Is The Lord of the Rings really that classic?
Today, when over fifty years have passed since The Lord of the Rings came out, it’s a valid question.
After all, some fantasy authors have disregarded J.R.R. Tolkien as over-hyped and many are trying to write works that go in opposite directions from what Tolkien did in his stories.
In light of that, I’d like to point out The Lord of the Rings really is as good as people say.
It’s a classic, not just because so many people enjoy it, but because it’s had more influence than any other fantasy novel.
Here are 3 ways The Lord of the Rings has influenced literature and popular culture.
1. It’s Sold More Than Almost Any Other Fantasy Book
Vit Wagner of the Toronto Star estimated in 2007 that The Lord of the Rings had sold 150 million copies since its publication in 1955.
To put this in context, the Harry Potter series altogether have sold an average of 71 million copies each (over 500 million total) and as of 2013, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle had sold 35 million copies.
Author David Mitchell argues that the bestselling novel of all time is Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which has sold over two hundred million copies.
This makes The Lord of the Rings one of the bestselling fiction books of all time.
2. It Changed Gaming and Music
Lord of the Rings has had an enormous impact on game producers and musicians.
Michael A. Hall mentions in “The Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on Popular Culture” that many game designers invented games that had magical creates from The Lord of the Rings, most notably Dungeons & Dragons.
Reason magazine writer Chris Mooney noted that Tolkien fans designed the 1970’s role-playing game Adventure, which led to the legendary game Zork which paved the way for games like Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy.
Various musicians have also been influenced by The Lord of the Rings, particularly Led Zeppelin, which released songs like “Ramble On” that mentioned characters and places from The Lord of the Rings.
3. It Changed the Way People Write Fantasy
Obviously, many writers have imitated Tolkien’s style.
Humorist Terry Pratchett parodied Tolkien-esque fiction in the 1980’s with his book The Colour of Magic.
John Clute and John Grant explained in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy that Tolkien’s work stands out because he invented a fantasy world that was completely separate from the real world, and yet it was consistent and coherent.
Other writers had tried this, but Tolkien made it finally legitimate.
After The Lord of the Rings came out, fantasy writers didn’t have to try and explain their stories as dreams the characters were having or silly tales for children.
They could write about worlds that were completely separate from the real one, and still write good stories.