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Gandalf or Dumbledore? Sauron or Voldemort? Frodo or Harry? When it comes to choosing between these two behemoths of fantasy fiction, it’s a closely fought battle – but there can only be one winner. Pitting the sagas against each other in five distinct categories, we attempt to determine the one franchise to rule them all. Let battle commence!
Written the best part of a century before Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings has a clear advantage in terms of originality. Indeed, Tolkien even went so far as to create not just one but several new languages entirely of his own making, including Elvish, Dwarvish, Entish and Black Speech. Of course, J. K. Rowling’s creations are no mean feat in themselves. She has summoned up a rich universe populated with witches, wizards and all manner of other supernatural creatures – but The Lord of the Rings has to edge this one.
One of the major criticisms leveled against Tolkien’s work is its inaccessibility. Completely impenetrable for younger readers, the length and difficulty of his language often put’s off older bookworms, as well. Even the films themselves hover around the three-hour mark, making them something of a slog at times.
By contrast, Harry Potter is readable, watchable and enjoyable by fantasy lovers of all ages. Young tots and elderly pensioners alike will be gripped by Harry’s struggles, with a broad spectrum of emotions being elicited throughout the books. On this point, Rowling clearly wins.
Continuing the point mentioned above, Harry Potter’s accessibility means that it can be passed down from generation to generation, so that parents can pass on the magic of the series to their children for decades to come. On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings is approaching its centenary and has already proved that it has the stamina to compete with any new imaginative works of fiction. Therefore, its advanced years mean that The Lord of the Rings is streets ahead of Harry Potter when it comes to longevity.
One of the best things about any fictional creation is its ability to materialize in the real world. The Lord of the Rings was famously filmed in New Zealand and there are many tours across the country which take you behind the scenes to famous locations from the movie.
However, New Zealand is pretty far away – and is the sole location where such experiences can occur. By contrast, the Harry Potter Tour in London offers fans the chance to walk down Diagon Alley, sample some Butterbeer and generally escape the Muggle world for a few hours. Elsewhere, installations at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood give Potter the edge in terms of an interactive, real-life experience.
It might be a bit rich to discuss credibility when it comes to two fantasy franchises, but much of a series’ believability relies on how well it is executed on the silver screen. While both sagas were produced and directed with expertise and precision, the necessity of choosing child actors in the Harry Potter from a very young age – and sticking with them throughout the entire saga – means that at times, the acting suffers. The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, boasts exemplary acting performances all across the board, giving it a perfect ten.
Though it was a tightly-contested affair, The Lord of the Rings has emerged victorious. All hail the return of the King!