Oh, lord. Where to begin?
Tolkien’s world is super complex and The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit is just a fraction of Middle Earth’s history and its mythology.
And Tolkien is not just Middle Earth! He has written stories that don’t take place in Middle Earth.
I really have no idea where to start, but I guess since you’re like completely new to this whole world, I suggest you start off by watching the movies. Just to get an idea of what you’re about to get into.
And to avoid too much confusion, you should watch them in chronological order.
- The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey
- The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug
- The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies
- The Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring
- The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers
- The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Keep in mind, they were not filmed in that order! Lord of the Rings was filmed ten years before The Hobbit. But I think it just makes sense to watch them in that order so understand the storyline better.
There’s an extended edition of every movie (except for The Battle of the Five Armies, which will be released later this year) and most people will tell you that the movies are a lot more fun and interesting if you watch the extended editions. But they’re super long! Like, really freaking long. I mean if you’re up for 12 hours of move material and 40+ hours of Behind-The-Scenes material, go ahead! But I started off by just watching the theatrical versions.
Okay, you know that the movies are based on books, that’s good! And I think once you’ve watched the movies, you should also read the books. But don’t be surprised: Sometimes movie and book are two completely different things, especially The Hobbit. Like, you will literally find yourself thinking “what the hell, this is really the same story????!!!” So, yeah. Just a warning.
You can find pretty much all of Tolkien’s works online.
What? The Hobbit is just one book? Yeah, that’s correct. Again, two completely different things!
Okay, so you’re covered for The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, which are obviously Tolkien’s most famous stories with the widest fanbase.
But, there’s a lot more to read about Middle Earth! Ready for a shit ton of Middle Earth history? Here we go!
A collection of stories about The First Age (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit take place during The Third Age), published and partly written by Tolkien’s son Christopher.
It really is a must-read for Tolkien fans! It really describes the universe in which the stories take place and at times it can be a bit confusing because there’re so many characters and races and places and wars.
Read The Silmarillion here
And the fandom has even provided us with a hella cool reader’s guide, which is a cool thing to keep up with the story and all the long-haired and beautiful elves.
Read/Download The Reader’s Guide here
So, that’s The Silmarillion. If you’re wondering if there’s gonna be a Silmarillion movie, the answer to that right now is no. But you never know.
Again, written by Christopher Tolkien. As the title suggests, this is a collection of ‘expanded’ stories from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings. It’s mostly longer versions of certain chapters or stories. Definitely not as hard to read as The Silmarillion, since you already know all the characters and storylines!
Read Unfinished Tales here
Okay, once you’ve come this far, it’s time to step up the nerd level a little bit.
The History of Middle-Earth
Okay. Okay, now take a deep breath, because shit’s about to get real. Because The History of Middle-Earth is a 13-volume series of books!
Basically it collects and analyses every piece of material that is related to Middle-Earth.
There’s stuff like early versions of already published works but also completely new material!
These books are so freaking detailed, because Christopher Tolkien literally analysed every single footnote and every small bit of information that his father had written down. This is all the mythology, you guys!
I cannot give you a summary or overview of every single book, because by now they have kind of converted themselves into this massive box that is titled “Middle Earth nerd trash stuff” in my brain. I’m sorry!
But anyway, here’s the list:
Congratulations! That’s about it for the mythology. But we’re far from done here. There’s more!
But so far, all of the books I have listed should be read in that order! Just to make things easier for you.
Anyway, there’re a few more books, but it doesn’t really matter when you read them, because some of them are stories on their own, some are only loosely connected to The Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit and some of them are just collections of poems, not really story-related at all.
So, here we go!
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Basically just a collection of poetry. Beautiful poetry! These poems are loosely connected to the events of The Lord of the Rings, but don’t contribute anything to the story.
Download The Adventures of Tom Bombadil here
The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien
So freaking interesting! A collection of letters written by the professor to his wife Edith, his friend C.S Lewis, his son and many other. Most of them discussing his stories.
Read The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien here
Bilbo’s Last Song
A poem sung by Bilbo at the Grey Havens as he is about to leave Middle-Earth forever. So chronologically it takes place at the and of The Return of the King, but it was never included in the book.
Couldn’t find a link anywhere!
The Children of Húrin
A more detailed version one of the Three Great Tales in The Silmarillion.
Read The Children of Húrin here
That’s about it. It took me about five years to read and understand all of this. So, good luck my friend!
There’re so many websites dedicated to Tolkien and his characters and languages! If you ever feel like looking up some random stuff or learning more about certain things, here’s a good list of interesting websites!
That’s all I can think of right now. Might add more later!
There are a few documentaries about Tolkien on YouTube. I haven’t watched all of them but you might find them helpful!
Okay, I’m spent! That’s literally all of the information and resources I could dig up. Should last you for a bit, I think!
If you ever have any questions about Tolkien, feel free to ask me! Because I do think that I know quite a bit, even though I’m still far from being an expert! So far from it!