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This is probably going to be a rather detailed set of answers. Hopefully someone can come up with a "short list" of common themes.

Both sets of books have a distinctive theme of good vs. evil, but many fantasy books have those themes. Tolkien has themes of redemption, divine providence, salvation, and sacrificial love. Are those themes also present in Jordan's books? Or do the themes contrast?

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Wikipedia has a few for individual books. Here is a quote from the EotW entry:

Robert Jordan has stated that he consciously intended the early chapters of The Eye of the World to evoke the Shire of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Other strong allusions to The Lord of the Rings exist as well, particularly the incorporeal and invisible Dark Lord, the dark home realm of Mordor compared to Thakan'dar (as well as Shayol Ghul to the fiery pit of Mount Doom). Additional similarities exist between Trollocs and Orcs, Myrddraal and Nazgûl, Padan Fain and Gollum, Lan and Aragorn, Moiraine and Gandalf, Baerlon and Bree, The Mountains of Mist and The Misty Mountains, The Ways and Moria, The Black Wind and The Balrog, & The Green Man and Treebeard.

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As already stated, the similarities are greatest towards the start of the series. The plots are as follows:

Hero (and friends) living in rural utopia. Along comes a wise old man (woman), with threats of doom if the hero does not come with them on a journey. The threat, of course, is an evil creature who wishes to destroy the world and then rule over it. This evil creature was defeated a few thousand years and exiled but now he's back for revenge. The hero and a few friends leave on a quest towards wisdom, but find that their roles are much bigger.

But other than this (and the obvious similarities between the different species/characters/places), there are few similarities and many dissimilarities.

  • Good vs. evil:JRRT takes a very black-and-white approach to good and evil. Robert Jordan has a much more grayer approach.
  • World-building:JRRT does impressive world building, but I think it pales in comparison to Jordan's. JRRT is able to think of places and their histories, but really is not able to make up cultures. Jordan, on the other hand, makes up different cultures as well.
  • Status-For JRRT, blood is everything. Royals are a class apart. Women are little more than damsels-in-distress. Everybody seems to accept their status in life. For Jordan, bloodlines are important, but so is ability. Women are important players in the game. Everybody is always struggling to maintain/improve their status.
  • Character depth-In LoTR, characters are usually quite abstract or one-dimensional. Once you read about a character, there shall be no surprise regarding his decision. They are either good or bad. RJ, on the other hand, revels in surprises when it comes to characters. Similarly, love is so abstract in LoTR, but more earthly in WoT.

So though the plots seem to be very similar in LoTR and WoT, the writing style is more complex in WoT (probably because it was written 40-50 years later and had more diverse writings to draw upon for style.)

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    Funny, I would have made almost exactly the opposite points--Jordan has very black black, but doesn't have the courtesy to have equally white white; Tolkien's world-building is incredibly immersive and interconnected while Jordan's feels gratuitous; the main character in LotR is of no particular standing, a very decent hobbit no doubt, but really, just a hobbit vs. the Dragon Reborn (point taken about women, though--Eowyn is not enough of an exception to count); and a level of consistency and planning and thinking and worrying among the Wise in LotR so they (and we) are rarely surprised. – Rex Kerr May 13 '11 at 12:39
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    @Rex Kerr:I would agree that quality of world-building is somewhat subjective. Re:status however, if you forget the hobbits, everybody significant in LoTR seems to be a lord. Plus there are no romances between aristocrats and non-aristocrats and good qualities almost always seem to be attributed to blood. – apoorv020 May 13 '11 at 14:09
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    Considering the world building that Tolkien did, the character back stories presented in the appendicies and the other "Unfinished writings", I'll have to strongly disagree with all the points made in this answer. – TristaanOgre May 14 '11 at 4:09
  • In other words, RJ took a lot of ideas from JRRT but did it better. Yes. +1: perfect answer. – Rand al'Thor Jul 16 '15 at 23:11
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    @b1nary.atr0phy Sure, but some similarities are far too big to be a coincidence! Story starts with sinister black rider appearing in out-of-the-way countryside place; 'king'/heir with no kingdom who wanders and is good with a sword; wise guiding figure who apparently sacrifices themselves to take a foe down with them but later returns; supporting character named Perrin/Pippin; etc. Don't get me wrong: I'm the biggest Jordan fan on this site! But I do accept that he (like pretty much every other fantasy author in our time) took ideas from Tolkien. – Rand al'Thor Oct 12 '15 at 23:06
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Since you asked about themes, and not plot or characters, I think it's worth mentioning that the main themes in WoT are pretty distinct from LotR.

RJ hammers us with the theme of information fading and becoming corrupted over time. In Tolkien's world, this really doesn't happen: legends are generally accepted as "true" even when they occurred thousands of years in the past.

The other major themes in WoT include: people finding strength through diversity (especially gender, but also cultural diversity), and the struggle between freedom of choice and fate/prophecy. These aren't really major ideas in LotR.

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