This article should begin by quoting Tolkien:
"I wanted to create a collection of more or less interrelated legends, from the greatest, cosmogonic ones, down to the level of romantic tales [...] Some of the great tales I would write in their entirety, and others I would leave barely sketched with only a marked plan. The cycles should be combined into a majestic whole, leaving, however, room for other minds and hands that parse painting, music and drama. It was absurd."
Humphrey Carpenter - "J.R.R. Tolkien Biography"
If Tolkien were still alive, I'm sure he would be incredibly happy that other "minds and hands" are still using his work today.
One of those developers who is certainly inspired by his legacy is certainly Blizzard. There is a great deal of inspiration from Middle-earth in the Warcraft universe.
I decided to specify the most important ones, and they are:
1. FALLEN KNIGHTS
The Lord of the Rings features Nazgûl beings who were once noble, law-abiding people and came from good families. However, as men, their greatest desire was for LORDship. So they accepted the rings, which eventually deceived and defiled them. And so they went from being flawless kings to ghastly horsemen. This archetype of the fallen hero was later exemplified in many books, games and movies.
In the Warcraft universe, namely in Warcraft III: Reing of Chaos, there also appears a character who initially adhered to these noble values, only to turn to the dark side after acquiring a certain artifact. Arthas, of course, was the Prince of Lordaeron and a member of the Order of the Silver Hand, an organization consisting of paladins who were followers of the Light. After taking the Blade of the Sea on Northrend, he lost his soul and decided to serve King Lish, with whom he eventually merged in The Frozen Throne.
Arthas - art depicting his face
In World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King we also get a playable class DEATH KNIGHT (Death Knight). This is a group of reanimated knights, paladins, who have been subjugated to the will of the Lich King. However, at some point they regain their own will and decide to help the Horde and the Alliance in the fight against the Lich. However, they do not abandon necromancy or any other magical art that we could call black.
The first universe in which we could meet a race of "living trees" was Middle-earth. They were to protect the trees (everything that grows from the ground and has roots) from creatures that want to harm them. For example, from Dwarves or Humans who needed wood as a resource. They were friends with the Elves, who, like them, had a special love for nature.
Kard from the Lord of the Rings
In the games of the Warcraft series we also meet this race, or rather several types of them. The most important are the so called Ancient Half-Divine Trees, who were one of the first living beings on Azeroth. Just like in Tolkien's world, they protect the forests and life in them and work closely with the Elves (Night Elves in this case). However, it should be noted that in Warcraft their bond is much stronger.
The term Orc first appeared in The Lord of the Rings. However, in The Hobbit and early works on the trilogy, Tolkien referred to these creatures as Goblins and the larger and stronger individuals as Hobgoblins. The word Orc is Latin for demon or underworld dweller. Tolkien's Orcs were part of Sauron's army and in later fantasy worlds Orcs were mainly antagonists.
The orcs that are now on Azeroth rather bear no resemblance to those from Middle-earth. Well, maybe except that they also ride huge wolves and are sometimes portrayed as a bit silly. There are also a few clans left e.g. Blackrock, which we can consider as the evil ones. Generally they were closer in Warcraft Orcs & Humans to those of Lord of the Rings. Since then, however, they have undergone quite a transformation. Today we see them as honorable, seasoned in the art of war, but still peaceful towards other races. And for their momentary "bloodlust" the manipulations of the Burning Legion were responsible.
4. SPIDERS... GIANT SPIDERS!
In the bestiary of Middle-earth there are many fantastic creatures, such as the Great Spiders. Creatures living in the Dark Forest, which are intelligent, but not very clever. Shelobah, who captured Frodo in The Return of the King, belonged to this race, but was eventually killed by Sam with the Sting. Tolkien was aware of how many people suffer from arachnophobia and decided that an encounter between the heroes and a giant spider would be an exciting experience for them.
The Warcraft universe is also home to large spiders. In addition to the huge arachnids that we can come across in many places on Azeroth, the most important of these is the Nerubian race. This race created a vast underground empire that stretched across almost half of the frigid continent of Northrend. Unfortunately they were defeated by the Lich King in the so-called "Spider War" and most of the representatives of this species were killed, resurrected and conscripted into his army.
The archetype of the Dwarf, i.e. the one with a bushy beard, who mines, smiths, is stocky and very tough and his favourite weapon is an axe, was also developed by Tolkien.
Dwarves in the filming of The Hobbit
In the Warcraft universe dwarves very much resemble those from Middle-earth. Although they have no reason to dislike the Elves and are not as greedy as those from The Lord of the Ring and The Hobbit, the similarity is still very big. Even the dwarven capital Ironforge, which is entirely carved in the rock, was modeled on the dwarven cities in Middle-earth, such as Moria or Erebor.
Interesting fact: The Polish translation of Dwarf to Dwarf was invented by Marie Skibniewska, who translated the first edition of The Hobbit in the 60's. Although the term "dwarf" already existed in Poland, she felt that it didn't match the creatures invented by Tolkien. That's how the Dwarf was created. On the other hand, in Jerzy Łoziński's translation of The Lord of the Rings from the 90s, the translator used the term Krzat, Krzatowie. However, Łoziński's translation of The Lord of the Rings was met with a great deal of criticism and to this day we prefer to use Skibniewska's translation.
6. THE ELF
It is not that Tolkien invented Elves, for they had already appeared in pagan beliefs (e.g. Germanic), art and folklore. Earlier depictions of Elves, however, were quite different. They often resembled rather mischievous goblins, who liked to play tricks on people.
Tolkien created the archetype of the Elf that we know today, that is, with characteristics such as:
However, they were not creatures without flaws. Deep down they knew of their superiority over other races, so they could be conceited at times, often expressing pride or jealousy. They were also divided into several tribes ie: Vanyar, Ñoldor and Telerich.
Today, Elves are a very important element of the Warcraft universe. Like Tolkien's elves, they are also divided into several varieties, but here the division is a bit more distinct. They differ in skin color, height or culture. For example, while the Night Elves shun magic, the Blood Elves are addicted to it. Like their counterparts from Middle-earth they suffer from so called "superiority complex" and some representatives of the species are capable of betraying their race.
Tolkien is the forerunner of modern fantasy. It is his works that have guided subsequent generations of fantasy authors. We can't say that most of today's creators "copy" from Tolkien. We have to look at it in a way that his legacy has set the way for others, because he is a fantasy classic in his own right. It imposed certain standards that, consciously or not, are still used today.