Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects

Title

A Kingly Trichotomy: Spirituality, Lineage, and Deeds in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings

Department

English

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings both present complex narratives of an individual using spiritual favor, heroic deeds, and a notable heritage to affirm their right to rule as king. By doing a close reading of this ancient epic alongside J.R.R Tolkien’s modern fantasy, one can understand the various ways that the kings in these texts have drawn power from these distinct realms of authority. In Beowulf, the title character’s successful acts of warfare affirm his spiritual favor, and the poem demonstrates that one can construct a heritage using their self-made reputation. Unlike Beowulf, Aragorn’s solidified, sacred heritage in The Lord of the Rings is bolstered by his deeds—not created by them. Ironically, the older text possesses more fluid ideas of kingship than the modern by including a deeds-based ascension to the throne in addition to the primogeniture tradition. Though today’s rulers seem a far cry from Anglo-Saxon warrior-kings, these core characteristics of spiritual favor, noble acts, and esteemed heritage are still relevant. Studying the ascension of kings in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings reveals surprising similarities between modern politics and ancient literature to the 21st century reader.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Gillian Knoll, Dr. Alison Langdon, Dr. Leila Watkins

Disciplines

English Language and Literature | Political Science

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