The Lord of the Rings: Stephen King Writes Like Tolkien

I’m reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time since I was a child and I’m writing blog posts about the book when I feel like it.


I’m most of the way through LotR now and what keeps blowing my mind is how much Tolkien ends his chapters with intimations that the future is going to be pretty bleak. There’s more than one instance in which a character is “never again seen by mortal men,” meaning that they are super dead.

“Rohan had come at last” or “All the lands were gray and still; and ever the shadow deepened before them, and hope waned in every heart.” These are classic methods of page-turner writing that border on a thriller, and if you told me that these sorts of lines were in this novel before I actually read it I would have laughed.

Is this something that accounts for the huge fandom that the books have maintained over the years? At some point Tolkien switches from this brutal, overbearing worldbuilding (almost the entirety of The Fellowship of the Ring) and then spirals into a strange Tom Clancy riff that keeps you wondering what is going to happen next.

What’s really surprised me the most from this is that you can really see a lot of Tolkien in Stephen King’s writing. King is a huge fan of the “mythical hint,” the intimation that something is going to happen to a character in the future (which might or might not be in this book). King is also very successful (particularly in The Dark Tower novels) in getting the reader to understand the size and scope of thing without overexplaining, which is also something that Tolkien is successful at during The Return of the King but not so much in the earlier books.

In any case, I keep getting surprised by these books. Do you see the same things in them, or am I just pulling ideas out of nowhere?

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6 Responses to The Lord of the Rings: Stephen King Writes Like Tolkien

  1. geburah says:

    Yeah I can see what you are getting at… Intersting… Tolkien’s trilogy was one of the first books I’ve ever read (a bit of Ursula Le Guin before and some Clive Barker shortly after that) and I am quite frequently coming back to it. I refuse to watch the Hobbit and an not really a fan of Jackson’s “meat grinder” pulp but hey that’s what commercial success is about…
    I’d like to see fragments of Lotr by Antonioni or silmarrilion by Jodorowsky, well maybe I am just too peculiar with movie directors. Have you played shadows of Mordor yet?

    • kunzelman says:

      I did play a few hours of Shadows. I think it is a very neat system inside of a not-very-interesting action adventure game. I had a good time with what I played, though!

  2. Eric says:

    I went through a huge Stephen King phase, and really noticed the similarities. Mostly in anything involving Randal Flagg.

  3. Amsel says:

    I vividly remember my sister, reading a combined edition of the trilogy on a long stay with overseas relatives, exclaiming with relief as she ploughed into Return of the King: “He’s got past all the set-up now at last and everyone is just getting their heads chopped off.” I definitely felt like she felt it had stopped being a chore and become much more of a page-turner.

    • kunzelman says:

      Yeah, that was my experience short of the last couple chapters for sure. There was a lot of chopping and yelling and people doing magic! And then Sam’s marriage.

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