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In recent decades interest to fantasy has grown considerably, which resulted in formation of a special culture and even new mythology, according to many critics. Tolkien is apparently one of the “founding fathers” of fantasy genre. Therefore, it appears that many of contemporary works have used his books as primary sources of materials and mythic structures rather than referring to ancient legends and myths. It is worth noting that that the books The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are based on earlier cultural patterns and folklore, though the author managed to create a unique world of his own. Concerning anthropological approach, it is also important to trace the core models that the texts contain, such as cultural concepts and analogies, class, gender, and ethnic identities in the imaginary world, borrowings from folklore and mythology of different nations, etc. Based on this analysis, it will be further argued that Tolkien creates a clear-cut system of values and identities, based on mythology and revealed through oppositions between various elements of the fantasy world.

Anthropology and Mythology in Tolkien’s Texts

Speaking about the anthropological aspects of Tolkien’s texts, it is worth saying that there is a close relation between anthropology and mythology. If anthropology of the books’ reality deals with their cultural content and social models, mythology is the means through which these patterns are addressed to the reader. As Hunter states, there are two aspects that relate Tolkien’s texts to mythology: “These contradictions organize themselves around two recurring oppositions that are almost always depicted in mythic terms: (1) myth as a "timeless" narrative without traceable origins versus timebound, contingent forms of narrative; and (2) myth as the narrativization of a shared communal identity and spirituality versus the fundamental social heterogeneity and alienating materialism of modern culture. Besides, historical implications and analogies are aimed at creating a link between fantasy heroes and the readers’ own cultural identities. For instance, several locations are presented by the author, which are not only background for narrative, but also are reflections of particular values and historical references. The Shire, The Middle Earth, the Ladn of Elves, the Mordor are not merely fantastic locations but cultural references, which emphasize another cultural analogy or a feature of identity. As has been mentioned above, the author’s way is to deal with oppositions, in order to make features of each of the opposed aspects visible to the readers. These oppositions are not always linear or polar, as it is the case with the good and the evil.

Indeed, many critics accuse Tolkien of oversimplified model of the world, in which only polarities can function. Characters are either totally positive or totally negative, which, as they claim, leaves no room for a deeper philosophy or a more sophisticated picture of the world. However, it is worth saying that these critics do not consider the fact that there are certain laws of the genre that dictate such pattern of a novel used by the author. Moreover, it is this simple split into opposition that helps him address the reader with his vision of identities that places and characters have. Thus, for instance, it is impossible to state that there is an opposition of good versus bad between the Shire and Lothlorien, as well as between the hobbits and the elves. In this respect, the approach of Tolkien is close to anthropological one, as the author is interested in depicting and explicating to the reader of cultural concepts and values that different nations have in the world that he created: “The three "nations" that the reader directly encounters are the Shire, Rohan, and Gondor, and each is distinctly different in its self-understanding and its relations with the "Englishness" that Tolkien wishes to recover”( Hunter 141). According to this observation, the opposition deals with more subtle aspects of ethnicity than contrasting different culture, as the author explicates several aspects that are present in the same culture and refers them to the English people. In other words, simplification of characters plays an important role, because it is not individualization but generalization, which Tolkien aims at. Hence, he takes several aspects of “Englishness” and embodies them into separate ethnic groups in his book. Such personification of concrete traits is interesting from anthropological perspective, as it helps study them more thoroughly: “Of these, the Shire and Rohan are the most explicit versions of Englishness, being recognizable as a fantasy version of the rural English Midlands and of Anglo-Saxon culture (Notably, they are also presented as the most immature of the fictional nations in the text as well, both having fallen into a kind of solipsistic trance about the changing world around them”. Hence, this evidence is quite convincing of anthropological efforts that Tolkien takes to represent. Moreover, he intends to recover ethnic identity of his compatriots and to reconstruct it into a new myth that will be culturally transmitted to further generations.

Mythological Quest in Tolkien’s Works

Another aspect that relates Tolkien’s works to mythology is a motif of a quest, which is present throughout the whole work. Typically, a mythological quest (and to a large extent a folklore one too) is a character’s journey that he makes in order to obtain a treasure. In the course of this journey, transformation of the character is inevitable, as it appears that the spiritual element is the major purpose of this traveling, but not a physical prize. Culturally, this motif has a clearly masculine reference and represents a process of a man maturing into a hero and shaping his own outlook. Actually, outlook implies “looking out”, hence leaving home is so important for a mythic character. One has to gain new experience to broaden his horizons in order to see one’s own true identity. Therefore, Frodo Baggins is an archetype of the hero whose aim is to grow up but not to lose his own identity either. The Shire is in many ways a utopic land, due to its peace and inertia. It is perfect, but this idyllic location provides no space for growth. The home is comfortable, but challenge is required since a character needs to become a hero. In this respect, the transfer from being part of the whole to becoming an individual takes place during Frodo’s journey, despite the fact that he has allies next to him.  Each character is tested separately, with the aim of being able  to  realize his own identity and moral code.

When discussing a mythological structure of the text, it is worth noting that timelessness and cycle are two elements that enable researcher to refer The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings to a cultural myth. Moreover, each element of ring reflects the nature of time in the narration, which is organized in cycles: “Experiences of what is carelessly called "mythic timelessness" are thus complicated and profoundly ambivalent in Middle-earth. Rivendell and Lothlorien are at once outside the ordinary experience of time and fated to pass away whatever the outcome of the War of the Ring; the Shire's prelapsarian insularity about its place in the wider world can likewise never be regained”. In order to get the necessary result, characters have to go in circles until a new quality is achieved. This implies an idea of history repeating, and values are transmitted between generations. Yet, despite being not specified in time, a myth should have an ending, a logical outcome that gives sense to the whole effort: “Frodo’s journey becomes the main action of the narrative, and with the end of Frodo’s quest, the destruction of the "ring of power" in the heartland of Sauron’s realm, comes the novel's climax”.

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Considering the materials and patterns that Tolkien used in order to create his own world , the researcher emphasizes his abundant reference of myths, folklore and ancient Anglo-Saxon epics such as Beowulf. Thus, Patrick Callahan in his essay traces the similarities between Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings using the example of one episode with barrow-treasure. Concerning anthropology, the researcher suggests that there is an opposition between two cultural polarities: the West and the East. “Most of the introductory episodes of the trilogy advance a plot which is centered upon the conflict between the forces of The West and the rising evil of the East under the Dark Lord”. It is obvious that such particular correlation between the west and the east is not accidental, but is a matter of cultural identity. Since the book uses the heritage of European mythology in the first place, it retains the same cultural references indicating such elements as fear of the different, belonging, assimilation, native and foreign, etc. Being a product of western civilization, Tolkien’s mythology as well as its predecessors naturally places the good in the west and the danger in the east, where the unknown is located. The unknown is traditionally related to danger, and hence the evil, which should be fought.

Yet, although Tolkien makes use of mythology and folklore to picture a new world, the question remains between cultural identities of fantasy and its primary sources. It is apparent that it is not mere borrowing, but a sophisticated synthesis of heritage and own creative thought. The reason is that the fantastic world should appear autonomous: “The creation of a fantastic world is not just a matter of introducing impossible people or things into an otherwise realistic world, blending the mimetic and the fantastic-although that is basically the strategy of much horror fiction.J.R.R. Tolkien may have been the first to articulate the principle of the Secondary World. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful "sub-cre- ator." He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter”.

The Theme of Race and Ethnicity in the Book

One of anthropological aspects that are important to the book is the theme of race and ethnicity. Although being partially reflection of the author’s contemplation on “Englishness”, as stated above, it nevertheless raises several other questions as well. First, the goodness and the badness are very sensitive matters discussed in anthropological contexts. In Tolkien’s world there are indeed nations which are either kind or cruel as their collective characteristics. Thus, the Orcs are a race which is totally negative, while the Elves are good-natured. Thus, a moral dilemma arises, whether this aspect of the novel can be considered as ethnicity because this will mean classifying races into bad and good, which is very provocative. On the other hand, if races are not considered as ethnical but cultural belonging, the discrimination element disappears. This becomes a proof of the idea that the surrounding generally determines who the people are. Yet, this also means that both Orcs and Elves are not free to choose because they are destined from their birth to be either good or evil. This provides another peculiar aspect of the book: humans are not depicted as either bad or good because they stand between the Orcs and the Elves in their personal development. The Elves are superhuman in many aspects, which determines another utopian sense of the theme. Yet, the idea that humans are a race that is free to choose their moral direction reflects Tolkien’s vision of people’s civilization at the contemporary stage of development. Speaking of Hobbits, presented as kind-natured but not smart enough, does not diminish their moral potential of being devoted and courageous. Besides, Tolkien draws a picture of transition between isolated existence of separate nations and a kind of mythological globalization, the attempts of which are made through the unprecedented Fellowship of the Ring: “The Big Folk and the Little Folk (as they called one another) were on friendly terms, minding their own affairs in their own ways, but both rightly regarding themselves as necessary parts of the Bree-folk. Nowhere else in the world was this peculiar (but excellent) arrangement to be found”. Thus, the author does not depict the world as a static place, but implies that dynamic changes are natural, although some conservative forces will not appreciate this transformation.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are books that can be called modern mythology in their own right. There are several ways in which anthropological approach can be applied when analyzing the text and a number of concepts originating from anthropology. Thus, mythology as both the material and the structure of the text are significant ways that help Tolkien express his vision of ethnic and cultural identity. Ethnicity and culture are indeed important concepts that are tackled by means of creating several mythic races, which have their own specifics. Besides, it should be noticed that these races can be understood in several ways: as elements of English identity or as correlation between the native and the foreign, in the course of which globalization and assimilation take place. Finally, timelessness, cycles, and a mythic motif of a quest are the elements that enable the researcher to consider the novel not only in literary but in cultural contexts.

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