Digital Humanities

Sex, Race, and Allegiance in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

Using Google’s Fusion Tables and the new network graph feature, I created a visualization of The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. In a later post, I’ll show you how to create a network graph using this tool. If you’re using an outdated browser, you may just see a static image. To see the graph in motion, upgrade to the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Six Degrees of Gandalf

This first table shows the characters and whom they know. It’s a simple idea, but one sees how characters connect through the books.

Don’t Let Your Girl Grow Up To Be A Supporting Character

The second table shows characters sex. There are no female characters in The Hobbit and no leading female characters in The Lord of the Rings. Even in the role of supporting characters, few female ones exist.

Never Ask Gandalf If He’s “Man” Enough

Floating around in this table are the characters as represented by their race. One oddity I realized upon putting this together is that Gandalf is Valarian and not human at all. Sort of like a powerful angelic force in the shape of a man sent to Middle-Earth by God (Eru.) Also, if you look at the distribution of race in The Hobbit, a more fitting title may have The Dwarves.

Picking Sides

The last table shows character’s allegiances and, in the case of Grima Wormtongue, their shifting allegiances.

There are definitely characters I missed along the way, but part of this was process was to learn how Google Fusion Tables handles network graphs. If you’d like to contribute data or use the date, please get in touch. If you’d like to play around with the tables and all the filters, you may do so here.



A small thing, really, but Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and Sauron are all properly Maia. The Valar is almost always used to refer to the greater Ainur and the Maiar are the lower orders of the Ainur. Morgoth and Manwe are Valar, Sauron and Gandalf, their lieutenants and emissaries, are Maiar.

The visual relationship references are an interesting way of looking at the books.

Asa Letourneau

Is it possible to embed a network graph along with the filter/find functionality so users can filter/search the data and see the graph change in real time in addition to the zoom/pan/mouse rollover/reposition functionality?


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