Religion and Morality in Tolkien’s The Hobbit

This manuscript is available for download here

Abstract

Much research has been done on J. R. R. Tolkien’s works, but The Hobbit has been overlooked. Because of the time in his life that it was written, this particular novel can give unique insight in the questions of religion in Middle Earth that have been continuously raised. The first half of this essay will seek to answer that question. Though most scholars look for an allegorical representation of the author’s Catholic faith in the novel, it is not there. Instead, Tolkien found spirituality in the process of writing, in creating a believable Secondary World. Rather than trying to convert his readers to Christianity like some of his contemporaries, Tolkien asked his readers something more foundational: to practice spiritual growth by choosing good over evil. Through this plea and because of historical contexts, he used his didactic novel to promote moral absolutism simultaneously with multiculturalism. The second part of this paper delves into the contentious battle between Tolkien and his narrator, a character who agrees with Tolkien’s views on moral absolutism, but proves to discourage multiculturalism. The narrator flatly and irresponsibly organizes the spectrum of characters into a Good/Evil binary, to Tolkien’s displeasure. Though this article lays the groundwork, more scholarship is warranted on this novel.


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Sophia Friedman

Sophia Friedman

Sophia Friedman graduated with honors from Clark University in 2016 with a major in Comparative Literature and a minor in Art History. Her interests are mostly in literature and art, though she dabbles in agriculture.