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EW's hobbit-forming A-to-Z guide to ''LOTR''

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Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings, ...
The Lord of the Rings: Pierre Vinet

Looks like ”The Fellowship of the Ring” can afford to travel in style: The first of Peter Jackson’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy stomped into theaters Dec. 19 — with an opening-day box office of $18.2 million. As J.R.R. Tolkien fans battle over the appearance of the uruk-hai and the significance of Khazad-dum (and neophytes puzzle out what those words even mean), we offer an alphabetical primer on Middle-earth minutiae — and trivia behind the movie that’s ”Ring”-ing up millions.

ARAGORN Raised by elves, the heir of human kings (Viggo Mortensen) will further his romance with elf Arwen (Liv Tyler) in future installments — and grow into a formidable personality. Says Mortensen, ”It’s a question of stepping forward and saying I will be a leader.”

BOROMIR Human pugilist played by Sean Bean. Like other members of the Fellowship, Bean got lessons in sword work from famed fight choreographer Bob Anderson, who also worked on ”Star Wars.”

CATE BLANCHETT The embodiment of elf queen Galadriel, who hosts the Fellowship at dreamy Lothl√≥rien. In early days, when budget constraints demanded two films rather than three, director Peter Jackson had dropped Galadriel. ”It’s one of the great iconic scenes in the book everyone remembers,” he says. ”We always felt bad about bumping it.” DARK LORD SAURON o The baddie (Sala Baker) who created the rings in Mount Doom and now seeks to wrest the One Ring from Frodo (Elijah Wood) and take over Middle-earth. Stuntman Baker was discovered while raising hell as an evil uruk-hai. ”We were thinking of actors to play Sauron,” Jackson says. ”But I was drawn to Sala — he moved with a menace and a threat.”

ELVES With silver quickness and electrified senses, the elves of LOTR are a breed apart from Santa’s jolly helpers. ”You won’t see them at the bottom of your garden along with the fairies,” says Orlando Bloom, who worked with a movement coach to perfect the catlike steps of elf archer Legolas (”I’d been watching Kurosawa, and I wanted that samurai-warrior quality”) and trained for two months on the bow and arrow. ”By the end, I was shooting paper plates out of the sky.”

FELLOWSHIP, THE Nine travelers who band together to destroy the Ring. The actors, who spent 15 months shooting together, still keep in touch. Over this Christmas, Bloom planned to visit India with Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who play hobbits Merry and Pippin. Boyd and Monaghan are also putting the final touches on a comedy screenplay they wrote. ”Boys together, there’s just this strange camaraderie,” Monaghan says. ”It’s a brotherhood.”

GANDALF The mercurial wizard who leads the Fellowship boasts fans in high places: Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to conquer Mount Everest, invited Ian McKellen to lunch after he had been cast. ”He’s read the books seven or eight times,” the actor says.

HOBBITS Creatures ”between two and four feet of our measure,” according to Tolkien, who ”love peace and quiet and good tilled earth.” Jackson used camera tricks to make the hobbit actors look tiny. ”In the book, you often don’t think about the hobbits’ smallness — they’re determined and brave, so they become gigantic in your mind,” McKellen says. ”But in the movie you’ll be constantly reminded.”

IAN HOLM While the actor plays Frodo’s 111-year-old cousin Bilbo Baggins in the film, he was the voice of Frodo in the 1987 BBC recording of ”LOTR.”

JACKSON, PETER Kiwi director who shepherded the $300 million trilogy. Though ”The Fellowship of the Ring” clocks in at nearly three hours, he promises an extra 30 to 35 minutes on the DVD. ”We edited in a Frodo-centric way,” Jackson says. ”But there’s a scene I love with the hobbits in a pub in the Shire, singing and talking, before things go wrong…”

KHAZAD-DUM Sometimes called the Mines of Moria, this dwarf mansion was constructed beneath the Misty Mountains.

LANGUAGES Mortensen, Tyler, and Bloom had to become proficient in Elvish, a language Tolkien created. ”We had experts we would contact to get the phonetics and the translations,” Mortensen says. ”Because when [you read it] in the book, you’re like, ‘What the hell?”’

MITHRIL The silvery, unpiercable metal Frodo wears as armor. The dwarves prized mithril, which was found in Khazad-dum, above all else — a pointed message from environmentalist Tolkien.

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