Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring Introduction


Release Year: 2001

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, J.R.R. Tolkien (book)

Stars: Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom


In the two thousand and first year of our second age by Gregorian reckoning, there came a movie so powerful that it bound all who watched it to its will. 

That movie? The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Fellowship is a fantasy—actually, scratch that. Fellowship is the fantasy. The big man on the fantasy campus. The head honcho of fantasy. The one that makes people say "I don't like fantasy…oh, except for Lord of the Rings."

As you well know, the movie is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's first book of his best-selling Lord of the Rings trilogy. And good thing for moviegoers, a picture's worth a thousand words—because Tolkien really takes his time. Those books are fat.

Not that director Peter Jackson is super concise, either...

This 178-minute (yup) epic is the story of a boy—or a particularly short man with forests of hair growing on his very calloused feet—and his journey to far-off lands. He joins a group (one might even say a… fellowship ) as they journey to destroy a ring which could cause the ruin of their entire world.

The Fellowship of the Ring features a star-studded cast: Elijah Wood as Frodo, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Liv Tyler as Arwen, and "Mr. He-who-always-dies" Sean Bean as Boromir.

Oh, and the biggest star of all? A couple of wee little Pacific islands known as New Zealand.

In case the fansanity wasn't enough, Fellowship took home Oscars for makeup, original score, visual effects, and cinematography. And it was nominated for another nine—count 'em, nine—including best picture and best director. It basically had movie critics stuffing DVDs of Fellowship into their pockets, cradling them, stroking the covers, and crooning "My preciousssss."

And we'd bet you a cozy little hobbit-hole—on premium Shire real estate—that by the time the credits roll you'll consider The Fellowship of the Ring your preciousssss, too.

What is The Fellowship of the Ring About and Why Should I Care?

Forget the One Ring, this is the One Movie to rule them all. Okay, don't actually forget the Ring (especially not for three thousand years—that might not end well). We're just saying that this movie and its two successors are kings when it comes to the realm of fantasy cinema… and just plain cinema in general.

Maybe the success of The Fellowship of the Ring occurred because Jackson found the One Ring and used its power to become a movie mogul. Maybe there was some magic Elven influence in that soaring soundtrack and those sumptuous visuals. Or maybe there was some pipe-weed smoke in the theaters, lulling viewers into a rapturous stupor.

But probably not. It was probably all Peter Jackson's genius, hard at work.

Basically, this movie changed three huge things: how moviegoers thought about fantasy, how tourists thought about New Zealand, and how filmmakers thought about CGI.

Let's tackle that first one. The Fellowship of the Ring paved the way for fantasy to leave the Dungeon Master's Keep and stroll the red carpet. You can thank Fellowship for your Game of Thrones addiction: without Jackson's flick being a mega-success, HBO might never have swapped out gritty family drama for dragons and White Walkers. The same goes for other successful fantasy books-turned-live-action like the show American Gods, and for art-house fantasy like Pan's Labyrinth.

Next stop: New Zealand. Seriously. When a film not only sparks a mass interest in fantasy movies but also ignites the tourist industry of an entire nation, you know it's doing something influential.

And no conversation about Fellowship is complete without mentioning those special effects. Sure, the passage of time dulls the sheen of even the most kick-butt CGI fire-mountains and Weta-produced orc infestations, but Fellowship is as crucial a moment in special effects history as Bruce the shark in Jaws, or those laser fights in Star Wars.

Jackson pioneered such techniques as bigatures (which make those sweeping shots look so dang sweeping), innovative forced perspective (which makes Elijah Wood look like a teensy hobbit), and crazy-detailed AI crowd software (which makes those battle scenes look actually populated).

So there you have it. Throw some extra-butter popcorn in the microwave, turn your speakers up, take off any rings you might be wearing for good measure, and dive right in to The Fellowship of the Ring.

Trivia

Remember Gandalf hitting his head during his first scene in Bag End? Apparently it was an accident but Ian McKellen did such a great job acting through it that Jackson kept the take. (Source)

Sir Christopher Lee was the only cast member to have met Tolkien. Tolkien gave him permission to play Gandalf but Lee ended up as Saruman.(Source)

Eight out of the nine fellowship actors got a tattoo that says "nine" in Tengwar. John Rhys-Davies sent his stunt double to take his place.(Source)

Peter Jackson has a quick cameo in Bree (he's the dude holding the carrot).(Source)

The Fellowship of the Ring Resources

Websites

One Wiki to Rule Them All
All LotR info, all in one place. You want facts on book characters? Film locations? Community forums? It's all here in one place, just for you.

A Plethora of Fandom
Look, we don't want to overload you with fan sites: there are a lot of them out there. This link is to the Tolkien Society, which we ensure you has a lot of LotR news and is not a cult.

A History for the Ages
This site is jam packed with interactive maps, timelines, and a massive genealogy.

Book or TV Adaptatons

History Is Written by the Victors
What if The Lord of the Rings is a biased, fantastical account of a massive war written by the elves and men who won, purposely painting themselves as the good and the defeated men of Mordor as pure evil?

The OG Fellowship
Way back in 1978, Ralph Bashki attempted his own Lord of the Rings film adaptation, using animation. It's reception… well, he was no Peter Jackson, but it's interesting to look at a pre-Jackson visualization.

Articles and Interviews

Road Trippin' with Sam and Frodo
Curious just exactly how far our favorite hobbit duo actually traveled on their journey to Mount Doom? Take a look and get some real world comparisons.

A Hole Lot of Nothing
Everyone loves to point out the plot hole of the eagles—one may not be able to simply walk into Mordor, but couldn't one just fly in?

What's in a Name?
From J.R.R. himself. You can see the meaning behind many of the English names for people, places, and other random things.

Video

The Nazgûl were People Too
Just because the Ringwraiths are corrupted dead men dressed in black robes doesn't mean they don't have opinions and feelings and hopes… just like the fellowship. Take a peek into one of their typical gatherings.

Adaptation Station
It's not easy making a good movie, staying loyal to the books, and pleasing the leagues of hardcore Tolkien fans. Jackson and screenwriter Boyens are interviewed along with producers and cast members to enlighten us on their difficult journey of translating Tolkien into the epic film trilogy.

Forging The Fellowship of the Ring
This documentary takes us through the first film chronologically, so we can experience the acting, cinematography, set design, and everything else.

Fashioning Middle-earth
No, the cast didn't throw on some outdated English getup and head on set. Their costumes were meticulously thought out… and you can see all of the planning and intention here.

A Hobbit's Perspective
In case you were wondering, Elijah Wood and his three hobbit buds are not actually four feet tall. So why do they look so short?

Big-atures
You'd be surprised by how many shots are simply little model buildings instead of massive CGI projects.

Designing All the Things
Weta Workshop was in charge of making all the prosthetics, armor, swords, and mock up models. You've enjoyed the fruits of their labor in LotR … now check out all the toil itself.