This article is from the Tolkien FAQ, by William D.B. Loos firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
The fiction Tolkien sought to maintain was that _The Lord of the
Rings_ (and _The Hobbit_ and the Silmarillion) were actually ancient
manuscripts (written by Frodo and Bilbo, respectively) of which he was
merely the editor and translator (a situation identical to much of his
scholarly work). He never stated this directly but it is implicit in
the way in which many sections of LoTR outside the story are written.
Thus, the Prologue is plainly written as though by a modern editor
describing an ancient time. Other examples are the introductory note
to the revised edition of _The Hobbit_, the Preface to _The Adventures
of Tom Bombadil_, and parts of the Appendices, especially the intro-
ductory note to Appendix A, Appendix D, and Appendix F. Most inter-
esting of all is the Note on the Shire Records, where Tolkien further
simulates a real situation by inventing a manuscript tradition (the
suggestion was that Frodo's original manuscript didn't survive but
that a series of copies had been made, one of which had come into
This entire notion was by no means a new idea: many authors have
pretended that their fantasies were "true" stories of some ancient
time. Few, however, have done so as thoroughly and successfully as
did Tolkien. The most effective component of his pretense was the
linguistic aspects of Middle-earth, for he was uniquely qualified to
pose as the "translator" of the manuscripts (see FAQ, Tolkien, 4).
FR, Prologue, Note on the Shire Records;
RK, Appendix A, Appendix D, Appendix F;