The Lord of the Rings started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s earlier work, The Hobbit, that had been published in 1937. The popularity of The Hobbit led to George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed. Having rejected his contemporary drafts for the Silmarillion, putting on-hold Roverandom and accepting Farmer Giles of Ham, Allen & Unwin thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become The Lord of the Rings. The story would not be finished until 12 years later, in 1949, and it would not be fully published until 1955, by which time Tolkien was 63 years old.
Persuaded by his publishers, he started ‘a new Hobbit’ in December 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring soon emerged. The idea of the first chapter (“A Long-Expected Party”) arrived fully-formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo’s disappearance, the significance of the Ring, and the title The Lord of the Rings did not arrive until the spring of 1938. Originally, he planned to write a story in which Bilbo had used up all his treasure and was looking for another adventure to gain more; however, he remembered the Ring and its powers and decided to write about it instead. Once Tolkien considered the Ring, the books really became centred around it and its influence on the inhabitants of Middle-earth.
He began with Bilbo as the main character, but decided that he had already assigned sufficient adventures to this particular hobbit. Thus Tolkien looked for an alternate character to carry the Ring, and he turned to members of Bilbo’s family. He thought about using a son, but this generated some difficult questions, such as the whereabouts of Bilbo’s wife and whether he would let his son go into danger. In Greek legend, it was a hero’s nephew that gained the item of power, and so the hobbit Frodo came into existence. (Technically Tolkien made Frodo Bilbo’s second cousin once removed, but because of age differences the two were to consider each other nephew and uncle.)
Writing was slow due to Tolkien being frequently interrupted by his obligations as an examiner, and by other academic duties. According to sources, he seems to have abandoned The Lord of the Rings during most of 1943 and only re-started it in April 1944. This effort was written as a serial for Christopher Tolkien, who was sent copies of chapters as they were written while he was serving in South Africa with the Royal Air Force. Tolkien made another push in 1946, and showed a copy of the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not finish revising earlier parts of the work until 1949.

The Lord of the Rings developed as a personal exploration by Tolkien of his interests in philology, religion (particularly Roman Catholicism), fairy tales, Norse mythology and related Germanic, Celtic and Finnish mythology. Tolkien based his Elvish language Quenya on Finnish. Tolkien acknowledged the influences of William Morris and his Huns and Romans, as in The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains.
Specific literature influences on The Lord of the Rings from European mythologies include the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which influenced the figures of the Rohirrim. Tolkien may have also borrowed elements from the Völsunga saga (the Old Norse basis of the later German Nibelungenlied and Richard Wagner’s opera series, Der Ring des Nibelungen, also called the Ring Cycle), specifically a magical golden ring and a broken sword which is reforged In the Völsungasaga, these items are respectively Andvarinaut and Gram, and very broadly correspond to the One Ring and Narsil/Andúril.
Some locations and characters were inspired by Tolkien’s childhood in Sarehole and Birmingham. It has also been suggested that The Shire and its surroundings were based on the countryside around Stonyhurst College in Lancashire where Tolkien frequently stayed during the 1940s. The work was influenced by the effects of his military service during World War I. After publication, these influences led to speculation that the One Ring was an allegory for the nuclear bomb. Tolkien, however, repeatedly insisted that his works were not an allegory of any kind.

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by the English philologist J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien’s earlier, less complex children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit (1937), but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War II. Although intended as a single-volume work, it was originally published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955, due to post-war paper shortages, and it is in this three-volume form that it is popularly known. It has since been reprinted numerous times and translated into many different languages, becoming one of the most popular and influential works in 20th-century literature.
The title of the book refers to the story’s main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who had in an earlier age created the One Ring that rules the other Rings of Power, as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth. From quiet beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land not unlike the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters, most notably the hobbits, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry) and Peregrin Took (Pippin). The lands of Middle-earth are populated by Men (humans) and other humanoid races (Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs), as well as many other creatures, both real and fantastic (Ents, Wargs, Balrogs, Trolls, etc.).
Along with Tolkien’s other works, The Lord of the Rings has been subjected to extensive analysis of its themes and origins. Although a major work in itself, the story was only the last movement of a larger work Tolkien had worked on since 1917, that he described as a mythopoeia. Influences on this earlier work, and on the story of The Lord of the Rings, include philology, mythology, religion and the author’s distaste for the effects of industrialization, as well as earlier fantasy works and Tolkien’s experiences in World War I. The Lord of the Rings in its turn is considered to have had a great effect on modern fantasy; the impact of Tolkien’s works is such that the use of the words “Tolkienian” and “Tolkienesque” has been recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary.
The enduring popularity of The Lord of the Rings has led to numerous references in popular culture, the founding of many societies by fans of Tolkien’s works, and the publication of many books about Tolkien and his works. The Lord of the Rings has inspired, and continues to inspire, artwork, music, films and television, video games, and subsequent literature. Adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been made for radio, theatre, and film. The 2001-2003 release of Peter Jackson’s widely acclaimed Lord of the Rings film trilogy prompted a new surge of interest in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works.