Lord of the Rings, and the meaning of history

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1967

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The purpose of this thesis is to establish that J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, represents its author's view of the pattern of history. Chapter One contains an exposition of the general pattern of history which is a progressive cyclicism in the novel. Chapter Two deals with the specific aspect of the deterioration of an age as it is depicted in the world Tolkien has created. Chapter Three presents Tolkien's solution to that deterioration: the withdrawal and return of a hero whose journey inaugurates a new age. Chapter Four examines a few aspects of the language Tolkien uses to build his "feigned history". The time and space imagery, since it is quite appropriate to the structure of the novel, is explicated in detail in this chapter. Tolkien's notion of the pattern of history is most like that of the historian, Arnold Toynbee. I have therefore used Toynbee's principles as a basis for comparison with and analysis of Tolkien's world. The withdrawal and return of the hero is analyzed both in Toynbean terms and in terms of the stages of the "monomyth" as it has been formulated by Joseph Campbell.

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