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Tropes from The Lord of the Rings (the book)
Tropes A-C -- Tropes G-I -- Tropes J-L -- Tropes M-O -- Tropes P-R -- Tropes S-U -- Tropes V-Z

Tropes D-F

  • Dad the Veteran: Gimli's father Gloin would qualify, being a veteran of the Battle of Five Armies.
  • Darkest Hour: Happens at least once in each book; the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, the Breaking of the Fellowship, the Battle at Helm's Deep, the Siege of Gondor, the Battle at the Black Gates; all pretty dark
  • Dark Is Evil, Dark Is Not Evil: Different nations and peoples on both ends of the good-evil-spectrum have used black as their colour, or have black hair. It seems that Sauron likes this trope, as Éomer mentions in The Two Towers that agents of Sauron routinely steal black horses, to the point where there are practically none left in Rohan.
  • Darker and Edgier: When seen as a sequel to The Hobbit.
  • Dawn Attack: The Rohirrim like to do this when they're playing The Cavalry. Both Erkenbrand's charge to break the siege on Helm's Deep and Theoden's attack at the Battle of Pelennor Fields happen at dawn.
  • Dead Guy, Junior: Or at least Departed Guy Junior. Sam names his eldest son Frodo, and a later son Bilbo. It's not known whether either of those characters is still alive at the time. Incidentally, he also names two sons after Merry and Pippin.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Aragorn and Gandalf at times.
  • Death Glare: Aragorn to the Mouth of Sauron at the Black Gate.
  • Death of the Author
  • Death Seeker: Éowyn.

 "He caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death."

  • Deconstruction: Of the more conventional heroic fantasy in which The Hero gains power to overthrow evil and achieve happiness. In Tolkien's story, anyone strong enough to use the One Ring to defeat Sauron would themselves become, in the process, as evil as Sauron (or worse[1]). The main protagonist is a Type I anti-hero who is The Only One for the job for this very reason, and his mission is to throw away the only weapon powerful enough to defeat their Enemy (several characters comment on the seeming folly of this). Moreover, at the end of the story, Frodo, rather than finding happiness, suffers from physical and spiritual wounds that will not heal, and must eventually leave Middle-Earth altogether.
    • Although deconstruction wouldn't be around in name until a decade and a half after The Lord of the Rings was published (and then only in French), Tolkien's letters clearly show that he did intend his book to interrogate conventional ideas about heroism. Frodo's fate in particular was inspired by Tolkien's own experiences in the First World War.
  • Defictionalization: Caradhras, Orthanc, Dol Goldur [sic!] and the Mindolluin Crag are real places in Washington State. Two climbers (and Tolkien fans) in the 1960's were the first to climb a segment of mountains in the Cascade range and thus ensured naming rights.
  • Denouement: the Scouring of the Shire is a pretty jarring denouement sequence
  • Despair Event Horizon: Denethor during the Siege of Gondor, which leads to him trying to immolate himself and his son on a funeral pyre.
  • Despair Gambit: Sauron runs several of these, one culminating in the point immediately above. His armies also make use of it in their tactics, and the Nazgul have it in weaponized form.
  • Despair Speech: Denethor gives several, each more long-winded than the last.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Somewhat, and in the more literal way (of a god appearing on stage, since they are the eagles of Manwe, Lord of the Valar), considering that the Eagles repeatedly show up when absolutely nobody else can get the heroes out of a situation... but never appear any other time they might be just a bit useful.
    • However, although Valar involvement cannot be disproved, these Eagles were established as descendants of those in The Hobbit, who were free agents with a leader that just happened to be Gandalf's good friend (again, there might still be otherworldly involvement as Gandalf is hinted to be of divine origin).
    • Tolkien himself said in a letter than he realized they were a Deus Ex Machina, hence why he didn't like using them often because they make solving problems too easy. This was in fact his reason when someone asked him the "why didn't they just use the eagles to drop the ring in Mt Doom?" question.
      • Not only did he realize that they were an easy deus ex machina, the Eagles themselves know and resent it -- as he said in another letter, the Eagles would never stoop to being Middle-earth's taxi service.
  • Determinator: The Three Hunters, Gollum, Frodo and Sam, especially when going through Mordor.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: When Éowyn kills the Lord of the Nazgûl.
    • And when Sam mortally wounds Shelob.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The fact that his foes actually want to destroy the Ring never entered Sauron's mind until it was too late. See Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.

 Gandalf: That we should wish to throw him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to him.

  • Diplomatic Impunity: The Mouth of Sauron invokes this when it looks as if Aragorn is about to cut him up into little pieces. Perhaps surprisingly, Aragorn allows it to fly, although it probably didn't help the Mouth too much in the long run.
  • Dirty Business: When Frodo lures Gollum into the hands of Faramir's men.
  • Disney Death: Happens to Frodo twice when he is stabbed by an Orc and stung by Shelob. His mithril armour saved him the first time and Shelob used paralytic poison instead of a fatal one.
  • Distant Finale: There is an epilogue with Sam and his children after having just finished a reading of the book. Tolkien decided against including it in the original LotR, but it was eventually published in HoME 9: Sauron Defeated.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: In the books, pretty much everyone smokes a pipe. But the older, more established authority figures are seen smoking them more often. Especially in the films.
  • Divided for Publication: Tolkien hated the idea of splitting it up, but the publisher insisted on publishing the novel in three separate volumes, due to a long-running postwar paper shortage. This is the root of the mistaken belief of the Lord of the Rings as a trilogy, and ironically inspired the trend for fantasy to be written in trilogies.
  • Divided We Fall: More in the beginning than the end. Fortunately.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Gríma.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Shire, though it's sort of inverted. And it gets better eventually.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Subverted because, after he hears that Frodo is still alive, Sam gives this admonition to himself:

 You fool, he isn't dead, and your heart knew it. Don't trust your head, Samwise, it is not the best part of you. The trouble with you is that you never really had any hope.

  • Doorstopper: Despite being called a trilogy, it's really just one giant book. Which the publisher divided into three volumes because of its size. And, supposedly, postwar paper shortages. There wasn't enough to print a full run of the whole book, and a financial risk as success was not seen as guaranteed.
  • Double Agent : According to Unfinished Tales one of Bill Ferny's companions ('the squint-eyed southerner') was a spy for Saruman until the Witch King intimidated him into working for Sauron. In the book Aragorn is shown wondering who he had been working for.
  • The Dragon: The Witch-king of Angmar to Sauron. Sauron himself was The Dragon to Morgoth for at least part of The Silmarillion.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: The Istari (Gandalf and co.) were explicitly told not to match themselves 'power for power' against Sauron. Their job was to inspire and enable the Free Peoples and thus they had to limit a lot of their own natural power.
    • Sauron left the door to Mount Doom unlocked. Of course, it's hard to maintain a door in such conditions (it's a damn volcano, for one thing), but one would assume he'd find a way to guard the entrance if the thought ever came to him to do so. (Though he may have felt that it was already guarded by being a hundred miles inside Mordor, a region that, famously, one does not simply walk into.)
  • The Dreaded: Lots of examples. The Nazgul scare by their nature, Sauron commands awe and fear by reputation, and the ghosts Aragorn leads just plain look scary, though being ethereal invulnerable killing machines doesn't help matters...
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: Both Frodo and Faramir.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Frodo's dream of a far green country in the house of Bombadil.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Frodo and Sam in Mordor.
  • Driven to Suicide: Denethor
  • Due to the Dead: Good guys bury corpses, or at least keep them out of orcish hands; evil guys mutilate them, and even use their heads as siege weapons.
  • Dying Race: The Ents have lost all the Entwives, rendering them incapable of reproducing. And the Elves are vanishing from Middle Earth, slowly.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Very much so for the Hobbits in the Scouring of the Shire
  • Easing Into the Adventure: The beginnings in the Shire.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Shelob, though technically she's the daughter of a full-on Eldritch Abomination and an "ordinary" Giant Spider. The creatures that Gandalf and the Balrog encounter beneath Moria are implied to be this as well.
    • The "nameless things" were supposedly intended as a subtle Shout-Out to H.P. Lovecraft's works. Tolkien's earliest writing suggests they are entities with entirely separate origin from the Ainur, and perhaps even from Eru himself, but this idea was dropped as part of aligning Middle-Earth with Tolkien's own Catholic values.
      • As Tolkien put it, there are many things in Middle-earth that could be evil without necessarily being explicitly allied with Sauron. Shelob is one example -- Sauron does not rule her, and he probably could kill her or drive her out if he wished (although he might have to do it in person), but he permits her to continue to dwell at the top of Morgul Pass because her presence there is useful to him.
      • It's implied, though, that Sauron's resurgence has awoken a number of eldritch things that were asleep. The Barrow-wights are not allied with Sauron, but Tolkien's copious notes indicate that they were probably roused by the presence of the Black Riders scouting out the edges of the Shire.
      • The Barrow-wights are direct result of Sauron's work -- they were originally sent by the Witch-King on Sauron's orders to haunt the tombs of the Dunédain as a part of the effort to destroy the Kingdom of Arnor.
  • Eldritch Location: Morgul Vale. And if we're talking just 'eldritch' and not 'spooky, filled with death and decay' as well, then Lothlorien and Rivendell would qualify due to the presence of the Elven Rings. Really, any place the Elves dwelt for an extended period would qualify as 'eldritch'; the most unnerving thing about any Elvish dwelling is that keeping track of time within such a place becomes a complete Mind Screw for anyone who isn't an Elf.
  • Elite Mooks: Saruman's Uruk-hai and Sauron's specially bred sun-proof Trolls, the Olog-Hai. Heck, Morgoth essentially created all the evil races on Middle-earth through dark magic and breeding.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: They don't get along. Possibly the originator of the cliche.
  • Emerging From the Shadows: A revived Gandalf the White keeps his face and new garments hidden until it is time to reveal himself.
  • Emotion Bomb: Evil things, especially the Nazgûl, are cloaked in Fear and Despair. This may also be (at least part of) how Denethor was Driven to Suicide. In fact, Fear is the Nazgûls' primary weapon.
  • End of an Age: Set at the end of the Third Age.
  • Enemy Civil War: The various factions of orcs.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: The Nazgûl; their horses have to be specially bred and trained just to stand being near them, let alone serving as their mounts.
  • Engagement Challenge: Elrond gives this to Aragorn in the backstory. If he wants Arwen's hand in marriage, he's got to earn the throne of Gondor first. After all, who wouldn't want the best possible, comfortable and safe life for their daughter? Especially since by choosing to marry Aragorn she gives up a seat on the ships to the West and her immortality.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The whole plan hinges on the fact that Sauron can't even conceive of someone trying to destroy the Ring and get rid of that kind of power.
    • In all fairness, he was right. At the moment of truth, instead of throwing the One Ring into Mount Doom, Frodo claimed it for his own. The Ring was only destroyed when Gollum tried to steal it back, succeeded, and fell into the lava still clutching his "preciousssss".
    • Also a safe assumption when you consider that the ring manipulates people into evil and blocks its bearers from being able to harm it.
      • Except Tom Bombadil. The reason they couldn't just give him the Ring and let him protect it was in part because he was too good to be trusted; it was so unimportant to him that he might forget he even had it. As Gandalf puts it: "Such things have no hold on his mind."
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: The eye of Sauron is described as being quite fiery. Furthermore, Sauron's hand is burning hot, which is why the ring glows on his hand.
    • The Balrogs also have much association with fire, as they use fiery weapons like whips or swords.
  • Evil Overlord: Sauron.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Saruman, and Sauron, which, combined with the above, add up to Sorcerous Overlord.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness - The (original) Dark Tower, Barad-dûr.
    • Also Minas Morgul, Orthanc, Dol Guldur, and the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
    • Not to say that there are no good towers. Minas Tirith is only the most obvious example; there are some to the west of the Shire, though the hobbits never get curious enough to climb them.
    • And most of the examples given are corrupted ones. Only Barad-dûr and Dol Guldur were Evil from scratch. All others were constructed by the Numenoreans.
      • Even Dol Guldur was originally the capital of the wood-elves of Mirkwood, before it fell to the invaders' hands.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Saruman was constantly plotting against Sauron.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Edoras" means "buildings" in Old English. "Meduseld" means "mead hall." "Mearas" is "horses."
  • Executive Meddling: Tolkien and his publisher went back and forth about the titles of the books, with Tolkien suggesting many different possibilities for both the three published volumes and the six narrative books (including some subsequently used by Christopher Tolkien like "The Return of the Shadow" and "The Treason of Isengard", and some very literal ones such as "The Ring Goes East"). Tolkien finally settled on "The Fellowship of the Ring", "The Two Towers", and "The War of the Ring" for the volumes, and left the narrative books untitled. The publisher overruled him and went with "Return of the King" for the third volume despite Tolkien arguing that it was a Spoiler for anyone picking up the series.
  • Expansion Pack World: Not directly, more like The Hobbit got transplanted very neatly into Middle-earth during the writing of LotR.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Sam and Frodo in Shelob's lair, and in Mordor in general.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Tom Bombadil, Elrond, Treebeard and even Gollum all get in on the remembering things from long, long ago as a means of reminding or showing the reader that they're ancient beings.
  • Face Heel Turn: Saruman seduced into evil by the perceived superiority of Sauron's power; Denethor driven mad due to his imperfect understanding of how a Palantí­r works; The Scouring of the Shire, the ultimate result of a few hobbits wanting to bring in "outside ways" to do things "better" and "faster".
  • The Faceless: The Nazgûl
  • Fainting: Happens to everyone, naturally, but most often to Frodo.
  • Facing the Bullets One-Liner: "Fly, you fools!". Gandalf's last words urging his companions to continue the quest before he falls into the abyss dragged by the Balrog in Moria. The trope is subverted since Gandalf does not die right there and keeps on fighting but his fellowship and the reader doesn't learn that until much later.
  • The Fair Folk: Not exactly -- the Elves are all on the side of good -- but the Rohirrim think the Lorien elves are these. For that matter, Galadriel herself isn't 100% sure she's not one; Men and Hobbits have an irritating (by Elvish standards) tendency to group elven works and Sauron's dark arts under the umbrella term of "magic".
  • Famed in Story: Aragorn's family; ultimately Frodo (but not in his hometown).
  • Fantastic Fragility: The One Ring is a Clingy MacGuffin par excellence, except for that tiny weakness to melting via Mount Doom, though explicitly not dragon-fire, even if said dragon had power on par with the first Worms of Morgoth such as Glaurung or Angacalon the Black. (The lesser Rings could be melted that way, and indeed four of those that went to the Dwarves suffered just such a fate.)
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Frodo shares his view of the Big People (Men) with Gandalf:

  Witch-King: Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn ... He will bear thee away to the Houses of Lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.

    • The Mouth of Sauron says that this will happen to Frodo if the heroes do not give into Sauron's demands.
  • Feathered Fiend: Crebain -- dark crows, spies in the service of Saruman.
  • Fighting a Shadow: The reason Sauron keeps coming back, until the Ring is destroyed.
  • Fighting for Survival: If Sauron wins, the Free Peoples are either destroyed utterly or enslaved.
  • The Film of the Book: Several, see film page for tropes.
  • Final Battle: the battle at the Black Gates
  • The Final Temptation: Galadriel, and Sam at the pass of Cirith Ungol. The first is dramatized as a One-Winged Angel moment in the live-action film, the second is dramatized in the animated ROTK. Galadriel imagines herself as a Queen -- "not dark, but beautiful" beyond compare -- and Sam imagines himself as Samwise the Strong, who would make the desert of Mordor bloom.
    • This is also literally the final test for Galadriel' by passing it her exile in Middle-Earth ends.
  • Fingore: Gollum biting off Frodo's finger.
  • Flaming Sword: The Balrog and the Witch-king.
    • Andúril, Aragorn's sword and an Ancestral Weapon (in the sense that it was reforged from the shards of his ancestor Elendil's sword Narsil), is called "Flame of the West", but it never actually catches on fire, though it occasionally shines as though it were. Its a more metaphoric flame, like the flame of courage and hope.
  • Follow the Leader: It started the fantasy genre as we know it, and indirectly started role playing games as we know them too. The live action movies led the way for more film adaptations based on epic fantasy books.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Paths of the Dead, and of course Mordor.
    • The wrecked and ruined plain of Dagorlad, which fills a good forty or fifty square miles outside the gates of Mordor. Tolkien gives this forsaken place one of the purplest and most horrific descriptions in the book:

 Frodo looked around in horror. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and gray, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light. They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing, unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion.

"I feel sick," said Sam. Frodo said nothing.

    • The Dead Marshes and Moria are also rather harsh, and both the Old Forest and Fangorn Forest get this label all but smacked onto them.
    • There's also the Vale of Morgul that grows beautiful but deadly flowers, and where drinking water can drive a person to insanity. Faramir warns Frodo and Sam from drinking from any stream that flows from Imlad Morgul for this reason.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Book I, at Bree, the hobbits hear that a lot of refugees are coming from the South. They don’t pay attention because it seems improbable the Big People will want to live in the Hobbits' small holes and houses. Cue Book VI, "The Scouring of the Shire", where a bunch of men have taken over the hobbits' land.
    • Sam's cousing spots a giant walking tree in the Shire, but his tale is considered unbelievable.
    • Frodo is unable to cast the Ring into the fireplace at Bagg's end when Gandalf is looking for its runes.
  • A Friend in Need
  • Friend or Foe: The fleet of the Southrons, which was supposed to reinforce the army of Sauron at the battle of the Pelennor, but was captured by Aragorn. Both the Rohirrim and Gondorians thought they were still hostile at first.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Ego: Aragorn
    • Id: Gimli
    • Superego: Legolas


  1. In one of his letters, Tolkien stated that Gandalf claiming the ring would lead to a worse situation than Sauron recovering it, because at least Sauron was openly evil, whereas Gandalf with the Ring would do evil in the name of good, thereby corrupting even the idea of good
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