Lord of the Rings Taiwanese Tarot

Review by Saskia Jansen 


When I first read about this deck, I was quite excited. I love the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies and I love tarot, so naturally a combination of the two would be wonderful. Of course, there is the U.S. Games LOTR Tarot, but I find that one lacking in many ways. The challenge: to find a deck that would actually do justice to both.


Unfortunately, I have to say that this version is not it. If anything, it is even more seriously lacking. The only thing this deck has going for it is that it uses the imagery of the LOTR films, which makes it a ‘must-have’ for LOTR fans who collect the movie memorabilia.


The quality of this publication is actually quite nice. Like most of the new Taiwanese releases, the cards are a good size and are printed on nice cardstock. But the laminate is rather sticky, which makes shuffling hard. The LOTR Taiwanese Tarot comes in a green cardboard box that looks like an official movie release. Even the copyright of New Line Cinema can be found on the box. However, looking at the overall quality of the deck and the fact that it is only marketed in Taiwan, I am pretty sure that New Line Cinema never gave permission to the publisher to make this set.


On to the cards themselves, starting with the Fool. This card features Gollum, just like in the U.S. Games version. It makes me wonder if the LOTR tarot makers just never learn. Frodo would be a much better choice here. And as for Gollum, I personally would like to see him on the Moon card, a card that is given to Saruman in this deck.


The Magician is Gandalf, of course. Who else? GaladriNl is the High Priestess, a choice that actually makes sense, especially compared to the U.S. Games version. Empress and Emperor are Arwen and Aragorn, and they are also featured as a couple on the Lovers card. The Hierophant is…right, Gandalf again. This time he crowns Aragorn.


The Hermit shows Sam holding the Vial of Eärendil while fighting off Shelob. While this is a nice image and there is a light on the card, it doesn’t fit at all with the introspective nature of The Hermit. The Hanged Man is Treebeard, of all characters. I don’t see this correspondence at all. How is Treebeard ‘hung up’ or an example of self-sacrifice?


On the Death card, a good example of transformation (and death) from LOTR would be Gandalf fighting the Balrog. Even Boromir would fit on this card. Instead we get one of the Nazgul. It looks scary, but the choice could be better. The Tower is the Eye of Sauron on top of the tower of Barad-dfr. Personally, I would have chosen the image where the Tower collapses after Sauron has been defeated. The Star is Arwen...again. I guess we could expect that, since she is known as Arwen Evenstar. Boromir is blowing the horn on ‘his’ Judgement day. And the World card is simple: one of the advertisement posters for the ‘Return of the King’ movie.


Someone on a newsgroup referred to Pentacles in this deck as the suit of Legolas, due to the many cards attributed to him. Likewise I would name the Wands the suit of Gandalf, since he is featured on at least seven cards. That is definitely overkill, especially since several other characters are totally missing, even those that play a major role in the movies and books. There is no trace of Gimli, Faramir or Theoden King in the whole deck. And Bilbo got only one card.


Eowyn is the Queen of Wands. I think that fits very well. We also find her on the Eight and Nine of Cups. Why? If those cards with these images were the Eight and the Nine of Swords, it would have fit very well. Alas, wrong suit. I am quite annoyed by the Ace of Cups. To me, this is a card of love and compassion. So, what is Denethor doing on this card? Ok, so he holds up a cup. So what? He is a prime example of intolerance. Anduril as the Ace of Swords is a very predictable choice.


The Four of Cups is one of the few cards that I actually like, although I personally would have put the four hobbits drinking in the Green Dragon on the Three of Cups. Another good choice is Aragorn receiving the sword of Anduril on the Three of Swords. I remember that moment from the movie as quite an emotional one, not devoid of grief and sadness. I also like the choice for Smeagol with the ring on the Four of Pentacles. You can be sure he won't want to part with his treasure.


Of course, I could go on and on about how good--and mostly how bad--the choices are for the minors. But then this review would never end. It is really a pity that this deck has been put together with so little understanding of tarot. The only purpose seems to be to show images of the most popular LOTR characters.


Nevertheless, I like having the deck; that is mostly due to the fact that I am a real LOTR movie fan. I recommend this deck only for LOTR fans who like movie memorabilia. Otherwise, I would not buy it.


I bought my copy on eBay. It might be possible to buy this deck here.


Saskia Jansen is a tarot collector and reader from the Netherlands. She bought her first tarot deck in 1996 and has been hooked ever since. Her main interest is in historical Rider Waite Smith decks and clones, and is the proud possessor of a Roses and Lilies Pamela-A Tarot. Her collection currently contains more than 600 tarot decks.


Review © 2004 Saskia Jansen
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes