Between the book series and the film trilogy, Lord of the Rings is one of the most iconic pieces of pop culture in existence. It’s the kind of story that resonates with every generation, and has had enormous influence on the way we tell all kinds of stories, both within the realm of fantasy and outside of it. With this level of attention comes a certain level of analysis. Some of this analysis is of the story, themes, and characters-- but other parts of the Lord of the Rings fandom is far more interested in theorizing about the gaps in plot or story that Tolkien may not have filled in himself.
These fan theories come with various amounts of evidence. Some come from eagle-eyed movie watchers, while others come from those who have poured over all of Tolkien’s texts about Middle Earth. The credibility for some of these theories is fairly low, but there are others which seem plausible enough to be true. Tolkien spent enough time uncovering the mysteries of his world, and now fans have decided to do the same.
Here are the 15 Craziest Lord Of The Rings Fan Theories.
15 The Story is an Analogue for World War II
Like most authors, Tolkien was resistant to attaching one specific interpretation to his massively popular texts. Instead, he argued that the audience should be allowed to interpret Lord of the Rings however they wanted to. While many took Tolkien’s advice, others have argued that the text is an explicit analogue for World War II. Some of the connections are fairly straightforward.
Sauron is a stand-in for Hitler, and the Nazis are Orcs. Even Saruman fits in as a figure akin to Joseph Stalin, who was an ally that should never have been trusted. It’s hard to see how Tolkien could have lived through the war without it influencing his writings, but that doesn’t mean that these influences were conscious.
Tolkien swears that he made no conscious reference to specific world events, but maybe it doesn’t really matter. People can read whatever they want into the story, which is part of what makes storytelling so valuable.
14 Radagast Was Up to More Than Meets the Eye
Radagast’s introduction to the world of Lord of the Rings seems odd. The forest wizard is supposed to have powers equal to those of Saruman and Gandalf, although his time onscreen (in The Hobbit trilogy) and his brief mentions in the books don’t really give us a sense of this. Still, some have speculated that these brief mentions actually hint at a much larger role for Radagast-- one which takes advantage of his unique skill set.
Radagast is known for his ability to commune with nature, and that means that he can take a variety of natural forms. Gandalf also makes reference to the fact that Radagast can use animals as his spies, which gives him the ability to learn much about the world of Middle Earth, even as he stays in his forest. There is some speculation that Radagast helped Gandalf summoned the Eagles which are so important to the story.
The theory also suggests that the wizard Aragorn sees in The Two Towers inside of Fangorn Forest isn’t Saruman or Gandalf, but actually Radagast keeping an eye on the proceedings.
13 Grima Wormtongue Has a Ring of Power Made by Saruman
Originally, Sauron was a wizard just like Gandalf and Saruman. This means that any wizard of their level could eventually command vast armies the way Sauron did, and one fan theory suggests that Saruman had already begun working on that idea. We know from the book that Saruman described himself as a ring-maker, which means that he had emulated Sauron in that respect.
Although we know that Saruman made a ring for himself, one fan theory suggests that he may have also made another ring so that he could begin to exert his influence over others. The theory posits that Grima Wormtongue, who was corrupting Theoden of Rohan, may have been wearing Saruman’s other ring, simply because he was so thoroughly under Saruman’s control. Saruman didn’t manage to exert as wide an influence as Sauron, but Wormtongue certainly seems like an admirable start.
Of course, Sauron did have Ringwraiths, Nazgul, and a huge army, so even if Wormtongue was wearing his ring, Saruman still had a long way to go.
12 The Excess CGI In The Hobbit Movies Represents Bilbo's Version Of Events
After the majesty and beauty of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, expectations were understandably high for Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in the form of The Hobbit. Unfortunately, many were disappointed by those films, in part because of how reliant they were on CGI that was so obviously computer-generated. Because it can be hard to reckon with the idea that Jackson created both trilogies, some have decided there must be some other explanation for why Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is so heavy on CGI.
As the theory goes, Jackson chose to use so much CGI in order to create an accurate depiction of how Bilbo would tell this story after it ended. As such, the movies are a translation of Bilbo’s writing, and don’t depict the events as they actually occurred.
Maybe Bilbo did embellish the tale to inflate his own legend, but that doesn’t completely excuse Jackson, who used practical effects in his other trilogy to great effect. A more textured look may have worked better here too.
11 Gimli's Three Hairs
Galadriel gave each member of the Fellowship a gift before they left her forest kingdom, although most of them didn’t get to choose what that gift would be. Legolas was given a fancy new bow, and Pippin and Merry both got new daggers. Gimli got to choose his gift, and asked Galadriel for a strand of her hair. Instead of giving him just one, Galadriel actually gave Gimli three hairs, and there appears to be an ancient story that explains why.
Apparently, millennia ago, there was a man named Feanor who made a reputation for his cruelty and general lack of kindness. He asked Galadriel for a strand of her hair, and was denied. He asked twice more, and was denied twice more. Galadriel apparently bestowed these hairs on Gimli because she considered him more worthy of them than Feanor, probably because of his inherent goodness.
Galadriel also successfully dissed Feanor, which just reaffirms her position as the best elf in all of Middle Earth.
10 Tom Bombadil is the Witch-King
Tom Bombadil is one of the oldest things in Middle Earth, and he’s also one of the most strangely magical. While he was cut out of the films, to the chagrin of many fans, his time in the books suggests a kind figure. After all, Bombadil saves the hobbits from Old Man Willow, and puts them up in his own home. It seems, then, that Bombadil is simply a pacifist, content with doing good works and leaving well enough alone.
One theory suggests that Bombadil’s real identity is actually much more sinister, though; arguing that Bombadil may be the deeply menacing Witch-King of Angmar. The theory points out that Bombadil wears the one ring briefly and is unaffected by it, and he can also see Frodo when he has the ring on. It also points out that the Council of Elrond is unwilling to leave the ring with Bombadil, and that Bombadil may have placed the Barrow Wights where they were, and removed them later to help the hobbits.
Of course, it’s unclear why the identity of Tom Bombadil would be necessary, or even useful for the Witch-King, but that doesn’t make the theory less cool.
9 Gollum is a Personality Inside the Ring
The downfall of Smeagol is made depressingly clear in the first moments of Return of the King, when we see him gradually transform into the pitiful creature of the films. As his story unfolds, we see a rift in the character between. There's Smeagol, who wants to help Frodo, and Gollum, who wants the ring for himself. Most believe this rift formed after Gollum spent centuries with the ring, but others have speculated that Gollum is actually a personality that travels with the ring.
The evidence for this theory is actually fairly strong. Bilbo, who also carries the ring, appears to transform at certain points, both physically and mentally. At one point, his face even changes to reveal a face that’s certainly similar to Gollum’s. What’s more, both Bilbo and Isildur refer to the ring as "precious", which means the word has some connection with the ring itself-- one that may even be part of a distinct personality that travels with the ring.
8 Gandalf is Eru Iluvatar
In case you couldn’t tell, Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and his religion certainly impacted his story. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is Eru Iluvatar, the God of Tolkien’s universe, who created everything we see in Lord of the Rings. One of Eru Iluvatar’s followers eventually became Morgoth, the powerful evil being who corrupted Sauron. While Morgoth was eventually defeated, Sauron stuck around.
It wasn’t long afterward that Gandalf showed up in Middle Earth, and some have even suggested that Gandalf is Eru Iluvatar in the flesh. During his battle with the Balrog, Gandalf claims to wield the “flame of Anor,” which may be a reference to the Flame Imperishable, which only Eru Iluvatar can wield.
The theory continues by explaining that the creator of all things decided to take the form of Gandalf in order to subtly influence events, as many gods have done throughout mythology. It sounds ludicrous at first, but it certainly fits in with Gandalf’s role in the story.
7 Gandalf Isn't Really a Wizard
This one sounds absurd. We see Gandalf do powerful magic throughout the trilogy, or at least that’s certainly what it seems like. One Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast has suggested that Gandalf wasn’t really a wizard at all, but was instead a high-level fighter who simply knew how to use magic. The theory argues that most of the spells Gandalf performs are fairly low-level, and could be explained by his ring and staff, which allow him to store magic.
In addition, it seems as though Gandalf spends a lot more time in the trilogy fighting than he does doing actual spells-- even in his fight with the Balrog. The theorist explains that Gandalf pretends to be a wizard to lure opponents into a trap, because everyone knows to rush the wizard before he can do too much damage. If the wizard turns out to be a highly intelligent fighter, though, then everyone who just rushed him is probably screwed.
6 Dumbledore and Grindelwald are Part of Tolkien's World
Dumbledore and Grindelwald aren’t in any way connected to Tolkien, at least not directly. These are two of the most powerful wizards in the universe of Harry Potter, but there’s some speculation that they were part of Tolkien’s universe first. Along with Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast, two other wizards were said to have entered Middle Earth, although they almost immediately went into the east and were never heard from again.
Although the wizards' stated purpose was to defeat Sauron, these two apparently had little regard for their mission. While it may seem strange to suggest that these two wizards are actually Dumbledore and Grindelwald, there’s some evidence to suggest this may be the case. For one thing, many have noted that Grindelwald’s prison Nuremgard is a mashup of the words Isengard and Nuremburg. Fans have also theorized that Dumbledore and Grindelwald Middle Earth left to pursue the greater good that they discuss in Harry Potter.
Still, these connections are tenuous at best, and the theory probably doesn’t hold much water.
5 Gollum Killed Frodo's Parents
Although it’s not really delved into in the films, the books do a pretty good job explaining that Frodo’s parents are dead because of a strange boating accident. This gives Frodo fewer ties to the Shire, but there are some who have suggested that the deaths of Frodo’s parents wasn’t an accident after all.
The theory goes that, after the events of The Hobbit, Gollum only had two clues to base his hunt for the ring on -- the words “Shire” and “Baggins.” If Gollum had come upon any Baggins in the Shire, he would almost certainly have killed them. The theory has some weight because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Frodo’s parent’s death, with many in the Shire arguing over exactly how it happened. Both hobbits were experienced boaters, so it seems unlikely that they would simply fall into the water and die. Gollum murdering them makes sense, except for the fact that Gandalf claims that Gollum never made it to the Shire. It’s still a neat idea, though.
4 Snow White is a Lord of the Rings Sequel
This may seem to be one of the more far-fetched theories on this list, but there’s actually quite a bit of evidence to back it up. The theory suggests that Snow White is a descendant of Arwen and Aragorn, and that her ability to commune with nature is because of her elven blood. What’s more, Snow-White is mentioned in elven hymns as a goddess, so naming your daughter after such a goddess seems like a logical move.
The theory also claims that the geography of Snow White matches that of Middle Earth, and points out that the dwarves that she interacts with could easily fit into the universe of Lord of the Rings. The number seven is also suspicious, suggesting that perhaps these are the last seven dwarves, and they’re only still alive because they once were the bearers of the rings of power.
The theory concludes its mountain of evidence by arguing that the Prince is probably Gandalf, and the mirror is Sauron in disguise. It may sound convoluted, but the proposers manage to make it work.
3 Tolkien Was Working for the Illuminati
This is probably the most obvious(ly crazy) theory on this list. It’s hard to run across a major historical figure who doesn’t supposedly have connections to the Illuminati, and Tolkien is apparently no exception. According to this theory, Tolkien’s text contains many of the themes that are usually the subject of Illuminati texts. The person who proposed this theory is unclear about whether Tolkien was a knowing collaborator or an unwilling puppet, but you can’t refute evidence this vague.
Apparently, the ring that is the center of Tolkien’s universe shares some similarities with the rings that are often used by the Illuminati for mind control. What’s more, Tolkien also includes bloodlines in his novels as a major plot point, and they also have some significance to the Illuminati. All this means that The Lord of the Rings books exist for the sole purpose of brainwashing us in preparation for the day of the Illuminati’s rise to power. Wake up, sheeple!
2 Merry Actually Killed the Witch King
One of the most powerful moments in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy comes when Eowyn, who has been eager to fight since her introduction in The Two Towers, reveals her true identity and destroys the Witch-King, one of Sauron’s most powerful warriors. Before his demise, the Witch-King boldly proclaims that no man can kill him, which is precisely the moment that Eowyn rips off her helmet and says “I am no man,” before stabbing the Witch King.
Although it’s an epic moment, some fans have argued that it was Merry who actually struck the deadly blow against the Witch-King in the moments before Eowyn’s reveal. This basically comes down to an interpretation of the text. Some believe that what the Witch-King is really saying is that no human can kill him, which means that Merry must have struck the final blow. Some have also noted that Merry’s sword was made by the Westernesse, and came equipped to battle the Witch-King. Regardless, the text makes it pretty clear that Eowyn strikes the deadly blow.
1 Gandalf Wanted to Use the Eagles All Along
One of the many gripes fans of both J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations have are about the eagles. It seems as though they could be useful for the Fellowship, simply carrying Frodo to Mount Doom and thereby making the entire journey much less onerous. Of course, this would make for a fairly uninteresting story, and the books also describe the eagles as creatures who choose selectively when to get involved.
One theory states that Gandalf’s plan was actually to use the eagles all along, and he just kept getting foiled along the way. Apparently, Gandalf’s plan was to take the safest route to the eagles, and fly the rest of the way. Part of this theory claims that Gandalf’s final words before he’s taken by the Balrog, “fly, you fools,” are actually a reference to the eagles; Gandalf is telling the fellowship to use on the eagles on their journey to Mordor.
Of course, the eye of Sauron is always watching, so even if Gandalf did manage to use the eagles, that doesn’t mean they would have made it to Mordor.
Do you know of any other crazy Lord of the Rings fan theories? Leave them in the comments!