National Geographic Embarks on an Extraordinary Journey to Explore How the Imaginary World of Middle-earth Reflects Our Own

(Washington, DC, December 3, 2001) ? National Geographic EXPLORER embarks on an extraordinary journey to the far corners of the globe and back into time to explore the impact of cultural forces that inspired New Line’s epic motion picture adaptation of the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy in National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s epic story appeals to many as new generations face the challenges of global conflicts and peace. National Geographic examines how Tolkien’s imaginary world of hobbits and wizards reflects today’s world in conflict by delving into the fascinating parallels between real-life myths, events, and languages to those created by Tolkien and cinematically realized by director Peter Jackson in New Line Cinema’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Featuring exclusive footage from The Fellowship of the Ring and insightful interviews with the cast and filmmakers, only National Geographic can present such a unique look into the blockbuster film and the real-life story behind it. National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings premieres on EXPLORER on Sunday, December 23, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT exclusively on MSNBC.

For those who love movies and the real stories that inspire them?, National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings poses thought-provoking questions about the history, geography, folklore, and culture that go beyond the richly fanciful tale. Who was J.R.R. Tolkien, and how did he create the amazing world of Middle-earth? Is the struggle between good and evil in the epic story a reflection of the early 20th century? How do the places, heroes, and villains of Middle-earth reflect our own real places, myths, and legends? Are the languages spoken in Middle-earth based on real languages? How does Frodo compare to great explorers, and is a hero’s journey such as his still possible in today’s world?

National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings centers on the intriguing and enduring questions posed by this well-loved story. National Geographic explores the influences of the events of Toklien’s time as Great Britain is hurled out of the Victorian era into the 20th century with industrialization encroaching at an alarming rate through the pastoral English countryside of Tolkien’s childhood. The First World War also greatly impacted the author. With rare combat footage including some of the battalion that to which Tolkien belonged, National Geographic journeys to the trenches of the battle of the Somme where Tolkien witnessed the death of friends and the disintegration of rigid class boundaries, and the deeply scarred earth. Here Tolkien began to imagine his great epic story.

After the war, Tolkien became a distinguished Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon literature and language. However, he led a parallel private life, developing an elaborate mythology for his beloved England. In Tolkien’s tale, he has created an idyllic world that is threatened by a great evil, and the mission of one individual to save it.

An avid scholar and linguist, Tolkien was deeply inspired by epics like Beowulf and the Finnish Kalevala. EXPLORER travels to a remote village in Finland with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and anthropologist Wade Davis to meet the one of the last “rune-singers,” who sings the Kalevala. Composed from a collection of old ballads and lyric poetry, the epic recounts the mythical history of the Finns — the creation of the world and the adventurous journeys of brave heroes. Finnish, the language of the Kalevala, is believed to have influenced Tolkien’s invented language of the elves.

National Geographic EXPLORER’s encore presentation on National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings will air on Friday, December 28, at 9 p.m. ET/6p.m. PT. For additional programming information and updates for National Geographic EXPLORER, please log on to

For more in-depth experience of the EXPLORER presentation, log onto National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings will be released on video and DVD in February 2002 in the United States as well as through its distribution partners worldwide in 2002.