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Ok, so here's how the basic story goes....
Fellowship of the Ring
Sixty years after mr. Bilbo Baggins had returned to the Shire from his adventure at Erebor, he passes his possessions to his younger nephew, Frodo Baggins. Besides the beautiful hole at Bag's End, Frodo also inherits Bilbo's secret magic ring. The wizard Gandalf suspects that it is not an ordinary ring and, for almost 25 years, he visits Bags End on and off.
Finally, he tells Frodo of the Making of the Rings of Power, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, who created the Master Ring to rule all other Rings. Sauron was defeated centuries ago by a Last Alliance of Elves and Men. After Sauron had been defeated by Elendil and Gil-Galad, Elendil's son, Ilsildur, took Saurons master Ring. After Isildur had been ambushed, the Ring was lost for many years. Until it came into the possession of the creature Gollum, who, as has been told in the Hobbit, lost his Ring to Bilbo.
Gandalf proves the Ring to be the One Ring by putting it into the fire of the hearth at Bag's End. Flaming letters appear on the Ring saying "ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk, agh burzum ishi krimpatul", which means "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them". Frodo is in the possession of the Master Ring and the Enemy is coming for him....
Gandalf advises him to leave the Shire within a few months. Samwise Gamgee ("Sam") is involuntarily appointed to be his travelling companion. Gandalf has business to attend to, and leaves. But at the moment agreed, Gandalf does not return. Frodo leaves the Shire, so to say "to live in Crickhollow", a place in the east of the Shire. During their journey through the Shire they encounter an evil Dark Rider, who almost discovers them, save Frodo and his company are saved by a group of passing Elves (leaded by Gildor). They venture forth through the fields of Farmer Maggot, who is an old "acquaintance" of Bilbo. They reach Crickhollow safely. There a "conspiracy" is unmasked. Frodo thought to leave the Shire secretly, but his relatives Peregrin Took ("Pippin") and Meriadoc Brandybuck ("Merry") already know what his plans are. They insist joining Frodo on his trip.
The next goal is the city of Bree. To avoid the Black Riders, Frodo decides to travel through the Old Forest. This is a forest of which many rumours are told. They are lost in this forest and Merry and Pippin are captured by the Old Willowman, an evil tree. Screaming for "Help", a strange man, named Tom Bombadil, comes to their aid. He takes them to his home and they meet his wife Goldberry. Tom Bombadil is a "Master of things", "the oldest creature on Arda". After a few days, they continue their journey through the Barrow-downs, where they are all captured by a Barrow-wight, an evil spirit. By strong will, Frodo manages to break the wights spell, and he calls for help. Soon, Tom Bombadil appears and defeats the barrow-wight. In the barrow, they find a treasure of which the hobbits take swords, forged in Westernesse.
They reach Bree withouth any further problems. They are to meet Gandalf in the inn "The Prancing Pony". They are welcomed by the innkeeper, Barliman Butterbur. Gandalf is nowhere to be found. While joining the company, Frodo ("Mr. Underhill" as he calls himself), makes a stupid mistake by singing a merry song and slipping on the Ring while singing. His disappearance is the news of the day in Bree. Frodo is approached by a mysterious man called Strider. He warns Frodo and asks to take him along on his journey. Meanwhile, the inn-keeper remembers he has an unsent letter for Frodo by Gandalf. This letter urges Frodo to have left the Shire months ago, because he is being hunted. Strider appears to be a friend of Gandalf. That night, while hiding in Striders room, the hobbits room is attacked.
Next day they leave Bree, venturing into the Wilderland. Their target is Rivendell. They travel with Strider through woods, mountains and marches untill they reach the Weathertop (Amon Sul). There, they are attacked by the Black Riders, who appear to be the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths; nine Men, enslaved by their Rings. Frodo is stabbed by a Morgul sword, but the words "Elbereth Gilthoniel" and the brave Strider save him. They manage to escape, although Frodo is badly wounded. He is fading into the land of the Shadows. They have to reach Rivendell quickly to find a cure. After a hard and long travel, they meet Glorfindel, an Elven Lord, who puts Frodo on his horse, which races the Nazgûl to the Fords of the River Bruinen. Having reached the Fords, Frodo is almost fading. While crossing the river, the Nazgûl are overtaken by a huge flood, caused by Elrond and Gandalf.
Frodo wakes up in Rivendell, the House of Elrond. There they meet again with Gandalf. During dinner, Frodo learns that Strider is actually Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the heir of Elendil. He is one of the Rangers, Men from Westernesse, who roam in Middle Earth, defending the innocent. He is the only one who can claim the kingdom of Gondor. From this country, Boromir, son of Denethor the Steward of Gondor, has arrived in Rivendell. After dinner the hobbits meet Bilbo, who gives Frodo his old sword Sting and a chainmail made of the precious but very strong mithril.
A council is being held. Gandalf reveals being held captive by the wizard Saruman, who once was the head of the White Council. Apparently, Saruman has betrayed the Elves and Men and has made his own plans to team up with Sauron. Legolas, an elf from Mirkwood, tells that Gollum escaped their enprisonment. Gimli, son of Gloin, brings news from the dwarven realm of Erebor, where messengers of Sauron asked for "Baggins" and "the Shire". The discovery of the One Ring by Gandalf and Frodo is revealed. Boromir is surprised to hear that, because a mystic riddle, telling of "Isildurs Bane", brought him to Rivendell. His opinion is to use the Ring against Sauron, using the enormous power of the Ring. Elrond tells that using the Ring would turn everything into evil, because the Ring is Evil itself, and all its actions will turn into evil. The only possibility to destroy the Ring is to cast it into the fires of Mount Doom, where the Ring was forged by Sauron.
A fellowship is formed to destroy the Ring: Nine Walkers against Nine Black Riders. Frodo volunteers to fullfill the task of destroying the Ring. Sam will join him. Gandalf will lead the fellowship and representatives of Men (Aragorn and Boromir), Elves (Legolas) and Dwarves (Gimli) are included. Finally, Merry and Pippin claim the last two places.
The Fellowship leaves Rivendell. They travel through the empty land of Hollum. Gandalf wants to take the pass over the mountain Caradhras, but this evil mountain sets up a magic snow storm, through which no one can get through. The alternative Gandalf comes up with is a way under the mountains, through the lost Dwarf Realm of Moria. They reach the doors of Moria, which are closed by magic. Gandalf, with the aid of Pippin, discovers the word that opens the door: "Mellon", which means "friend". The company and especially Sam, have to say goodbye to their faithfull pony Bill. At the time the door opens, multiple arms reach from the lake in front of the door. The Watcher in the Water grabs Frodo, who can barely be saved by Aragorn and Boromir. The Fellowship flies into the mines of Moria, while the watcher destroys their way out.
In Moria Gandalf leads the way. After a few days in the dark, they reach the Room of Mazarbul, which contains the tomb of Balin, one of Gimli's relatives. Balin was planning to become the new Dwarven King of Moria. He appears to be killed by Orcs and a mysterious evil. Too late the company realises they are trapped. Suddenly they are surrounded by Orcs. With united forces, they fight a way out. Frodo is hit by a spear, but his mithril chainmail saves him. At the bridge of Khazad-Dum (Moria), they meet their greatest enemy until then: a Balrog, a demon of Flames from the ancient world. The Balrog and Gandalf fight on the Bridge, and, just as Gandalf appears to have beaten the Balrog, he is dragged with it into the depths under the Bridge. His last words were "fly, you fools".
The company flies out of Moria into the woods of Lothlorien. There they are grieved because of their loss. They are captured by the Elves of Lothlorien, who lead them all blindfolded to their King and Queen: Celeborn and Galadriel. They rest for a while as honoured guests in Lorien. Frodo looks into Galadriels mirror and sees a vision: He realises that he only bears the task of destroying the Ring. He offers the Ring to Galadriel, but she passes the test and refuses it.
They venture forth in boats given to them by the Elves. At their farewell, Galadriel has a message and gifts for everyone. Frodo receives a phial with the bright light of the Eärendils star. Aragorn receives a new sheath for his blade Anduril (Flame of the West), which is the reforged blade Narsil. Isildur used it to cut the Ring off of Saurons finger.
They travel in boats over the river Anduin, until they reach the Argonath, where mighty statues of Kings are. There, at the island, Boromir is tempted by the Ring and tries to take it away from Frodo. Frodo, in terror flies away and realises he has to fullfill this task alone. He sets off. At the same time the Fellowship is under attack by Orcs. Merry and Pippin are captured after Boromir is slain. Sam realises what Frodo is up to and catches up with him. Together they enter Mordor.
The Fellowship is scattered: Sam and Frodo are off to Mordor; Merry and Pippin are captured by Sarumans Orcs; Boromir and Gandalf are slain.
The Two Towers
Aragorn,Gimli and Legolas decide not to follow Frodo and Sam into Mordor, but instead to follow Merry and Pippin, who have been kidnapped by Uruk-Hai. They chase the group of Orcs through the land of Rohan, for many miles and many nights without rest. The discover the trail of the Orcs and follow it. Unfortunately,the Orcs are more than 36 hours ahead. Eventually, they encounter Riders of Rohan, of whom Éomer, the third marshal of Rohan, is the leader. They tell the Three Hunters that they ambushed a band of Orcs and that none of them did escape. Although no foreigner is allowed to travel through Rohan without permission of its King, Éomer gives Aragorn and his comrades permission to go and he even provides horses.
In the mean while, Pippin and Merry are being taken by the Orcs of Isengard, the Uruk-Hai, with the White Hand as a sign. Actually, it appears that also other groups of Orcs are present: Orcs from the Misty Mountains, who just want to kill the prisoners as a revenge for Moria, Orcs from Mordor lead by Grishnak, and the Orcs from Isengard, whose task it is to deliver the Halflings alive to their master, Saruman. The Orcs get into a fight and this allows Merry and Pippin to escape. During their escape, the Orcs are attacked by the Riders of Rohan. Merry and Pippin remain unseen because of their elven cloaks, and manage to escape into the woods. There, in the woods of Fangorn, Merry and Pippin meet a strange creature, Treebeard. He is an Ent, a sheperd of trees. He takes the hobbits to his home in Wellinghall and listens to their story. Their story and the Orcs, who have been cutting beautiful trees in his woods without apparent reason, makes him angry. He calls for an Entmoot, a gathering of Ents. The Ents gather and, initiated by the coming of Merry and Pippin, the Ents decide to attack Isengard to take revenge. They march forth.
Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas find the place where the battle took part. They do not find the bodies of the hobbits, but intead, Aragorn finds a mysterious trail leading to the forest. In this forest the meet and old man, clothed in white. He appears to be Gandalf, arisen again from the dead to fulfill his task in Middle Earth. He is now no longer Gandalf the Grey, but Gandalf the White, the White Rider. Gandalf knows that Frodo is venturing East. They cannot help him directly, but instead he plans to distract Saurons attention from the borders of Mordor by starting the war against Sauron in the West.
The first war to be fought is against Saruman. For this purpose, they travel to Edoras, where the Golden Hall of the King of Rohan, Théoden, son of Thengel, stands. They are not joyfully welcomed. Théoden is angry with Gandalf, because he took Shadowfax, the mightiest horse in his country, after his flight from Isengard earlier. The King's advisor, Grima Wormtongue argues not to listen to them. Then Gandalf, with the aid of some magic, reveals Wormtongue is a traitor, having made a deal with Saruman to become the ruler of Rohan and the husband of Théodens sister-daughter Eowyn when Saruman conquered
all. After the advice of Wormtongue Éomer is held captive. Théoden's only son died during a recent raid of Isengard Orks at the Isen. Gandalf urges Théoden to quickly raise an army and defend the Isen against the host of Saruman. Théoden rises to be one of the great Lords of Rohan and mobilizes his army. He will lead them himself against Saruman. Wormtongue is free to go.
Together, they all ride within a day to the Isen, where they see remnants of the Rohan army, which suffered many losses. Gandalf leaves on Shadowfax, now his horse, to "arrange some things". The army moves to Helm's Deep, where the mighty Hornburg is situated. They reach it just in time. Within a day, a mighty army of Orcs appears. A great battle is fought. After a vigorous fight the Orcs conquer the Dike at Helm's Deep. The Rohan army flies to the Hornburg or to the caves of Agarlond. At dawn, the mighty horn of of Helm sounds and, under the cheers "Helm for Théoden", Théoden himself rides to battle. Together with Éomer and Aragorn, they are in the frontline of the battle, fighting the Orcs back. Suddenly, Gandalf appears with the remnants of the scattered army of Rohan, leaded by Erkenbrand. He also brings a mysterious dark forest. The Orcs are in fear after seeing all these armies raised against them, and they fly into the dark wood. None of them are seen again. The battle is won.
In the mean while, while Isengard's army is batteling at the Isen, the Ents attack Isengard. After some time, all the walls are torn to the ground and the valley is flooded to kill the fires under Isengard. Théoden and a small company, including Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli visit Isengard, where they are welcomed by the two hobbits Merry and Pippin. Saruman is not conquered yet, he has locked himself up in Orthanc, the Tower of Isengard, which is unbreakable. Gandalf talks with Saruman, who tries to influence the audience using his magic voice. Gandalf casts Saruman out of the Order of Wizards and breaks his staff. Wormtongue, after having left Edoras, also resides in Orthanc. In his anger, he throws a round black stone at Saruman, but barely misses. Pippin picks it up. Saruman chooses to remain in the tower.
Next day, they ride to Edoras. At night, Pippin steals the black ball from Gandalf to take a closer look at it. It is a Palantír, a far-seeing stone. However, he is caught by Sauron, who is in the possession another Palantír. Thinking Sauman captured a halfling, he quickly sends a Nazgûl to Isengard. Pippin barely escapes from the attraction of the Palantír. Gandalf takes Pippin on Shadowfax to quickly go to Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Aragorn takes the stone and reveals himself to Sauron as the heir of Isildur. These events will make Sauron to attack the West quickly, although his forces are not at optimal strength. This will buy Frodo and Sam some time by distracting the attention from the borders of Mordor. War is at hand.
Return of the King
Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith, the capital of the country of Gondor. During their trip, they learn that Gondor will soon be under siege by the forces of Mordor and they encounter a herald being sent to King Théoden of the Rohirrim for help. Arriving in Minas Tirith, they are received by Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. . They bring him the news of his son's death, Boromir. Pippin offers his services to Denethor and is acknowledged as a soldier of Gondor. Pippin is introduced to the Gondor forces by Beregond. People in Minas Tirith are surprised to see a Hobbit, and soon Pippin is called "the Prince of the Halflings". Together with Bergil, Beregond's son, he watches the arrival of forces from all over Gonder which have come to defend Minas Tirith against the threat of Mordor. Alas, the number of soldier seems very little.
Meanwhile, the company of Theoden, Eomer, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Merry encounter Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond the Half-elf and a company of Rangers, who belong to Aragorn's people. They bring Aragorn the message to remember the paths of the dead . Merry rides together with King Theoden and Eomer to Edoras.
Meanwhile, altough being discouraged by Eomer and Eowyn, Aragorn decides to take the Paths of the Dead. This is a way under the ground which leads to the Stone of Erech, where the ghosts of the people who broke their oath to Elendil dwell. Aragorn, as the rightfull heir of Elendil, can call these ghosts to fight for him and by fulfilling their oath, they can finally rest in peace. Aragorn decided to do so because he took a look in the palantír and saw Saurons forces outnumber the forces of Gondor.
In Rohan, a Munster is held to gather all soldiers to ride for Minas Tirith. Theoden does not allow Merry to join his forces, but, with aid of the mysterious Dernhelm, he rides along.
In Minas Tirith, Faramír returns with few men bringing news of the fall of the outposts in Osgiliath and the coming of the forces of Mordor. Being chased by Nazgul in winged beasts, Faramir is rescued by Gandalf the White and, although Faramir is terminally wouded, he is brought safely into town. Soon, the enemy is at the gates. Minas Tirith is under siege and the hammer Grond is cast at its doors. A the break of dawn, the Gates of Minas Tirith fall.
Meanwhile, the Rohirrim ride as fast as the can, fearing they will be too late. The learn that Minas Tirith is surrounded by enemies. With the aid of Ghân-buri-Ghân, chief of the Púkel people, they reach Minas Tirith riding along a path hidden for the enemy. At the break of dawn, companied by multiple horns blast and crying "Ride now, Rohirrim, Ride to Gondor" Theoden rides in the front line to the fallen Gates of Gondor. The Battle in the Pelennor fields takes place. The Rohirrim and the peolple from Gondor fight for their lives against the Orcs and other people from Mordor. Theoden kills Mordor chieftains but he is slain by the King of the Nazgul. No man can resist him, but Dernhelm appears to be a woman and no other than Eowyn, Eomer's sister. She, with the aid of Merry, slays the King of the Nazgul. All seems lost while a large fleet of black vessels arrives. Corsairs from Umbar, everyone fears. But it is Aragorn with the liberated people from Umbar, who joins the battle. With united forces, the armies of the west are victorious.
During the battle, all seemed lost for Denethor. His city under siege, his second son Faramir apparently dead. In his madness, he creates a pyre for him and his son. By the deeds of Beregond, Faramir is recued from the pyre, but Denethor burns.
In the houses of Healing, Aragorn proves to be a true King after the battle by healing the terminally wouded Eowyn, Faramir and Merry. He heals more wounded people in Minas Tirith with the aid of Athelas, a powerfull herb. At this moment he is given the name Elessar, the Elvenstone, as predicted by his birth.
Aragorn decides to ride against Mordor with the few forces of Gondor left, in a desperate attempt to draw attention from the mission of Frodo and Sam. His marches to the Black Gates of Mordor. There, the Lieutenant of the Barad-DurDur shows them Frodo's mithril coat and an elven broche. All seems lost.
Meanwhile, at the border of Mordor, Sam is facing the problem of liberating Frodo, who was poisoned by Shelob and captured by Orcs. Using Galadriels phial,, Sam manages to enter the Tower of Cirith Ungol. All is quiet there, because the Orcs seem to have slaughtered one another, supposedly for the treasuries Frodo was wearing. Sam chases the two Orcs left and finds Frodo, hungered and beaten up. Frodo immediately asks for the Ring Sam is carrying. Together, they enter Mordor. They notice being chased by some Orcs, but manage to escape again and again.
The march through Mordor is very tough, since Frodo experiences the burden of the Ring more and more... Being dressed as Orcs, the are forced to join a company of Orcs heading for the Black Gate, where the Lords of the West challenge the forces of Mordor. Using his last forces, Frodo manages to fly from the Orc company, and, together with Sam, he faces the last miles to Mount Doom.
During the last miles, Frodo is exhausted in such a way that Sam has to carry him the last miles up the slopes of Mount Doom. Suddenly, while having almost reached the top, Gollum appears. While Sam fights Gollum, Frodo crawls on to the Crack of Doom. Sam defeats Gollum, but his pity causes him to let Gollum go.
While having reached the Cracks of Doom in the Orodruin (Mount Doom), Frodo realises he is to cast the Ring into the Deep. Suddenly he realises he doesn't want to do that, and he proclaims himself "Lord of the Ring". Sauron immediately realises he is being distracted by the Army of the West at the Morannon and sends the Nazgul to Mount Doom. At Mount Doom, Gollum faces Frodo again, and in the fight that follows, Gollum bites the Ring-bearing finger from Frodo's hand. In his joy, Gollum slips and is cast, together with the One Ring into the Cracks of Mount Doom. The Ring is destroyed and Mount Doom erupts.
Frodo and Sam crawl out of the Depths, and while the realm of Mordor is being destroyed under their feet, they are rescued by Gandalf who flies on Gwahir, the King of the Eagles. The Nazgul are destroyed with the Ring and the Barad-Dur collapses while the spirit of Sauron is overcome. At the Field of Cormallen, the heroes Frodo and Sam are honoured.
Next, the army returns to Gondor, where, at the Gates of Minas Tirith, Aragorn, son of Arathorn is being acknowledged as the true King of Gondor. Frodo carries the Crown of Gondor to Gandalf, who places it on Aragorns head. After the party that follows, Aragorn finds a sapling of the White Tree, the sign of the Numenoreans, and he plants the sapling in the central court of Minas Tirith.
After being crowned, a large company of Elves arrives in Minas Tirith, among which are Elrond and Arwen, his daughter. Aragorn is granted permission to marry Arwen Undómiel and upon the day of Midsummer, he does so.
After the festivities it is time for the Hobbits to return to the Shire. On their way back they visit Orthanc, where Saruman leaves the pinnacle, together with Wormtongue. Together with Gandalf, the travel back to Bree, where Gandalf departures. Arriving in the Shire, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin discover that things have changed. There seems to be a dictator who destroyed the Shire with strict rules and industry buildings. The four Hobbits cause an uproar against the occupants (who seem to be Men from the East) and in the Battle of Bywater, captains Meriadoc and Peregrin are victoriuos. They head for Bag's End, where the leader of the occupants, Sharkey or "the Chief", resides. To their surprise it is Saruman. After he corrupted Lotho Sacksville-Baggins, his Men took over the Shire, killing Lotho.
Saruman realises his defeat and departures from the Shire. Wormtongue, realising the loss, grabs a secret dagger and kills Saruman. Wormtongue is hit by many arrows and dies.
The rebuilding of the Shire can commence.
In the years after, Sam, Merry and Pippin joyfully live in the Shire. Frodo, however, still feels the burden of the Ring and the wound of the Morgul dagger. After a few years, Frodo suddenly leaves with a company of Elves. Sam accompanies him to the Grey Havens, where all Ringbearers, together with many Elves leave the shore of Middle Earth to Valinor in the West. Frodo, Bilbo, Galadriel and Gandalf embark on the ship that takes them there.
Sam returns to Bag's End. He sits down in a chair, next to his wife Rose and he draws a deep breath. "Well, I'm back", he said.
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