Book Talk, Music, My Writing, Writers' Resource, Writing Tips

Lord of the Music: In Summary

For literature enthusiasts and film enthusiasts alike, there is one story with which everyone is more or less familiar: The Lord of the Rings.  It’s a tale of good versus evil that has withstood the test of time and remains one of the leading fantasy stories in fiction to date. J.R.R. Tolkien uses successful literary devices to bring his characters and story world to life, and Howard Shore utilizes musical techniques to expand on these ideas.

All This Is to Say…

Music acts as a translator of what is said on the page and transfers that feeling to the big screen. Accompanied by visual cues, The Lord of the Rings offers music as a translation for storytelling’s most effective devices.

In order to create an emotional and successfully immersive film, literature and music bond to form a pseudo-fellowship of their own, creating a memorable story that remains impactful in the years since its release. This is the strength of powerful storytelling: it transcends generational and technological rifts. 

Months after my research for undergrad, I’m still thinking about how seamlessly the music is incorporated into the film to make the story shine. And if you dig even deeper, there are so many other examples and treats to find!

Howard Shore’s use of leitmotifs throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy expands on Tolkien’s classic story and acts as a bridge between the meaning Tolkien’s story conveys and how it is represented on-screen. From worldbuilding to foreshadowing to character development, these themes are prominent and important to the films’ core, as they connect ideas and characters to each other to give a sense of satisfaction through immersion. Just as Tolkien’s fiction is a work of art that features a mixture of genres and literary devices, Shore’s score mirrors these decisions by mixing musical styles and thematic transformation.


Adams, Doug. The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of

         Howard Shore’s Scores. New York: Alfred Music, 2010.

Burroway, Janet, and Elizabeth Stuckey-French. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative

         CraftNew York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

Gorbman, Claudia. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington: Indiana

         University Press, 1987.

Hickman, Roger. Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music. New York: W.W. Norton

         and Company, Inc., 2006.

 “Howard Shore: ‘I write film music in a 19th-Century world. I live in a forest.” Classic

FM, 2014.

         the-rings/. Accessed May 7, 2018.

“Howard Shore Quotes.” BrainyMedia Inc, 2018. 7 December 2018.

Jorgenson, Estelle R. “Music, Myth, and Education: The Case of The Lord of the Rings

         Film Trilogy.” Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 44 No. 1. Illinois:

         University of Illinois Press. 44-57.

Mathijs, Ernest. The Lord of the Rings: Popular Culture in Global Context. New York:

         Wallflower Press, 2006.

Paulin, Scott D. “Richard Wagner and the Fantasy of Cinematic Unity: The Idea of the

         Gesamtkunstwerk in the History and Theory of Film Music,” in Music and

 Cinema, James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer. New Hanover: Weslayan

         University Press, 2000.

Sibley, Brian. The Hobbit an Unexpected Journey: Official Movie Guide. New York:

         HarperCollins, 2012.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Dir. Peter Jackson, 2001. Film.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Dir. Peter Jackson, 2003. Film.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Dir. Peter Jackson, 2003. Film.

Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. New York:

Cornell University Press, 1975.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: The Complete Best-Selling Classic. Great Britain:

         HarperCollinsPublishers, 1994.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

         Company, 1984.

VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction.

         New York: Abrams Image. 2018.

Zellner, Xander. “Howard Shore Interview: Composer Talks ‘Lord of the Rings,’ SNL &    

More.” Billboard. 2018.

Previously: Examples of Diegetic Music


Photo by Lucas Gruwez on Unsplash