Thesis

Modes of retention and acceptance: the reconciliation of past and future within J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth

Historically, the thematic concerns surrounding J.R.R. Tolkien’s works of Middle-earth have been oversimplified as static struggles between moral absolutes, base conflicts between forces of good and evil. This narrow approach has overlooked Tolkien’s initial motivations for creating his mythopoeia of Middle-earth, which were shaped in the background of two world wars and grounded in an escapist attempt to preserve an idealistic past threatened by the rapid approach of modernity in the early 20th century. However, as Tolkien collectively wrote The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and the trilogy of volumes which form The Lord of the Rings over the course of nearly sixty years, his original attitudes toward the passing of time grew and changed. By tracing the evolution of Tolkien’s pervasive use of a vast web of interconnected symbolic dichotomies centered on the concepts of past and future, a parallel shift can be seen to occur over the course of Tolkien’s writing, ultimately revealing a thematic inversion from a longing to retain a fading past to an eventual acceptance of an inevitable future.

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