The Struggle of Good vs. Evil in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most influential fantasy writers of all time. He has been referred to as the “father” of modern fantasy literature. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and a professor at Oxford University. He has written The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy, and more. The Lord of the Rings has inspired literature, artwork, music, film, videogames, and television.
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien suggests that the ends do not justify the means.
J. R. R. Tolkien was born on January 3rd 1892, the child of Arthur and Mabel Tolkien. Arthur Reuel Tolkien was 31 years old when he proposed to 18 year old Mabel Suffield. She gladly accepted, but her father was not too happy. He thought Mabel was too young to be married, so the wedding was put off for a few years.
In 1891, the two finally got married. Mabel’s father was not pleased, he didn’t think the Tolkien family was good enough for the respectable Suffield family, but he gave the couple his blessing.
Arthur’s banking business in England was not doing well, so he decided to move to the city Bloemfontein, South Africa because it would be more profitable. Mabel wasn’t too thrilled about the move. In a letter to her family she called Bloemfontein a “Owlin’ Wilderness! Horrid Waste! ” (Doughan). They would end up staying there for a while.
Arthur Tolkien wrote the following to his mother on January 4th, 1892: My dear Mother, I have good news for you this week. Mabel gave me a beautiful little son last night (3 January). It was rather before time, but the baby is strong and well and Mabel has come through wonderfully.
The baby is (of course) lovely. It has beautiful hands and ears (very long fingers), very light hair, ‘Tolkien’ eyes and very distinctly a ‘Suffield’ mouth. In general effect immensely like a very fair edition of its Aunt Mabel Mitton. When we first reached Dr Stollreither yesterday he said it was a false alarm and told the nurse to go home for a fortnight but he was mistaken and I fetched him again about eight and then he stayed till 12. 40 when we had a whiskey to drink luck to the boy. The boy’s first name will be ‘John’ after its grandfather, probably John Ronald Reuel altogether.
Mab wants to call it Ronald and I want to keep up John and Reuel… “J. R. R. Tolkien :: Biography” So, J. R. R. Tolkien was born on January 3rd. Even though his first name was John, nearly everyone called him Ronald. South Africa could be a challenging place for a young boy to grow up. When Ronald was very young, he was bitten by a tarantula. Later on, giant spiders appeared in his writings (Tolkien, J. R. R. – Fun Facts and Information). Mabel still hated living in South Africa. The Tolkien family planned a trip to go back to England, but Ronald’s brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel was born, so they stayed in South Africa for a while.
Once they planned to go back to England again, Arthur got ill and said he would meet the rest of the family when he got better. Around Christmas time, the Tolkiens heard that Arthur had contracted rheumatic fever and he would have to stay in South Africa even longer. On February 14th, 1896, Arthur suffered a severe hemorrhage, and died the next day. Mabel decided to move with the two boys to a cheap cottage in Sarehole, and home school them until they were old enough to attend King Edward‘s school. Tolkien learned how to read when he was 4 years old, and soon he learned to write very well. He loved learning languages.
Since he loved anything having to do with words, his mother gave him loads of books to read. His favorites were Red Indian books, Arthurian legends, George MacDonald’s ‘Curdie’ books, and the Red Fairy Book. When Tolkien was young, the little money being sent from Mabel’s father stopped because the family switched to Roman Catholicism. Tolkien was accepted at King Edward’s when he was eight years old. Everything was going fine until Mabel was diagnosed with diabetes in 1904. By the summer, she was able to leave the hospital. Father Francis helped the family so they could stay at a clerical country retreat house.
In November, Mabel collapsed into a diabetic coma, and died on the 14th. Ronald and Hilary were now orphans. Father Francis chose who the boys should live with. He had to make sure he chose carefully because most of their family were Protestant. Father Francis chose their aunt Beatrice Suffield to be their caretaker. She had no religious affiliation. While living with their aunt, Tolkien began to study more languages. Since he knew Greek and Latin, it gave him the opportunity to study Anglo-Saxon. He reads beowulf, which was one of his favorite stories. Tolkien really loved philology, the study of words.
He began to make up his own languages with his cousins. The first language they made up was called “Nevbosh. ” Tolkien wanted to make a language with “Greek-style” words. He borrowed a few of Father Francis’s Spanish books, and the next language he came up with was “Naffarin,” which was heavily influenced by Spanish. Tolkien decided to go even further, and create a whole new alphabet to create a new language called “private lang. ” Father Francis thought that the boys were unhappy living with their aunt, so he sent them to live with another woman named Mrs. Faulkner.
There was another border at the house that Father Francis was unaware of, a 19 year old girl named Edith Bratt. She was three years older than Tolkien, and they ended up falling in love. Once Father Francis heard about the two, he forbade Tolkien to see her. Tolkien wasn’t rebellious, and he also depended on Father Francis for financial support, so he agreed. During this time Tolkien was trying to get into Oxford University. He was distracted from working on his “private lang” and thinking about Edith, so he didn’t get in. In his diary, on January 1st, 1910, he wrote “Depressed and as much in dark as ever.
God help me. Feel weak and weary” (qtd in Doughan). Shortly after, Tolkien and Edith decided to meet secretly. Father Francis heard about their meeting, and banned Tolkien from seeing her until he turned 21. Tolkien concentrated on his studies to get his mind off of Edith. In December he was ready to retake the Oxford scholarship exam. This time, he was accepted. During his first year of studies, Tolkien was very interested in Germanic literature and Comparative Philology. One of his professors thought he would be interested in the Welsh language, and recommended that he study it.
On January 3rd, 1913, Tolkien finally turned 21. He was now free from the ban of seeing or talking to Edith. He wrote a letter to Edith on his birthday asking her to marry him. In her reply letter, Edith said she was already engaged to marry her friend’s brother. Tolkien met Edith at a train station and convinced her to break off the engagement and marry him instead. She said the only reason she was going to marry the other guy was because she knew no other eligible young men except Tolkien, whom she thought didn’t love her anymore. Tolkien told Father Francis about their engagement, and he gave the couple his blessing.
Edith converted from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism for Tolkien. It was now 1914, and World War 1 was starting. Tolkien wasn’t too thrilled about going to war, but a few close friends were enlisted, and he heard it might be possible for them to be in the same regiment, or even the same battalion. So Tolkien enlisted, and attended army drills. In 1915, he passed his final exams. After getting his degree, he had to take up duties of being second lieutenant. He wasn’t with his friends as he hoped, and everyday was depressing. He ended up being appointed battalion signaling officer.
Before the battalion went off to France, Edith and Tolkien got married on March 22nd, 1916. They went on their honeymoon, but Tolkien had to leave England very soon after to fight in France. Once Tolkien arrived in France, he realized his whole army kit was missing, and he had a lot of problems with borrowing and buying replacements. He spent writing poetry and listening to seagulls pass by. Tolkien always remained uninjured for the duration of his service. He received a letter from his good friend Christopher Wallace that their friend Gilson had died. Tolkien had caught trench fever, and was sent back to Edith in England.
He received news from Christopher again, about the death of their friend Geoffrey Bache Smith. G. B. Smith’s last words to Tolkien were “May you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them” (J. R. R. Tolkien :: Biography). These words inspired Tolkien. He began to think about mythology and the languages he created. He never liked the fact that England had no true mythology, and he decided he would create one. He began to write “The Book of Lost Tales” which would end up being The Silmarillion. On November 16th, 1917, John Francis Reuel Tolkien was born. He was named after Father Francis, and of course Tolkien.
The Tolkien family moved to Oxford after the war finished. Tolkien started working for the New English Dictionary. He found learning about words very interesting, but he thought the alphabet he came up with, “The Alphabet of Rumil,” was thrilling. In 1924, Tolkien became Professor of English Language. He also took the position of the Anglo-Saxon chair at Oxford. Also that year, his 3rd son, Christopher Reuel Tolkien, was born in November. On May 11th, 1926, at a meeting of the English Faculty at Merton College, Tolkien met Clive Staples Lewis, most commonly known as “C. S. Lewis. ” C. S.
Lewis wrote his first impression of J. R. R. Tolkien in his diary. He wrote, “A smooth, pale, fluent little chap. No harm in him: only needs a smack or so” (Armstrong). Tolkien and C. S. Lewis would end up becoming lifelong friends. Three years later, Tolkien’s fourth and last child, Priscilla Mary Tolkien, was born. One day while grading exam papers, Tolkien noticed that “One of the candidates had mercifully left one of the pages with no writing on it (which is the best thing that can possibly happen to an examiner). I wrote on it: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. ‘ Names always generate a story in my mind.
Eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning” (qtd in Doughan). This would be the start of The Hobbit. He worked on it for a while, but by 1936, he abandoned it. He couldn’t figure out how to end the story. The publishers Allen & Unwin said they would publish the book if he could write a proper ending. The Hobbit was published on September 21, 1937. The book was a hit. C. S. Lewis complimented Tolkien by saying, “All who love that kind of children’s book which can be read and re-read by adults should take note that a new star has appeared in this constellation” (qtd in
Armstrong). In December, Tolkien started to write another story about hobbits, continuing where The Hobbit left off. He referred to his epic as The Lord of the Rings. He stopped working on it for a while to serve as air raid warden duty on and off during World War 2. He started working on it again, but began to avoid C. S. Lewis. He would harshly criticize The Lord of the Rings at times, and Tolkien thought C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia were ridiculous (Gilsdorf). Tolkien was also a little frustrated that it was so easy for C. S.
Lewis to write nearly a book a year, while he was still struggling to finish his book. Finally after 12 years, The Lord of the Rings was finished. He sent it to C. S. Lewis for his opinion, and he said, “There are many passages I could wish you had written otherwise or omitted altogether,” but he also said the work, “is almost unequalled in the whole range of narrative art known to me” (qtd in J. R. R. Tolkien :: Biography). Tolkien needed to find a publisher for the book. He didn’t want to use Allen & Unwin publishing again because they gave him a lot of problems when publishing The Silmarillion.
He decided to go with Collins Publishing. Everything was going great, until Collins said the book was too long and it needed cutting. Tolkien now had no other choice but to use Allen & Unwin. He decided to split the book into three parts. Once the books were published, they were a hit. The Lord of the Rings was a best-seller. Once it reached America, it got many student fans. Students at Yale University bought the books faster than The Lord of the Flies, and at Harvard, it overtook The Catcher in the Rye. “Frodo Lives” and “Gandalf for President” were popular slogans, and “J. R. R.
Tolkien is Hobbit-forming” appeared as graffiti. Tolkien’s fandom was getting too hectic, so he and Mabel decided to move about 2 miles away from Oxford. After the move, officially retired. On November 22nd, 1963, C. S. Lewis died. Tolkien didn‘t write anything for his obituary, but he wrote to his daughter Priscilla, “This feels like an axe-blow near the roots” (qtd in J. R. R. Tolkien :: Biography). When Edith was 82, she got very sick. She was taken to a hospital, suffering from an inflamed gallbladder, and died on Monday, November 29th, 1971. Tolkien was heartbroken. He was very lonely after Edith’s death.
Later on, Tolkien had an acute bleeding gastric ulcer, and was rushed to the hospital on August 31st, 1973. The next day a chest infection had developed. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died, September 2nd, early Sunday morning, at age eighty-one. He left his legacy of amazing books. In The Lord of the Rings, the Dark Lord Sauron forged the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom thousands of years ago. He used the One Ring to control the leaders of Middle Earth. During a battle, King Islidur cut off Sauron’s finger, separating him from the Ring. This destroyed the Dark Lord (his soul still remained) and Islidur kept the Ring as his own.
Islidur ended up losing the Ring in a river until a creature called Gollum found it and kept it for hundreds of years. One day Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit from The Shire, found the Ring. After being in exile for 2,500 years, Sauron has returned to Mordor. He started to build an army, trying to find the One Ring. The story starts off with Bilbo Baggins having the Ring, and leaving it to Frodo, his second cousin once removed. Their wizard friend Gandalf is suspicious of the ring and finds out that it is the One Ring and that Sauron’s Ringwraiths are coming to the Shire to search for it.
Gandalf convinced Frodo to leave The Shire immediately. Frodo’s gardener Samwise Gamgee, and a pair of cousins Merry and Pippin, leave with Frodo. Frodo must destroy the Ring, and the only way to do that is to take it to Mount Doom, where it was forged. Over the course of the books, the hobbits are constantly being hunted by Sauron’s followers. They are helped by elves, men, and a dwarf. At the end of the book, Frodo makes it to Mordor, and destroys the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Sauron and the Ringwraiths disappear and Aragon becomes king at last. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien suggests that the ends do not ustify the means. Tolkien wants us to learn that we must stay pure, and not lower our standards just because we are fighting for the greater good. In the trilogy, the One Ring is pure evil. It corrupts anyone who has it in their possession. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the elf Elrond said: We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril.
The very desire of it corrupts the heart. “Tolkien 241” It appears that the character Frodo is just like any other ordinary hobbit. His heart is what sets him apart from the other hobbits, and also from the other races of Middle-earth. Frodo’s heart is pure and incorruptible. Frodo was able to bear the Ring without giving in to its powers. The Ring seemed to tempt every other member in the Fellowship, no matter how good and pure they are. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo tried to make Gandalf take the Ring from him. Frodo said that he was wise and powerful, so he should take it. ’No! ’ cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. ’With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly’” (Tolkien 60). Gandalf is a very pure and good wizard, but even he knows he will give in to the evil of the Ring. Sam Gamgee is probably the most loyal character in the trilogy. Towards the end of The Return of the King, Frodo becomes very weak and exhausted. Sam is the only reason why Frodo made it all the way to the end. Even though Sam is such a loyal and pure character, he is still tempted by the Ring.
In The Return of the King, when Frodo was captured by the orcs, Sam took the Ring from him because he thought Frodo was dead. He says: But you’re in the land of Mordor now, sir; and when you get out, you’ll see the Fiery Mountain and all. You’ll find the Ring very dangerous now, and very hard to bear. If it’s too hard a job, I could share it with you, maybe? “Tolkien 890” When he rescued Frodo, Sam hesitated to give the Ring back to him, which makes it clear that Sam is affected by the power of the Ring. In The Fellowship of the Ring, while Frodo was resting, he had a feeling unfriendly eyes were watching him.
When he turned around it was Boromir, his face smiling and kind. Boromir begins to talk about how he wants the Ring and could use it for good for his people. He says, ‘True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. ’ When Frodo begins to disagree with his plan, he say: I am a true man, neither thief nor tracker. I need your Ring: that you know now; but I give you my work that I do not desire to keep it. Will you let me make trial of my plan? Lend me the Ring! “Tolkien 390” Frodo refuses to give up the Ring, angering Boromir. He says: ’How it angers me! Fool! Obstinate fool!
Running willfully to death and ruining our cause. If any mortals have claim to the Ring, it is the men of Numenor, and not Halflings. It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me! ’ “Tolkien 390” Boromir then leaped at Frodo trying to snatch the Ring. Once Frodo got further away from Boromir, Boromir realizes what he just said and did, and breaks down apologizing to Frodo. Being near the Ring corrupted Boromir greatly. He wanted to use the Ring to fight against Sauron. Using the Ring would have made Boromir evil and corrupt.
In The Lord of the Rings, there is a major difference between the good and the bad characters. Sauron and the orcs are evil, while for example the members in the Fellowship are good. The characters are either good or bad, with no grey area in between. The only character who struggles between the two, is Gollum. Gollum was once a good hobbit named Smeagol. On a fishing trip with his friend, he came across the Ring. He wanted it so badly that he killed his friend. It was just like Gandalf had said, “’For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so“ (Tolkien 261).
He became so absorbed in the Ring, that over time, he became Gollum. Gollum and Smeagol often struggle with each other. “The character Gollum shows the good vs. evil struggle within himself. Gollum started out good, but felt the power of the ring and turned evil. Throughout the book you see him struggle between serving Frodo (good) and possessing the ring (evil)” (Fair). Smeagol loves Frodo and wants to help him, and Gollum loves the Ring so much that he is willing to kill again. Whenever Gollum had quiet time to himself, he debated with himself. We needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us.
Sneaky little hobbitses, wicked, tricksy, false. No, not master . . . Master’s my friend. You don’t have any friends. Nobody likes you. Not listening. I’m not listening. You’re a liar. And a thief. Murderer. Go away. . . . I hate you. . . . Leave now and never come back “Tolkien 620” In this particular debate that happened in The Two Towers, Smeagol won, but most of the time Gollum wins, like in this debate: ’But there’s two of them. They’ll wake too quick and kill us,’ whined Smeagol in a last effort. ’Not now. Not yet. ’ ’We wants it! But’ -and here there was a long pause, as if a new thought had weakened. Not yet, eh? Perhaps not. She might help. She might help, yes. ’ No, no! Not that way! ’ wailed Smeagol. ’Yes! We wants it! We wants it! “Tolkien 619” The character Gollum shows how powerful the Ring can be. J. R. R. Tolkien was one of the most influential fantasy writers. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy he wanted to stress the importance of staying good and pure no matter what life throws at you. The One Ring represented all of the evil and temptation in the world. The character Frodo Baggins was the only one in all of Middle-earth who could bear the Ring without giving into its temptation of power.
Frodo could have taken the easy way out, and used the Ring like any other character would have, but instead he stayed pure and incorruptible. Works Cited Armstrong, Chris. “J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A Legendary Friendship | Christian History. ” ChristianityToday. com | Magazines, News, Church Leadership & Bible Study. 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 09 Jan. 2011. . Doughan, David. “J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch. ” The Tolkien Society. Web. 7 Jan. 2011. . Fair, Kay. “Analyzing The Lord of the Rings: Good Vs. Evil. ” Associated Content from Yahoo! – Associatedcontent. com. Web. 09 Jan. 2011. . Gilsdorf, Ethan. “J. R. R.
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