Today marks the 60th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest books every written: The Return of the King. Being the third and final book in the Lord of the Rings series, it has had a massive impact on pop culture over the last decade, mainly due to Peter Jackson’s epic cinematic rendition of the trilogy, without which we would not have this video.
By now, we’re sure most of you have seen the films, and if you haven’t, you seriously need to go and do it before you come back to this article. Not so you can understand it (well, a little bit), but because if you haven’t seen The Lord of the Rings, it’s extremely difficult for us to take you seriously.
As you can tell, both the book and movie trilogy mean a lot to a lot of people, so we’ve collected all of the little-known facts about Middle Earth, the movie adaptations, and the adventures that happened within it.
1. Sam’s not much of a gardener
Despite being described as a ‘professional’ gardener, Samwise Gamgee is only actually seen doing any gardening once, and that is at the beginning of the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring. He is on quest to save the world for most of it though to be fair.
2. Sean Connery missed out big time
Sean Connery was originally offered the role as Gandalf, but turned it down, as he said that he didn’t understand the script. He was also offered 15 per cent of all the box office earnings of the movies, which would have netted him around $400 million, making it the highest ever payment for a single role. Wow.
3. The Black Riders were surfers
Because of a mass amount of continuous shooting, the actors had to find some ways of relaxing on their down time, and the guys who played the nine Black Riders were well known around the set for their love of surfing. We so wish we had the necessary skills to Photoshop a Nazgul onto a surf board.
4. Viggo was a skilful sword fighter
In the scene where Aragorn fights Lurtz, the Uruk throws a dagger at Aragorn, as he is raising himself back off the ground. The ranger bats the knife away, as it is spinning mid air. This was not scripted, and Viggo Mortensen just did it instinctively, because he’s a bona fide badass.
5. Sean Bean did some hiking
Sean Bean is actually terrified of heights, so for the scene where the Fellowship travel through the Path of Caradhras, he actually elected to walk up the mountain, as oppose to flying up in a chopper.
6. They had help with the language
Because most of Liv Tyler’s lines are in Elvish, she had a professional Elvish language coach with her at all times. Well, as professional as an Elvish language coach can be.
7. Wizards of many colours
Although some don’t appear in the films, there are actually five wizards in Middle Earth: Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, Alatar the Blue and Palando the (also) blue.
8. Other rings have powers too
In The Hobbit, the dwarvern King Thror possesses a ring that was given to him by Sauron. This ring helps him find the vast amounts of gold that he has, meaning that each ring of power has its own abilities. That’s probably what gives Hugo Weaving such a menacing voice.
9. The Beatles could have been the hobbits
The lads from Liverpool were desperate to make a feature film of The Lord of the Rings, with Stanley Kubrick directing. Apparently, Ringo would have been Sam, and Paul would have been Frodo, which fits nicely.
10. Gandalf would have had Sauron
According to Tolkien himself in a response to a fan letter, Gandalf could have defeated Sauron in a battle, if he had had the One Ring. Tolkien also said that this would do no good, however, as Gandalf with the One Ring would be even worse than Sauron with it.
11. No one knows how Orcs reproduce
We know that they are spawned from corrupted Elves, yes, but how do they really reproduce? Nobody knows, as Tolkien failed to ever specify. In The Silmarilion, he states that they “multiply”, but then later claims that they “were elves once”. He also said that: “Evil cannot create, it can only corrupt”. Basically, we don’t know, and we never will.
12. Legolas n Gimli 4 life
In the books, Legolas an Gimli stay best buddies for years, all the way till Aragorn’s death actually. At which point, Legolas builds a boat, and sails off to paradise (The Undying Lands) but not before taking his best dwarf mate with him.
13. Sauron isn’t Hitler
There are people who think that Sauron is supposed to represent Hitler, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Tolkien hated allegory, and stayed well away from making direct comparisons like that. It is suspected, however, that thematically, the stories he wrote were largely influenced by his time fighting in the First World War.
14. The Undying Lands were forbidden
Technically, these ‘Undying Lands’ that all the characters sailed off to after the film were out of bounds. In The Silmarilion, the first settlers of Middle Earth tried to sail to them, to live with the gods. The deities of the land were unhappy with this, and so they sunk all of their ships in the sea. There’s every chance, really, that all the characters on those boats were pulled into the murky depths. See ya Frodo.
15. The books came second
It may seem backward, but Tolkien didn’t actually write the Elvish language to fit in with his story, he wrote the language (along with many other languages) and then thought: “Oh, this would be a good language to go into a book.”
16. Tolkien considered Sam to be the hero
Step aside Frodo, and move along Aragorn, J.R.R. Tolkien himself said that he considers Samwise Gamgee to be the real hero of the story, and we definitely agree with him. Frodo would have collapsed of exhaustion half-way across the shire if it wasn’t for Sam.
17. There is an alternate version of the book
If you’ve ever wondered what Sauron must have been thinking throughout the plot, then you’re in for a treat, as Kirill Eskov has written a counterpoint book called The Last Ringbearer, in which Mordor is described as a democratic place of peace and fairness.
18. Christopher Lee met Tolkien
And he is the only cast member to have actually done so, as most of the others were way too young. Funnily enough though, Lee actually randomly bumped into the author in a bar. Who’d have thought that years later he would have been playing one of his most famous characters?
19. Peter Jackson is in the Fellowship of the Ring
When the hobbits walk into the town of Bree, a man eating a carrot walks across their field of vision. That man is the director of the franchise, Peter Jackson, and was eating a carrot in the scene because smoking a pipe made him sick.
20. Peter Jackson is in The Two Towers
During the battle of Helm’s Deep, many Rohirrim soldiers attempt to pelt the oncoming Uruk-hai with rocks from above the causeway gate. One soldier opens a wooden panel, throws a spear, and shouts. That soldier is Peter Jackson.
21. Peter Jackson is in The Return of the King
There he is again. In the extended edition, when Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli exit the Cave of the Dead, and try to convince the host of Umbar Corsairs to not continue, the elf fires a ‘warning’ shot at the boat, and kills one of the sailors. The sailor that dies is Peter Jackson. He admits he was having trouble acting the death to a realistic standard.
22. Elijah Wood’s sister makes a cameo
The Frodo actor managed to sneak a part for his sister into he final cut. She was an extra and played a Rohirrim refugee at Helm’s Deep.
23. There were many Balrogs
Despite popular belief, the Balrog is not a creature, or demon, but a magical spirit – hence the major difficulty in killing it. In The Silmarilion, Tolkien mentions whole armies of Balrogs, of which only the one that Gandalf finds in Moria is known to remain.
24. Sauron is the number two bad guy
In the grand scheme of things, Sauron is actually not the biggest or baddest dude in Middle Earth. Sauron was merely the right hand man of the evil god Morgoth, who is rumoured to be banished for most of the canon.
25. The cave trolls are nice guys
The cave trolls are a race, and have simply been captured by the dark forces and used to their despicable ends. As Peter Jackson himself said: “They not really evil, they just fell in with the wrong crowd.”
26. Arwen was lucky
At the end of the movies, Arwen chooses a mortal life, so that she can stay in Middle Earth, live with Aragorn, and live happily ever after in total bliss. Well, most Elves cannot choose to be mortal, and the only she could is because she had a distant human ancestor. Lucky her.
27. Arwen and Aragorn are cousins
Or maybe not that lucky at all. It’s a very, very distant relation, but technically the two are cousins. The family trees are complicated, but it all boils down to one common ancestor, that means the two lovers are technically related.
28. The Mouth of Sauron was edited to look scary
Although most of it is acted, The Mouth of Sauron’s facial features, and specifically his mouth, were edited to look bigger and even more obscene.
29. Peter Jackson owns Bag End
At the end of filming, Director Peter Jackson actually bought the set for Bag End, and says that he plans to put it into the side of a hill. Now that’s one hell of a souvenir.
30. No trees were harmed in the making of this movie
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman demands that his orcs start using trees as fuel. There is a scene where trees are seen being ripped up from the ground, but the trees used were fake.
31. Even the miniatures were massive
The tower of Barad-Dur is gigantic in the film, so much so that the miniature of the prop was actually 15ft tall – or 4.5 metres.
32. They filmed in a real forge
Molten metal is notoriously hard to fake in movies, so instead of settling for second best, for the scenes in the Orthanc Forges, where orcs are depicted as making weapons for upcoming war, the crew actually shot inside a real forge works. The orcs in the scene are actually steel workers dressed up.
33. Sean Bean learnt his lines the night before
Boromir’s famous ‘one does not simply’ speech, which had the pleasure of being transformed into an internet meme, was given to Sean Bean, to learn, the night before filming.
34. No, the eagles couldn’t have flown them to Mordor
Right, let’s get this absolutely straight. The eagles in the film are not wildlife, nor are they tamed creatures. They are a race, the same way that the humans, the elves and the dwarves are races. They help Gandalf, because they have a flimsy alliance with him. They do not, however, just come on call, and actually want nothing to do with the War of the Ring. So no, they couldn’t have just flown Frodo over Mount Doom and had him drop the ring in. The flying reptiles mounted by immortal spirits might have had something to say about that, as well. So that’s that then.
35. Bill the pony is two men in a suit
Sam’s faithful stallion, Bill the Pony, is sometimes portrayed by 2 cast members in a suit – because apparently, although it has won multiple awards, The Lord of the Rings is just a pantomime.
36. Gandalf’s sword is meant to be blue
As the only discernible reason as to why Frodo’s sword glows blue is that it was “made by the high elves”, Gandalf’s sword should also glow blue when orcs are near. Peter Jackson admits that the reason this was left out is the tightness of the budget.
37. Gandalf died after Frodo mourned him
No plot technicalities here. The scene where the Fellowship mourn the death of Gandalf, after he plummets into oblivion with the Balrog, were shot before Ian McKellen arrived on set for the first time.
38. Lothlorien is rubber
The trees in Lothlorien, as you’ve probably noticed, are about as wide as lorries, and were made of rubber. Sorry to everyone who thought that forest actually existed.
39. Amon Hen is made of polystyrene
And Amon Hen, the place where Boromir dies at the end of the first film, is all made up of polystyrene.
40. Orlando Bloom was too slow
Orlando Bloom couldn’t fire arrows fast enough to keep up with the script, and so some of Legolas’ arrows had to be CGI’d in. Can you really blame him?
41. Boromir’s death is even more awful
When Boromir dies, there is a song playing in the background. The lyrics to the song come from a quote in the book, spoken by Faramir, his brother: “I do not love the sword for its sharpness; nor the arrow for its swiftness; I love only that which they defend.” See, he was a good guy really.
42. Aragorn loots his corpse
It’s probably for good intentions, but at the end of the first movie, Aragorn is seen playing with his gauntlets as Boromir’s body goes over the waterfall. This is because he has taken the dead warrior’s wrist armour, and continues to wear it throughout the rest of the trilogy as a tribute.
43. Viggo broke his toe in a scene
In The Two Towers, Aragorn kicks an Uruk-hai’s helmet in anger at not being able to find Merry and Pippin. While filming the scene, Viggo Mortensen actually broke his toe upon kicking the armour prop.
44. Christopher Lee played Gandalf for a second
In The Two Towers, when Gandalf the White first appears to the warrior trio, the voice that speaks is Christopher Lee’s. Jackson did this, because he wanted the audience to mistake the white wizard for Saruman at first.
45. Osgiliath blew away
Like Amon Hen, the set for Osgiliath, the Gondorian City on the river, was also made of polystyrene – but unlike Amon Hen, the set actually blew away in the wind, numerous times. Must be an orc spell.
46. Aragorn never ‘nearly dies’
The part where Aragorn falls from a cliff, and is believed to be dead, is not in the book, and Jackson says he added it to give Theoden and Eowyn thie “darkest hour”. £20 says he thought of the scene where Aragorn busts through the great hall doors to reveal himself alive first.
47. The cricketer’s battle cries
Although rather dampening on the epic nature, the voices of the 10,000 Uruk-hai invaders at the battle of Helm’s Deep were provided by 20,000 cricket fans.
48. There was a lot of film used.
Six million feet, to be exact.
49. Howard Shore shouldn’t have been able to keep up
By the time The Return of the King came around, composer/genius Howard Shore had to compose seven minutes of music a day to keep up with the rest of the crew, and he did, because he’s amazing. Having said that, he did admit he went slightly mad, on the DVD commentary.
50. Sean Bean had groupies
Doing Yorkshire proud, he is. Women actually used to follow Sean Bean around and lurk on set just to get a chance to speak with him. They were called Beanstalkers, by those in the know.
51. Jackson was nowhere near Shelob
Peter Jackson would go nowhere near the Shelob model, as he is absolutely terrified of spiders.
52. Empire were behind the times
The first major press coverage of the movie trilogy was a teaser cover from Empire Magazine, which featured an image of Frodo holding the ring, and got everyone truly excited. When that cover went live, the cast were filming The Return of the King, the final instalment of the films.
53. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter
Although you wouldn’t know it, because all elves have the personality of a slab of granite, Arwen is actually Galadriel’s granddaughter.
54. Nicholas Cage passed on Aragorn
Unluckily for the Cage-meister, he actually didn’t see much potential in the role of Aragorn, and passed up the chance to play the future King of Gondor in the series. What a shame. He could have brought great depth (and madness) to the role.
55. Viggo used real swords
Unlike the rest of the cast, who used aluminium and rubber props, Viggo Mortensen actually used a real sword during filming, and performed all of his own stunts.
56. Tolkien had no time for touch-typing
To an extreme extent actually. J.R.R. Tolkien actually typed the entirety of the Lord of the Rings books with two fingers – because who needs a full hand?
57. The Dead Marshes are wartime descriptions
Tolkien’s daughter, and pretty much everyone else who knows enough about the subject, thinks that the description of the Dead Marshes is, metaphorically, Tolkien’s perfect description of the battlefields in World War One.
58. Merry was originally named Marmaduke
Although it may seem a little flamboyant at first, Tolkien’s original name for Meriadoc Brandybuck was Marmaduke. Tolkien changed it because, presumably, he realised that the name made him sound like a big drooling dog.
59. Tolkien has space rocks named after him
There are hills, and various rock formations on the moon Titan which are named after Tolkien characters. Not bad for fantasy fiction, is it?
60. Helm’s Deep was hard work
The battle that took place at Helm’s Deep took the cast and crew four months to film, as it all had to be done at night, and the weather had to flow correctly throughout the scene. Basically, if it stopped raining, they were done.