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The Lord of the Rings - Success and LeadershipThe Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership


The Lord of the Rings (1954-5)


A trilogy by the South African-born English writer J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien (1892-1973) - pictured right as a soldier in 1916 :

The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

The Two Towers (1954)

The Return of the Ring (1955)

 The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

Fun facts

  • The three Oscar winning films of the Lord of the Rings starred Ian McKellen as Gandalf (pictured right) 
  • Roman Catholicism heavily influenced Tolkien, having been brought up by a Catholic priest


Key characters

Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, hobbits (kind creatures, half the size of man)

Gandalf, great wizard

Sauron, evil supernatural force.The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

Saruman, evil wizard and supporter of Sauron

Aragorn, prince


The story

In Middle-earth 6,000 years ago, the Lord of the Rings is Sauron, an evil supernatural force whose burning desire is to recover the One Ring and use it to enslave the world.

Bilbo Baggins (the central character of Tolkien's previous book, The Hobbit) gives the Ring to his fellow hobbit and cousin, Frodo.

Encouraged by the great wizard, Gandalf, Frodo takes the Ring away with his three hobbit friends, Sam, Merry and Pippin, so that Sauron can’t get it.

They escape from Sauron’s terrifying Black Riders, helped by:

  • Tom Bombadil.
  • Aragorn, a prince and ranger
  • the elves (particularly Gildor, Glorfindel and Elrond).

They are befriended by the elves, Galadriel and Elrond, who heals Frodo's wound. At the Council of Elrond it is decided that the Ring must be destroyed.

It can only be destroyed where it was made - at the Cracks of Doom, part of the volcanic Mount Doom in Mordor, where Sauron lives.

This dangerous mission to take the Ring there is undertaken by the Fellowship of the Ring including:

  • Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin.
  • Aragorn and Legolas (an elf - Orlando Bloom in the film, pictured right below),
  • Gimli (a dwarf) and Boromir (a brave warrior).The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

Gandalf dies , fighting Balrog, an evil demon. The rest of the Fellowship arrive at the elf forest of Lothlorien, where the wise elf, Galadriel, refuses Frodo’s offer of the Ring, because she says its power would corrupt her.

Frodo stops Boromir stealing the Ring after a fight and (to stop his friends being tempted by it) sets out on his own until Sam joins him

The orcs (goblins) kill a repentant Boromir, kidnap Merry and Pippin and are destroyed by the Riders of Rohan.

Merry and Pippin escape and meet Treebeard, an ent, a giant treelike creature. The ents then decide to fight the evil wizard, Saruman.

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, searching for Merry and Pippin, are amazed to find Gandalf, reborn after his death.

Merry and Pippin join them and they help King Théoden’s army defeat Saruman who refuses to repent to Gandalf at his tower fortress, Orthanc.The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

Meanwhile Frodo and Sam have been travelling to Mordor to destroy the Ring, followed by, Gollum, its former owner.

They are joined by a band of men, led by Boromir’s brother, Faramir. Gollum uses Shelob, a giant deadly spider, to unsuccessfully regain the Ring and flees after Sam kills it. Grief stricken, Sam thinks that Frodo has been killed, too.

But Sam still accepts the responsibility for taking the Ring and continues the journey to destroy it. This keeps it from Sauron’s allies, the orcs, who capture Frodo and enter the Black Gate into Mordor. But they slam it in the face of Sam who now knows that Frodo is still alive. He is faced with the choice between destroying the Ring and saving Frodo.

Gandalf and Pippin ride to Gondor's capital city Minas Tirith and meet:

  • Denethor, Gondor's ruler, and
  • his son, Faramir .The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

They have been forced to retreat to Minas Tirith by Sauron’s army which:

  • besieges the city, and then 
  • is attacked and defeated by Aragorn, assisted by the Riders of Rohan and Sauron’s black ships (captured with the help of the Sleepless Dead).

King Théoden (Bernard Hill, pictured right, in the film) is killed in the battle, and Denethor goes mad and kills himself. 

Sauron's defeat in the battle stops him chasing the Ring. The orcs are after it, too, and Sam uses it to scare them off. He then:

  • rescues Frodo (thrilled he's still alive).
  • carries him to the slopes of Mount Doom.

Gollum fights Frodo, biting the Ring off his finger (after Frodo fails to give it up and wants it for himself).

But Gollum destroys the Ring by falling with it into the Cracks of Doom.The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

This destroys Sauron’s power (enabling Aragorn to defeat his army) and lifts the gloomy skies over Gondor.

Gandalf flies to Sam and Frodo’s rescue on the back of the giant eagle, Gwaihir.

Aragorn is crowned Kind of Gondor. The hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) return to their beautiful homeland (the Shire), finding their homes ravaged by an oppressive dictatorship, led by Saruman, the evil wizard.

They successfully rebel against it and  Saruman is killed by his old servant, Wormtongue.

Sam marries but, after writing books for two years, Frodo leaves the Shire (with Gandalf, Galadriel, the elf, and others) to sail to the Undying Lands.


Lessons for success and leadership

 The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

1. Do your duty with determination

Frodo (Elijah Wood, pictured right, in the Fellowship film)  accepts the responsibility of destroying the Ring to save the world, even though it is an extremely difficult job.

He and Sam have to endure

  • evil enemies like Sauron and Saruman.
  • great pain from injury.
  • mental torture and the Ring’s increasing weight and power.

Sam learns that moral duty requires choices, when he is faced with either destroying the Ring, or saving Frodo.

Frodo is also in perpetual conflict between:

  • keeping the Ring (for himself) and
  • destroying it (for the good of everyone).


2. Change is inevitable

The power of human beings increases at the expense of the:

  • hobbits. The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership
  • elves (most of whom eventually leave Middle-earth).
  • dwarves.
  • orcs (goblins) - pictured right in the films.

The hobbits recover their beautiful land of the Shire back from Saruman. But Frodo can't stay. he says, because the Shire

“will not be the same, for I shall not be the same”.

This results from the restlessness caused by his constant psychological battle over keeping or destroying the Ring (see point 1 above)

 The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

3. Power corrupts

Sauron wants to use the Ring for evil purposes and Gollum (pictured right in the films) is destroyed by the desire for it.

Gandalf and Galadriel resolutely refuse its power but Boromir is tempted to take it from Frodo for himself.

Absolute power also leads to Saruman’s cruel dictatorship of the hobbits.


4. Hang on to your principles

The fight again Sauron is a battle to keep Middle-earth’s (and Gandalf's) values of:

  • love and humility.
  • honesty and forgiveness.

 The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

5. Great leaders inspire others

Gandalf, the Fellowship’s unofficial leader, inspires others by his humble humanity, despite his immense magical power.

He treats everyone with the same respect and kindness.

Saruman (Christopher Lee, pictured right, in the films) and Sauron fail as leaders because they are:

  • embittered egomaniacs.
  • totally insensitive to the needs of others.


6. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things

The hobbits are ordinary creatures, driven by circumstances to be heroic.

Sam is quite happy to be Frodo’s deputy until he is forced to take responsibility for the Ring after Frodo’s apparent killing by Shelob, the spider.

 The Lord of the Rings - Success and Leadership

7. Teamwork and friendship are vital

With the exception of Boromir, the Fellowship selflessly supports each other, motivated by the:

  • common threat of Sauron.
  • need to save the world from his evil power.

Gandalf and Sam are particularly helpful to Frodo.

Gandalf is pictured right with Frodo in the Fellowship film. 


8. Love nature

Middle-earth is beautiful, but the bad guys like Sauron want to destroy it.


9. Wisdom is better than knowledge

Suraman and Sauron show that knowledge can be used for evil.

But the book shows, as Gandalf says, that wisdom from self-control and self-knowledge (see point 10) leads only to goodness and truth.


10. Self-pity stinks, self-knowledge saves

Frodo is unhappiest when he:

  • feels sorry for himself.
  • lets Sam lead the way.

He is happiest when he accepts the good and bad within himself.


Key quotes on time management

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us, Gandalf


Key quote on public speaking

The wise speak only of what they know, Gandalf


Key quote on stress

Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt, Gandalf.


Key quote on war

War will make corpses of us all, Faramir


Key quote on empowerment

I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be, Galadriel


Key quotes on leadership

Only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero, Gandalf

Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere, Elrond

He cannot be both tyrant and counsellor (about Saruman).


Key quote on positive thinking

Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn, Legolas


Key quotes on change

The wide world is about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out, Gildor (an elf)

Things will go as they will, and there is no need to hurry to meet them, Treebeard (an ent)


Key quote on motivation

The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards, Faramir


Key quote on learning

You may learn something, and whether what you see be fair or evil, that may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous, Galadriel


Key quote on ethics

It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing, Frodo


Key quote on decision making

Short cuts make delays but inns make longer ones, Frodo

It is wisdom to recognize necessity when all other courses have been weighed, Gandalf

It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish, Sam (quoting advice from his Old Gaffer)


Two literature websites to recommend 

1. sparknotes.com

2. litcharts.com

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