From Zero to Nerd, The Ultimate Return of the King Guide
A Beginner’s Guide to The Lord of the Rings
“The world has changed. I see it in the water. I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.” -- Galadriel.
The influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of The Lord of the Rings in the fantasy genre is vast and rich. The concept of Orcs, Elves, Halflings, and Wizards are not only brought to life but are given an archetype with their own geography, history, language, and role in the battle between good and evil. The collective works of Tolkien eventually made their way into pop culture when his original trilogy was turned into an epic by legendary director Peter Jackson.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy would bring Tolkien’s work into the spotlight, but with the sheer number of characters and locations in the trilogy, and with The Return of the King’s 20th Anniversary around the corner, we have put together a list of the major characters and strategic locations from the film to get everyone up to speed ahead of the screening.
Whether you’re new to The Lord of the Rings or a veteran, join us for the Ultimate Return of the King Guide.
The Fellowship of the Ring
- Frodo is the main protagonist of Lord of the Rings, the ring-bearer, and one of the three hobbits who sailed to the Aman (Undying Lands) at the end of the third age.
- Adopted by Bilbo Baggins after his parents died in a boating accident on the Brandywine River.
- Gollum led Frodo and Sam around Minas Morgul and up the Stairs of Cirith Ungol into 'The Tunnel,' where Frodo is attacked by Shelob and saved by Sam.
- Frodo was overcome by the power of the ring at the Cracks of Doom only to have Gollum bite his finger off and take the ring for himself. Frodo pushes him into the fires of Mount Doom destroying the ring.
- Sam is the youngest son of Hamfast and Bell Gamgee. He is Frodo Baggins' best friend and gardener.
- Sam is chosen by Gandolf to be Frodo's companion on his journey to destroy the ring. He saves Frodo's life more than once on their quest.
- After Shelob attacked Frodo, he took the ring (making him a ring-bearer) and intended to complete the quest on his own. However, once he found out Frodo was still alive, he set out to save him from the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
- Sam helped Frodo destroy the ring. He then married Rose (Rosie) Cotton, and they had 13 children.
- Famous Quote: “Po-Tay-Toes”
- Peregrin Took (Pippin) is one of Frodo Baggins' youngest and closest friends.
- He swore allegiance to Denethor II (the Stewart of Gondor and Boromir's father) and works for him.
- During the Siege of Gondor Pippin is instrumental in saving the unconscious Faramir from being burned alive with Denethor (warning Gandolf that Denethor was preparing a pyre in the Hallows for himself and Faramir).
- After the War of the Ring he became the 32nd Thain of the Shire.
- Famous Quote: “What about second breakfast?”
- Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry) was a Hobbit of the Shire and one of Frodo Baggins’ cousins and close friends.
- Best friends with Pippin and is one of the nine companions of the Fellowship of the Ring. Merry rode with Éowyn to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and helped her defeat the Witch-King, stabbing him in the leg with his weapon (one of the few weapons of Middle-earth able to pierce the armor of a Nazgûl).
- After the battle he was knighted and given the new name of "Holdwine." Merry became the eighth Master of Buckland after the War of the Ring.
- Famous Quote: “I think we might have made a mistake leaving the Shire, Pippin.”
- Born before the Shaping of Arda.
- Originally named Olórin, Gandalf is an Istar (Wizard) created by Eru Ilúvatar before the Music of the Ainur.
- He was sent to Middle-Earth by the Valar to oppose the Dark Lord Sauron.
- Orchestrated the defense of Minas Tirith by the vast force of Mordor, led by the Witch-King of Angmar.
- Was the leader of the final battle at the Black Gate, advising the lords to launch an attack against the Morannon, rejecting the Mouth of Sauron's terms of surrender, drawing the gaze of Sauron's eye.
- Famous Quote: “You Shall Not Pass”
- Legolas is good friends with Gimli, and he’s a Sindar Elf, the Prince of Mirkwood, a messenger, and a Master Archer.
- Aided Aragorn, Grey Company, and the Dead Men of Dunharrow at the Battle of Pelargir, defeating the Haradrim Corsairs of Umbar and using the fleet to break the Siege of Gondor and Pelennor Fields.
- Fought with the Army of the West at the Black Gates of Mordor -- Helping Frodo and Sam destroy the ring.
- After Sauron's defeat, he stayed for Aragon's coronation and marriage to Arwin, then he sailed to the Undying Lands with Gimli.
- Famous Quote: “I feel something. A slight tingle in my fingers. I think it’s affecting me.”
- Born March 1, TA 2931.
- 35th King of Gondor, 1st High King of Gondor and Arnor since Isildur. Crowned King Elessar.
- Summoned the Dead Men of Dunharrow who owed their allegiance to the Heir of Isildur. Instrumental in defeating the Haradrim Corsairs of Umbar and breaking the Siege of Gondor.
- Lead the army of the West against the forces of Sauron at the Black Gate.
- Married Arwen after the defeat of Sauron, ushering in the 4th Age.
- Famous Quote: “My friends, you bow to no one.”
- Gimli was born in TA 2879 of the House Durin, and he fought alongside Elves in the War of the Rings. Legolas became one of his best friends.
- He accompanied Aragorn and Legolas through the Paths of the Dead recruiting the Dead Men of Dunharrow. Helped win the Battle of Pelargir, defeating the Haradrim Corsairs of Umbar and using the fleet to break the Siege of Gondor and Pelennor Fields.
- After Sauron was defeated, Gimli became the first lord of the Glittering Caves, helped rebuild the Great Gate of Minas Tirith, and became the first Dwarf to sail to the Undying Lands.
- Famous Quote: “That still only counts as one!”
Heroes of The Ring
- Born TA 2948 in Gondor, Théoden was the only son of Thengel and became king after his father’s death in TA 2980.
- Théoden lead the Rohirrim to Pelennor Fields to aid Gondor, bravely leading the charge against the legions of Sauron, breaking their lines and relieving Gondor.
- Died fighting the Witch-King of Angmar, becoming mortally wounded when his horse Snowmane fell on him after being attacked by the fellbeast.
- Famous Quote: “We shall have peace... We shall have peace, when you answer for the burning of the Westfold, and the children that lie dead there! We shall have peace, when the lives of the soldiers whose bodies were hewn even as they died against the gates of the Hornberg, are avenged!”
- Éomer Éadig was a Man of Rohan and the eventual 18th King of Rohan.
- Commands several units of Éored (horseback warriors).
- Rallied tens of thousands of men to aid Gondor, arriving at the Pelennor Fields just as the Great Gate of Minas Tirith was breached.
- After the fall of Sauron, Éomer became King of Rohan and renewed the Oath of Eorl with Aragorn.
- Famous Quote: “Look for your friends. But do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands.”
- Éowyn was a shieldmaiden of Rohan, daughter of Éomund and Théodwyn, younger sister of Éomer and niece of King Théoden.
- She road to Minas Tirith with Merry to aid Gondor Disguised as a man under the alias of Dernhelm.
- She killed the Witch-King of Angmar, fulfilling Glorfindel's prophecy a thousand years earlier at the Battle of Fornost that "not by the hand of man would the Witch-King fall."
- She fell in love with Faramir and married him after the War of the Ring had ended.
- Famous Quote: “I am no man!”
- Faramir was the second son of Denethor II and younger brother of Boromir. He was the Captain of the Rangers of Ithilien and Captian of the White Tower upon his brother's death.
- He guarded Osgiliath until it was overrun by the Witch-King's forces. Faramir retreated to Minas Tirith only to be ordered by his father to retake Osgiliath.
- Denethor II tried to light a pyre to burn himself and Faramir. Pippin and Gandalf saved Faramir.
- He became the first Prince of Ithilien and married Éowyn after the War of the Ring.
- Famous Quote: "You Wish Now That Our Places Had Been Exchanged. That I Had Died And He Had Lived."
- Descendent of Thorondor and the greatest eagle that ever lived.
- Supported Gandolf and the army of the West at the Battle of the Black Gate by fighting off the Nazgul and the fellbeasts.
- He saved Frodo and Sam from the erupting Mount Doom after they destroyed the ring.
- Originally a Stoorish hobbit, born in TA 2430, Sméagol was the fourth bearer of the One Ring. He had possession of the ring for hundreds of years living under the Misty Mountains.
- The time with the ring poisoned his mind, creating 2 personalities:
- Sméagol, his "good" personality, who still remembers things like friendship and love.
- Gollum, his "bad" and prevailing personality, who was a slave to the ring and would kill anyone who tried to take it from him.
- Frodo and Sam's guide, leading them up the stairs of Cirith Ungul.
- Remarkably he was friends with Shelob, often called her Sneak.
- He met his end after being pushed off the edge of the Cracks of Doom after reclaiming the ring from Frodo.
- Famous Quotes: “Stupid, fat hobbit.”
Villains of The Return of the King
- Main antagonist of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
- Originally named Mairon, Sauron was the mightiest Maia and most trusted Lieutenant of Morgoth.
- He orchestrated the creation of the rings of power, caused the downfall of Numenor, and he was destroyed during the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
- Early Third-Age was the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, building influence until his great citadel Barad-dur was rebuilt, with the Eye of Sauron at the top.
- Famous Quote: “You cannot hide. I see you. There is no life in the void. Only death.”
- One of Sauron's most devoted servants, serving as his herald, messenger, and the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr.
- His true name was forgotten, even by himself.
- Black Númenóreans are a fallen group of Númenóreans who opposed the Valar and relations with Elves (Originally named the King's Men). They were corrupted by Sauron, and worship the Dark Lords.
- Delivered Sauron's terms of surrender to Gandalf and the Army of the West.
- Famous Quote: “My master, Sauron the Great, bids thee welcome. Is there any in this rout with authority to treat with me?”
- Also known as the Lord of the Nazgûl, he was Sauron's second-in-command during the second and third age of Middle-earth.
- His precise identity is unknown, but he could be one of the three noble lords of Númenor, who were corrupted by the Nine Rings of Power.
- His greatest conquest was destroying the northern Dúnedain kingdoms in Eriador.
- During the Battle of Pelennor Fields he broke the Great Gate of Minas Tirith, killed King Theoden of Rohan, and was killed by Éowyn.
- Famous Quote: “You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.”
- A great spider and the greatest offspring of Ungoliant, the primordial spider. Shelob lived on the borders of Mordor and feed indiscriminately on the inhabitants.
- Her lair is in the Ephel Dúath (Mountains of Shadow) in Cirith Ungol.
- Gollum brought Frodo and Sam through her lair to get the ring back. She poisoned Frodo but was forced to retreat when Sam stabbed her with Sting and fended her off with the light of Eärendil's Star shone from Frodo's phial.
Strategic Locations of Middle-Earth
- Minas Tirith (the Tower of Guard), formerly known as Minas Anor, is the capital city of Gondor from TA 1640 onward.
- Originally built to guard against the Men of the White Mountains in the year SA 3320 by the Dúnedain of Gondor.
- Isildur planted the White Tree of Gondor in the Court of the Fountain in memory of his slain brother.
- After the Third Age, Minis Tirith was repaired by the Dwarves and given a new garden by the Elves
- Osgiliath is known as the "Citadel of the Host of Stars" and was the first capital of Gondor.
- Founded by Isildur and Anarion near the end of the Second Age.
- The abandoned city gained strategic importance as a crossing point over the Anduin for both Gondor and Mordor during the War of the Ring.
- After the defeat of Sauron, Aragorn II rebuilt the great city but kept Minis Tirith as his capital.
- Minas Morgul was once a fortress of Gondor called Minas Ithil (Tower of the Moon). It was originally designed to protect the capital of Gondor and Osgiliath from the forces of Mordor.
- In TA 2000 the Witch-King of Angmar laid siege to Minas Ithil taking control of the city in 2002. Transforming it into Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery.
- Under the control of the Ringwraiths the “city of horror”, where the minds of living men would run to madness if they remained too long. This was the Morgul Vale.
- Frodo and Sam passed by Minas Morgul on their way to Mount Doom.
- A strategic mountain pass through Western Mordor and parallel to the Morgul-road into Gondor. Guarded by the Tower of Cirith Ungol, which was originally built by the men of Gondor after the War of the Last Alliance.
- Shelob lived in the caves above it long before the construction of the Tower.
- After the Great Plague in TA 1636 wiped out most of Gondor's population, Sauron took control of the Tower and Minas Ithil.
- Frodo and Sam were led up the pass during the Quest of the Ring.
- The greatest fortress in Middle-Earth and held together by dark magic, Barad-dûr was constructed in the Second Age by Sauron.
- Leveled after Sauron's defeat in the War of the Last Alliance, but because its foundation was tied to the One Ring it couldn't be destroyed.
- Rebuilt during the third age with the Eye of Sauron. Completely destroyed when Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring.
- Built across Cirith Gorgor from the Mountains of Ash in the north to the Ephel Dúath in the west.
- It is a direct entrance into the realm of Mordor and built with the power of the One Ring.
- After the fall of Sauron in the second age the Men of Gondor raised the great Towers of the Teeth (Narchost and Carchost) to oversee Mordor.
- The great plague allowed Orcs and Ringwraiths to occupy the area again.
- During the War of the Ring, it was heavily fortified and impossible to pass through unnoticed.
- It was the site of the last great battle of the War of the Ring.
The Return of the King
Now that you have your Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King notes, you’re ready to tackle the 20th anniversary! Join us in theaters nationwide April 13 & 19 and in Canada on the 20th for the extended edition of this epic journey.
Plus, a special introduction from Elijah Wood (Frodo) discussing the impact of the LOTR trilogy and why fans return again and again to immerse themselves in this story world. Elijah takes audiences through this limited fan event with a celebrity cast to raise support for Extra Life for Kids, a program of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, with recent footage captured at LA Comic Con of the World Premiere of the brand new LOTR Roleplaying tabletop game,
For more information about any of our events, visit our event page!