Lord of the Rings: Picked Apart

Sean Novak

Imagine yourself in a pre-industrial world full of mystery and magic. Imagine a world full of monsters, demons, and danger, as well as a world full of friends, fairies, good wizards, and adventure. In doing so you have just taken your first step onto a vast world created by author and scholar John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Tolkien became fascinated by language at an early age during his schooling, in particularly, the languages of Northern Europe, both ancient and modern. This affinity for language did not only lead to his profession, but also his private hobby, the invention of languages. His broad knowledge eventually led to the development of his opinions about Myth and the importance of stories. All these various perspectives: language, the heroic tradition, and Myth, as well as deeply-held beliefs in Catholic Christianity work together in all of his works. The main elements of Tolkien?s works are Good versus Evil, characters of Christian and anti-Christian origin, and the power of imagination.


In Tolkien world, evil is the antithesis of creativity, and is dependent on destruction and ruin for its basis. Conversely, goodness is associated with the beauty of creation as well as the preservation of anything that is created. The symbolic nature of these two ideologies is represented in the Elven Rings, which symbolize goodness, and the One Ring, which is wholly evil. A main theme of "The Hobbit", then, is the struggle within our own free will between good will and evil. "Early in the (Lord of the Rings) narrative, Frodo recalls that his uncle Bilbo, especially during his later years, was fond of declaring that? there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was it tributary." (Wood, 208)


Bilbo, the main character of "The Hobbit", often displayed his goodness throughout Tolkien?s novel. One example of this goodness is when he decides to let the evil and corrupt Gollum live, out of pity for him, in the dark caves under the mountain. Bilbo could have easily slain the horrid creature mainly because of the ring, which he was wearing at that time, gave him the power of invisibility. Instead, he risked his life to let the Gollum live by quickly jumping past the evil creature, thereby escaping death of either character. Gandalf, in a later narrative, lectures Frodo by praising Bilbo?s act of pity upon Gollum. Gandalf?s words were, "Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy; not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded Frodo." For Gollum, later in the novel, saved Frodo from becoming possessed by the Ring of power. "Many that live deserves death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement?" (Wood, 208)


Another form of goodness that is displayed throughout "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" is Bilbo and Frodo?s actions of self-sacrifice. In "The Hobbit" there are two instances in which villains caught the dwarves, Bilbo?s fellow adventurers. Instead of fleeing their enemies, Bilbo risked his life to save the dwarves from the clutches of evil. One instance of this is when a clan of unusually large spiders captured Bilbo?s companions and planned to eat them. Bilbo then devised a plan to distract the spiders away from their victims and then silently backtracked to his companions. He then cut the dwarves from the sticky spider webs with which they were tied and, together, they fought their way to safety. Also, Frodo, in "The Lord of the Rings" was challenged with the destruction of the all-evil and corrupting One Ring of power. In doing so, Frodo sacrificed his life. "We should also remember that Frodo?s self-sacrifice is not only for the defeat of evil; it is also for the good of society, for the whole community of created beings. This suggests, in turn, that in the mind of the fantasist, society is worth saving." (Evans, 481)


As opposed to the good deeds and morals portrayed by Bilbo and his companions, there are many foul and unholy creatures that lurk in the pages of Tolkien?s works, which commit horrible acts. One of the most horrid of the acts in "The Hobbit" was the corruption of Gollum. Gollum was not always the slimy, cave dwelling, dangerous monster that