Lord of the Rings, can anyone explain the plot?

OK, I may be stupid.

I have seen the first LOTR movie. I have never read the books. It was beautifully made. But I have no idea what in the hell is going on. I own the first movie on DVD, but have not seen it in ages.

The lead character (Elijah Wood) has a ring which is magical. There is a very tall old wizard. He is friends with another small person named Baggins (?). The old wizard has to do battle with an old wizard who played Duku in the new Star Wars trilogy. Elijah Wood and some other small people are running for their lives to protect the ring and somewhere along the line Liz Tyler shows up.

I want to get the second and third movies, but have no idea what the story line is or what I should be seeing. There seems to be a light side and a dark side like Star Wars taking place in a Medieval Place. The new movie is called “Return of the King”, who is the king, where did he go (Las vegas, Miami Beach, Thailand?), what is he doing now?

Explain the story from first movie to third in brief so I can know what is going on. This is a beautifully crafted film and I want to enjoy it.


Try this thread:

Watch the first movie again, watch it by yourself so you can concentrate on it. That’s what I had to do before watching the 2nd movie, because I could hardly remember stuff from the first.

Someone more eloquent than i will come in and explain, but regardless, watch the first one again.

(i had to watch it with the English subtitles, because sometimes the accents are hard to understand, the language is sometimes odd—reading it helps)

I hate to say it, but the best way to understand it is to read the books.

It’s not like they’re hard to find these days. (Although I can remember a time when they were!)

That amuses me. Well, not the fact that you in particular need the english subtitles, just the fact that anyone does. My friends and I were sitting and watching some show (with English accents, if I recall correctly) that had subtitles, and we were baffled as to why. I think you’ve just explained it!

My brother is hearing impaired and while he has no difficulty following dialogue in a bland North American dialect, accents of any kind give him a great deal of diffculty, especially when not given a chance to lip read. The LOTR movies were a big problem for him until he could rent the DVDs and watch with subtitles.

Frodo Baggins is a Hobbit living in a Hobbit village called Hobbiton. He lives with his uncle Bilbo Baggins ever since his parents died. Many years ago – before Frodo was born – Bilbo went on an adventure and when he returned he had a sweet suit of chain mail, an Elvish sword, and a gold ring that had some peculiar powers, such as turning the wearing invisible. He also became friends with a Wizard named Gandalf

On Bilbo’s 111th birthday he throws a big party, skips town and leaves Frodo everything he owns… including the Ring.

Later, Gandalf suspects that Bilbo’s Ring is actually the long-lost One Ring, a weapon forged by the current source of Evil in the world of Middle Earth, an evil being called Sauron. Around the same time, Sauron discovers that the One Ring may be located in a Hobbit village. Gandalf realizes that Frodo is now in terrible danger and counsels him to leave his village at once and head for the nearest Human town, called Bree, where he will meet them after visiting with the Head Wizard for advice.

Frodo heads out, picking up some Hobbit friends along the journey, notably Pippin Took, Merry Brandybuck, and his gardner, Sam Gamgee. They make it to Bree but not before encoutering Something Very Scary in the woods.

In Bree, they stay at the Inn and meet a suspicious looking man called Strider. They are confused because Gandalf isn’t there, and they don’t know what to do. Strider offers to lead them to Rivendell, a mountain refuge populated by Elves. A very wise Elf named Elrond runs the place.

In the night the inn is attacked by the Very Scary Mounted Creature Things (known now as Black Riders), and the hobbits become convinced they must trust Strider. They set off through the backcountry on their way to Rivendell.

Meanwhile, Gandalf visits the Head Wizard, also known as the White Wizard, also known by the name Saruman. He discovers to his exterme dismay that Saruman has turned evil and wants the Ring for himself. Wizard battle ensues, with Gandalf ending up trapped at the top of a tower by Saruman. He calls upon his friend the Eagle to free him.

Back to our intrepid hobbits:

One night they camp at an old ruin called Weathertop. Merry & Pippin f*ck things up by lighting a cooking fire. The Black Riders, which are tracking them, attack. Strider fends them off, but Frodo is stabbed by an enchanted blade, and becomes very ill.

They make all haste to Rivendell with the Black Riders in hot pursuit. Strider encounters an Elf woman who appears to know him. Her name is Arwen, and she is Elrond’s daughter. She takes Frodo and rides her horse as fast as she can toward the boundry of her father’s lands. The Black Riders give chase.

When she reaches the edge of her lands, at a river, she crosses with the Black Riders close behind. She calls up the Spirit of the river which overflows and dashes the Riders downriver. Hurrah! But Frodo is on the verge of death. Fade to black.

Frodo wakes up a few days later in a bed in Rivendell. He finds that Gandalf has returned and his friends have made it safely. Frodo also sees Bilbo, who gives him his sweet suit of armor and special sword.

Then there is a big council where Elrond tries to figure out what to do with the One Ring, since it is a source of all-corrupting Evil and Sauron is looking for it. All the free races of Middle-Earth – Elves, Men, Hobbits, and Dwarves – are in attendence. The conclusion is that it must be destroyed – by dropping it in the volcano in which it was forged, which is located is Sauron’s stronghold, called Mordor. Frodo volunteers to take it there. Representatives of all races step up to assist him. This group, consisting of Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, Boromir the Human Guy, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf and Strider, is known as the Fellowship of the Ring. All the non-hobbit members are warriors of some reknown and princes of their people.

Oh, Strider is revealed to have another name, which is Aragorn, and to be in a relationship with Arwen, the Elven princess.

The Fellowship sets off to cross the Misty Mountains.

Saruman sends an enchanted blizzard to prevent them from crossing the mountains at the usual spot. They decide to go underground, through the fallen city of the Dwarves, called Moria. Something bad happened to all the Dwarves that lived there, and no one really knowns what. T

They enter Moria. Everything’s going okay until Pippin f*cks it up again by making a loud noise. This attracts the local Orcs. After a brief battle with the orcs and their pet monster (a Cave Troll) the Orcs all flee before Something Really Scary Coming Up The Way.

It is the Balrog, a powerful demon that destroyed the Dwarven city. The Fellowship flees.

The Balrog catches them at a Bridge. Gandalf does battle with it, breaking the bridge and sending it down a very very deep abyss, but the Balrog brings Gandalf down with it.

The Fellowship are shocked and terrified by the death of their powerful leader. They flee through the last few rooms of Moria and emerge on the other side of the mountains. Aragorn assumes a leadership role and takes the demoralized party down to the Forest of Lothlorien, another place of the Elves.

They are allowed into Lothlorien even though the elves aren’t too keen on letting a dwarf in. The Queen of the Lothlorien elves is named Galadriel, and she is very powerful and wise. The party rests and is given equipment and boats by the elves. They set off downriver.

Remember how Saruman wanted the ring for himself? He has bred a race of Orc hybrids called Uruk-Hai and sent them on a mission to capture any Hobbiits they see.

One day, they stop just above a waterfall to decide where to go next. While gathering firewood, Frodo is confronted by Boromir, who is overcome with lust for the Ring. After this encounter, Frodo concludes that the Ring is too dangerous for his companions. He decides to steal one of the boats and go off on his own. Sam catches him at it and so they set off together.

Meanwhile, the Uruk-Hai attack the other party members. They go for Merry & Pippin, since their mission is to capture any Hobbits. Boromir tries to defend them, but is killed.

The remaining party members (Aragorn, Legolas the Elf, and Gimli the Dwarf) decide to follow the Uruk-Hai and free Merry & Pippin.

This is the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Well, explaining things and answering “in brief” is the hard part! That’s why this was a very large story that was broken into three volumes, originally.

As for “the king” (i.e. who is it, you ask). That would be Aragorn (aka Strider).

The direct storyline of the first movie is as Hello Again describes it – at least the movie version (which differs from the books in some details). The novels have much more background and history than the movies can completely get across.

But… here’s a summary of a few things:

A few thousand years before, there was a line of noble kings – one of them fought Sauron in the earlier war (mentioned in the opening of the FOTR movie). This was Elendil. His sons were Isildur and Anarion. There were two major human kingdoms – Arnor in the north, and Gondor in the south. Elendil was the king in the northern kingdom, and sort of an “overking” of all of it. When he died, Isildur was to be the king of Arnor, and Anarion’s line was to have the kingdom of Gondor (although Anarion died in the first battle with Gondor, too).

Now, since then, the kingdoms have changed. Arnor was pretty much destroyed long ago. The line of kings in Gondor died out hundreds of years before, and the stewards have been running the kingdom in place of an actual king.

So how does Aragorn fit in? He’s a direct descendant of Isildur – even though there is no more “Arnor” – the descendants have lived as wandering bands of rangers. So basically, Aragorn is the last true descendant of Elendil – and rightful heir to the throne of the human kingdoms (including Gondor) – this is the “Return of the King” reference. Gondor hasn’t had a king for hundreds of years – Aragorn is now becoming ready to take up his place as ruler of Gondor.

Gandalf and Saruman (Dooku) are both special kinds of beings (known as Istari) – known to humans as wizards. Originally, they have the same basic purpose – to help combat evil in the world (which right now, is Sauron). But Saruman has studied the rings of power and now desires to control the One Ring. So that’s why he’s a chief baddie in the first two movies – he has turned against his original purpose and desires to gain the ring for himself. So he’s allowing himself to be in “cahoots” with Sauron for now, hoping that he will come out as the Head Honcho in the long run.

What may also be confusing are some of the events in “Two Towers” – Frodo’s quest should be pretty clear – destroy the ring. Meanwhile, Sauron is not only searching for the ring, but trying to bring war and conquest upon the kingdoms of Middle Earth. The closest is Gondor. The next closest is Rohan. Rohan is where Aragorn and friends end up in most of “The Two Towers”, and they become enmeshed in the battle to save Rohan from Saruman’s troops… THEN, they have to turn their attention to helping fend off attacks against Gondor (in Return of the King).

So where are Sauron’s armies coming from? Many are orcs and trolls. Others are men from the east and the south – never allied with the kingdoms of Gondor or Arnor. And usually considered to be darker and less noble men.

Hope this helps fill in some of the details at least.

One major point that was missed:

Gollum was the being that had the Ring for a long time, so long that it warped him into what he is during the period covered by LOTR. Bilbo stumbled into his lair and found the ring (due to the ring’s influence, it’s desire to return to Sauron.) Bilbo then escaped through the goblins’ lair and off to the rest of his adventures.

In the mines of Moria, Gandalf notices that Gollum is following them, again on the trail of the Ring, these many years later. He points this out to Frodo and explains why.

In the Two Towers, Frodo and Sam capture Gollum and he agrees to lead them into Mordor. He desires the ring, and since he is under its influence he obeys the Ring’s present master- for now.


The story takes place in “Middle Earth” (AKA “medieval place”, as you put it). The name is confusing, as it implies kind of doesn’t take place on the regular earth we live on. It does, just long long ago, pre-everything we know, pre-biblical flood, etc., and the geography has all changed since then.

And: Frodo’s evil ring, which he must destroy, was made by Sauron the bad guy, and contains much of Sauron’s evil power. So if the ring is reunited with what’s left of Sauron (he’s a demonic being that can’t really be killed entirely–just killed for a while, until he gradually scrapes up enough power to rebuild himself a body of some sort, which has happened to him twice already, so you know he’s pissed), then Sauron is back up to full strength, is utterly unstoppable, bye-bye world. But if the ring is destroyed, then most of Sauron’s power is destroyed with it, and he’ll never be able to recover–so everything he’s done, and all the evil slaves he holds in his sway, we’ll be laid to waste. Sunshine and puppies.

Um, WILL be laid to waste. Not we’ll. I’m not an orc. Really.

I think the short answer is that yes, I could explain it, but Tolkein does it far better.

For my part, here’s a quick synopsis:

Bilbo has a magical ring. He leaves this to Frodo. Gandalf proves that it is The One Ring, the macguffin, and must be taken to a place of safety. The Evil Overlord learns that the Ring has been found and sends his lackeys after it. Assorted encounters later, Frodo the Ringbearer reaches a place of safety. A council is held and the decision is taken to destroy the Ring. A group sets out. Along the way the group is attacked, members die, and split. A good guy is found to have gone bad and a former owner of the Ring, Gollum, is encountered. Gollum initially repents of his evil but is ill-treated and his evil side wins. More travels and travails. The third movie contrasts the large-scale battles with personal conflicts. Good wins in the end.

cool! I got dibs on Two Towers:

We pick right up where we left off at the end of FOTR: the fellowship is broken into 3 groups. Frodo and Sam are heading toward Mordor with the Ring, to toss it into Mt. Doom. Merry & Pippin have been kidnapped by Saruman’s super-orcs (uruk-hai) and are being hauled off to Saruman’s tower–presumably to deliver the Ring to Saruman. Aragorn (the king about to Return), Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf are in hot pursuit of the uruk-hai.

The story intercuts between the 3 groups; I’ll keep it simple.

Merry & Pippin escape from their captors and head into Fangorn Forest, where they are picked up by Treebeard, an Ent. Ents are shepherds of the trees, and look a lot like walking, talking trees.

Aragorn, Gimli & Legolas meet up with a group of horsemen from the country of Rohan, led by the king’s nephew Eomer. The riders have killed the uruk-hai but didn’t see any hobbits. AG&L track the hobbits into the forest, and there they meet Gandalf–returned from the dead, with enhanced power. The 4 of them head to the capital of Rohan (Edoras) to confer with its king (Theoden). Theoden has a counselor named Wormtongue who is actually a spy of Saruman; Wormtongue has been feeding Theoden bad advice and keeping him enfeebled. Gandalf breaks the spell; Wormtongue is banished and high-tails it back to Saruman. Gandalf et al convince Theoden that Saruman is about to attack with his army of Uruk-hai; Theoden leads his people to the fortress refuge of Helm’s Deep, to fend off the invaders. Gandalf goes in search of Eomer’s band of horsemen, to bring them to the battle. While the people of Rohan are on their way to Helm’s Deep they’re attacked by orcs from Saruman, riding Wargs (nasty hyena beasties). The attack is repelled but Aragorn is parted from the group for a while. This gives him the opportunity to have flashbacks about his girlfriend. And Eomer’s sister Eowyn develops a serious crush on Aragorn.

Big battle at Helm’s Deep. Things are looking very bleak when Gandalf arrives in nick of time with reinforcements, routing the uruk-hai army. Meanwhile, Merry & Pippin have convinced Treebeard and other Ents to attack Saruman in his tower of Isengard. All of Saruman’s war-making and uruk-breeding machinery is destroyed.

While all this is happening: Frodo and Sam are nearing Mordor, when they meet Gollum: the wretched and schizo former owner of the ring, who wants it back very badly. Gollum agrees to show Frodo & Sam the way through the Dead Marshes and up to the Gates of Mordor. But Gollum convinces them to enter Mordor through another secret path. On their way to this path, they are captured by a band of soldiers from Gondor, led by Faramir – who just happens to be the brother of Boromir (who died at the end of FOTR). Faramir initially wants to bring Frodo and the Ring to his father, the Steward of Gondor, but relents at the last minute and sends him on his way. The movie ends with Merry & Pippin enjoying Saruman’s loot; Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Eomer & Theoden reflecting on their victory; and Frodo & Sam on their way to the secret path into Mordor.