The Lord of the Rings universe may be older than most of us, but it is still one of the most worshipped works of fiction in the world. It welcomes thousands of new fans every year, not to mention the iconic book-to-movie adaptation that truly immortalized it in pop culture 20 years ago! 

Most hardcore fans already know a ton about the famous franchise created by J.R.R. Tolkien in the 1930s, but there are still plenty of facts that are so awesome they bear repeating. 

From Peter Jackson’s hugely successful movie series to the novels that still shake our imagination to this day, here are 20 Lord of the Rings facts that will make you love Middle Earth even more.

1. Nicolas Cage Almost Played Aragorn

It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Viggo Mortensen as the rugged, badass swordsman who ended up on the throne of Gondor, but a few other actors actually came close to playing this iconic role. Among them were Nicolas Cage, who refused it because of “family obligations”, and multi-award winning actor Daniel-Day Lewis, who simply said “No thank you”. The Aragorns that could have been, but we’re glad they didn’t…

2. C.S. Lewis Encouraged Tolkien to Publish

J.R.R. Tolkien was really good friends with another giant of the fantasy genre, C.S. Lewis, the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia”. As reported by Salon, it is Lewis who persuaded Tolkien to “pull together and complete his stories of Middle-earth”. Tolkien then went on to publish “The Hobbit” in 1937 and on this he said, “The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby.”

3. Christopher Lee Really Wanted to Play Gandalf

Christopher Lee (Saruman) was such a fan of The Lord of the Rings that he dreamed of playing Gandalf. The actor even went as far as playing a wizard in the TV show The Adventures of Robin Hood just to prove that he could embody Tolkien’s character like no one else. Director Peter Jackson, however, thought he would be more suited for the menacing role of Gandalf’s frenemy Saruman. He wasn’t wrong about that.

4. LOTR Was Almost a Rock’n Roll Adaptation 

The Beatles were huge fans of “The Lord of the Rings” book series and even tried to adapt it for the big screen in the 1960s with director Stanley Kubrick at the Helm (pun incredibly intended). Tolkien, however, was not fond of the idea and did not allow it. We all love the Fab Four, but Paul McCartney probably won’t blame us for saying that this might not have been a good call.

5. James Bond Almost Played Gandalf 

Before Ian McKellen was contacted, it was Sean Connery who was considered for the role of the gentle and wise wizard Gandalf. The James Bond actor was even promised $400 million for the role, however the script made little sense to him and he eventually turned the job down. Honesty is key.

6. Tolkien Considers Samwise the True Hero

Although many think of him as Frodo’s mere adorable and supportive friend, let’s not forget Sam was ready to go hiking across the most dangerous realms of Middle Earth in the name of loyalty. This was a devotion Tolkien clearly held in high regard since Samwise Gamgee was, according to him, the “most heroic character” of the whole story. 

7. Ian McKellen Played Ping Pong for the Balrog Scene

If the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring terrified you to bits, you might never see its duel with Gandalf in the same way once you learn this interesting fact! Ian McKellen acted this scene in front of… a ping pong ball. The magic of CGI, right? Hey, if it works!

8. Samwise’s Daughter is Played by his Real-Life Daughter

Here’s a fun and endearing movie fact! In The Return of the King, Samwise’s daughter is played by Sean Astin’s real-life daughter Alexandra, who was about four years-old at the time. She might have been a bit young to remember the experience, but she will at least get to tell her own children that she appeared in one of the biggest adventure movies of all time when she was still in kindergarten.

9. Peter Jackson’s Daughter Also Cameoed 

Turns out Peter Jackson also brought his kids to work! His daughter Katie had several cameos throughout the trilogy, from playing a Hobbit to a distraught child in Minas Tirith. Coincidentally, Katie and Sean Astin’s daughter Alexandra were the same age and probably got to play together on set.

10. The Dead Marshes Were Inspired By War

As described in “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien”, the author’s description for the Dead Marshes, a place filled with the corpses and ghosts of knights fallen in battle, might be inspired by the horrors he witnessed first-hand during the First World War. Most specifically, the Battle of the Somme, where he saw dead men lying in the mud. Something that is sadly not difficult to believe.

11. The Chainmail Stretches for Miles and Miles 

Some behind the scenes trivia that might just blow your mind! When Peter Jackson decided to work on the masterpiece that is Tolkien’s trilogy, he decided to do things well – as in really, really well. Large amounts of special effects and highly impressive props and costumes were used including its chainmail used in battle scenes. The quantity of chainmail used for all three Lord of the Rings movies is so unimaginably huge that it would stretch over six miles if put side by side. 

12. The Queen Illustrated the Danish Edition of LOTR 

Fun fact? Tolkien’s work is so revered that the queen of Denmark herself, Margrethe II, illustrated the Danish edition of “The Lord of the Rings”. To keep things protocol-friendly, however, the regent worked on this project under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer. Apparently, J.R.R. Tolkien was impressed by the royal’s drawings.

13. Tolkien Wrote LOTR with Two Fingers

Tolkien had to write his multiple and generally enormous novels on a typewriter, as computers were a faraway dream back then. The author, however, was so dexterous with this machine that he wrote the entirety of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (over 1200 pages to be exact) with only two fingers – as this is the way he learned. The poor author called it “exhausting”.

14. Ian Holm Once Played Frodo

Here’s a Lord of the Rings fact you probably didn’t know! Ian Holm, who played Bilbo Baggins, had already played Frodo in a radio dramatization of Tolkien’s books for the BBC in 1981. Clearly, this was something that Peter Jackson listened to, as 20 years later, he decided to offer the role of Frodo’s uncle to the British actor. A fantastic decision most definitely influenced by that performance. 

15. Aragorn and Arwen are Related

Aragorn and Arwen form one of the most romantic couples of the fantasy genre, but few know that the two are actually related. Not too closely, don’t worry, since they are cousins about sixty-three times removed. Relieved, eh? Aragorn is indeed descended from a line of half-elves which, at some point in a very distant past, were offered to choose between being elves or being human. This also explains why Aragorn can live so long despite not being an elf.

16. Tolkien’s Gravestone Has a Special Engraving

Prepare your Kleenex because this fact is both adorable and heart-wrenching. Tolkien and his wife were buried together in Oxford beneath a gravestone that read “Beren” for the writer and “Luthien” for his spouse Edith. These two names will ring a bell to hardcore fans since they are, in Tolkien’s world, a mortal man and an elf-maiden who fell in love.

17. Gandalf Can Change his Appearance

To the untrained eye, Gandalf may look like a regular old man who also happens to have magical powers. But in fact, the famous wizard is actually part of a race of Middle Earth called Maiar, and – drum roll – his kind can change form at leisure. This might mean that Gandalf’s appearance as we know it might not be his real one. Now we know what inspired the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones!

18. Merry’s Name was Almost…Complicated

If fantasy as a genre has a pretty bad track record for names that are easy to pronounce, Tolkien still went easy on us for his main characters. Frodo, Aragorn, Samwise… not too hard, right? Well, it’s worth noting that the author did consider naming Merry “Marmaduke Brandybuck”. We’re super thankful to him for changing his mind.

19. Jake Gyllenhal Almost Played Frodo Baggins

Jake Gyllenhal auditioned for the role of Frodo, but did not get the part. In fact, it was apparently one of the “worst auditions”. The actor recalled it during an interview with Hollywood Reporter, “I remember auditioning for The Lord of the Rings and going in and not being told that I needed a British accent. I really do remember Peter Jackson saying to me, ‘You know that you have to do this in a British accent?” 

20. Sean Bean Struggled with Jackson’s Ever-Changing Script

The Lord of the Rings’ scripts were revised so often (as in every 40 minutes) that the actors regularly had to learn new lines on very short notice. Although they were quite good at it, which proves Peter Jackson chose his cast well, you can see Boromir look down to his knees every now and then during the famous Council of Elrond scene in the first movie. He was fortunately very discrete about it, but Sean Bean indeed had a script on his lap to make sure he didn’t mess up. 

There you have it, 20 fascinating facts about Lord of the Rings that have probably left you a little speechless along the way. 

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to list every single piece of trivia this gigantic universe has to offer, but we’re pretty sure we’ve given you some of the juiciest ones! 

Let us know in the comments which fact you found the most mind-boggling, and don’t hesitate to share your own knowledge, too. The more the merry-er! 

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Maria Supplisson

Maria Supplisson

Maria is a screenwriting student at the London Film Academy with a Bachelors' degree in English & Creative Writing, blogger and storytelling-obsessed, from literature to TV shows, movies to documentaries. During her time at the London Film Academy, Maria wrote two short films that were produced by the school, one of which was showcased at the BFI for graduation, and she is now working on multiple projects from a short film to a play, while also translating articles from English to French about film, series, and celebrities for a London-based entertainment news agency. Unhealthily addicted to Game of Thrones lore.

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