|Saruman the White|
|First appearance||The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)|
|Last appearance||Unfinished Tales (1980)|
Man of Skill
Head of the White Council
Lord of Isengard
Saruman the White is a fictional character of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. He is leader of the Istari, wizards sent to Middle-earth in human form by the godlike Valar to challenge Sauron, the main antagonist of the novel, but eventually he desires Sauron's power for himself and tries to take over Middle-earth by force from his base at Isengard. His schemes feature prominently in the second volume, The Two Towers, and at the end of the third volume, The Return of the King. His earlier history is briefly given in the posthumously published The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
Saruman is one of several characters in the book illustrating the corruption of power; his desire for knowledge and order leads to his fall, and he rejects the chance of redemption when it is offered. The name Saruman (pronounced [ˈsɑrumɑn]) means "man of skill or cunning" in the Mercian dialect of Anglo-Saxon; he serves as an example of technology and modernity being overthrown by forces more in tune with nature.
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings describes a quest to destroy the One Ring, a powerful and evil talisman created by the Dark Lord Sauron to control Middle-earth. Sauron lost the Ring in battle thousands of years before the beginning of the story, and it is now held in secret in the Shire by the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who passes it on to Frodo Baggins, one of the story's main protagonists. Early in the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, the wizard Gandalf describes Saruman as "the chief of my order"[T 1] and head of the White Council that forced Sauron from Mirkwood at the end of Tolkien's earlier book The Hobbit.[T 2] He notes Saruman's great knowledge of the magic rings created by Sauron and by the Elven-smiths. Shortly afterwards, Gandalf breaks an arrangement to meet Frodo and guide him out of the Shire to Rivendell to keep the Ring safe from Sauron's agents.
Frodo and Gandalf are reunited at Rivendell midway through The Fellowship of the Ring. The wizard explains why he failed to join Frodo: he had been summoned to consult with Saruman but had been held captive. Saruman initially had proposed that the wizards ally themselves with the rising power of Sauron in order to eventually control him for their own ends. Saruman went on to suggest that they could take the Ring for themselves and challenge Sauron. When Gandalf refused both options, Saruman imprisoned him in the tower of Orthanc at Isengard, hoping to learn from him the location of the Ring. Whilst on the summit of Orthanc, Gandalf observed that Saruman had industrialised the formerly green valley of Isengard and was creating his own army of Half-Orc/Half-Man fighters and Wargs to rival Sauron.[T 3] Gandalf's escape from the roof on the back of a Great Eagle left Saruman in a desperate position, as he knew he would now be known as traitor to his former allies, but was unable to procure the Ring directly for himself and therefore could not hope to truly rival Sauron.
In The Two Towers (1954), the second volume of the story, Saruman is initially the main antagonist. Orcs from Saruman's army attack Frodo and his companions, and carry off two of Frodo's closest friends, Merry and Pippin. The two escape into Fangorn Forest, where they meet the Ents, protectors of the trees, who are outraged at the widespread felling of trees by Saruman's Orcs.[T 4] Meanwhile, Saruman prepares to invade the kingdom of Rohan, which has lain invitingly exposed ever since he had his servant Gríma Wormtongue render Théoden, Rohan's king, weak and defenceless with "subtle poisons". Gandalf frees Théoden from Wormtongue's control just as Saruman's army is about to invade.
Saruman is ruined when the Riders of Rohan defeat his army and Merry and Pippin prompt the Ents to destroy Isengard. Saruman himself is not directly involved, and only appears again in chapter 10, "The Voice of Saruman", by which time he is trapped in Orthanc. He fails in his attempt to negotiate with the Rohirrim and with Gandalf, and rejects Gandalf's conditional offer to let him go free. Gandalf casts him out of the White Council and the order of the wizards, and breaks Saruman's staff.[T 5]
Saruman makes his final appearance at the end of the last volume, The Return of the King (1955), after Sauron's defeat. After persuading the Ents to release him from Orthanc, he travels north on foot, apparently reduced to begging. He is accompanied by Wormtongue, whom he beats and curses.[T 6] When they reach the Shire, Saruman's agents—both Hobbits and Men—have already taken it over and started a destructive process of industrialization. Saruman governs the Shire in secret under the name of Sharkey until the events of chapter 18 ("The Scouring of the Shire") in which Frodo and his companions return and lead a rebellion, defeating the intruders and exposing Saruman's role. Even after Saruman attempts to stab Frodo, Frodo lets him go. When Saruman blames Wormtongue for the damage done to the Shire and curses him, Wormtongue finally snaps and slits his throat.[T 7]
Consistent accounts of Saruman's earlier history appear in Appendix B to The Lord of the Rings, first published in The Return of the King, and in the posthumously published The Silmarillion (1977) and Unfinished Tales (1980). All were written in the mid-1950s. Saruman, like Gandalf and Radagast the Brown, is one of five 'wizards', known as the Istari, who begin to arrive in Middle-earth some two thousand years before the beginning of The Lord of the Rings. They are Maiar, envoys of the godlike Valar sent to challenge Sauron by inspiring the people of Middle-earth rather than by direct conflict.[T 8] Tolkien regarded them as being somewhat like incarnate angels.[T 9] Saruman initially travels in the east; he is later appointed head of the White Council and eventually settles at Gondor's outpost of Isengard. Fifty years before The Lord of the Rings, after his studies reveal that the One Ring might be found in the river Anduin near Sauron's stronghold at Dol Guldur, he helps the White Council drive out Sauron in order to facilitate his search.[T 10]
Unfinished Tales contains drafts not included in The Lord of the Rings that describe Saruman's attempts to frustrate Sauron's chief servants, the Nazgûl, in their search for the Ring during the early part of The Fellowship of the Ring; in one version he considers throwing himself on Gandalf's mercy. There is also a description of how Saruman becomes involved with the Shire and of how he gradually becomes jealous of Gandalf.[T 11] Another brief account describes how the five Istari were chosen by the Valar for their mission.[T 12]
Creation and development
Tolkien had been writing The Lord of the Rings for several years when Saruman came into existence as the solution to a long-unresolved plot development, and his role and characteristics continued to emerge in the course of writing. Tolkien started work on the book in late 1937, but was initially unsure of how the story would develop. Unlike some of the other characters in the book, Saruman had not appeared in Tolkien's 1937 novel, The Hobbit, or in his then-unpublished Quenta Silmarillion and related mythology, which date back to 1917.[a] When he wrote of Gandalf's failure to meet Frodo, Tolkien did not know what had caused it and later said: "Most disquieting of all, Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as concerned as Frodo at Gandalf's failure to appear."[T 13] Tolkien's son, Christopher, has said that the early stages of the creation of The Lord of the Rings proceeded in a series of waves, and that having produced the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien rewrote the tale from the start three times.[T 14] Saruman first appeared during a fourth phase of writing in a rough narrative outline dated August 1940. Intended to account for Gandalf's absence, it describes how a wizard titled "Saramond the White" or "Saramund the Grey", who has fallen under the influence of Sauron, lures Gandalf to his stronghold and traps him.[T 15] The full story of Saruman's betrayal was later added to the existing chapters.[T 16]
Several of Saruman's other appearances in the book emerged in the process of writing. Christopher Tolkien believes that the old man seen by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at the edge of Fangorn forest near the beginning of The Two Towers is in the original drafts intended to be Gandalf. In the finished version he is Saruman.[T 17] Similarly, in the first drafts of the chapter The Scouring of the Shire, Sharkey is successively a ruffian met by the hobbits and then that man's unseen boss. It is only in the second draft of the chapter that, as Christopher Tolkien puts it, his father "perceive[d]" that Sharkey was in fact Saruman.[T 18] The name used by Saruman's henchmen for their diminished leader is said in a footnote to the final text to be derived from an Orkish term meaning "old man". Saruman's death scene, in which his body shrivels away to skin and bones revealing "long years of death" and "a pale shrouded figure" rises over the corpse,[T 19] was not added until the page proofs of the completed book were being reviewed by Tolkien.[T 20] John D. Rateliff and Jared Lobdell are among those to write that the scene shows similarities to the death of the 2000-year-old sorceress Ayesha in H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel She: A History of Adventure.
"[His voice was] low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment [...] it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire woke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves ... for those whom it conquered the spell endured while they were far away and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them."
The Two Towers Book III Chapter X p.222
Tolkien described Saruman at the time of The Lord of the Rings as having a long face and a high forehead, "...he had deep darkling eyes ... His hair and beard were white, but strands of black still showed around his lips and ears."[T 21] His hair is elsewhere described as having been black when he first arrived in Middle-earth. He is referred to as 'Saruman the White' and is said to have originally worn white robes, but on his first entry in The Fellowship of the Ring they instead appear to be "woven from all colours [, they] shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered" and he names himself 'Saruman of Many Colours'.[T 22]
The power of Saruman's voice is noted throughout the book. Jonathan Evans calls the characterization of Saruman in the chapter The Voice of Saruman a "tour de force". Roger Sale says of the same chapter that "Tolkien valiantly tried to do something worth doing which he simply cannot bring off." Tom Shippey writes that "Saruman talks like a politician ... No other character in Middle-earth has Saruman's trick of balancing phrases against each other so that incompatibles are resolved, and none comes out with words as empty as 'deploring', 'ultimate', worst of all, 'real'. What is 'real change'?" Shippey contrasts this modern speech pattern with the archaic stoicism and directness that Tolkien employs for other characters such as the Dwarven King Dáin, which Shippey believes represent Tolkien's view of heroism in the mould of Beowulf.
After the defeat of his armies, having been caught in the betrayal of Sauron, Saruman is offered refuge by Gandalf, in return for his aid, but having chosen his path, is unable to turn from it. Evans has compared the character of Saruman to that of Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost in his use of rhetoric and in this final refusal of redemption, "conquered by pride and hatred".
Saruman has been identified by critics as demonstrating the fall of an originally good character, and has distinctively modern connections with technology. John R. Holmes writes that there is a philological link between "a perverted will to power with the love of machines we see in Isengard". The etymologies of English "magic", Latinised Greek magia, "the power of causing physical change in the real world", and English "machine", Greek mekhane or makhana "device", are both from Old Persian maghush "sorcerer", from Proto-Indo-European *magh, "to have power". Thus, Holmes writes, Tolkien was following an ancient cultural connection in making Saruman think in this way.
Tolkien writes that The Lord of the Rings was often criticised for portraying all characters as either good or bad, with no shades of grey, a point to which he responds by proposing Saruman, along with Denethor and Boromir, as examples of characters with more nuanced loyalties.[T 23] Marjorie Burns writes that while Saruman is an "imitative and lesser" double of Sauron, reinforcing the Dark Lord's character type, he is also a contrasting double of Gandalf, who becomes Saruman as he "should have been", after Saruman fails in his original purpose.
Saruman "was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare raise our hands against" but decays as the book goes on. Patricia Meyer Spacks calls him "one of the main case histories [in the book] of the gradual destructive effect of willing submission to evil wills". Paul Kocher identifies Saruman's use of a palantír, a seeing-stone, as the immediate cause of his downfall, but also suggests that through his study of "the arts of the enemy", Saruman was drawn into imitation of Sauron. According to Jonathan Evans and Spacks, Saruman succumbs to the lust for power, while Shippey identifies Saruman's devotion to goals of knowledge, organization and control as his weakness. Tolkien writes that the Istari's chief temptation (and that to which Saruman fell) is impatience, leading to a desire to force others to do good, and then to a simple desire for power.[T 24]
Treebeard describes Saruman as having "a mind of metal and wheels".[T 25] Evil in The Lord of the Rings tends to be associated with machinery, whereas good is usually associated with nature. Both Saruman's stronghold of Isengard and his altered Shire demonstrate the negative effects of industrialization and Isengard is overthrown when the forests, in the shape of the Ents, literally rise against it. Patrick Curry says Tolkien is hostile to industrialism, linking this to the widespread urban development that took place in the West Midlands where Tolkien grew up in the first decades of the 20th century. He identifies Saruman as one of the key examples given in the book of the evil effects of industrialization, and by extension of imperialism. Shippey notes that Saruman's name repeats this view of technology: in the Mercian dialect of Anglo-Saxon used by Tolkien to represent the Language of Rohan in the book, the word searu means "clever", "skilful" or "ingenious" and has associations with both technology and treachery that are fitting for Tolkien's portrayal of Saruman, the "cunning man". He also writes of Saruman's distinctively modern association with Communism in the way the Shire is run under his control in "The Scouring of the Shire": goods are taken "for fair distribution" which, since they are mainly never seen again, Shippey terms an unusually modern piece of hypocrisy in the way evil presents itself in Middle-earth.
Saruman is in part the architect of his own downfall. Kocher, Randel Helms and Shippey write that Saruman's actions in the first half of The Two Towers, although intended to further his own interests, in fact lead to his defeat and that of Sauron: his orcs help split the Fellowship at Parth Galen, and in carrying off two of the hobbits initiate a series of incidents that lead to his ruin. In turn this frees the Rohirrim to intervene at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and then together with the men of Gondor to assault Sauron's stronghold of Mordor and distract him from Frodo's final effort to destroy the Ring. Shippey says that this demonstrates the value of persistence in the face of despair, even if a way out cannot be seen; Kocher and Helms write that it is part of a pattern of providential events and of the reversed effects of evil intentions throughout the book.
In the end, the diminished Saruman is murdered, his throat cut, and Shippey notes that when he dies his spirit "dissolved into nothing". He identifies Saruman as the best example in the book of "wraithing", a distinctive 20th-century view of evil that he attributes to Tolkien in which individuals are "'eaten up inside' by devotion to some abstraction". Referring to Saruman's demise, Kocher says that he is one example of the consistent theme of nothingness as the fate of evil throughout The Lord of the Rings.
Film, radio, and stage
Saruman has appeared in film, radio, and stage adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. BBC Radio produced the first adaptation in 1955, in which Saruman was played by Robert Farquharson, and which has not survived. Tolkien was apparently disappointed by it.
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which corresponds to The Fellowship of the Ring and part of The Two Towers, Saruman is voiced by Fraser Kerr. He has only one major scene—his attempt to persuade Gandalf to join him. He appears again briefly before the battle of Helm's Deep, speaking to his army. The character is dressed in red and is called 'Saruman' and 'Aruman' at different points. Smith and Matthews suggest that the use of 'Aruman' was intended to avoid confusion with 'Sauron'. The 1980 Rankin/Bass TV animated version of The Return of the King begins roughly where Bakshi's film ends but does not include Saruman's character.
BBC Radio's second adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, from 1981, presents Saruman much as in the books. Smith and Matthews report Peter Howell's performance as Saruman as "brilliantly ambiguous ..., drifting from mellifluous to almost bestially savage from moment to moment without either mood seeming to contradict the other".
In Peter Jackson's film trilogy (2001–2003), Saruman is significantly more active in the first two films than in the corresponding books, and he appears in several scenes that are not depicted in Tolkien's work. He was portrayed by Christopher Lee. In the films, Saruman is depicted presenting himself outright as a servant of Sauron. Smith and Matthews suggest that Saruman's role is built up as a substitute for Sauron—the story's main antagonist—who never appears directly in the book, which Jackson confirms in the commentary to the DVD. They also suggest that having secured veteran British horror actor Christopher Lee to play Saruman, it made sense to make greater use of his star status. Despite this increased role in the first two films, the scenes involving Saruman that were shot for use in the third film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, were not used in the cinematic release, a decision which "shocked" Lee. Jackson reasoned that it would be anticlimactic to show Saruman's fate in the second movie (after the Battle of Helm's Deep) and too retrospective for the third one. The cut scenes end with Saruman falling to his death from the top of Orthanc after being stabbed by Wormtongue and include material transposed from the chapter The Scouring of the Shire. They are included at the start of the Extended Edition DVD release of the film.
In Jackson's film adaptation of The Hobbit, Lee reprises his role as Saruman the White, even though Saruman does not appear in the book. Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond appear at a meeting of the White Council in Rivendell, loosely based on material from the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings.
In the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Saruman is voiced by Roger Jackson. Saruman appears as a minor villain in Lego Dimensions, in which he allies himself with main antagonist Lord Vortech.
Asteroid 418532 Saruman was named after the wizard and in honour of the actor Christopher Lee. The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 25 September 2018 (M.P.C. 111804).
[a] ^ The volume published as The Silmarillion in 1977 contains four sections in addition to the Quenta Silmarillion. The last of these—Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age—covers Saruman's earlier history, but was written after The Lord of the Rings.
- Tolkien 1954a Book 1 Chapter 2 "The Shadow of the Past".
- Tolkien 1937, chapter 19 The Last Stage
- Tolkien 1954a Book 2 Chapter 2 The Council of Elrond.
- Tolkien 1954 Book 3 Chapter 4 Treebeard.
- Tolkien 1954 Book 3 Chapter 10 The Voice of Saruman.
- Tolkien 1955 Book 6, Chapter 6 Many Partings.
- Tolkien 1955 Book 6 Chapters 7 Homeward Bound and 8 The Scouring of the Shire.
- Tolkien 1955 Appendix B, "The Third Age".
- Carpenter 2006 Letters, #156: "[of Gandalf] I would venture to say that he was an incarnate 'angel'-strictly an [angelos]: that is, with the other Istari, wizards, 'those who know', an emissary from the Lords of the West, sent to Middle-earth, as the great crisis of Sauron loomed on the horizon."
- Tolkien 1977 Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.
- Tolkien 1980 Part Three Chapter IV The Hunt for the Ring.
- Tolkien 1980 Part Four Chapter II The Istari.
- Carpenter 2006 Letters #163.
- Tolkien 1988 Foreword.
- Tolkien 1989 Chapter 4. The outline suggests that Saruman is assisted by the "giant" Treebeard, an early and evil iteration of the Ent Treebeard from the finished book.
- Tolkien 1989 Chapter 6 The Council of Elrond (1).
- Tolkien 1989 Also, Gandalf says about the incident, "You certainly didn't see me, so you must have seen Saruman."
- Tolkien 1993 Saruman did not appear in the first draft of the chapter; Christopher Tolkien writes: "It is striking that here, virtually at the end of the Lord of the Rings and in an element that my father had long meditated [that] he did not perceive that it was Saruman who was the real Boss, Sharkey, at Bag End".
- Tolkien 1955 Book 6 Chapter 8 The Scouring of the Shire.
- Tolkien 1993 Chapter 9 The Scouring of the Shire.
- Tolkien 1954 Book 3 Chapter 10 The Voice of Saruman.
- Tolkien 1954a Book 2 Chapter 2 The Council of Elrond.
- Carpenter 2006 Letters #154.
- Carpenter 2006 Letters #181.
- Tolkien 1954 Book 3 Chapter 4 Treebeard. The quote is used as an illustration by Shippey, Spacks and Kocher among many others.
- Clark Hall, J. R. (2002) . A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (4th ed.). University of Toronto Press. p. 300.
- Carpenter 2002 Part 5 Chapter II p. 247.
- J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia 'Saruman' by Jonathan Evans pp. 589–590.
- Hammond, Wayne G. (2005). The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. City: Houghton Mifflin. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-618-64267-0.
- Sale, Roger (1968). "15 Tolkien and Frodo Baggins". In Isaacs, Neil (ed.). Tolkien and the Critics; Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings. University of Notre Dame. p. 270. ISBN 0-268-00279-7.
- Shippey 2005 pp. 135–138 Shippey refers to "Tolkien's Northern 'theory of courage'", which appears in Tolkien's 1936 British Academy lecture.
- Spacks, Patricia Meyer (1968). "6 Power and meaning in The Lord of the Rings". In Isaacs, Neil (ed.). Tolkien and the Critics; Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings. University of Notre Dame. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-268-00279-7.
- Dickerson, Matthew T.; Evans, Jonathan Duane (2006). Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 192 et seq. ISBN 978-0-8131-2418-6.
- Holmes, John R. (2020) . "The Lord of the Rings". In Lee, Stuart D. (ed.). A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien. Wiley. p. 143. ISBN 978-1119656029.
- Burns, Marjorie (2007). "Doubles". In Drout, Michael (ed.). J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0.
- Kocher 1973 Chapter 4 p.79, Kocher quoting Frodo's speech of The Return of the King Book VI Chapter VIII p. 362.
- Kocher 1973 Chapter III Cosmic Order p. 51 & Chapter IV Sauron and the nature of evil p. 68.
- Shippey 2001 Chapter IV 'Saruman and Denethor: technologist and reactionary' pp. 121–128.
- Curry, Patrick (2007). "Industrialization". In Drout, Michael (ed.). J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0.
- Shippey 2005 Chapter 4 'The horses of the Mark' pp. 139–140.
- Shippey 2005 Chapter 5 'Interlacements and the Ring' p. 195.
- Shippey 2005 Chapter 5 'Interlacements and the Ring' pp. 186–188.
- Kocher 1973 Chapter III Cosmic Order pp. 44–46.
- Helms, Randel (1974). Tolkien's World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Chapter 5 'The structure and aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings pp. 92–97. ISBN 0-395-18490-8.
- Kocher 1973 Chapter IV Sauron and the nature of evil p. 79.
- Smith & Matthews 2004 'Of the beginning of days' pp. 15–16.
- Smith & Matthews 2004 'JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings' p. 54.
- Smith & Matthews 2004 'JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings' pp. 63–70.
- Smith & Matthews 2004 'An Unexpected Party' p. 83.
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- Smith & Matthews 2004 'The Return of the King' (2003) p. 177.
- "Hey, what happened to Saruman?". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 30 November 2004. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- Boyens, Phillipa; Jackson, Peter; Walsh, Fran (2004). The Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King Extended Edition (Director and Writers' commentary) (DVD). New Line Cinema. Event occurs at Disc 1 Chapter 4 00:17:26.
- Vineyard, Jennifer (17 December 2012). "Five things changed/expanded from the book for 'The Hobbit' films". CNN. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
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- Carpenter, Humphrey (2002). J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-713284-0.
- Carpenter, Humphrey (ed.) (2006) . The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-261-10265-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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- History of composition
- Tolkien, Christopher (1988). The Return of the Shadow. Unwin Hyman.
- Tolkien, Christopher (1989). The Treason of Isengard. HarperCollins.
- Tolkien, Christopher (1993). Sauron Defeated. HarperCollins.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1937). The Hobbit. Unwin.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954a). The Fellowship of the Ring. HarperCollins.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954). The Two Towers. HarperCollins.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). The Return of the King. HarperCollins.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977). The Silmarillion. Unwin.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980). Unfinished Tales. HarperCollins.