Geek Trivia

Which Literary Trilogy Wasn’t Actually A Trilogy At All?

Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy
Asimov's Foundations Trilogy
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy
What Beverage-related Item Was Invented Entirely By Accident?

Answer: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Generations of fans have entered into the high-fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien by reading The Hobbit and then picking up his meaty Lord of the Rings trilogy composed of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Consuming the books in such a fashion would seem like the natural order of things, but it’s not how Tolkien intended the works to be published.

Tolkien originally intended for what we know as the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be published in one enormous volume that was, in itself, one half of a set. Structurally, The Lord of the Rings was intended to be six books all contained in a single volume with a large appendix. This mega-volume was to be paired with The Silmarillion in a massive two-volume fantasy set.

Instead, thanks to pressure from his publisher and economic considerations like a long running paper shortage resulting from the destruction of paper factories in World War II, the work was split into the trilogy structure most familiar to modern readers and published between the summer of 1954 and the autumn of 1955. While it was published in three-part form for most of the 20th century, later releases returned the trilogy to the monolithic volume Tolkien intended.

Image courtesy of George Allen & Unwin.