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Lord of the Rings, middle earth books
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The story takes place in the context of historical events in North-West Middle-earth. Long before the start of the novel the Dark Lord Sauron forged the One Ring to gain power over other rings held by the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves. He is defeated in battle, and Isildur cuts off his Ring and claims it as an heirloom for his line. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost in the river Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring comes into the hands of the hobbit Sméagol, who hides under the mountains, where the Ring transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a suspicious, corrupted being called Gollum. Eventually he loses the Ring, and, as recounted in The Hobbit, it is found by Bilbo Baggins. Meanwhile Sauron takes a new physical form and reoccupies Mordor, his old realm. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured by Sauron, who learns that Bilbo has the Ring. Gollum is set loose, and Sauron, who needs the Ring to regain his full power, sends forth the Ringwraiths, his dark, fearsome servants, to seize it.
The novel begins in the Shire, as Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo. Both are unaware of its origin, but Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, learns of the Ring's history and advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire. Frodo leaves, taking his gardener and friend, Samwise ("Sam") Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc ("Merry") Brandybuck and Peregrin ("Pippin") Took, as companions. They nearly encounter the Ringwraiths while still in the Shire, but shake off pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the enigmatic and powerful Tom Bombadil. After leaving the Forest, they stop in the town of Bree, where they meet Aragorn, Isildur's heir, who joins them as guide and protector. They leave Bree after narrowly escaping attack, but the Ringwraiths follow them to the look-out hill of Weathertop, and wound Frodo with a magical knife. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the refuge of Rivendell, while Frodo gradually succumbs to the wound. At the Ford of Bruinen, the Ringwraiths attack again, but flood waters controlled by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them, saving the company.
Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, as well as the news that Sauron has corrupted the wizard Saruman. The Council decides that the threat of Sauron is too great and that the best course of action is to destroy the Ring by returning it to Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, and a "Fellowship of the Ring" is chosen to accompany and protect him: Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the man Boromir, son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the realm of Gondor.
After failing to cross the Misty Mountains via the pass below Caradhras, the company pass through the Mines of Moria, where they are attacked by Orcs. Gandalf perishes while fighting the ancient and terrible Balrog, allowing the others to escape. The remaining company take refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien. With boats and gifts from the Lady Galadriel, the company then travel down the River Anduin to the hill of Amon Hen. There Boromir succumbs to the lure of the Ring and attempts to take it from Frodo, who breaks from the Fellowship to continue the quest to Mordor alone, though Sam insists on coming to assist and protect him.
Meanwhile, orcs sent by Sauron and Saruman kill Boromir and kidnap Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the orcs into the kingdom of Rohan. Merry and Pippin escape when the orcs are slain by the Rohirrim. The hobbits flee into Fangorn forest, where they are befriended by the tree-like Ents. In Fangorn forest Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas find not the hobbits but Gandalf, resurrected after his battle with the Balrog and now the significantly more powerful "Gandalf the White". Gandalf assures them that Merry and Pippin are safe, and they travel instead to rouse Théoden, King of Rohan, from a stupor of despair inflicted by Saruman, and to aid the Rohirrim in a stand against Saruman's armies. Théoden makes a stand at the fortress of Helm's Deep. Gandalf rides off to gather more soldiers while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli ride with Théoden to Helm's Deep. They are besieged by orcs, but Gandalf arrives with reinforcements, and the orcs are defeated.
The Ents attack Isengard, trapping Saruman in the tower of Orthanc. Gandalf, Théoden and the others arrive at Isengard to confront Saruman. Saruman refuses to acknowledge the error of his ways, however, and Gandalf strips him of his rank and most of his powers. Merry and Pippin rejoin the others and Pippin looks into a palantír, a seeing-stone that Sauron had used to communicate with Saruman, unknowingly leading Sauron to think that Saruman has captured the Ring-bearer, so Gandalf takes Pippin to Gondor.
On their way to Mordor, Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who has been following them from Moria, and force him to guide them to Mordor. Finding Mordor's main gate impassable, they travel toward a pass known to Gollum. Gollum betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is left seemingly dead by Shelob's bite, but Sam fights her off. Sam takes the Ring, and forces himself to leave Frodo. Orcs find Frodo's body, and Sam learns that Frodo is not in fact dead, but unconscious. Frodo is carried to the tower of Cirith Ungol, and Sam determines to rescue him.
Sauron begins his military assault upon Gondor. Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith in Gondor with Pippin, to alert Denethor of the impending attack. Minas Tirith is besieged, and Denethor, under the influence of Sauron through another palantír, loses hope and commits suicide. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to Gondor by the Paths of the Dead, where Aragorn raises an undead army of oath-breakers in fulfilment of an old prophecy. The ghostly army help him to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor, and the forces freed from the south, along with Rohan's cavalry, help break the siege at Minas Tirith.
Sam rescues Frodo, and they journey through Mordor. Frodo weakens as they near Mount Doom, but is aided by Sam. Meanwhile, in the climactic battle at the Black Gate of Mordor, the vastly outnumbered alliance of Gondor and Rohan fight desperately against Sauron's armies, with the intent of diverting Sauron's attention from Mount Doom. At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo is unable to resist the Ring, and claims it for himself. However, Gollum reappears, struggles with Frodo for the Ring, and bites off Frodo's finger, Ring and all, but in so doing falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him. The Ring is thus unmade. In the instant of its destruction, Sauron perishes, his armies retreat, his tower crumbles into dust, the Ringwraiths disintegrate, and the War of the Ring seemingly ends. Aragorn is crowned Elessar, King of Arnor and Gondor, and marries his long-time love, Arwen, the daughter of Elrond.
Meanwhile, however, Saruman has escaped his captivity and enslaved the Shire. The four returning hobbits raise a rebellion and overthrow him. Saruman is killed by his former servant Gríma Wormtongue, who is in turn killed by Hobbit archers. The War of the Ring thus comes to its true end on Frodo's very doorstep. Merry and Pippin are acclaimed heroes. Sam uses his gifts from Galadriel to restore the Shire, and marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo remains wounded in body and spirit, and some years later, accompanied by Bilbo and Gandalf, sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace. Sam returns home, and eventually becomes Mayor of the Shire. After Rosie's death, Sam gives his daughter the Red Book of Westmarch, containing the story of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. He crosses west over the Sea, the last of the Ring-bearers.