significance of Tolkien's work

Tolkien's life

Tolkien's intentions and attitudes regarding his work

influences on Tolkien:



the Inklings




virtue and its dependence upon bucolic life,

political community,


the nature of evil

the nature of political evil



the necessity of myth for political preservation,

nature (cf. environmentalism)

"nature" is a larger theme than environmentalism. we might say that environmentalism is a response to a particular conception of nature

the inescapably corrupting influence of power

women in leadership

--Tolkien and "Faerie"

"Tree and Leaf"

myth and "reality"


fairy tales and children

magic vs. supernatural

THE HOBBIT: Political Themes Pertinent to LOTR

(Page references to The Hobbit or There and Back Again, Revisted Edition, Ballantine Books, New York)

--"political" themes: understood in broad sense. What do we mean by "politics"

--the West

--the political role of the "wizard" (p. 56)
 who is Gandalf? (p. 295) 
(is Gandalf tempted by power and treasure?) cf. statement to Frodo (I would use the ring for good but it would destroy me)
political counsel, cabinets, FDR admin., Bush admin.

----the nature of Elves (p. 56, 167) 
woodelves (p. 157) cf. the LakeMen (p. 173) 

--human nature

edge of the "wild', Beorn (p. 138)

--Bilbo's "Tookish" side (p. 2,3)
--adventure and human flourishing (p. 4,5,54) 
--Bilbo grows into his role (p. 126, 212)
--heroism, humility (p. 22)
--telos for human beings, growth in virtue, character) What is more important in the Hobbit? Recovering the gold or Bilbo's grwoth in character? What is more important in the LOTR? Destroying the ring or Frodo's growth in character? 
p. 293-4

Telos - This Aristotelian term can be translated variously as “end,” “goal,” or “purpose.” According to Aristotle, we have a telos as humans, which it is our goal to fulfill. This telos is based on our uniquely human capacity for rational thought. Aristotle’s view of humans having a telos based in our rationality leads directly to his conclusion in Book X that contemplation is the highest human good.

adventure therapy, extreme sports

St. John of the Cross
Poem: Adventure in God

--value of an ordinary life (p. 290)

--Heroism (p. 21ff )

--diversity and equality

--Hope v Optimism (p. 221, 225).

--the ring and power (chapter 5 "Riddles in the Dark"), the sacred nature of riddles (p. 80); the "ring of power" (p. 81)
invisibility and power )p. 85 

--power and temptation: the gold, the Arkenstone (cf. with the Ring)

--the nature of evil (p. 51); persistent nature of Evil p. 299.

--Providence (p. 306)

--home and family, traditional values, (p. 55) (cf. Aristotle in Politics, Edmund Burke's "little platooons"); p. 274; p. 290, p. 294.

--international alliances (p. 281)

--technology, utility, Tolkien's complaint against goblins (p. 62)

--spiders (p. 156)

--shortcuts (p. 137)

--humor: The Hobbit more humorous than LOTR; humor usually at Bilbo's expense. A more serious tone to the LOTR.



1. Character of Hobbits
p. 5

2. Pipe-weed

3. Government



--Is Aragorn Aristotle's ideal monarch?

--Is Aragorn Plato's philosopher king?

--What are Boromir's flaws as a leader that lead to his demise?

--What does Tolkien think of democracy? What are the examples of democracy in the LOTR?

--What does Tolkien think of aristocracy? For Tokien, is aristocracy preferable to democracy?

--Why did Tolkien think western civilization is in peril? What is the nature of the danger?

--What influence did WWI have on the LOTR?

--Is the Peter Jackson film adaptation faithful to the spirit of LOTR? In what ways does it differ?

--What impact did September 11, 2001 have on the filming of LOTR?

--Who are the heroes in LOTR?

--What is Tolkien's view of nature in LOTR? What is the difference, philosophically and politically, between Tolkien's view of nature and the more contemporary idea of "environmentalism." Would Tolkien be in support of  contemporary environmentalism?

--Does a country need a kind of national "mythology" for its political well-being?

--For Tolkien, does the middle-class possess a kind of ordinary heroism that is needed today? How does this relate to Aristotle's emphasis on the middle class? Explain.

--What does Tolkien tell us about political legitimacy through his character Denethor?

--What does Gollum tell us about human nature?

--What does Tolkien teach about communitarianism vs. individualism?

--Explain the role of women in positions of leadership and influence in LOTR. Was Tolkien ahead of his political time?

© Hank Edmondson 2012