Gandalf the Grey roamed Middle Earth for 11,000 years, which is about how long the last two decades here on real Earth have felt. But against all odds, we made it to 2021, which marks the 20th anniversary of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” which premiered on December 19, 2001. The first installment of Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novels, forever changed the face of popular entertainment, ushering film and television into a new age of high fantasy. (“The Fellowship” walked so “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher” could run.)


If you found your way to this article, you’re probably already a Ringer (that’s insider parlance for a “Lord of the Rings” superfan). But just in case, here’s a primer on the first chapter: Tolkien’s book and Jackson’s movie center on Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who comes into possession of the One Ring, an all-powerful piece of jewelry under the sway of the dark Lord Sauron. Frodo must take the ring to Mordor to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, and he’s accompanied on his quest by a multi-species band of adventurers: a wizard, two humans, three hobbits, an elf, and a dwarf.


With those basics out of the way, we present a deep dive into the lore behind “The Fellowship of the Ring,” from Tolkien’s first conception of his novel in the trenches of World War I to fascinating — and strange — behind-the-scenes trivia from the film.


The Legend of Tolkien