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Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power

Jane Chance
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jct9b
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  • Book Info
    Lord of the Rings
    Book Description:

    " With New Line Cinema's production of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the popularity of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien is unparalleled. Tolkien's books continue to be bestsellers decades after their original publication. An epic in league with those of Spenser and Malory, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, begun during Hitler's rise to power, celebrates the insignificant individual as hero in the modern world. Jane Chance's critical appraisal of Tolkien's heroic masterwork is the first to explore its "mythology of power"--that is, how power, politics, and language interact. Chance looks beyond the fantastic, self-contained world of Middle-earth to the twentieth-century parallels presented in the trilogy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2805-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note on the References and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chronology: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Life and Works
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  5. 1 Introduction: A Voice for the Dispossessed
    (pp. 1-25)

    The Lord of the Ringsis generally recognized today as a powerful work of creative imagination whose levels of understanding are dependent on the synthesis and assimilation of a variety of medieval and modern materials. The masterpiece offers a twentieth-century understanding of the nature of good and evil, the value of community, the natural order of the universe, and the singularity of the individual. Against the backdrop of the modern age, with which mechanization and the totalitarianism of Big Brother are popularly associated and in which individual freedom may seem to have counted for little, Tolkien wrote his narrative of...

  6. 2 “Queer” Hobbits: The Problem of Difference in the Shire
    (pp. 26-37)

    From the very beginning ofLotR,the issue of social and cultural difference marks the speech and behavior of the Hobbits in their home environment, creating a miniature war among its inhabitants. The reader does not at first notice this difference because the Shire exudes a pastoral innocence that masks the seeds of its potential destruction. And Gandalf, the norm for correct perspective throughout, both for the Fellowship and for us as readers, worries that the “charming, absurd, helpless hobbits” (1:79) in the Shire might become enslaved by Sauron. These Hobbits Gandalf identifies as the “kind, jolly, stupid Bolgers, Hornblowers,...

  7. 3 The Political Hobbit: The Fellowship of the Ring
    (pp. 38-58)

    The word “queer” serves powerfully to fix and type Bilbo and then Frodo for some of the inhabitants of Hobbiton, illustrating the ability of language to exert control over others by playing on their fears of difference and that which is foreign. Tolkien well understood the power of the written and spoken word, philologist that he was—he knew that words were magic. As his former student S.T.R.O. d’Ardenne has noted, “Tolkien belonged to that very rare class of linguists, now becoming extinct, who... could understand and recapture the glamour of ‘the Word.’ ‘In the beginning was the Word, and...

  8. 4 Knowledge, Language, and Power: The Two Towers
    (pp. 59-94)

    Towers,as much as any of the three parts ofThe Lord of the Rings,dramatizes the power of language to change, control, dominate—and release. The diminution of intelligent life subverted by its own desires is reflected in the simple baby talk of Gollum to his Ring, his “Precious.” And the elevation of intelligent life to supernatural being—the Elves—is similarly reflected in their language and song, their ability as Namers, their hold on the past: “Elves made all the old words” (2:85). Between these two extremes appear other species and types, such as the greedy Orcs (like...

  9. 5 Power and the Community: The Return of the King
    (pp. 95-127)

    InTowersthe splitting of the narrative into two strands—Frodo and Sam journeying to Mount Doom and the remainder of the surviving Company regrouping—leads to further subdivision at the end. First, Frodo is left for dead at the Pass and Sam journeys on alone, and, second, Merry joins Théoden, while Pippin and Gandalf strike out for Gondor. This decimation of both Company and narrative is knitted up in the aptly named third volume,Return,the “Book of Returns.” Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli ride together to summon the Dead in chapter 2, while Théoden, Merry, and the Riders of...

  10. 6 Conclusion: Heroic Narrative and the Power of Structure
    (pp. 128-138)

    Joseph Campbell, inThe Hero with a Thousand Faces,has designated “Departure” and “Return” the significant phases in the monomyth of the hero’s quest.⁵⁵ So, too, do they mark the beginning and end of Tolkien’s epic-romance. What the four Hobbits learn on their adventures both wounds and heals them and the Shire. The three volumes, as we have demonstrated, structure those adventures in similar ways, whatever the actual focus—whether individual or community, whether politics, knowledge, or kingship. Indeed, the heroic narrative in each of the six books repeats a single structure, what might be termed the epic structure of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 139-144)
  12. An Annotated Bibliography: Recommended Works by and about Tolkien
    (pp. 145-152)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 153-154)
  14. Index
    (pp. 155-163)