Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Heldman, Will Fridy, James Flynn

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The three books J.R.R. Tolkien has written about his imaginary world of Middle-earth, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, have a common element. In all thre& books, he presents the characters and their adventures within an historical framework which he has structured according to the four principles of Christian history: periodization, universality, apocalypse, and providence. While this historical perspective serves to give his fantasized world "an inner consistence of reality," it also frames one of the main themes of his stories: the relationship between Divine Providence and free will in a world containing good and evil forces. Although there is no mention of a creator in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien does provide countless allusions to the presence of providence. Furthermore, Gandalf, the wizard, is an agent of providence and influences other characters and events to a certain extent. he does not have total control over anyone or anything, however, for Tolkien has taken great care to establish the free will of Frodo and the other characters. And while the theme of providence revolves around Gandalf, the theme of free will centers upon the Ring of Power that the evil Sauron wishes to use to destroy or enslave all of the creatures of Middle-earth. To prevent Sauron from achieving his ends, Frodo must destroy the hing, and his will is consequently put to the test, a test which he ultimately fails. It is this do-or-die situation on which Tolkien focuses the full light of both themes, and it is the resulting happy ending in which Tolkien achieves what he believes to be the aesthetic mark of excellence, "eucatastrophe," for a fairy story.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles