The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the greatest fantasy works ever written and has influenced many authors since its publication. It has captured the imagination of readers for almost 70 years.
The story of Frodo and his quest to take the Ring of Power to Mount Doom in order to destroy it has also spawned many imitations. It seems that it is Frodo’s fate to inherit the Ring after Bilbo leaves the Shire.
Gandalf, the wizard, realizing the true identity of the Ring, instructs Frodo to take it and leave. It must be hidden from Sauron’s minions, who have been sent to find it.
With his friend Samwise, Frodo leaves with Gandalf’s promise to meet with him at The Prancing Pony reassuring him that this will be a straightforward task. On their journey, they pick up two friends, Merry and Pippin who are busy stealing vegetables.
This is the little group of Hobbits who now have the fate of Middle Earth in their hands but none more so than Frodo who carries the heaviest burden.
What started as a simple task, or so he thought, turns into an epic journey across mountains, marshes, and forests. Over time these four will become nine as Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf join them in the Fellowship of the Ring.
Together they must reach the fires of Mordor and destroy the One Ring in order to defeat Sauron once and for all.
If you are an ardent fan of The Lord of The Rings then you will be enchanted by The Chronicles Of Narnia, Earthsea, Dune, Elric Of Melniboné, The Discworld Series, Wheel Of Time, Sabriel, and the Dark Tower Series.
Themes In Lord Of The Rings
Perhaps the most dominant theme in the Lord of the Rings books is the presence of a savior figure. While Frodo is the central protagonist in this respect, Aragorn also has aspects of this role in his decisions and ultimate fate.
As Tolkien did not like allegory he instead used the term applicability to the Christ-like actions and characteristics of Frodo and Aragorn.
Frodo carried the Ring as Christ carried the cross and fell on the side of Mount Doom as Christ fell three times on the way to Calvary. Samwise helps Frodo as Simon the Cyrene helped Jesus.
In Shelob’s cave Frodo ‘died’ only to come back to life as Christ died and was laid in the tomb, resurrecting after three days. When taken to the Undying Lands by the elves this represents the Ascension of Christ to heaven after he rose from the dead.
Aragorn as the ‘uncrowned king’ is also a messianic figure. He also walks along the paths of the dead, offering peace to the spirits there. Jesus descended to the realm of the dead after dying on the cross, this is known as the Harrowing of Hell.
Death & Immortality
Death and immortality are also central themes. The Rings of Power offer a twisted version of everlasting life to those who wear them, only to actually suck the life force from them, so that they are neither living nor dead.
The Elves are both blessed and cursed with immortality. They wear the rings from a desire to preserve their waning world.
A longing for immortality is the strong driving force of the story and one that is fundamental to the Catholic faith that Tolkien held. The promise of the immortality of heaven if one rejects the power of sin is embodied in the symbol of the One Ring.
The theme of loss is strongly held throughout the Lord of the Rings. From the loss of the innocence of the Hobbits as they leave the sanctuary of the Shire and are for the first time confronted with real evil.
The decline of great cities like Minas Tirith and the passing away of kingdoms such as Khazad-dûm add to this sense of loss. And of course, the fading of the race of Elves and their final departure to the West is poignantly felt as the end of an age.
Fate & Free Will
The part that fate versus free will plays in the Lord of the Rings is a compelling theme. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring as was Gollum. The ultimate destruction of Gollum with the Ring still clutched in his hand is a testament to this idea.
The decisions of Aragorn and Faramir in refusing to take the Ring when the opportunity arose point to the exercise of their free will as good men.
Books Like The Lord Of The Rings
The Chronicles Of Narnia By C.S. Lewis
Four children find a doorway to another world, Narnia, a world of constant winter, talking animals, a wicked witch, and a noble lion called Aslan. The White Witch rules Narnia with an iron fist and an icy heart.
When the White Witch wants to kill one of the children Aslan sacrifices himself instead. The Witch and her minions torture and torment him before finally killing him on a stone altar.
As Lucy and Susan weep over him, the sun rises and the stone tablet cracks in two. Suddenly Aslan is alive once more, and together they rush to the battle against the Witch. Aslan defeats her and the children begin their reign as kings and queens of Narnia.
- Masterful storytelling and scene setting
- Characters that the reader will care about
- Suitable for children and adults
- Some people dislike the alleged religious allegory
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: savior figure, death and immortality, fate and free will
Earthsea By Ursula Le Guin
Set in the archipelago of Earthsea the story is of a young magician, Ged who shows prodigious talent and joins a wizarding school.
Provoked by another student he inadvertently raises a shadow creature that attacks him before being destroyed by the Archmage at the cost of his life.
Ged flees and spends his time escaping the shadow which has no name and simultaneously helping people with his wizardry. Eventually, he comes face to face with the shadow and overcomes it by giving it his own name.
- Follows the structure of an epic tale
- Can be read by adults and children
- The book provides descriptive detail without complex backstories
- Some critics accused the book of being chauvinistic by restricting magic to males
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: coming of age, wizards and dragons, death and immortality, quest
Dune By Frank Herbert
Dune is set in a future feudal society in which various noble families hold control over planetary fiefdoms. The protagonist is Paul Atreides, whose family has stewardship of the planet Arrakis.
It’s not a great place to live, being inhospitable with few inhabitants. However, the planet is the only source of a spice, melange, which extends life and augments mental abilities.
It’s also necessary for space navigation requiring a multi-dimensional awareness as well as foresight. The struggle to maintain control of the planet amid the interactions of politics, religion, technology, and ecology forms the basis for the story.
- Very relevant to today’s world, more so than when it was written
- Follows a classic epic adventure wrapped in science fiction
- Imaginative and well written
- The book has been tainted by the failed attempts at movies based on the story
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: heroism, messianic figure, ecology
Elric Of Melniboné By Michael Moorcock
Starting out as a sickly sorcerer-king the protagonist Elric becomes a fearsome warrior bearing a soul-devouring sword called Stormbringer.
When the woman he loves, his cousin Cymoril, is kidnapped by her brother, Elric makes a pact with Arioch, one of the lords of chaos to help him find her.
Using the ship that travels over land and sea Elric tracks down Cymoril’s brother Yyrkoon and pursues him into an alternate world.
They end up in a chamber with Stormbringer and Mournblade two sentient swords, and Elric uses the former to defeat Yyrkoon.
Instead of killing him, Elric relinquishes the throne and chooses to wander the Young Kingdoms to learn of the world outside Melniboné.
- A strong influence on the sword and sorcery genre
- Introduced fantasy archetypes that have endured
- Alternative hero for the genre
- Lacks depth of imagery and character motivation
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: dying race, dragons, quest
The Discworld Series By Terry Pratchett
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett are perhaps the most imaginative and well-written fantasy novels ever, as well as some of the most humorous. Almost all of the books can be read as standalone stories with the exception of the first two.
The Color of Magic and its sequel, The Light Fantastic are the only two books written with the intention of being read one after the other. They serve as a kind of prologue to the following books and embark on a comical take on the swords and sorcery genre.
Discworld is not a series in the classic sense, as there is no continuous plot line. However, the books can be grouped into subsets that feature some of the same characters, so it’s possible to follow character development throughout.
- A humorous take on the sword and sorcery genre
- Can be read as separate stories
- Appeals to children and adults alike
- Very British humor which may not be understood by other nationalities
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: quests, death
Wheel Of Time By Robert Jordan
The Wheel of Time series draws on many different influences such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and the Abrahamic concept of God and the devil.
Despite being locked away by the Creator, an accident allows the influence of the Evil One to seep into the world once more.
This causes battles to break out between the forces of darkness and light which leads to the destruction of the world. But the savior of this world is prophesied to be reborn, and it is this that forms the basis for the plot of the series.
Tracking down the reincarnation of the Dragon who will defeat the Evil One is the central theme, although there are also many subplots and numerous characters.
- A very detailed and expansive narrative
- One of the best-selling fantasy series since Lord of the Rings
- The books have been turned into video games, role-playing games, collectible card games, and a mini-series
- Many subplots and hundreds of characters have been criticized as diluting the main plot and characters
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: savior figure, loss, death, and immortality
Sabriel By Garth Nix
Sabriel is a young girl who is unaware that she can wield magic. That is until she is summoned from her boarding school to help her father, Terciel, who is in danger.
With a magical cat whose task is to keep her safe from the walking dead, she sets out to find him. Along the way, they meet Touchstone, a human man trapped inside a wooden statue. Sabriel promises to free him in return for his help on her quest.
On discovering her father he tells her she must help trap a powerful dead creature, Kerrigor. Together they overcome him and Terciel returns to the dead lands with Kerrigor. But he resurrects and kills Sabriel.
Her father and others from the dead lands stop her from crossing over, and she returns to life. Now as a necromancer, her quest is to destroy Kerrigor forever.
- A well-written young adult fantasy book, perfect for its intended audience
- Imaginative and likable characters
- Complex plots and interesting world-building
- The story takes a while to get going
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: Death and immortality, quest, loss
Dark Tower Series By Stephen King
Despite being best known for his horror novels, Stephen King turned his hand to fantasy in the Dark Tower series. Inspired by Lord of the Rings, and spaghetti westerns this series is the perfect amalgamation of the two.
The protagonist is Roland Deschain, a gunslinger, who is traveling across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Mid-World. He is searching for the Dark Tower, a magical but elusive nexus of the space-time continuum.
It is under threat from the technology of the Great Old Ones. He is also tracking the man in black who is carrying Deschain’s soul in his pocket.
- Epic storytelling, plot lines, and characters
- The writing is top Stephen King quality
- Written over the course of 30 years it weaves other King stories into its plot
- The ending to the series was generally not well received
Themes Similar To The Lord Of The Rings: quest, fate and free will, loss
Lord of the Rings is a work that most people have heard of, even if they haven’t read it. The Peter Jackson movies increased its popularity among a generation that may not otherwise have encountered it.
It will forever be one of the greatest works of fantasy literature. But as we have seen there have been other masterful works by other fantasy authors. Many have been influenced by Tolkien, but they all have their own style.
If you like your protagonist to be a savior figure then the Chronicles of Narnia is an excellent choice. For those who like the elaborate world-building similar to Tolkien’s then Dune is ideal.
When you want to immerse yourself in an epic tale, pick up The Wheel of Time series. Young adults who love Lord of the Rings will enjoy Sabriel while readers who enjoy deep character development will be unable to put down The Dark Tower series.
Finally, for the irreverent and hilarious take on sword and sorcery, Terry Pratchett’s The Discworld Series is unparalleled for its wit, imagination, and creativity.
I hope our guide to 8 books like Lord of the Rings has helped you find your next favorite read. Many of my selections are multi-book series so will keep you busy for quite some time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Writes Like Tolkien?
Many fantasy authors have been inspired by Tolkien. C.S. Lewis and Robert Jordan are two from our list that have been most influenced by him. Frank Herbert has also been likened to Tolkien.
Are There Any Books As Good As Lord Of The Rings?
If you ask a Tolkien fan this question the answer will be no. However, there are many great examples of fantasy literature, many of which are listed in this article. It depends on what the reader is looking for.
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