The Shadow of War: Lego Moves into Myth with The Lord of the Rings

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door … You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Frodo Baggins minifigure from set #9469, Gandalf Arrives

The Lord of the Rings has become so well known throughout the world — as a book (or rather a series of books), as a film (or, indeed, a trilogy of films), and as a cultural touchstone — that it is difficult to remember that, once upon a time, this enduring story of heroism and duty in the face of terrible odds and almost certain death existed only within the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien was at once a writer of fiction and an Anglo Saxon scholar and philologist.  After his military service in the Great War, Tolkien became a professor at Pembroke College, Oxford University, a position which he maintained from 1925 to 1945.  In 1945, Tolkien took up the position of Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, Merton College, Oxford, where he remained until his retirement in 1959.  He was intensely interested in mythology and the relation of myths to a fundamental truth; the power of fairy tales, Tolkien said, lay in the relationship between their inner philosophical and structural consistencies and their exposition of external truths concerning reality.

The Lord of the Rings is the story of an heroic quest, in which a company of adventurers — obviously heroes, though they do not so initially consider themselves — seek to destroy the last Great Ring of Power.  The main characters are an assembly of different races:  Elf, Human, Dwarf, and Hobbit.  The Ring-bearer, of course, is Frodo Baggins, protégé of Gandalf the Grey Wizard and nephew to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit who found the Ring in Tolkien’s first novel of Middle-Earth, The Hobbit.  Frodo finds, during his excruciatingly difficult journey to destroy the Ring, that his mere proximity to the thing changes him in dark and unsavory ways. The novels’ great ironic core is that the power of the One Ring, so sought after and so little understood, is exerted not by the owner of the Ring, but rather by the Ring itself over its so-called owner, as it warps his nature to its own dark pattern.

So, just as Gandalf warns by the fire at Bag End, Frodo is indeed indelibly marked by “going out his door,” by his journey to Mount Doom and his carrying the Ring.  We are torn by admiration and by pity in equal parts as we watch his valiant struggle to remain true to his quest and his painful progress on the long journey.

In honor of the upcoming film “The Hobbit,” which is due to be released in theatres in December 2012, Lego has released a series of sets around the Lord of the Rings.

Set #9469, Gandalf Arrives

The first set, #9469, is Gandalf Arrives, and contains 83 pieces including minifigures of Gandalf the Grey and Frodo Baggins.  The Hobbit minifigure is shorter than a standard minifig (as it should be).

The second in the series is #9470, Shelob Attacks.  I don’t know why this was chosen as second in the series, since Shelob does not appear until close to the end of The Two Towers in the novels, but there is no question that this is a spectacular set.  The spider herself is a complex model, who “extrudes” a cord with which she can dangle from a handy hook (of course, she can also use this to try to strangle Frodo — lucky that Sam Gamgee is close at hand!)  This set is also notable for the minifigure of Gollum, an interesting sculpt in a permanent crouch.  There’s actually an amazing resemblance between the minifig and the Gollum from the films.  It looks as though the “button” on his back is just the right size to hold the Ring (I can’t see why else the figure of Gollum would have that) but I can’t say for sure.  Frodo and Samwise each have dual-printed faces:  Frodo’s “regular” face just looks tired and stressed, but his “poisoned by Shelob” face is blank and terrified; Sam’s face can be switched from “tired but determined” to “tired and fighting for his life against a giant man-killing spider”.

The third set, #9471, is the Uruk-Hai Army.  This is a fairly conventional set with some masonry bricks, minifigures of Eomer and a soldier of Rohan, and four Uruk-Hai minifigs.  The castle wall has a nice catapult piece for firing into the besieging army, while the Uruk-Hai have a nifty war machine on wheels that fires grappling hooks onto the wall.  The set contains 257 pieces in total.

We’ll report on the rest of the sets as they arrive.

In stock now.




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