hobbits in this way

Humans in Tolkien's world
are kind of malleable

– There's more where that came from

– One of the other bad
guy races are trolls

in Tolkien's world and
they're weird, they're funny

They speak in cockney accents

The trolls are really just
kind of fun characters,

fun villains that he invents on his own

The chief characteristic of the trolls

apart from, being large,
strong, not very intelligent,

and man-eating is that
they turn into stone

when the sun shines on them

Cause they in fact permanently
turned into stolen statues

If sunlight falls upon them

That's of course the
story in "The Hobbit"

It's how they escape from the trolls,

– Look Frodo it's Mr Bilbo's trolls

– Now Treebeard The Ent tells us

in the "Lord Of The Rings",

that the trolls are made by
the enemy in mockery of Ents,

as the orcs were of elves,

trolls were sort of animated stone,

just as Ents are kind of
animated trees, right?

That they are creatures who
are fundamentally made out

of stone and who are enslaved
to the will of Sauron

– It's talking Merry, the tree is talking

– Tree?

I am no tree

– Giants, have an interesting
history in Tolkien's world

Giants are of course,
a staple of traditional

fairytale stories in the early mythology

There are some references to giants

It seems like giants kind of exist,

but he never really told
any stories about giants

Treebeard originally in Tolkien's idea

was a Jack and the Beanstalk style giant

But at the same time, this
other idea was beginning to grow

in Tolkien's mind and to
begin to become an element

of the story and that is
the idea of sentient trees,

which can communicate even
in a way and which can move

and act against the hobbits and
these trees they're not evil

per say, but they're hostile,
very hostile to the hobbits

And they're hostile because
from a tree's perspective,

these little bipeds, right,
they come in with their axes

and they wanna clear
land for farming, right?

And other useless things like that

From the tree perspective,
they're not servants of Sauron,

they're not creatures of
Morgoth or anything like that

They're just territorial

and they don't like bipeds much at all

The moment comes when the hobbits come,

Merry and Pippin of course,
are coming to Fangorn forest,

another ancient forest down

in the Southern part of the world

In that moment, Tolkien
has one of these flashes

of inspiration, which
just transform things

And he realizes, wait a second

This is a giant who is a tree

And he becomes Treebeard the Ent,

as soon as he makes this decision,

as soon as he realizes,
no, this is no this is not

a Jack and the Beanstalk style giant

We're talking about
here, the entire chapter,

the entire Treebeard chapter,
chapter four of book three,

of The Two Towers emerges almost
word for word in one draft

The story of Treebeard and the Ents

of how they were woken
up and taught language

by the elves all comes
together in one shot

in The Two Towers, we have
Treebeard and the Ents,

but we also have this
middle class of creatures

called huorns, Ents as
they are related to trees

Some of the trees wake up
and learn to talk back

So huorns are in fact,

a sort of middle stage their wakeful trees

or their sleepy Ents

So when the huorns come
in and armies of huorns,

take out the army of orcs
after the battle of Hans Deep

and invade Isengard, that's
what Tolkien's talking about

One of Tolkien's favorite
villains from the beginning

were giant spiders from the
very beginning of his mythology

One of his big villains
was named Ungoliant,

the gloom weaver and
she's a gigantic spider

She is like the embodiment
of darkness itself

and her role in the early
stories, in the early mythologies,

she's an ally of Morgoth, now
Ungoliant did have children

She had a brood of
giant spider, offspring,

which then go on to trouble the land

and to become characters in other stories

We have, of course, the
giant spiders of Mirkwood,

that Mirkwood is a dark place
where light is choked off

And in the midst of this
dark and gloomy forest

is the spider colony, we're also told

that there are bitter
enemies of the wood elves

So when Tolkien came to write
the "Lord Of The Rings",

he decided early on when Frodo and Sam

were gonna get into Mordor,
one of the last obstacles

they were gonna have to
pass was giant spiders

Sauron on is with Morgoth
from the beginning,

Sauron was originally one
of the servants of Aule,

the God of craftsmanship,
this is why he becomes the one

who forges the rings of power

The story of the forging
of the rings of power,

however, comes a good deal later

And in fact, that does not originate

in the early mythology at all

It originates from the new story

When Tolkien is writing "The Hobbit",

he includes the necromancer
at the end of "The Hobbit"

We're told that Gandalf went to meet

with all the other wizards
and kicked the necromancer

out of Southern Mirkwood

When Tolkien sits down
to write the sequel,

he quickly fixes on the necromancer

as a very likely
antagonist for the sequel

He decided to send his hobbit protagonists

on an adventure, and they
hear the sound of hoof beats

coming up the road from behind them

Now they think this is probably Gandalf,

in the very first draft
when Tolkien wrote this,

a horse comes around the
corner and it is Gandalf

He goes back to where he had
said it was a white horse

He decided it was a
wraith and it was a wraith

in the service of the necromancer

and that it is hunting for Frodo

Why would it be hunting for Frodo?

And as he begins to work this out,

the whole story of Sauron
and the rings of power

begins to emerge, he puts his
own will to dominate the wills

of others into the ring of power

He convinces Calibrium Bore
one of the old high elves

to stay in Middle Earth

After the War of Wrath,

he convinces him to forge
other rings of power

And his idea is to use
those lesser rings of power,

to ensnare the leaders
of all of the good races,

but it doesn't work because
the elves figure out

what he's up to, he ends
it with the survivors

of the Numenoreans and
the last of the high elves

joining together in the last
Alliance of elves and men

to take down Sauron, he
inserts the ring of power now

into that story and says that
at that time they cut the ring

of power from Sauron's hand

And is eventually we found
by Bilbo in "The Hobbit"

and comes to Frodo here in
the "Lord Of The Rings"

So one of the things that Sauron
made were these nine rings

He tried to ensnare all of the races

It didn't work out

He gives his nine rings
of power to nine kings

among the different human
cultures of the time

And he ensnared them by the
promise of immortality that

he delivers on that promise
in a warped and twisted way

Their wills become enslaved to him

And they are in fact stretched out,

but they don't even have
bodies anymore, right

They become tormented spirits
who are chained to this world

So the ring raids, as we see them,

they are his most terrible servants

They are themselves
enslaved in a way that is,

that goes beyond the
power of their own lives

and keeps them here in this world

There are two other categories
of tormented spirits

that I would mention in
particular, the hobbits

And as they're traveling out of the Shire

very early on in their journey,

have to go through the barrow-downs

In these barrows there
seemed to be unquiet dead

who are called Barrow-wights,

and they are sent into the graves

and they animate these corpses

The other group of tormented
spirits that we meet

are the oath–breakers

These ghosts are not like Barrow-wights

These are actually the
lingering spirits of people

who used to be alive, they were
a tribe of people who lived

in Gondor and who swore
their allegiance to Isildur,

but when Isildur comes to them

and calls them up and says,

"Hey, we're going to
war time for the battle

of the last Alliance, join us"

They didn't come, Isildur
cursed them and said,

you shall never rest again
until you fulfill your oath

So when Aragorn comes, he
is the heir of Isildur

So he has the authority and says,

I'm gonna give you a second chance guys

It's now time to fulfill
your oath again, and they do

And Aragorn uses the army of the dead

He deploys the army of
the dead to save the day

at the battle of Pelennor Field,

but after the oath-breakers help them

with that initial battle,
Aragorn releases them

[dramatic music]

And that was each and every
race in Tolkien's Middle Earth

I hope this helps you to
understand a little bit better

about how Tolkien's ideas developed

And I think it's a
really fascinating study

in the growth of a modern mythology

And of course you can see how
much of modern fantasy ideas

emerged from Tolkien's world

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