The basic story of the Lord of the Rings is a simple good versus evil battle for dominion over the world. As we all know, Myth is about the battle of light against the darkness with their hordes of undead, a very similar concept. In this article I will deal with the similarities between the two masterpieces and bring any allusions or references to light once more.
The great attraction of the Myth story to many was the gritty journal, tracking the desperate battles faced by the Legion throughout the Great War. Similarly, the Red Book of Westmarch: the diaries of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins which made up the tales of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, records the desperate journeys of Bilbo and the Dwarves to Erebor and later, Frodo and Sam to Orodruin.
The armies of the light in The Lord of the Rings have many similarities with the Light in Myth. Their leader, Gandalf, is a Wizard who is part of the most powerful order of magic among the light, the White Council, another of which, an Istar, was called Alatar. Alric, the light hero in Myth, is part of the Nine: powerful Avatara who represent the elite of magic wielders who are up against the Dark. The Fellowship, led by Gandalf is made up of the races of Middle-Earth, much as the Legion, led by Alric, consists of Berserks, Dwarfs, Humans and fir'Bolg. Interesting to note, too that the nine (counting Melkor) greatest of the Valar were called the Aratar or 'The Exalted'. The Valar were spirits made flesh sent to bring order to the world and later to fight the evil of Melkor. We see the "-vatar" ending from Avatar(a) in Illuvatar, the creator of the world, where it's meaning is "father".
During his campaigns in the East, Alric was captured by the Deceiver, an Avatara of the Wind Age, corrupted by Balor. He was bound by a confinement field generated by four pillars in the Barrier and guarded by a small army. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf is captured by Saruman and is held prisoner between the four spires at the summit of Orthanc. Saruman was a once righteous Wizard of the Istari fighting the evil in Mirkwood until he was corrupted by the power of the Ring. Both wizards learnt much in their captivity which aided them in future battles against the enemy. The similarities go on as Alric was rescued by a group sent by the Nine over the mountain by balloon, while Gandalf was rescued by Gwaihir, the great eagle who was sent to fly over the mountains by Radagast, another of the Istari.
The two central characters also have similar symbols of power, with Balmung bearing close similarities to Glamdring. Just as Balmung releases lightning if wielded by a skilled magic user against a foe, Glamdring's entire blade was known to glow brightly in the presence of an enemy. Both swords were lost for a long period of time with Balmung being entombed within the Mausoleum of Clovis for 110 years and Glamdring going missing after the sack of Gondolin for 6,000 years until it was reclaimed by Gandalf. Likewhise, Alric wears the Ibis Crown, making him the emperor of the Cath Bruig and Gandalf bears the ring Narya thus maintaining the power of the Elves in Middle-Earth until the end of the Third Age.
The destruction of the Ring by Frodo and the consequent eruption of Mount Doom is referenced by the Dwarf on the last level of Myth: TFL throwing Balor's head into the Great Devoid and causing the ensuing explosion from the hole, then later when Soulblighter's death in the lava of Tharsis leads to the volcano erupting once more. In fact Orodruin would only erupt when Sauron was in power as he could control its fires, which ties in well to the millenial eruption of Tharsis signalling the return of the Leveller.
Melkor was the first evil to corrupt Middle-Earth. He was the most powerful of the original spirits sent to earth and sought only to destroy all that the Valar had made. He was evetually defeated and imprisoned by the Valar but his influence remained in the souls of weaker men. This allowed for his second coming as he was released after three ages for 'good behaviour' as the Valar could not see the evil within him as they were completely without it themselves. His 'spirit' remained in Middle-Earth and he began his Dark dealings anew as Morgoth. The similarities with the Leveller should be apparent here.
As we know little of the earlier Levellers, I will arbitrarily compare Morgoth to Moagim as his is the only other name we are given. However, Morgoth holds some similarities with Balor which will be discussed later. Really, all that can be said is that Morgoth's power grew after he destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor and stole the Silmarils, the three jewels which held their light. This caused their creator, Feanor to lead the Noldor against him in a hopeless war. Eventually, the Valar came to their aid and Morgoth was defeated and destroyed, ending that age. This is similar to the way in which Moagim returned from his previous incarnation as Tireces and ruled the world until he was defeated by Connacht and the Avatara of the Wind Age. The Silmarils were recovered but all but one were lost or destroyed. Rampant specualtion on my part, but the story of the Silmarils could have contributed to the artifacts of power which were hidden or destroyed by Connacht but retrieved when he returned as Balor. However, the Tain was shattered, the Eblis Stone was used up and only the Total Codex remained intact. Think of that what you will.
Sauron was one of the original spirits sent to Arda as a Maia and only later became evil, having been corrupted by Melkor's promises and power. When Morgoth is killed, there is a period of peace at the start of the Second Age during which Sauron, having survived his master's fall, fled to the East and hid for a thousand years, awaiting his return. At the turn of the millenium, Sauron returned and stationed himself in Mordor. There he forged the Rings of Power and built up his armies. There are parallels here with both Balor and Soulblighter which should not have to be spelt out. Eventually he was overthrown by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and during the climactic battle, he lost his finger and the Ring much as Balor lost his head and helmet.
Again in the Third Age, Sauron returns and stations himself at Dol Guldur in Mirkwood until he is initially defeated by the White Council. However, he returns to his fortress in Mordor and there he plots to retrieve the Ring with help from the Nazgul.
The Nazgul bear a close resemblance to Balor's six sorceror generals, the Fallen Lords. These nine men were corrupted by Sauron with the aid of the Nine Rings and remained bound to him in the Second Age. When he returned in the following age, they too reverted to his side just as Connacht's lieutenants cam back to aid him upon his return as Balor.
Returning to the similarities between Myrdred and Saruman; they were both powerful mages who used to be in league with the light and were members of the highest order of their magic. What's more, they betrayed (deceived) the light and were bound to the will of a greater evil. Saruman was known for his hypnotically beautiful voice and used this to sway his audience to his will, much as Myrdred's Binding Dream converts his enemies to his side. Other connections can be drawn from Myrdred's flavour text:
"...the farmland surrounding Covenant was choked with the shattered remains of two armies and pregnant with diseases of the blood... It is from this fortress that he issued his commands."
he once fertile area of Isengard around Orthanc, the fortress from which Saruman issued his commands became a network of underground chasms and fissures when he began creating his army of half-orcs, impregnating the land which was choked by the fumes and later by water and the bodies of guards when the Ents had flooded it.
In "A Murder of Crows", the narrator could almost be talking about Saruman in his description of The Deceiver:
"Deranged, arrogant, self-serving... none of these words can fully describe The Deceiver. No wonder his army has always been made up of bewitched men and the walking dead - no thinking being would willingly follow him."
And in Ravanna's biting comment in the level "Shiver":
"Ahhh, if it isn't Alric's lapdog. Will you bow to anyone who claims the Throne of the Cath Bruig?"
we are reminded that Saruman leagued himself with the Dark as the more powerful of the sides in the War of the Ring as soon as he heard of the power it would bring him. Just as Myrdred followed whoever held the Ibis Crown or who bore the mantle of the Leveller, the ultimate symbols of power in Myth.
The Races of Myth
Many have remarked that the Dwarves of Myth and of Middle Earth may have originated from the same source. The main reason for this is the similarity of several of the names in both versions of these fantay classics. Names which appear in both are: Balin, Durin, Dori, Ori, Nori as well as two similar ones: Duri (Durin, again) and Dvalin (Dwalin).
Another thing is the presence of underground cities such as Stoneheim and Moria. Both of which were assaulted by the Dark having been laid under siege. It is unclear whether the Dwarves of Stoneheim survived the collapse of their barbican but both cities were occupied by the primitive and evil creatures of their respective worlds: the Ghols and the Orcs. More on these later.
Interestingly enough, the secret level "A Long Awaited Party" is a corruption of the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring: "A Long Expected Party" which itself was a reference to the first chapter of The Hobbit: "An Unexpected Party". The title is probably used because of the population of Dwarves under your control in the level. This is backed up by the tags.gor file and you can find the passage in the field guide entry for that level.
The fir'Bolg of the Ermine correspond to, if anything, the Wood Elves of Mirkwood and Lorien in their tendency towards forests and their apparent skill in archery as displayed by Legolas in The Lord of the Rings.
A classic example of Bungie "borrowing" from Tolkien are those ancient dwellers of Forest Heart, the Forest Giants. The corresponding creatures in Middle-Earth are the Ents. The meaning of of the word "ent" is actually "giant" in Anglo-Saxon which seems suitable. Once again, the tags.gor file come into play, in which the Forest Giants are called "ents" and the mini volcano in the level "Forest Heart" is labelled "ent god". Their names seem rather similar too, with elements of the tree such as: leaves, bark, roots, wood, branches and green combined with suitable adjectives. Their social skills match too as they seldom leave their forests except when in times of crisis when all races are held in ransom. Their emnity towards their stone counterparts match as well with the Trow "poisoning the soul of iron" and the Trolls of Middle-Earth actually being corrupted forms of Ents, created in mockery of them by Melkor. Also worthy of note is their tendency to turn into trees when they die or grow too old just as the Forest Giants are transformed into statues of their once motive selves.
The gigantic ass kicking Trow of the North take their name from various tales of lore and their is a close translation of Troll. The Trolls of Middle-Earth are only specifically related to them as they share their hostility with their wooden equivalents. They also, like most trolls from folklore and mythology, turn to stone.
Another similarity between two creatures in each world are the Orcs and the Ghols. Both are primitive, animal-like creatures who have joined the forces of darkness thanks to their bloodthirsty nature. They both share a hatred of the Dwarves and have invaded their homelands in Myrgard and Stoneheim in the world of Myth and the underground caverns of Moria in Middle-Earth.
Spiders play quite a large part in Tolkien's literature but in Myth, their origins are shrouded in mystery. The only information we are given on them is from their flavour texts and the Cast of Characters sections in the manuals. The main connection is that they are both giant and seem to prefer darkness with the Queens being the most dangerous and largest n size. They also, unlike our world's spiders, emit rank fumes as demonstrated by Ungoliant and the Spider Queens in the Tain. Actually, Tolkien was not the first fantasy author to use the idea of giant spiders in his work, as his are predated by Clark-Ashton Smith's.
The bre'Unor of the Ermine seem similar to the Druedain or the Woses who inhabited the forests in southern Rohan and Gondor at the time of the War of the Ring. They are extremely primitive and preferred the more wooded areas. However, they were fierce and savage warriors against tresspassers although they did aid the forces of good.
Artifacts of Power
Though none of the artifacts in Myth match those of Middle-Earth exactly, there are a few, somewhat tenuous links.
For example the Ibis Crown was buried in the Mausoleum of Clovis for many years and denotes the ruler of the princinpal empire in Myth, the Cath Bruig, while the Crown of Gondor was hidden in the Halls of the Dead until Aragorn returned as King to claim it.
There are magic mirrors in each world too. The Mirror of Galadriel and Tramist's Mirror both allow the true form of something from distant places and times to be revealed. So Frodo's true worries are brought to light from the confusion in his mind, and his questions regarding the Shire are answered, while Soulblighter brings back Shiver's true form of times long past from the haze of the ether.
Balmung and Glamdring are discussed earlier in this article.
The one great symbol of power in The Lord of the Rings is of course the One Ring itself. The Ring's power is so great that it calls to those of evil heart from even the opposite side of the world. This reminds us of the following paragraph from the journal entry of "Forest Heart":
"But they say that the darkest artifacts have the ability to bend men to their will. Calling soundlessly to the wicked and discontent from thousands of miles away or hundreds of feet beneath the earth or sea, and that in this way they always come to light again, no matter how buried or forgotten."
And again in "Relic":
"The Deceiver has no such doubts. He says he can feel it calling to him."
Also of note is that the Tain was taken from where it was constructed and was believed to be lost. Just as Isildur takes the Ring away from Orodruin and loses it in the battle at the Gladden Fields.
Another angle is that the Ring represents Balor's head as they both have to be thrown in a huge hole to be rid of the evil forever. Or otherwhise the Ibis Crown. We know that copies were made of it just as there were many 'copies' of Sauron's Rings of Power and the wearer of both crowns had at his disposal, immense power. However, these may be stretching it a bit.
Though we are told of no device in Tolkien's work which allows its user to travel between two distant places as the World Knots do in Myth, the Palantiri allow those who look upon them to see the happenings around any of the six other Seeing-Stones. Six plus one = ?
The number se7en appears often in Tolkien's work and this is no doubt due to its spiritual connotations in the mythologies of the Celts and the Norse. Such examples of its use by Tolkien are: the seven Rings of the Dwarf Lords, the seven rivers of Ossiriand, the seven sons of Feanor and the seven gates of Gondolin, the seven tiers of Minas Tirith (which presumably had seven gates). Seven gates...hmm.
The Geography of Myth
For a start, the maps of both Middle-Earth and Myth are very similar with sea to the west and a great mountain range running through the middle. They both also share a dip in the coastline of the North: The Deep in Myth and the Ice Bay of Forochel in Middle-Earth though this is to the west of the mountain range. The Misty Mountains also has three passes: The Gap of Rohan, The High Pass and The Redhorn Pass. The latter seems to be closest to Bagrada as it is the most difficult to cross due to the icy winds and sheer faces covered in snow. It is also in the same relative postition to the others.
The positions of the various sides are also close with the fortress of the dark in the East and most of the light ruling in the West with the exception of Minas Tirith. However, even Gondor and Rohan indirectly fell under the influence of the Dark Lord and were slowly being corrupted during the War of the Ring. If they had been left any longer, they would probably have come under Sauron's power or been destroyed utterly, sharing the fate of Muirthemne and the Cath Bruig Empire.
Other features that we see in both series are marshes (The Dire Marsh and The Dead Marshes) and forests (Fangorn, Lothlorien, Mirkwood and Forest Heart and The Ermine) and their features coincide quite well with each other. Also, how can we forget those ever useful healing plants the Mandrake Roots of the Heron Guard and Journeymen and their similarity with the Athelas used by Aragorn.