The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy novel written by philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit (1937), but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War II.
Although mistakenly known to most readers as a trilogy, the work was initially intended by Tolkien to be one volume of a two-volume set along with The Silmarillion. However, when Tolkien submitted the first volume entitled 'The Lord of the Rings' to his publisher, it was decided for financial reasons to publish the work as three separate volumes, each consisting of two books, over the course of a year in 1954–55, creating the full 'Lord of the Rings' sequence.
The three volumes were entitled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Structurally, the volumes are divided internally into six books, two per volume; with several appendices of background material, much abbreviated from Tolkien's originals, included at the end of the third volume. The Lord of the Rings has since been reprinted numerous times and translated into many languages, becoming one of the most popular and influential works in the field of 20th-century fantasy literature and the subject of several films.