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5 Free Tolkien Quizzes and Lore Challenges You Can Play at Home

Updated: Jun 4


Painting of J.R.R. Tolkien by Tolkien illustrator, Miriam Ellis
"Portrait of J.R.R. Tolkien" - Miriam Ellis

Hobbits are good at games of skill, elves can be lore-masters, and in Tolkien's legendarium, "riddling talk" is not only irresistible to dragons but opens dwarvish doors. It's a Middle-earth virtue to esteem "the wise", and while AI proponents and search engines may want to turn us all into ninnyhammers and noodles by relying exclusively on them for all answers to all questions, we can make our own play by shutting down the machines and sharpening our own wits in the old ways: with memorization, riddles and games.


Today, I'd like to share my household's 5 favorite Tolkien lore challenges with you. All are free and require no other supplies than what's likely already on your Tolkien shelf. They can even be played without electricity, unless that is currently your only means of connecting with fellow fans. In fact, if your power goes out, you can light a candle and keep on playing. Some can even be played as "riddles in the dark" at bedtime to help you fall asleep. Play with your family and friends who are aspiring to become wise in Tolkien lore. Give these a try and let me know on Facebook or Twitter how your folk are doing with them!


1. Rivendell

image of elrond at rivendell by miriam ellis
"Elrond and the moon letters" - Miriam Ellis

Match wits with Elrond Half-elven, the master of lore.

For: 2 or more players

Skill level: from young hobbit lad or lass up to Elrond strength

Requirements: A copy of The Lord of the Rings


Gameplay:

Choose who will be Elrond and have them open The Lord of the Rings to the index at the back of the book which follows the appendices. There you will find alphabetized lists of persons, things, places, and more. Each entry can be turned into a quiz question for the other players, and the wonderful thing about the Rivendell game is that its skill level can be adjusted to any degree of knowledge. For example, if you are raising your small children on the Professor's works (applause!) and have only read them The Hobbit, you might ask,


"What is the name of the dragon Bilbo has to speak to?"


or


"Can you name all the dwarves Bilbo travels with?"


But if you are playing with more seasoned Tolkienists, you should try your hardest to find stumpers with questions like,


"What are all the names of the three peaks of Moria in Westron, Khuzdul and Sindarin?"


or


"What is the name of Gil-galad's spear?"


or


"What was Aragorn's name when he served in secret in Gondor in his youth?"


All the answers are right in the books, and while there are no winners or losers in this game, everyone has the victory of becoming more adept at the lore through play. If you play often enough, you will be amazed at how your knowledge grows and how much richness this wisdom adds to your enjoyment of reading the books!


2. Tolkien Quiz Two: Bill Huggins

Image of gandalf smoking a pipe
Detail: "The Springle-ring" - Miriam Ellis

Gandalf bewilders Bill, Tom and Bert until they don't know who says what; can you do better?

For: 2 or more players

Skill level: intermediate to advanced

Requirements: Any of Tolkien's books.


Game play: Player one reads a quote from The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion or any of the Professor's books, proceeding with the question, "Who says...?"


It's typically best to choose short quotes that aren't immediately obvious. For example,


"Who says, 'Rede oft is found at the rising of the sun'?"


or


"Who says, 'For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.'?"


or


"It's hard work for two legs, but I don't get thinner."


You can decide how many guesses each player gets, and the nice thing about this game is that the book can be passed from player to player so that everyone gets a chance to ask and answer. This is a wonderful quiz for enjoying Tolkien's peerless gifts with language and for teaching you to be quicker at recognizing characters by how they speak. Hint: Frodo is hard! His manner of speaking adapts based on place and storyline.


3. Tolkien Quiz Three: Quendi

Image of the elves in Of the Voyage of Eärendil
Detail: "Of the Voyage of Eärendil" - Miriam Ellis

The Quendi are so-called because they are the ones who speak with voices: how much Elvish can you understand?

For: 1 or more players

Skill level: intermediate to advanced

Requirements: The Silmarillion, Parma Eldalamberon 17, or The Lost Road.


Game play: This memory test can be played by a single player; I invented it when I was very young by looking at the etymological section at the back of The Silmarillion and covering up the definitions of the different linguistic elements and guessing their meanings until I had memorized all of them. However, it is more fun to play like Bill Huggins, by passing the book back and forth between players. You can either play by asking,


"What does the element 'moth' mean?"


or in reverse, by asking:


"What is an elvish word for 'dusk'?"


The most wonderful treasure you'll win from this game is the richness it will add to countless personal and place names throughout J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium. It is so beautiful to know that Nan-tathren is a valley of willows but that Dorthonion must be full of pine trees, because you have learned some basic Sindarin or Quenya root elements. And I find it thrilling to think of Elrond as "Star Dome"! Admittedly, this is a game for what we lovingly call "word nerds", of which there are a goodly supply in the fandom in the true Tolkienian tradition!


4. Tolkien Quiz Four: Many Chapters

Bilbo at Rivendell print, painted by Miriam Ellis
"Three Books of Lore" - Miriam Ellis

Walk the Road through the story in your mind by

reciting all the chapter titles in order.

For: 1 player

Skill level: beginner to advanced

Requirements: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and/or The Silmarillion


Game play: If you can recite the titles of the 19 chapters of The Hobbit in order, you are a strong beginner! If you can add on the 62 chapters of The Lord of the Rings you are a serious intermediate Tolkien reader. If you can then add to this the headings of all the sections bound as The Silmarillion, you have reached a truly advanced level.


This game might equally be called "riddles in the dark" or "questions after nightfall" because it's one I play to fall asleep at night. It's a great treat to start out with Bilbo's Unexpected Party and wander through the early story and maps and cross over into Bilbo's Long-Expected Party and find myself drifting off somewhere after reaching Rivendell, safe from Black Riders! On sleepless nights, I reach the Grey Havens and am at least the better for the journey, because this game helps me move through the legends I love, any time I want to, thinking about things I cherish.


You could try it while waiting for an appointment or even while being stuck in very un-Shire-like traffic. The scheme of The Lord of the Rings can be confusing at first, but Many Chapters will deeply familiarize you with the order in which the tale unfolds and all of the exciting events will pass through your mind like a lovely silver stream.


5. Tolkien Quiz Five: Celeborn


Painting of Celeborn and Galadriel's home by Miriam Ellis
Detail: "Lothlórien: The Chamber of Celeborn and Galadriel" - Miriam Ellis

Celeborn was accounted the wisest elf in Third Age Middle-earth, and this open-ended game is for Tolkien specialists in search of mastery of deep lore.


For: 1 or more players

Skill level: advanced

Requirements: Any of Tolkien's works you want to study intensely.


Game play: This game is for any reader who wants to become truly fluent in some aspect of Tolkien's works. You can play alone, but will have more fun if you can partner up with a fellow fan who will test you and vice versa. Here are some suggestions.


  1. Set yourself the goal of memorizing some or all of Tolkien's poems. I have a whole blog post that will walk you through How to Memorize 'Eärendil Was a Mariner' with Visual Cues: Illustrated. It's a joy to recite both aloud and to myself, and if you are thrilled by the idea of being able to hold forth on the topic of the crown of stars above Durin's head, or the dwarves making necklaces under the mountain, or the different versions of the Road poem, this could be the right choice for your leisure time.

  2. Be like a hobbit and commit family trees to memory. There are the hobbit trees in The Lord of the Rings and the genealogies in The Silmarillion. If being able to reel off the names of the seven sons of Fëanor or trace Elrond's lineage back to Cuiviénen would give you a sense of accomplishment, this could be a wonderful track for you to pursue.

  3. Specialize in oral story telling like fandom heroes Matt from The Nerd of the Rings or Robert from In Deep Geek. Learn to explain in your own words what the movement of the elves was from their awakening to their separate westward journeys. Or how about being able to give a detailed summary of the tale of Beren and Lúthien? Can you describe the seven gates Tuor passes through, or the history of the three elvish rings? Would saying what you know, aloud, excite a listener enough to make them want to give Tolkien a try?


This list could be endless. You might want to memorize every elvish text in the books, or the names of every horse or weapon ever mentioned, or study Old English to better understand the Rohirrim, or specialize in Númenorean history. Set a task for yourself, accomplish it, ask others to give you a chance to test yourself and volunteer to be their partner in some task of their own, and you'll have greatly enhanced your enjoyment of these books we all so love.


Painting print of the hobbits at crickhollow by miriam Ellis
"Sing Hey! for the Bath at Close of Day" - Miriam Ellis

In conclusion, one of things most Tolkien fans agree on is that the Professor was a genius. We admire mental acumen and devoted learning, and while few of us could ever equal his astonishing, multi-faceted achievements, we can each be part of the Tolkien tradition by seeing how far our own minds can take us in a celebration of human arts and skills.


If the Celtic bards could memorize hundreds of poems in order to qualify for their lifework, we can certainly learn to sing a bath song or two, and no AI needed, thag you very buch!


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