It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since the world of cinema was first introduced to The Lord of the Rings, a franchise cementing itself as a core part of geek culture globally. In a world dominated by fleeting interests, it is a fantastic to see how the The Lord of the Rings continues to capture the attention of people. Better still is how new secrets continue to be uncovered about this phenomenon more than two decades on, with some truly unbelievable Lord of the Rings facts coming to light!
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this phenomenal franchise, we have compiled a list of 20 of our personal favourite and little known The Lord of the Rings facts for you to enjoy and add to your geek knowledge.
#20 – “A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to”
Three weeks after winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards and almost a month after the release of The Return of the King, Peter Jackson and his crew were back to filming.
When reviewing everything, Peter Jackson decided he wanted a shot of all the skulls that line the walls of the Paths of Dead. Since the movie was already out, he would keep this footage to be included in the Extended Edition.
#19 – “All’s well that ends better”
The Lord of the Rings trilogy we have today was almost very, very different. Decades before Peter Jackson would decide to adapt the classic story, The Beatles tried to convince Stanley Kubrick to take it on.
If this adaptation had gone forward, each of the four members of The Beatles would have starred as the titular characters: Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins; Ringo Starr as Samwise Gamgee; George Harrison as Gandalf and John Lennon as Gollum.
However, it would never make it past an idea as J.R.R. Tolkien was said to have hated this concept and shut it down before it could go any further. Easily one of the most bizarre Lord of the Rings facts that we are all glad never came to fruition!
#18 – “But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass”
While filming, The Lord of the Rings production became somewhat notorious for injuries. However, it was expected given a project’s scope and magnitude.
During a scene where Shelob’s stinger stabs Frodo, Elijah Wood, who portrayed Frodo, ended up getting stabbed in the back with the prop. The injury caused him to spend multiple days in the hospital recovering.
When Samwise Gamgee runs into a river after Frodo, actor Sean Astin’s foot was severely cut by a piece of glass, and 24 hours later, he was back filming, albeit with twenty stitches in his foot. Sean Astin was also once knocked unconscious by a heavy wooden loom while filming on the set on Rivendell.
Orlando Bloom as Legolas was thrown off of a horse while filming The Two Towers, resulting in multiple broken ribs and a very painful actor back at work the next day being relentlessly teased by the rest of the cast for complaining about the pain.
Perhaps the most accident-prone and unlucky of the cast was Aragorn, portrayed by Viggo Mortensen. During a scene when Aragorn is overcome with grief and ends up kicking a helmet, Viggo Mortensen broke two of his toes, meaning the scream heard during the scene was one of genuine pain – hence why Peter Jackson decided to keep it in the final cut. Fellow actor Elijah Wood tells a story about when Viggo Mortensen lost half his tooth during a fight scene too, but instead of calling it for the day, he just grabbed some superglue, stuck the tooth back and continued filming.
#17 – “I thought up an ending for my book: And he lived happily ever after, unto the end of his days”
Ian Holm might be best recognised as Bilbo Baggins; however, what many do not know is that this was hardly the first Baggins he has portrayed or even his first trip to the shire.
Back in 1981, Ian Holms was the voice of Frodo Baggins in the BBC Radio adaptation. His stellar voice acting and performance in the BBC broadcast is also what landed him the role of Bilbo in the trilogy.
#16 – “I Would Have Followed You To The End, My Brother…My Captain…My King”
The Fellowship of the Ring consists of nine characters: Frodo, Merry, Sam, Pippin, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf. Through the trilogy, the characters end up forging an unbreakable bond, and through their performances, the actors did as well.
In order to commemorate the time spent together and to remember the production that played such a massive part in their lives, eight of the nine actors who portrayed the members of The Fellowship of the Rings, all got matching tattoos of the number nine in Elvish.
The only member of the Fellowship who did not get a tattoo was John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli, but his stunt double, Brett Beattie, got the tattoo in his place.
#15 – “This day does not belong to one man but to all. Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace”
One of the most significant factors behind the success of The Lord of the Rings continues to be the visuals presented throughout the entire trilogy. This is thanks to the experience and tireless hard work of WETA Workshop, the people behind all of the props used throughout the trilogy.
Peter Jackson acknowledged their hard work by giving them a moment to shine within the films. During The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a scene of many orcs crafting their weapons for war. Each of these orcs was portrayed by members of WETA Workshop, giving them a chance to be part of the world they helped forge, and is one of the most wholesome Lord of the Rings facts on this list.
#14 – “My precious!”
When the films finally wrapped up, Peter Jackson gifted each cast member with a prop from the movie that was tied to their character. Sean Astin received Samwise’s backpack and sword, Orland Bloom was gifted Legolas’s bow, Liv Tyler received Arwen’s dying dress, and Maranda Otto got to keep Eowyn dress and sword.
It was a small gesture, but one that meant the world to the cast who brought these characters to life.
#13 – “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised”
Both The Two Towers and The Return of the King movies feature scenes with the Riders of Rohan, warriors who specialize in mounted combat. Many do not know how these burley and bearded men were actually portrayed by women wearing fake beards.
New Zealand had a collection of highly skilled female horseback riders, and Peter Jackson thought it would be a waste not to take advantage of such raw talent, so he had them disguised to ride as the Riders of Rohan throughout the films.
#12 – “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”
Christopher Lee, the actor behind Saruman the White, was a The Lord of the Rings super-fan before joining cast of the films.
The original novels were published in 1954. As such Christopher Lee had read all the books at least once a year from the time he was able to do so. When he heard there would be a movie adaption, he accepted a role of a wizard in The New Adventures of Robin Hood simply to show he was able to play a wizard and would be a perfect casting for The Lord of the Rings.
Christopher Lee originally had his hopes set on playing his favourite character, Gandalf, and he even had J.R.R. Tolkiens blessing to take on the role. However, Peter Jackson gave him the role of Saruman instead believing that Christopher Lee was too old for the action reliant role of Gandalf.
#11 – “The Ring has awoken, it’s heard its master’s call”
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not lacking in bone-chilling sound design. One of the best examples of this would be during the battle of Helm’s Deep during The Two Towers.
The chant used by the Uruk-hai army brought goosebumps to the arms of all who heard it, and was created by a stadium of cricket fans.
Peter Jackson wrote the battle cry out phonetically to get the recording, and the entire cricket stadium was then recorded chanting it.
10 – “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing … such a little thing”
Anyone who has seen The Lords of the Rings trilogy knows how much of the films were shot on or around the mountains in New Zealand. Courtesy of the tremendous height and arduous terrain of the mountains, the cast would regularly be flown to where they had to be via helicopter; but only most of the cast, not all.
Sean Bean, who played Boromir, was so terrified of flying that he refused to do it. Meaning he would regularly be over two hours behind the rest of his cast-mates as he would hike to the set in full costume. Making this one of the most arduous Lord of the Rings facts, at least for Sean.
#9 – “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone”
Those who worked on the The Lord of the Rings found the experience to be incredibly personal, and many chose to try and share the experience with their families.
In The Return of the King, we see Samwise and his daughter – who was played by actor Sean Astin’s real-life child, Alexandra. However, Samwise’s daughter was not the only child of a cast member to appear in the franchise.
Director Peter Jackson’s daughter made many short cameos throughout the trilogy, from playing a hobbit to a Helm’s Deep refugee and even a child in Minas Tirith.
#8 – “Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story”
Peter Jackson wanted to rely on computer-generated imagery (CGI) as little as possible during the trilogy, which meant vast amounts of props, costumes and special effects were crafted for each film.
The amount of chainmail alone used during the creation of costumes for the trilogy was so massive it would reach over ten kilometres if it were all laid out side by side.
#7 – “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”
What would this list be if it did not include a fact or two about the novels? When Tolkien decided to publish his trilogy, he was told he needed to write his books using a typewriter to submit them.
Having no prior experience with a typewriter, J.R.R. Tolkein wrote the entirety of his The Lords of the Rings trilogy, which amasses more than 1200 pages in total, using only two fingers. This was the only way he knew to type. He eventually referred to the entire experience as “utterly exhausting”.
#6 – “I wonder if we’ll ever be put into songs or tales”
Not many people know how chaotic working on The Lord of the Rings truly was. When it came to scripts, most of the cast had to adapt to learning their lines on short notice as the scripts were being written and revised while the movies were being shot. Sometimes the scripts could be changed every half hour.
Sean Bean, who portrayed Boromir, was one of the actors who had trouble with the ever-changing lines. During The Council of Elrond scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, a scene that would be one of the franchises most quoted and iconic, Sean Bean had his script on his lap and was glancing down to read it as he delivered his lines.
#5 – “You shall not pass!”
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a reputation for thinking outside of the box when it comes to filming and utilising many practical techniques instead of just relying on computer-generated imagery (CGI).
During a scene where Denethor tried to burn Faramir on a pyre, a pane of glass was placed in front of the camera lens. This was done to reflect and project a real fire so that it looked as if the pyre was burning due to Gandalf’s horse refusing to go near the pyre when actually alight.
#4 – “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve”
One of the most mind-bending Lord of the Rings facts from the trilogy is how two of the core characters, often pictured together, actually never shared a scene in real-life.
Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf and Elijah Wood, who played Frodo, never actually acted alongside each other. Due to their extreme differences in height, they were filmed separately, and then their scenes were stitched together in post-production.
#3 – “Courage is found in unlikely places”
Peter Jackson might have been the mastermind behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that does not mean he spent all of his time in the background making the magic happen. During The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson can be seen strolling through the town of Bree, eating a carrot.
In The Two Towers, he can also be spotted throwing a spear at the Uruk-hai to defend Helm’s Deep, and during the scene when Sam returns to save Frodo from Shelob, it is Jackson’s arm that’s holding Sting.
#2 – “The wise speak only of what they know”
There are so many stories about Viggo Mortensen from The Lord of the Rings trilogy that many have become legends. The Danish actor became so good at swordsmanship while filming that it was said he might be amongst the most talented in the world.
He also took it upon himself to speak Elvish fluently for the film, making it his sixth language among French, Italian, Spanish, English and Danish.
#1 – “We needs it. Must have the precious”
Who said wizards are honest folk? It is hard to picture anyone other than Ian McKellen portraying Gandalf; he truly embodied everything that made the wizard great. By Ian McKellen’s own admission, and perhaps one of the more lighthearted Lord of the Rings facts on this list, he had carried quite a bit of Middle Earth back to his real-life home by the time filming ended.
The most significant item to be rehomed was Gandalf’s staff, which is now proudly displayed inside Ian’s personal pub – known as The Grapes.
Less of a fun fact and more of an explanation for one of the trilogies most hotly debated questions: Why did the hobbits not just fly to Mordor on the giant eagles?
The question was explained and answered in the books, but not the movies. This is because Peter Jackson thought it was obvious and required no further elaboration. The first hurdle eagles would face is the eye of Sauron, which would have been able to see them coming. The second hurdle is J.R.R. Tolkien himself, who wrote the eagles to be neutral and proud creatures who would not take sides in the War of the Ring until the very end.
We at VAMERS will be using the 20th anniversary as an excuse to binge through all the movies again, but before we do, we thought we would leave you with this somewhat ridiculous The Lord of the Rings parody rap featuring cameos from Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.
If you enjoyed this list of Lord of the Rings facts, please feel free to share and reach out on social media.
As far back as she can remember, Arielle has loved comics, tabletop games and staying indoors. Although she might be terrible at history, she can tell you exactly how Wanda Maximoff and Sabrina Spellman are linked. Ultimately, she works to fund her Stephen King addiction and can pretty much always be found somewhere online.