Do we have (or need) a preferred way of citing a passage in The Lord of the Rings books?

Consider that the structure of this work is a little unusual. It consists of six books (plus the Appendices and the Indexes) which are grouped into three parts (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King). Those three parts were originally published as separate volumes (and often still are). Many (perhaps most) people think of this as a trilogy, but in addition to being technically incorrect, this leads to confusion as the chapter numbers restart with each "book" and not each "part".

So if I want to cite the following passage:

I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.

Which of these styles is most helpful (or is there a better style)?

Book number, chapter number and name

The Lord of the Rings Book 6, Chapter 3: Mount Doom

Name of the part, and chapter name

The Return of the King: Mount Doom

In this case, adding "The Lord of the Rings" seems to be redundant, and including the chapter number is misleading as it is the number of the chapter within Part 6 and not within The Return of the King"

Page numbers

I generally avoid adding page numbers to the citation as there are so many editions of books that the chances of my page number matching that of whoever is reading my post seems quite small. Does this seem reasonable?

As pointed out in a comment, the question Is there a citation convention for this site is similar to this, but the answers to that question do not seem to address the unusual structure of The Lord of the Rings.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What's the best way to format quotes?; see also Is there a citation convention for this site?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 23, 2016 at 21:59
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    @Randal'Thor while the second of those linked questions is similar, the unusual structure of The Lord of the Rings means that it is not clear how the answers to that question apply.
    – Blackwood
    Aug 23, 2016 at 22:04
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    More's the point, no-one really seems to pay that much attention to citation standards. If you go with a minimalist approach (Lord of the Rings: Two Towers) no-one will give a damn.
    – Valorum
    Aug 23, 2016 at 22:59
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    The point of those linked questions, though, is that no, there isn't any generally accepted style for citations on this site. That applies whether it's LotR or anything else. Either of the possibilities you mention, or many variations of them, would be fine.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 23, 2016 at 23:22
  • @Randal'Thor I didn't get that impression from those questions (the first isn't even about citing a passage). Do you mean that the fact that the answers to the second were vague and neither was accepted indicates that there is indeed no answer? If so, I'll defer to your much greater knowledge of the site.
    – Blackwood
    Aug 23, 2016 at 23:29
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    The second question is old enough and its answers vague enough that it's not really much use here (I only linked to it because I happened to come across it while searching for the other one). The first question is about formatting quotes, which includes quotes from books even if most of the answers focus on films and TV series ... but on second read, you're right that it doesn't really cover your question :-) The main thing you can take away from there is "there's no one true way to do this" and "be consistent". I'll try to write up an answer here.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 23, 2016 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


How to cite a book passage is a bit like how to format a quote: on this site, there's no single standard for doing so; different people have different styles, so don't worry too much about it.

A couple of general common-sense tips:

  • Be consistent. At least within a single post, once you've chosen a particular style for formatting your citations, stick to it. You don't have to be consistent between posts, but once you've been doing it for a while, you'll probably start to fall into habits.
  • Try to make it easy for readers to find the passage you're citing. This doesn't necessarily mean citing the exact page number and edition as this answer suggests (that seems like overkill IMHO, although it'd certainly be great if you did), but at least make it clear which volume, and preferably which chapter, you're quoting from. That way, if someone has the book to hand, it's reasonably easy for them to find and verify the quote themselves.

As an example, here's my own personal style of doing citations for a few well-known book series:

  • Lord of the Rings. Here I cite the Book and Chapter numbers and the chapter title. For example:

    -- Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter VIII: The Houses of Healing

    Sometimes I cite the volume (tFotR, tTT, or tRotK) instead of just saying LotR - I'm not fully consistent here.

  • Harry Potter. Here I cite the volume (PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, OotP, HBP, or DH) and the number and title of the chapter. For example:

    -- HP and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36: The Flaw in the Plan

  • Wheel of Time. As for Harry Potter. For example:

    -- Lord of Chaos, Chapter 3: A Woman's Eyes

  • This seems like a very reasonable answer. Before I accept it, would you mind resolving the discrepancy between how you describe the LotR citation (volume name, book number, chapter number, chapter name), and your example ("Lord of the Rings", book number, chapter number, chapter name). Sorry for being so pedantic.
    – Blackwood
    Aug 24, 2016 at 0:59
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    @Blackwood Whoops, sorry! Guess I'm not completely consistent after all :-) Edited.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 24, 2016 at 1:18
  • FWIW, I cite almost identically for LotR, with some formatting differences (I don't typically use the series name "The Lord of the Rings", only the volume name; I use Arabic numerals rather than Roman for chapter numbers, following the style I see in my copy; I use a comma, rather than a colon, before the chapter title, and I enclose the chapter name in quotation marks rather than putting it in italics). Thus: (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 1, "A Long-Expected Party"). Aug 26, 2016 at 17:51

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