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Passages Into and Out of Middle Earth
Henry Atmore

J.R.R Tolkien, it has been said, saw his lifework not as invention but retrieval: the recovery of an English body of legend through the piecing together of fragments of race memory (Shippey, J.R.R.Tolkien xv). There is plenty in Tolkien to suggest that this was indeed what he thought he was doing - the forging of what he called a legendarium "which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country" (Letters 144). But there is also enough equivocation to tell a more interesting story. In 1954, shortly after the publication of LOTR, he wrote: "though it seems to have grown out of hand, so that parts seem (to me) rather revealed through me than by me - its purpose is still largely literary" (Letters 189). That "largely literary" clears a lot of ground. It does, to be sure, leave open the possibility that in a sense he was not writing literature at all, and should not be judged as if he were. On questions of prose style, Tolkien always held that while his interests might be antiquarian, and his language clumsy, they were suited to his endeavour. He was a bard, a mythmaker, not a novelist. Thus also his hints, how ironic it is difficult to tell, that some form of metempsychotic agency bore ultimate responsibility for Middle-Earth: the stories that would make up the Silmarillion, he wrote, "arose in my mind as given...always I had the sense of recording what was already 'there', somewhere: not of 'inventing'" (Letters 144-145). Tolkien was at pains to stress that Middle-Earth was not a "never-never land" sprung, unmediated, from the imagination of its creator. The "history" recounted in the Silmarillion and LOTR "is supposed to take place in a period of the actual Old World of this planet" (Letters 220). It was an account, amongst other things, of how we had come to our present pass (ring roads, council sinks, rationing, Hitler and so on), and what had been lost, what disenchantments suffered, in the process.

This was the Tolkien who enjoyed such extraordinary and in many ways inexplicable success in the Age of Aquarius – a voice out of the past, an emissary from a vanished world presenting himself at the court of the new. He had, as one would expect, mixed feelings about what was made of him in the Sixties. He welcomed the money (like all professors he considered himself hard done by, pension-wise) but was uncomfortable with the lionization; the formation of the New York Tolkien Society, he wrote to W.H. Auden, filled him with "alarm and despondency" (Letters 359). But his feeling that his intentions were being misread predated his appropriation by the counterculture by a good decade. The context of the "largely literary" remark was a letter to Peter Hastings, manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford, who had been wrestling with the theological implications of LOTR. The letter was an avowal of distance from the more literal-minded if his admirers. Tolkien wrote: "You have at any rate paid me the compliment of taking me seriously; though I cannot help wondering whether it is not 'too seriously', or in the wrong direction." Hastings had worried about the existence of inherently evil classes of beings in Middle Earth - Trolls, and especially Orcs – because of the Manichean, and therefore heretical, implication of an autonomous Evil creative principle at work. This kind of thing did interest and bother Tolkien. But faced with so weighty an exegetical demand he was moved to point out that LOTR was a work of fiction, not an embellishment of the Book of Genesis: "The tale is after all in the ultimate analysis a tale, a piece of literature, intended to have literary effect, and not real history." Readers hewing to the idea that Middle Earth was or had been real had succumbed to "the device adopted...of giving its setting an historical air or feeling." He is referring to the maps, scripts, genealogies, legends and flowers to be found in the books, which are devices, reality effects, not reality as anyone with common sense would understand it. There was no reason why Middle Earth should not be "fundamentally 'wrong' from the point of view of Reality" ("external reality" Tolkien found it necessary to add); his only duty, as an author, was to make his world consistent with itself (Letters 188)).

" seem (to me) rather revealed through me than by me - its purpose is still largely literary" gives two conflicting views of Tolkien's world-making. Part of him was convinced that the tales of Middle Earth were told not by him so much as to or through him. Who or what he thought was doing the telling is a difficult question, to which I will return. The point here is that, on Tolkien's account, the tales were testified to by something or someone other than their author. This was a first step towards sloughing off the generic limitations of fantasy, towards a truth of sorts - the notion of truth we deploy when we believe x because y corroborates what he is saying. Taking Tolkien seriously here involves acknowledging that he both required and anticipated more of his readers than suspension of disbelief, and that he was not wrong to do so. He required and anticipated belief - finding it good, i.e. believable – and assent – finding it good, i.e. morally true - if not to the actuality of Middle Earth, then at least to its possibility. Hence the prickliness of Tolkien, at times, and his posthumous apologists, often. You are either for him and his world or against them; they inspire devotion or rejection, but rarely anything in between. Critics have expressed outrage that assent – to fairies, to magic rings, to hobbits! – should ever have been asked of them. Then, there have been plenty who have been receptive, readers less scrupulous, or perhaps more courageous, than the nay-sayers. The enthusiasm and sophistication of Tolkien fandom well attests to this. It may be that the majority of readers are like me and fall somewhere in between, but if so we have been a silent majority.

An equally reasonable course, on Tolkien's own admission, is not to take these pronouncements too seriously. Vatic intimations of mysterious influences on the creative process might be interpreted as another of Tolkien's reality effects (and a venerable one; the master of this kind of authorial slight of hand was Walter Scott). After all, third-person testimony testified to only by the second-person hardly counts as such. It was vital to Tolkien's purposes for Middle Earth to appear real. What better way of achieving an illusion of reality than by requiring readers to deny the fact of the illusion? He was not the first author to have picked up on the devious potential of testimony. Nor is it an accident that he should have done so in the writing of a piece of genre fiction. Kepler's Dream, Gulliver's Travels, The Time Machine, Edgar Rice Burroughs' planetary romances - many of the standard candidates for the ur-SF crown - all involve considerations of testimony; while for detective fiction, starting with The Moonstone, it has obviously been crucial. Where Tolkien was a pioneer was in his application of fictive testimony not to events (journeys, over seas, to the stars, through time; murders, thefts) but to a whole world ('On Fairy-stories' 40)). A world, moreover, that was of necessity inaccessible other than through the skein of testimony that had gone into its construction – a place to which the reader could not travel, however much he or she might want to. Tolkien, then, was not asking for belief in Middle Earth; he was asking for recognition of the labour involved in making it detailed. As he put it in 'On Fairy-stories': "To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible...will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft" ((70)). He was so po-faced about the matter (the introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring is the locus classicus, with its disquisitions on feet, pipe-weed, etc.) that it is impossible to tell whether he was joking.

For a fairytale to satisfy, then, it has to be read as something other than an illusion. It has to inspire belief. Were the enchantment to be explained away, as a dream for example, it would no longer be an enchantment. An author stooping to rationalization "cheats deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faërie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder" ('On Fairy-stories' 42). It is tempting, in turn, to explain away this primal desire. We could consider the fairytale's temporal and topographic resemblances to the mimetic compromises at work in all works of fiction: the stops and starts, the close-ups and elisions, the telescoping of time and space that, if not essential to narrative, are vital if any pleasure is to be got from it 1. (Ironically, one of Tolkien's chief defects as a storyteller is his inability to let anybody go from A to B without something happening to them: an ambush, a dream, a discussion of Time, Honour, Despair or whatnot.) Fairyland is, on this understanding, the germ of story nested in the mundane, whatever enables us, whenever we open a book, to be elsewhere and elsewhen, and to discover meaning therein.

Tolkien would have baulked at this, and so do I. LOTR was not like any other book I read as a child (and it is certainly not like any book I have read since), not even books like Prince Caspian or Moominland in Midwinter, which made use of similar devices and shared its crepuscular ambience. (Moominland in Midwinter, incidentally, is one of the few of these an intelligent adult could hope to read with pleasure.)) The salient feature of Middle Earth was distance, and the desire it arouses is founded upon frustration. Tolkien described his own youthful encounters with fairytales in the same terms: "Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded." But he also pointed to the difference between the enchanter and the enchanted, the elf and the human dreaming the elven dream; between, we might add, Tolkien and his readership. "Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie" ('On Fairy-stories' 64)). Tolkien wrote these words in 1938, just as he was getting started on the sequel to The Hobbit, in the process of putting himself on the other side of the magic mirror, becoming a maker. All but a handful of Tolkien's readers lack that creative capacity. So they are left with "glimpsing," and a tremendous desire to believe (stronger, perhaps, than Tolkien's, who could afford detachment), and nothing, when it came down to it, to believe in; on first reading LOTR, aged eleven, I remember indulging a not-wholly-wretched sense of how little all this would avail me.

Now, I can appreciate now the irony of not being able to recapture what that felt like. I have passed the test; I know that it is in the nature of this kind of desire to be thwarted. Then, there was magic in the realization, but also in the clinging to its opposite, my ignorance of my new condition. We call memory hazy, and one of the things we mean is that what we truly want to remember is just out of reach, and that it is this maddening not-quite-proximity to experience that makes the objective so desirable. If the bliss were real it would not be bliss, but equally, were it wholly unreal – a delusion, a fantasy – how could it have snagged on the memory? Tolkien's genius is to weave this irresolution into the fabric of an imagined world that grows more inaccessible the more it looks like the real thing.

LOTR is famously sexless. In this respect it obviously fails to measure up to reality. Nevertheless, one would struggle to make sense of the trilogy without recourse to Tolkien's "primal desire." Take the problem of evil. A common complaint is that the bad guys are not, well, bad enough. The Orcs are souped-up squaddies, the Nazgûl sinister travelling salesmen; Saruman is a dork, Sauron an eye. The Ring is puny. As for the moral many have read into the tale - a variant on Lord Acton's 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely' - its only virtue lies in its universality. It can't have been news to anybody in the 1950s. Besides, it doesn't bear much relation to what actually transpires in LOTR. Only Sauron wields absolute power and yes, he is evil, but what does he do? Gandalf returns from his encounter with the Balrog practically deified, and he doesn't come to any moral harm. Gollum possesses the Ring for five hundred years and is afraid of his own shadow. Tolkien's message seems rather that the desire for power corrupts, whether or not it is attained, perhaps even in proportion to the extent that it is unattainable; one of Frodo's saving graces is his humility. The Ring stands for neither power nor corruption, but want. It could be seen as an instantiation of the perils of autoeroticism - desire slaked on eidolons of others, but ravening on oneself. Every time Frodo slips it onto his finger he dies a little bit more; by the end of The Return of the King he is listlessness personified, like something out of a Victorian sexual health manual, an example to set before all youngsters of the dangers of an undue fascination with their private parts. 2  I doubt if many of Tolkien's readers want their desire to portend anything so grubby as a loss of innocence, although that, in part, is what it often is.

But, this said, Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, and a serious one. His impatience with allegorical interpretations - "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations" (Fellowship xviii), "my mind does not work allegorically" (Letters 174) - did not mean that his books were not religious in intent. This is plainly the case with The Silmarillion, less so with LOTR, but still: "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but consciously in the religion" (172). When he wrote, a year before the publication of LOTR, "It is, I suppose, fundamentally concerned with the problem of the relation of Art (and Sub-creation) and Primary Reality" (145), he was discussing sin.

His first concern was to absolve the fantastic imagination of any diabolic connection. Illusion is traditionally the Devil's work; the inhabitants of Faërie - witches, wizards, elves, sprites, goblins - are the Devil's creatures. Tolkien gave short shrift to any depreciation of fantasy on these grounds: "That the images are of things not in the primary world (if that indeed is possible) is a virtue, not a vice" ('On Fairy-stories' 69). On the contrary, good fantasy, insofar as it inspires belief, is exalted: "it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world" (88). This leads to a second, for Tolkien more fruitful, problem. World-makers must always be on guard against hubris. By describing his work as "Sub-creation" Tolkien distinguished it from the primary Divine act of world-making. Yet the objection remains. Sub-creation is still creation, and art not derived in any obvious way from "Primary Reality" can be construed as a usurpation of a Divine prerogative. (Tolkien had read his Milton; Paradise Lost is perhaps the single most powerful influence upon The Silmarillion.) Very few readers and commentators raised the question, but it troubled Tolkien. His vacillation between scholarly and ludic conceptions of what he was up to comes into clearer focus. If his work were retrieval then it was anchored in reality. Pagan reality, maybe, but reality nonetheless. If, on the other hand, the secondary status of Middle Earth were clearly demarcated, then its teeth would be drawn; it would have the power to entertain, or to edify, but not to deceive. In addition, Tolkien the Catholic will insist that everything we call reality is secondary reality, save what we come to know through reading the Gospels, and what of that knowledge we can impart to our earthly labours (87-90). Minus the religiosity, this is a common world-view among the fantasy-inclined; some have gone so far as to substitute Tolkien for the Bible, of which he would assuredly not have approved.

"Sub-creation" is, then, born of sin. "Refracted Light" is not the "single White" of pure divinity ('On Fairy-stories' 74; Flieger, Splintered Light); a book like LOTR is a groping in the darkness of our fallen condition. But it is also, potentially, an "effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation" ('On Fairy-stories' 89), for while refracted light may not be pure, it can be pleasing. What are the limitations of fantasy? Is it possible, through someone like Tolkien, to dream our way back into Paradise? Is Faërie Eden in another guise? The answer, for Tolkien, was a qualified 'no' (see Letters 109-111).

The Silmarillion tells of not one but three falls from grace. Two have clear Christian counterparts; the third is trickier. First Melkor, mightiest of the Valar (the part-gods part-angels who form the primary pantheon in Tolkien's mythology), rebels against Ilúvatar, his maker, and is thrust into darkness. He craves dominion: "From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless" (Silmarillion 34). He corrupts a number of Maier, lesser spirits, of whom Sauron proves the biggest prize. The story corresponds in most respects to the expulsion of Satan and his fellow rebel angels from Heaven. The opening of The Silmarillion, as noted, draws heavily upon Paradise Lost, but Melkor is a more purely destructive agency, and has little of the charm that makes Milton's Satan so memorable. Another important divergence from the Christian mythos is that Melkor's fall precedes the creation of Arda, the physical world. As a result, evil is part of the design of Middle Earth, while, on Tolkien's theological reckoning, it is a contingent aspect of our own (Silmarillion 16-18; Letters 286). I will have more to say about this later.

Melkor subsequently turns his attention to Tolkien's central group of Elves, the Noldor. Master craftsmen and lovers of wisdom, they are by degrees corrupted and "filled with the vanity of their skill" (Shaping of Middle Earth 16; Silmarillion 79). Succumbing to the pleasure of possession, and the withholding of the benefits of their art from others, they grow enamoured of and then obsessed by the Silmarils, "made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor" (78), and in time the only survivals of that primal, original light. Jealous that it should shine on them alone, the Noldor abandon Valinor, the Undying Lands of the West, for Middle Earth. During their flight they come into conflict with another Elven kindred, the Teleri. Fratricidal blood is spilled (102). Again, it is not too difficult to spot the Biblical parallels. Melkor's part is that of Satan in the Garden. The Silmarils are akin, in some respects, to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, beautiful, necessary even, but fatal. The murder of the Teleri - the "Kinslaying" - is the story of Cain and Abel on a grander scale. And, as in Christian myth, pride is redeemed through Christ's self-sacrifice, so the Noldor are granted ultimate salvation through the heroics of one who both is and is not of their number ('The Voyage of Eärendil', the final chapter of The Silmarillion, although in terms of date of conception the first component of Tolkien's legendarium). The departure of Galadriel from Lórien in The Return of the King, one of that book's many cadences, marks the end of their long atonement. Given that their sin is born of a desire to create – to mould, to beautify, to make afresh – Tolkien could not judge Noldor harshly. In fact he loves them best of all his creatures; as he must have been aware, he shared their presumption.

Man makes a belated entrance onto Middle-Earth. He comes from the East, and is already fallen (Letters 147-148, 154, 203-204). He is susceptible to Melkor's overtures. He is not quite a hopeless case, however, and one human civilization – Númenór – matches those of the Elves for grandeur. But, as Tolkien wrote, "there cannot be any 'story' without a fall" (Letters 147), and the narrative takes a not unexpected turn. Understandably irked that, in the round of divine gift-giving, they have received Death to the Elves' Immortality, and with the usual encouragement from a Dark Lord (Sauron in this instance) the Númenóreans launch a naval attack on Valinor. They too are cast down, with rather more of a display of Old Testament wrath than has previously been in evidence: a deluge conflating the Noachian, Babel, and Atlantis myths, but doing a lot of extra work besides. Númenór sinks, and Ilúvatar recasts creation, with grosser lineaments than before, to prevent this sort of thing ever happening again. "The world was diminished, for Valinor and Eressëa were taken from it into the realm of hidden things" (Silmarillion 336). A flat earth, where Paradise, Faërie, and mortal demesnes had a common measure of reality, becomes a round one, human dominion turned in on itself, with Paradise and Faërie fading from memory and view. Where once was Valinor now floats an as-yet-undiscovered America.

All this happens around three thousand years before the events recounted in LOTR. The Middle Earth that modern readers meet with there, then, is like our own, post-lapsarian, and of much the same moral shape. But it does not feel so. The Shire, I remember, was England of the early 1980s – in the provincial town in which I read the book a far sleepier place than it is now – with the acne, bad hair, and hooliganism left out. Rivendell and Lórien were realms of marvel; I registered the melancholy, but that seemed a symptom of an impending, not an already accomplished, impoverishment. Gondor, a pale shadow of Númenórean glory, struck me first with its hauteur, and only much later with its dilapidation. My initial reading, the important one, went against the grain of Tolkien's intentions; I wonder how representative I was. I understood that LOTR was about a Fall, but it was a fall into my world and no other, and the paradise from which I had been expelled – which, indeed, I had never known – was Middle-Earth. I now know that Tolkien's understanding was more prosaic: "Middle-earth...lay then as it does. In fact just as it does, round and inescapable. That is partly the point. The new situation, established at the beginning of the Third Age, leads on eventually and inevitably to ordinary History" (Letters 186). I repeat: that was not how I saw it. There was no connection, historical, geographical or otherwise, between Middle Earth and me. Middle Earth was not a place to live in. I had been vouchsafed a few precious hours in its company; I always knew the end would come; and when it did it held no surprises:

But to Sam the evening deepened to darkness as he stood at the haven; and as he looked at the grey sea he saw only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West. There he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart. (Return of the King 378)

This – the end of enchantment, of plenitude, of hope, of grace, of the book – was the fall that mattered. I had had some intimation of it, in Lewis's The Last Battle, in the ambiguity of Moominvalley in November (a marvellous, chastening book), and, much earlier, in the putting away of the toys at the end of Winnie the Pooh. But this was knowledge harder won, and more valuable for that reason. Knowledge of the fall into necessity: you cannot and should not spend your whole life reading LOTR, submitting to old Tolkien's tricks. An utterly unremarkable lesson, one every child must learn sooner or later. What is extraordinary about LOTR – what helps account for its baffling popularity – is that it is predicated upon the alternation of illusion and disillusion that constitutes, for better and worse, the path to maturity. That and the fact that Tolkien, having ensnared you, can't quite give you up. He wants you to remain in thrall to his "elvish craft," to a world you can never visit, which yet is invested with sufficient reality to stand between you and the real one. The schoolmasterly tone, dominant in The Hobbit, not quite submerged in the cod-heroism of LOTR, was appropriate, for as the Letters reveal, Tolkien did think he was imparting truths about denial, responsibility, guilt, sin, etc. But he made an odd and unwilling teacher. Didacticism of the C.S. Lewis stamp did not come naturally to him. In this role he was more like a magician manqué, who dupes his charges into thinking they are playing outside in the fields when in reality they are stuck in permanent detention. I have nothing against escapism, but LOTR transcends the dreadful heroic fantasies it inspired only because it is not just escapist. LOTR is about escapism, yet it forecloses on both the possibility and the renunciation of escape.

These frustrations found a focus in a character who, in my case, had failed to hold my attention for much more than a sentence at a time. Throughout the book Sam Gamgee stands for commonsense and disillusionment. We don't register the use of him until right at the end. I read the last line ("Well, I'm back") to signify a return, for good, to the humdrum, and as an acknowledgement, on the worldmaker's part, of my exclusion. (In the movie, in a clever move, he comes home to children, whose strategic absence from the narrative has been noted.) It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. When, in another edition, I got round to Appendix B, which tells of how "Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over the Sea, last of the Ring-bearers" (470), I felt cheated. I have wondered if I was over-reacting, whether the supplementary material is all that significant, or whether anyone pays it much attention. To which the only response is that I did, and I would think so do most people captivated rather than repulsed by the book's otherness. The appendices are, after all, the weightiest of Tolkien's reality-effects.

Was my disappointment at Sam's escape mere pettishness? If it was, then it was a resentment with which Tolkien might have sympathised:

I think the simple 'rustic' love of Sam and his Rosie (nowhere elaborated) is absolutely essential to the study of his (the chief hero's) character, and to the theme of the relation of ordinary life (breathing, eating, working, begetting) and quests, sacrifice, causes, and the 'longing for Elves', and sheer beauty. (Letters 161)

Tolkien expected readers to identify with Sam, with his failure ever to understand what is going on and his unrequited yearnings after the Elves, not anticipating later generations regarding his 'old-fashioned virtues' as fogeyish and idiotic, or his effacement in the dazzle of Frodo's hippy apotheosis. (It must be said that it is easier to identify with Sam's function than with Sam. Of no character in LOTR, let alone The Silmarillion, can a reader say 'That could have been me,' or 'I wish I were him,' or 'Pity this poor fucker.' They are all too crude and cartoony to elicit empathy. What the reader thinks is: 'I wish I could be there.' At least, that's what I thought.) The evidence of the Letters suggests that, without liking him much, Tolkien also needed Sam to stay grounded, to clip his world-maker's wings. His treatment of Melkor and the Noldor Elves in The Silmarillion is evidence enough that Tolkien was aware of the dangers nested within "creative desire": "It may become possessive, clinging to things made as 'its own', the sub-creator wishes to be the Lord and God of his private creation" (145). Sam, standing outside the enchanted circle, is a guarantee of community - between Tolkien the sub-creator and his readers in Primary Creation - even if what he communicates, mostly, is that the desire to attain Middle Earth's having been aroused, it will not be satisfied. It is very important, for children, for anybody really, that there is a voice in the book telling them this is the case.

Philology, an interest in preservation, cultural conservatism, despair at the prospects for the Machine Age, all tempted Tolkien into "private creation." He bore his Christianity as a shield against the folly, although it would appear that as he grew older, and gave into the bitterness of the old, his defences weakened. He discerned two primary realities, Christ and the Twentieth Century, and he abhorred the one as he was beholden to the other, but they were inseparable. Christ was incarnate in the darkest days of the mid-century, and absent from Middle Earth (Eärendil, Gandalf and Aragorn are Christ substitutes, but Tolkien knew better than to confuse a substitute for the real thing). Hobbits were thus both nostalgic critique and a drag on the desire to lose oneself in Faërie. Needless to say they are not quite up to either task. It is difficult to credit anywhere in the real historical England ever exhibiting the rural imbecility of the Shire, while for much of the LOTR (excepting the grim chapters that follow Sam, Frodo and Gollum to Mount Doom) escapist desire is indulged without evident compunction. However flawed in practice, though, "hobbitry" was the solution, the sole solution, to the "problem of the relation of Art (and Sub-creation) and Primary Reality." Critics found it embarrassing, and Tolkien could see what they meant (Letters 329), but it was necessary. By ending the book with Sam (and not, for example, with Aragorn and Arwen), Tolkien was admitting that Faërie was perilous, and warning the reader not to try to set up permanent abode. By then, in an Appendix, allowing Sam passage to Elvenhome, Tolkien broke the compact. The effect is to seal off Middle Earth, make it hermetic, which is not the same as being distant; it becomes a Promised Land, but only to readers willing to renounce Primary Reality. As for those unwilling or unable to make the sacrifice, without some bridge fashioned of humdrum stuff, nothing of meaning or value will pass from it to us. With every step towards enclosure, with every 'Keep Out!' sign erected against the twentieth (now twenty-first) century, Faërie increases in fascination and in peril. We might sympathize; we might partake of the yearning; Tolkien's many champions celebrate the fact. We should also recognise that world-making of this kind thwarts readers, especially young readers, even as it enriches their introspections. On Tolkien's chosen terms, it is a sin.


1 Fliegler, Question of Time makes this point at somewhat indistinct length.
2 For where this kind of approach can lead see Milbank, '"My Precious": Tolkien's Fetishized Ring,' in LOTR & Philosophy, 33-45.

Works Cited

Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: logos and language in Tolkien's world. Kent (Ohio): Kent State University Press, 2002.

Milbank, Alison. '"My Precious": Tolkien's Fetishized Ring.' In G. Bassham & E. Bronson (eds.), Lord of The Rings and Philosophy. Chicago: Open Court, 33-45.

Shippey, T.A. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. London: Harper Collins, 2000.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. London: Harper Collins, 2003.

---. Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed. H. Carpenter. London: Harper Collins, 1995.

---. "On Fairy-stories." In The Monsters and the Critics : and other essays. Ed. C. Tolkien. London: Harper Collins, 1997.

---. Return of the King. London: Harper Collins, 2003.

---. The Silmarillion. Ed. C. Tolkien. London: Unwin & Allen, 1977.

Contributor's Note

Henry Atmore is an academic. He trained in the History and Philosophy of Science and is currently Associate Professor of Anglo-American Studies at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in Western Japan.

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