One ring to rule them all. Nine charts to explain it.
If that reference was lost on you, might we suggest racing to your library to read the works of one J.R.R. Tolkien — or at least watching the movies? (The third and final Hobbit film, which opens today, is probably your last chance to take a cinematic journey to Middle-earth.) Once you're done with that, have a look at these nine charts, which were created by Emil Johansson, the Swedish geek genius behind Lord of the Rings Project.
Launched in 2012, Johansson's project is an online compendium of Rings data, from Hobbit timelines to the demographic breakdown of Middle-earth. The site is probably best known for its ever-updating genealogies of Tolkien's characters and its detailed, interactive map of Tolkien's world. Some of the charts are funny, too, like the flowchart of Gollum's decision-making process.
LOTR Project is full of fantastic graphs and charts that will offer you a new perspective on Middle-earth. Here are nine of the best.
1) Character mentions in The Lord of the Rings
Some of the information on this chart is obvious, like the fact the Frodo is the most mentioned character across the entire trilogy, or that Boromir's name doesn't pop up too much after his death. But it's still cool to see.
2) Character mentions in The Hobbit
Obviously, Bilbo — the hobbit in the title — is the most mentioned character in this book. But you might be less familiar with the second most-mentioned character: Thorin, the dwarf who leads a seeming suicide mission to recapture the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
3) Word count across all of Tolkien's Middle Earth writings
The longest single book Tolkien wrote was The Fellowship of the Ring, but even that's nothing when compared to all three parts of The Lord of the Rings gathered into one volume. No wonder Tolkien's publisher suggested splitting it into a trilogy.
4) Word cloud
If you look at the words that Tolkien uses with the highest frequency, you'll begin to see what the author cares about more than anything — his characters. While his novels are full of descriptions of mythical lands and epic battles, the narrative is primarily concerned with the tiny hobbits navigating them.
In fact, in a speech he delivered at "Hobbit Dinner" held in the Netherlands in 1958, Tolkien spoke fondly of the characters he created.
It is now exactly 20 years since I began in earnest to complete the history of our renowned hobbit-ancestors of the Third Age. I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentlehobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.
5) Gandalf's gear
One of the most legendary objects in all of Middle Earth is Gandalf's staff, which he wields when he declares to the Balrog, "You shall not pass!" (In the book, he actually says, "You cannot pass," but that doesn't have the Hollywood glamour — or the parodic potential — of the former.) Gandalf's staff is made of brown wood and is topped with a jewel that lights up on his command. In addition to his staff, Gandalf is also known for his wizarding appearance:
He wore a tall pointed grey hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of his hat.
6) Flowchart: Which dwarf is this?
Now you know which dwarf in The Hobbit is which. (Also, so you know, in Tolkien's world, both male and female dwarves have beards.)
7) Character ages in LOTR
The Fellowship of the Ring famously opens with Bilbo Baggins planning his eleventy-first (110th) birthday. Hobbits generally live to be about 100, according to Tolkien's prologue, On the Ordering of the Shire. With the exception of Gollum (who was corrupted and given long life by the Ring), the oldest was Bilbo, who surpassed even Old Took.
8) Gender breakdown by race
In his entire series, Tolkien only created three major and six minor heroines. At the same time, some of the most memorable parts of Tolkien's stories are those with strong female characters at the center. Sandra Miesel, in The Ladies of the Ring, argues that "Tolkien's work stands out for its idealized view of women." For instance, she says, while his characters "excel in [traditional] feminine functions," they are never given evil female counterparts. In fact, says Miesel, out of the entire series, "only one fleetingly mentioned woman in the work is deeply evil."
9) Budget comparison of Hobbit and LOTR
The final installment of The Hobbit — Battle of the Five Armies — opens in the US today, but its already recouped almost half of its $250 million dollar budget in foreign theaters. All together, Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy cost an estimated $745 million to make. That's significantly more than his earlier Lord of the Rings series, which cost less than $300 million.
LOTR Project has tons of content like this on its website. Head over there to geek out, and get ready to lose several hours playing with all the interactive charts and graphs.