For anyone jumping into Peter Jackon’s ‘Hobbit’ films as the trilogy comes to a close this week, or visiting ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films a decade later, or just anyone visiting any of the books of Tolkien for the first time, the experience can be a bit overwhelming. So many races, a massive map full of places, forests, mountain and fortresses that seem almost impossible to keep track of at first, not to mention all the names thrown out, the history mentioned in the songs and tales….. Middle Earth can indeed be quite an intimidating place, and visiting there often feels like you need a B.A. in Middle Earth history to fully “get it.”
J.R.R. Tolkien was no slouch when it came to world-building, which for him including full histories, languages (both oral and written for every species), and massive maps with vast swaths of land for his peoples to populate, to war over, to live peacefully in, and ultimately, to spend dozens and dozens of chapters questing across as they strive to fulfill their epic tasks, whether that be heading east to slay a dragon or heading south to throw the one Ring into the fires of Mordor. What most people don’t realize is that there is so much more to Middle Earth beyond the books of the ‘Hobbit’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Those are but a fraction of the full history, most of which can be overviewed in a book called the ‘Silmarillion’ (which is almost like a history textbook of Middle Earth). And after that, there are many more books which go into detail about the various tales and history mentioned in the ‘Silmarillion.’
But fear not valiant readers, for the internet is here to help. Below is a very helpful 4 minute guide to the main races of Middle Earth, from Istari and Balrogs to Elves and Trolls, this brief clip does a very good job explaining what every species is, where they came from, what their moral bent is, and how they factor into what we see in Peter Jackon’s beloved movies.