This documentary examines the social and cultural underpinnings of the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, in an attempt to understand the work's phenomenal success and influence. The program looks for answers in the author's sources of inspiration, from the folk legends of Norway to the field of linguistics of which Tolkien was a lifelong student. It finds that the deep chord the story strikes owes its resonance to the author's use of archetypal imagery and language. Many examples of these recurrent themes and images are given, with readings from the work and other literature. Interviews with the book's illustrators, the brothers Hildebrandt, speak to the power of the imagery in the classic story. Scholars, Tolkien's children, and the author himself provide insight into the mythic themes and the spell they have cast over the vast readership of The Lord of the Rings.
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