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The Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered “high fantasy” or “epic fantasy”. This is actually a subgenre to regular fantasy. What makes high fantasy different than regular fantasy is that it is set in different or parallel worlds. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are two of the foremost writers in this subgenre. In Lord of the Rings, the action takes place in a fantasy world whose rules are different than the real world. In regular fantasy, the action usually takes place in the real (or primary) world and has rules with which readers are familiar. In high fantasy, readers may not be familiar with the rules and the rules will differ from the real world. High fantasy, however, does share the basic elements of fantasy – magic, heroes that are larger than life, heroes that are smaller than life (Hobbits), talking animals, inanimate objects such as trees, rocks and plants becoming animate, etc. Lord of the Rings takes place in the fictional world of Middle Earth. Tolkien himself called his work “mythopia” – integrating mythological themes and archetypes into fiction.
Allegory is also a part of fantasy and there are many elements of allegory in Tolkien’s trilogy, notably man’s evil, the evil of war, the triumph of good over evil, etc. I would say that the major element of fantasy in this work, however, is that it takes place in another world.
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