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Old 01-08-2004, 08:11 PM   #1
Leyrana Silumiel
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Sting Major Themes in ME--for a Thesis

Hiya! Semi-newbie here. I've been an avid reader of LOTR and the like since, oh, eighth grade. Got a quick question for you guys.

I'm writing an Honors Thesis on Illustrations of Major Themes in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth (working title--work with me here!). I've got three so far, but my advisor for this paper suggested I pick six or seven. Here's what I got:

1. Good vs. Evil (I think this is fairly obvious)

2. Live and death (in regards to the Elves dodging death and running from Middle-Earth instead of facing up to their fears and fighting)

3. Destruction and rebirth (i.e. the destruction of the Shire--or rather, the scouring of the Shire--and how Sam helped rebirth it, for example, with the soil Galadriel gave him)


This paper is going to probably end up being complex. I need about three or four more major themes, so I thought I'd come to you guys and get your opinions. I'd like to have at least one symbolically related major theme and at least one psychologically related one. Any ideas? (And if I'm wrong about any of the above, or if you have a suggestion for something I can use for the topics listed above, that would also be most appreciated.) Anything you can think of will be helpful (and I'll give everyone full credit in a thank-you's page at the end of the thesis!)

Thanks!
Leyrana Silumiel


Edit: Maybe I should mention that these should be in the frame of LOTR, Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Histories of the Lord of the Rings (that's books 6, 7, and 8, with a little bit of 9 from the HoME). Thanks! (And eventually, I'll be getting Letters of JRR Tolkien, so if anyone can point me to a particular letter or anything, that'll be helpful.)

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 9:13 PM January 08, 2004: Message edited by: Leyrana Silumiel ]
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Old 01-08-2004, 08:34 PM   #2
The Barrow-Wight
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Research is the place to start, and you've picked the right place. There are three places to begin on The Barrow-downs before even needing to solicit opinions:

1) THE BOOKS forum. There you'll find some of the best discussions on the Internet of some great Middle-earth topics, including the ones you've mentioned (or topic that include yours).

2) The Middle-earth FAQ: compiled from this very forum

3) Our ARTICLES section on the main site.

Once you've been through this extensive group of discussions, you'll have a wealth of ideas for you thesis.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 9:35 PM January 08, 2004: Message edited by: The Barrow-Wight ]
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Old 01-08-2004, 09:35 PM   #3
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Tolkien

The idea of spiritual themes presented in Middle-Earth is one you might consider. While Tolkien did not insert allegory, he preferred to call it parallelism, or applicability. Either way, there are definitely Judeo-Christian/Catholic principles and themes prevalent throughout the works.
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Old 01-08-2004, 11:16 PM   #4
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The Barrow-Wight: I've been on the books forum for quite a while already! I just signed up recently, though. This forum generated the "destruction and rebirth" theme idea. I've skimmed over the Middle-earth FAQ, but I think I'll probably go through and read it a little better. And I've definitely browsed the Articles section--that's where I got the "life and death" idea. Thanks, though. I'm planning on going through the FAQ and others shortly--I might read the articles again, in case I missed something. However, last time I read them, I noticed quite a few that I really didn't agree with, and I'm kind of hesitant to write about something I disagree about, because IMO, it will be harder to find quotes and things to support something I disagree on. However, now that I think about it, I could probably just take the OPPOSITE of what I don't agree with and write on it. ^_^

The Knight of Gondor: I had considered the spiritual themes of ME--that's probably one of the ones I hear most about. However, I was a little reluctant to write about that one, because I'm not very knowledgeable about religious texts and tenets (I don't attend church). That would make it a little more difficult to come up with ideas along those lines. However, I will be keeping the spiritual themes in mind (I even wrote it down) in case I DO happen to stumble across something I can use. Thanks!
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Old 01-09-2004, 12:31 AM   #5
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Tolkien

I'm not too sure how much you know about Milton or Beowulf, but there are definitely some parallels between LotR and the two of them. For instance, the Ainulindale is shockingly similar to the sequence and story Milton provides in PL (Paradise Lost). Tolkien's main academic focuses at Oxford were often centered about Beowulf (He actually has a translation of it he worked up, which should be in stores by now), and it and the Kalevala were a strong basis for the foundation of the Middle Earth Mythos.
As far as similarities that may work better in your paper, it could be proposed that the stories Tolkien created contained many of the didactic qualities Paradise Lost and Beowulf had. Each can be viewed as a type of handbook on how to live. The admirable qualities in characters are rewarded, the not so charming ones punished. You could also extract moral lessons from different parts in the stories.
Sorry if these tidbits are a bit shortened and choppy, but again, I don't really know if you draw the same allusory connections I do. Good luck with your research. It's definitley a great topic.
~Scott

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 1:33 AM January 09, 2004: Message edited by: Scott ]
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Old 01-09-2004, 01:58 AM   #6
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Hope vs. despair is another major theme; for a discussion on that here, see Hope and Hopelessness. Which characters exhibited hope, which despair, and what were the results?
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Old 01-09-2004, 05:06 AM   #7
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Aside from those already mentioned, CHOICE is probably one of the themes. All if not most of the characters had to face making major decisions that could alter their own lives and of others.

In LOTR:
Frodo - he was probably the one with the largest dilemma.
Aragorn - He made the choice to claim what was rightfully his.
Samwise - The choices Master Samwise made were rather important
Arwen - Choosing King Elessar over sailing off with the other elves.
Galadriel - (Read that part where she converses with Frodo at the Mirror).
Saruman - His actions were rather impactful - choosing to "serve" Sauron and then later to betray him.

There are other interesting stuff in the other writings. Anyway, I'm sure you can come up with more.
[img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 6:07 AM January 09, 2004: Message edited by: Kaiserin ]
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Old 01-09-2004, 07:37 AM   #8
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Sting

Sounds like a fun paper to do. I recently wrote a guide to LotR for family and friends. These are the major themes I identified in that guide:

--What is friendship and what forms does it take?
--Can evil be destroyed?
--What is the nature of evil?
--What is the nature of hope?
--What is the nature of love?
--Is death a gift or a curse?
--What is the relationship between free will and destiny?
--How does the promise of power effect the mind and spirit?
--Can the victory of good over evil come at too high a price?

These were meant to refer to LotR only, but they might apply to the Sil etc as well.

Good luck! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-09-2004, 07:56 AM   #9
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How about the importance of friendship, eg sam and frodo.
The need for communication eg gondor needing rohan.
The influence on ones life by outsiders eg hobbits and gandalf.
Good luck with the paper, sounds better than mine which is a study of mineral deposits in urinary catheters!!! [img]smilies/frown.gif[/img]
FB [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-09-2004, 08:54 AM   #10
Athaniel
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Silmaril

Hi Leyrana

I believe pity/commiseration vs. desire for dominion/revenge is another central element.
The contrast reflects the attitude of Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond on the one hand side, and Sauron and saroman on the other hand side.
Gandalf: "For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good."

Note also Gandalf's reaction to Frodo's statement that Gollum deserved death.

The notion of pity is essentially Christian.

All the best for your thesis [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 01-09-2004, 09:03 AM   #11
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Sting

A lot of good ones have already been posted.

- Benefit of strong friendships
- Seductiveness of evil
- No gain without loss, no triumph without sorrow
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Old 01-09-2004, 11:42 AM   #12
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Silmaril

You could write about how most things in Tolkien's world that are evil started out origionally as good, but were corrupted by evil. This could be shown starting with Melkor - then on down through various "evil" personas, including Sauron and Saruman, along with orcs and other corrupt men.

Also, how about technology v. nature? Tolkien was an avid environmentalist and hated what modern technology and machines were doing to the world. His views are fairly evident throughout most of his books if you are looking for it.

Good luck on your paper!
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Old 01-09-2004, 09:36 PM   #13
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Tolkien

Believe it or not, during today, I was thinking about this even more. I came up with one in particular, but another just now. The idea of fighting against evil, even when all is hopeless. The concept of standing firm even without a hope in the world.

The second one is sacrifice. Frodo gave up everything to save Middle-Earth. Gandalf sacrificed himself to save the Fellowship (IE Bride of Khazad-Dūm). Boromir sacrificed himself to save Merry and Pippin.

Quote:
I had considered the spiritual themes of ME--that's probably one of the ones I hear most about. However, I was a little reluctant to write about that one, because I'm not very knowledgeable about religious texts and tenets (I don't attend church).
Oh, may I suggest you seek a church soon? PM me, if you would, too. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 01-09-2004, 09:58 PM   #14
Leyrana Silumiel
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Knight of Gondor: Oh, don't worry; I'm a Christian. I just don't attend church because I haven't found one I like yet. You know that really great feeling you get when you walk into a church you really like? I used to have that feeling at the church I went to; unfortunately, that church had bad funding and shut down. (It's a shame, really; the people were so friendly.) I've been doing a search in my spare time (of which I don't have much) for a good church--just haven't found one yet. *grin*

Estelyn Telcontar: I actually thought of that right before I logged onto the Downs and read your post. Thanks, though.

Fosco: A study of mineral deposits in urinary catheters? Yuck! *grin* I'm suddenly glad I'm an English major.

Caroreiel: Thanks for all the ideas!

Scott: I'm glad it seems to be a great topic; I was wanting to pick something that interested / fascinated me that I didn't know an overwhelming amount about. I think I did wisely. The paper isn't due for another year, though--I thought I'd get a head-start, seeing as how I'll be busy with other classes, too. ^_^

Anyone I missed: Sorry--I was in a rush. Thank you for your ideas; they've really got them generating for me!
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