A lot of fantasy creatures are derived from mythology and J.R.R Tolkien's books, sometimes both. I love both of these topics and have known about difference between them, like the fantasy elf vs the mythogical elf. Two very different creatures. There are also things like the orc, created by J.R.R Tolkien with no basis I can find in mythology. What other creatures are like these ones? Changed from their mythological roots, or created either with inspiration from mythology, or not.

I apologise if this should be in the sci-fi and fantasy Stack Exchange, it's a bit of a blurred line to me.

  • 3
    I don't consider this off topic, but I think it's very broad. Tolkien's world is immense, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of creatures and stories that echo actual mythologies. Would it be possible to narrow this down to something a bit more specific? Something like, for example, this: What is the inspiration behind Tolkien's Ents?
    – yannis
    Aug 30, 2017 at 22:21
  • @yannis I understand, but I don't know how to narrow it down, I did edit the question to ask what creatures rather than how many though
    – Sam
    Aug 30, 2017 at 23:17
  • 1
    This would be on-topic on Lit, Scifi, and here, but I think Mythology is the best choice. My understanding is that Tolkien wasn't trying to create so much as reconstruct a lost English mythology, so I wouldn't be surprised if every creature in the LOTR universe has some precedent.
    – DukeZhou
    Aug 31, 2017 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


Ents and Huorns. There are plenty of talking trees in mythology but nothing like the Ents.

Tom Bombadil is original to Tolkien. Although I would argue that he is a nature spirit, similar to some of the Jotun, of Scandinavian lore. He appears to be a benevolent trickster, who is a manifestation nature itself. His wife Goldenberry is said to be a river spirit.

Hobbits are also original to Tolkien unless you class them as fairies or any kind of "little people" like leprechauns, or the hill people of ancient Britain. But Hobbits seem to be completely unmagical, simply a race of small humanoids who live in holes in the ground and live long lives.

Orcs and Uruk-hai are original to Tolkien and appear to be based on goblins and demons. Wikipedia says "Orc is from Old English orcneas, which appears in the epic poem Beowulf, and refers to one of the races who are called the offspring of Cain during the initial description of Grendel".

Fell beasts the Nazgûl Steeds seem pretty unique. They seem to be sort of horse-like with bat wings. Sort of like evil pegasi.

Elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins, wizards (magical practitioners), and giants are all pretty common in Scandinavian and Germanic mythology.

The name Balrog was original to Tolkien but they seem to be a kind of demon.

Barrow-wights, wraiths, and various kinds of fighting dead (including fighting skeletons), and vengeful ghosts exist in Norse mythology.

Most of the rest just seem to be large talking animals, which are pretty common in mythology and folklore everywhere.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.