4 Songs That Were Inspired by the Classic Story ‘Lord of the Rings’

Born in South Africa on January 3, 1892, the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien will live forever thanks to his works like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Not only have both books become classics, academically and as entertainment, but the works have also turned into a series of iconic films, which have grossed billions of dollars.

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Tolkien’s influence even goes beyond his literature and the films based on it. When his books enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-20th century, some of the world’s best songwriters took inspiration from Tolkein’s ideas and characters.

[RELATED: 5 Rock Songs That Were Inspired by Classic Literature]

Below, we will dive into four such songs.

1. “Lothlórien,” Enya

The instrumental song from the Irish songwriter and performer Enya was released on her 1991 album, Shepherd Moons. But while there are no lyrics depicting Tolkien’s signature characters, the song title is a reference to a wooded area inhabited by the Elves of the fictional world of Middle Earth. In the stories, the region is an important place of resistance against the primary bad guy, the Dark Lord Sauron. A decade later, Enya helped create music for Peter Jackson’s 2001 adaption of the story, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, including the Oscar-nominated song “May It Be.”

2. “I Think I Understand,” Joni Mitchell

“I Think I Understand” comes from Joni Mitchell’s 1969 album, Clouds. The song also includes the lyric, Fear is like a wilderland, which is a direct reference to an area in Tolkien’s stories that’s home to Mirkwood forest. In 1969, Mitchell confirmed the reference, saying at the Mississippi River Festival on July 7:

“My favorite character, of course, was a lady wizard by the name of Galadriel. And when the travelers came to her kingdom before they had to venture off into very dangerous places and everything, she gave them a vial of light and she said ‘Take this vial and whenever you’re in a dark place take it out.’

“Well, being into metaphors a lot myself I decided that what she probably was giving them was a memory of a beautiful time, and with that interpretation and her hope and her memory, well… I borrowed a phrase from him… ‘The wilderland,’ which was a place they had to go through. And the wilderland is just like it sounded, it’s a wilderness and full of all kinds of hoary monsters and things. Just like life.

“So I call this song, I Think I Understand, Fear is Like a Wilderland.”

3. “Rivendell,” Rush

Released on the 1975 album, Fly By Night, by the Canadian-born rock band Rush, “Rivendell” is a reference to another place in The Lord of the Rings lore. Rivendell, a lush peaceful valley, is lived in by the Elves in the fictional area of Middle Earth. The band’s Geddy Lee was a particularly big fan of the books, evening appearing in the 2005 documentary Ringers: Lord of the Fans.

4. “Ramble On,” Led Zeppelin

The grand-pappy of them all, “Ramble On” is perhaps the most obvious when it comes to its Tolkien inspirations. The band’s banshee lead singer, Robert Plant, was influenced majorly by the author, referencing his work not only on this song but also on “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Battle of Evermore.” But the lyrics on “Ramble On” draw clear inspiration, as Plant sings of the home of the books’ primary bad guy, Mordor, and the story’s popular character Gollum.

I ain’t tellin’ no lie
Mine’s a tale that can’t be told
My freedom I hold dear
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air
‘T was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair
But Gollum, and the evil one
Crept up and slipped away with her
Her, her, yeah
Ain’t nothing I can do, no

Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

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