The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare – Review

Chris Smith. The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare. New York: Harper, 2003. Print.

The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare is a picture book that would appeal to fans of The Lord of the Rings. Using photos and storyboard drawings from the film, Smith puts together a nice overview of the battles and weapons of Middle Earth.

For the Rings aficionado, the book details (or in some cases, imagines) early Middle Earth history and the evolution of warfare in and among the various kingdoms. It clearly depends on The Silmarillion and The Hobbit along with the trilogy. It also makes us appreciate the thought and imagination that went into outfitting all the various armies and factions in the films. (This was before The Hobbit films.) Each group and many individuals had distinctive weapons and armor. The book is arranged topically with plenty of pictures, but lots of text as well.

We see the armor and weapons of groups such as the Riders of Rohan, the Uruk-hai, the Nazgul, and various groups of Elves. There are also pages devoted to individuals such as Aragorn, Saruman, Elrond, and the Balrog. In addition, we get accounts of nearly every significant battle in the known history of Middle Earth.

Looking over a lifetime as a student and a teacher, it seems like interest in Tolkien peaks in alternating decades. In the sixties his books swept through America. I noted many students reading his books in the eighties as well. The twenty-oughts, of course, had the great films. (We’ll pretend the dud from the seventies never happened.)

This may be an off-decade for Tolkien—indeed, The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare is over ten years old—but it should be fun for anyone interested in Middle Earth and the imagination that it takes to bring such a mythos to life. Many of my students over the years have enjoyed the Greek and Roman myths we read, especially Ovid, Vergil, and the Homeric Epics. Yet most films based on these stories are so-so at best. Perhaps the reason is simply that no one has put the thought into The Odyssey, for example, as the makers of The Lord of the Rings films did. Peter Jackson, would you like an idea for a new film?

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