Whether you’ve read the books, seen the movies, or just heard people talking about them, chances are that you’re familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. The action in these books takes place about 60 years after the story of The Hobbit, and the tale is quite a bit longer. But how long exactly?
The 2012 release of The Lord of the Rings (compilation) by HarperCollins Publishers is 1,178 pages long. Initially, the books were published separately in three volumes, and if you read them that way, there are approximately 1,191 pages, depending on which editions of the books you read.
This article will take a more in-depth look at the beloved The Lord of the Rings series, including both the books and the movies. It will also give you more information on other books by J.R.R. Tolkien, so keep reading to find out more.
There are three primary Lord of the Rings books: The Fellowship of the Ring (July 1954), The Two Towers (November 1954), and The Return of the King (October 1955). Many people also consider The Hobbit part of the Lord of the Rings books, as it sets up the plot for the three subsequent novels.
There are several other books set in Middle Earth, but those four are the ones most people would agree are “the official” Lord of the Rings books. Some would even argue that The Hobbit doesn’t count. Still, since both it and the following trilogy share characters (Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Elrond, Gollum, etc.) and storylines (the story of the one ring), I usually include it.
No matter which edition or format of the books you read, there is a clear distinction as to which one is the longest.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the longest of the three books in the trilogy. The original first edition of the book contained 423 pages. The Return of the King is the second-longest with 419 pages, and The Two Towers is the shortest with only 352 pages in the first edition.
The Hobbit is shorter than all three of the other books. Its first edition printing contained only 310 pages.
Interestingly enough, the order is a bit different in terms of word count. That breakdown, according to Foster Grant’s “Word Counts of the Most Popular Books in the World,” is as follows:
- The Hobbit – 95,356 words
- The Fellowship of the Ring – 187,790 words
- The Two Towers – 156,198 words
- The Return of the King – 137,115 words
As you can see, although The Return of the King is the second longest book (in pages) out of the four primary works, it only has the third-highest word count.
The total word count for the trilogy and The Hobbit books combined is 576,459 words. Assuming the average person reads about 250 words per minute, that means it would take them over 38 hours to read them all! That’s quite the marathon.
There are three Lord of the Rings movies, and they share the same names as the books on which they’re based. There are also three The Hobbit movies, which many people criticized, as they’re all based on one single, 310-page book.
That’s a grand total of six movies, although most critics and even several die-hard fans would tell you that four would have sufficed.
The theatrical versions of the original three Lord of the Rings movies are nine hours and 18 minutes long. So, if you were to sit down and watch the theatrical versions of all three movies back to back, you’d be binge-watching for 558 straight minutes.
If, on the other hand, you sat down and watched the extended versions of all three movies back to back (as my family and I do every year during Christmas vacation), you’d be watching them for 686 minutes, or 11 hours and 26 minutes.
If you add the three The Hobbit movies into that, well, let’s just say that you’d be sitting in front of that TV for anywhere from 17 to 20 hours, depending on which versions you watched.
Each movie’s theatrical runtime is as follows:
- The Fellowship of the Ring: 2 hours and 58 minutes
- The Two Towers: 2 hours and 59 minutes
- The Return of the King: 3 hours and 21 minutes
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: 2 hours and 49 minutes
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 2 hours and 41 minutes
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: 2 hours and 24 minutes
That’s a whole lot of Middle Earth, but as any Tolkien fanatic will tell you, it’s definitely time well spent.
Although many people only know him for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels, J.R.R. Tolkien actually wrote several other books, some set in the same universe of Lord of the Rings (Middle Earth) and some not.
In total, Tolkien wrote 29 books. As a professor, he also published many other short and scholarly works in journals, academic texts, and periodicals. He also translated several ancient books, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and contributed to many others.
Tolkien published some of these books during his lifetime; others were published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Other than the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, some of Tolkien’s most famous books include:
- A Middle English Vocabulary (1922)
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962)
- The Tolkien Reader (1964)
- The Silmarillion (1977 – posthumously published)
- The Children of Hurin (2007 – posthumously published)
Tolkien’s translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf were also quite popular.
The Lord of the Rings isn’t a short read that you can knock out in an hour or so on your morning commute. The series, not including The Hobbit, includes three books with over 1,000 pages.
The good news is that the books are fantastic, and it’s easy to get lost in the magical world of Middle Earth. That means you don’t have to rush through; it’s not a bad thing to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s beautiful world for the 30+ hours it would take you to read them all.