Ethical Patterns in The Lord of the Rings

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[page 6] ETHICAL PATTERNS IN The Lord of the Rings by PATRICIA MEYER SPACKS As a writer of fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien has often been thought of in connection with the excursions of C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams into the "serious" supernatural. Both Williams and Lewis, formerly fellow members with Tolkien of an Oxford discussion group in which portions of their fiction were read aloud for criticism, have received recent critical attention in this country as Christian "myth-makers." Tolkien, however, has been neglected ever since Edmund Wilson, in a review in _The Nation_ (April 14, 1956), informed us that he was not to be taken seriously.<sup>1</sup> Yet in a fuller sense than Lewis or Williams, Tolkien is a great modern myth-maker. In _The Lord of the Rings_, his epic trilogy (composed of _The Fellowship of the Ring_, _The Two Towers_, _The Return of the King_), he virtually created a new genre: one posessing obvious affinities with folk epic and mythology, but with no true literary counterpart. The novels of Williams and Lewis gain from their Christian teleology an effect of cosmic scope and depth; the novels of Tolkien posess, in addition to enormous physical scope, a mythic structure of yet more subtle complexity. In "Oo, Those Awful Orcs!", the _Nation_ review mentioned above, Wilson remarked (p. 313) of Tolkien's trilogy: "The hero has no serious temptations, is lured by no insidious enchantments, perplexed by few problems. What we get is a simple confrontation -- in more or less the traditional terms of British melodrama -- of the Forces of Evil with the Forces of Good." But the confrontation of the Forces of Evil with the Forces of Good is, after all, the basic theme also of tragedy, epic, and myth. Tolkien's presentation of this theme is by no means so simple as Wilson suggests. Indeed, as I hope to show, the force and complexity of its moral and theological scheme provides the fundamental power of _The Lord of the Rings_. For this scheme, there are no explicit supernatural sanctions: _The Lord of the Rings_ is by no means a Christian work. An anonymous early review in the _Times Literary Supplement_ (Nov. 25, 1955) remarked on the fact that throughout the trilogy no character, good or bad, performs an act of worship. Although supernatural powers abound, no deity is evident on the side of the good or of the evil. A clear ethos rules the virtuous, but its derivation is unclear. The principles of that ethos are simple enough; they are embodied primarily in the Hobbit-heroes, members of a Tolkien-created race essentially human in characteristics, gnome-like in appearance. The first heroic representative of the Hobbits is Bilbo Baggins, filler of the title role in _The Hobbit_, a children's book which was an offshoot along the way of Tolkien's trilogy. Its events immediately antedate those of _The Lord of the Rings_; its hero closely resembles Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's nephew, who is the central character of the trilogy. Both Hobbits posess the same morality, share the same virtues. They are unfailingly loyal, to companions and to principles. They are cheerful in the face of adversity, persistent to the point of stubbornness in pursuit of a goal, deeply honest, humble in their devotion to those they consider greater than they. And as their most vital attributes they posess "naked will and courage." The quotation is from Tolkien in reference to quite different heroes, and its context is significant. In 1936, Tolkien publisped one of the most important pieces of _Beowulf_-criticism of the pas t several decades. Entitled "Beowulf: [page 7] The Monsters and the Critics" (_Proc_. _Brit_. _Acad_., XXII, 245-295), it was essentially a defense of the Anglo~axon poem's structural dependence on encounters with non-human monsters, Grendel, his dam, and the dragon. The defense could stand equally well for Tolkien's own fiction, which, even in the comparatively slight children's book, _Farmer Giles of Ham_, centers characteristically on encounters between human beings -- or such symbolic representatives of humanity as the Hobbits -- and inhuman monsters of various sorts. In connection with _Beowulf_, Tolkien points out the difference between the Christian imagination and the northern mythological imagination. The archetypal Christian fable, he observes, centers on the battle between the soul and its adversaries. (This, of course, is the battle which preoccupies Williams and Lewis.) In this struggle, the Christian is finally triumphant, in the after-life if not on earth. But northern mythology takes a darker view. Its characteristic struggle between man and monster must end ultimately, within Time, in man's defeat. Yet man continues to struggle; his weapons are the Hobbit-weapons: naked will and courage. These are, indeed, the basic virtues of most epic heroes. Their opposites are apparent in Tolkien's representatives of evil, who are characteristically disloyal, whose courage depends on munbers, whose wills are enslaved. The conflict between good and evil appears, in this trilogy, to be largely a contest between representatives of opposed ethical systems. In addition to their differences of conduct, the opposed forces differ in their relation to nature. Goodness is in part equated with understanding of nature, closeness to the natural world. The Rangers, who turn out to be among the most important forces on the side of Good in _The Lord of the Rings_, understand the languages of beasts and birds. Tom Bombadil, who rescues the Hobbits from evil in the forest, whose natural power for good is so great that he can see the wearer of the Ring which makes men invisible to all other eyes and he does not become invisible himself when wearing it, is in the most intimate communion with natural forces; he has the power of "the earth itself.<sup>2</sup> The power of the noble Elves manifests itself partly in giving to Frodo a new awareness of trees: "it was the delight of the living tree itself" (FR, 366). The most potent force in the destruction of the realm of Saruman, a currupted sorcerer, is provided by the Ents, guardians of the forest so closely involved with its life that their form is that of giant trees. The progress toward the heart of evil, toward the Crack of Doom into which, in the trilogy's central fable, the Ring-Bearer must throw his Ring of Power, is a progress from natural fertility to the desolation of nature. The Enemy's territory, even its outskirts, is physically as well as morally a Wasteland; the implication is strong that the barrenness of nature here is a direct result of the operations of evil. "We see that Sauron can torture the very hills" (FR, 279). And, later, "What pestilence or war or evil deed of the Enemy had so blasted all that region even Aragorn could not tell" (FR, 396). Moreover, it is characteristic of the Enemy to depend upon machinery rather than natural forces. Saruman's city has smithies, furnaces, iron wheels revolving endlessly, hammers thudding, steam rising; Treebeard, the great Ent, describes Saruman as having "a mind of metal and wheels" (TT, 76). The Dark Tower, which looms above the Crack of Doom and is the very heart of Sauron's power, is described as "that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power" (TT, 161) -- the reversal of the natural. It is a corollary of their different relations to nature that the representatives of Good tend to be vegetarian, to rely on the simplest of food -- bread and honey, mushrooms, compressed grain cakes -- whereas the evil powers characteristically eat corrupt flesh, drink intoxicating beverages compounded of dreadful, nameless ingredients. [page 8] On this level, then, the difference between good and evil seems rather simple. The good posess all the Boy Scout virtues; the evil are treacherous and cowardly. The good love nature, the evil destroy it. The good eat good food, the evil eat bad food. If this were all, one might almost stand with Wilson in his condemnation of Tolkien's trilogy for impotence of imagination, superficiality of conception. But the simplicity of this ethical system is redeemed by the philosophic complexity of its context: simplicity does not equal shallowness. The pagan ethos which that of _The Lord of the Rings_ most closely resembles is redeemed from superficiality by the magnitude of the opposition it faces. The Anglo-Saxon epic hero operates under the shadow of fate; his struggle is doomed to final failure -- the dragon at last, in some encounter, will win. His courage and will are opposed alone to all the dark forces of the universe; they represent his triumphant assertion of himself as man, his insistence on human importance despite human weakness. Even the classic hero, Achilles or Odysseus, operates always in the face of motiveless malignance. His gods are arbitrary and unpredictable; they do not necessarily reward courage and loyalty. Chance and fate are almost equivalent -- for the classic hero as for Beowulf. Frodo's steadfast adherence to virtue, too, achieves importance first of all in being maintained in the face of maximum adversity, unwaveringly upheld even against the most dreadful supernatural opposition -- the pursuit, for example, of the faceless Black Riders, the Ringwraiths, who are faded into physical nothingness by their devotion to evil, posessed of enormous spiritual power for evil, the bringers of unearthly cold, the cold of the deepest reaches of Dante's Hell. But Frodo's virtue is even more significant in that it operates in a context of total free will: he is _not_ the creature of chance and fate in the same way as Beowulf. For a theological scheme is implied though not directly stated in _The _Lord of the Rings_, and it is of primary importance to the form and meaning of the work. The fact of freedom of the will entails a necessarily structured universe, a universe like the Christian one in that only through submission to the Good can true freedom be obtained -- willing acceptance of evil involves necessary loss of freedom; a universe like the Christian one, further, in that it includes the possibility of a sort of Grace. The repeated emphasis on the importance of free will and on Fate which is not chance is one aspect in which _The Lord of the Rings_ differs from its far simpler predecessor, _The Hobbit_. In _The Hobbit_, freedom of the will is not an issue, and there is only one faint suggestion of pattern in the universe. That appears on the final page, after Bilbo is safely returned from his adventures, the dragon killed, although not by his hand. Gandalf, the good sorceror, says to him then: "Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" (315). In _The Lord of the Rings_, on the other hand, references to these two themes -- freedom of will and order in the universe, in the operations of fate -- are so strongly recurrent that it is remarkable that they have not been noted before in discussions of the work. Early in _The Fellowship of the Ring_, after Gandalf has told Frodo the dreadful nature of his Ring (it partakes of too much power, and brings about the "fading" of its wearer into final submission to evil), the wizard comments that always after defeat the Shadow takes another shape and grows again. "I wish it need not have happened in my time," says Frodo." 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do [page 9] with the time that is given us'" (FR, 60). The necessity for free decision is thus early affirmed; it is to become a central issue of the trilogy. In the same chapter, a few pages later, comes the first hint of plan in the universe. Gandalf has just finished the narrative of the Ring; he has been speaking of the Ring's attempt to get back to its master, an attempt foiled by Bilbo's picking it up. But there is no chance in Bilbo's apparently fortuitous discovery. As Gandalf explains, "there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was _meant_ to find the Ring, and _not_ by its maker. In which case you also were _meant_ to have it" (FR, 65). The italics are Tolkien's -- and his point is worth emphasizing. <in publication the italics were represented by underlining> When Galdalf @Gandalf@ speaks of Gollum, the slinking creature from whom Bilbo first obtained the Ring, Frodo wonders why Bilbo did not kill him at once. Gandalf is even more emphatic in his reply: he praises Bilbo for his pity, and explains that it is because he began his ownership of the Ring with an act of mercy that he was able to escape its power at last. He explains that Gollum "is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many -- yours not least" (FR, 69). An act of virtue has become a part of Fate; by Fate -- for lack of a better word -- Frodo has been _chosen_: "I am not made for perilous quests," he cries, and Gandalf replies, "You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have" (FR, 70). The theme of responsibility, so closely linked with free will, is also reiterated -- by the Elves, who know that their meeting with Frodo is more than chance; by Strider, who insists that even an innkeeper must do what little he can against the Shadow in the East, who feels strongly his own responsibility to protect the simple folk; by the Lady Galadriel, who offers Frodo the chance to look into a magic mirror and observes solemnly, "For the fate of Lothlorien you are not answerable, but only for the doing of your own task" (FR, 380). Frodo himself comes to realize that he must not refuse the burden that is laid on him; this realization is his weapon against the temptations of Boromir, the member of his company who would steal the Ring for his own purposes. This is also, of course, what sustains him in his dreadful journey across the Land of Mordor toward the Crack of Doom; and what sustains his hobbit companion, Sam, when he thinks Frodo killed and knows he must go on. The responsibility involved here, and throughout the epic, is not simply to one's individual integrity; it is cosmic responsibility, justified by the existence of some vast, unnamed power for good. Gandalf's most sweeping statement of the nature of responsibility, although it makes no reference to any such power, strongly implies the existence of an ordering force in the universe: "Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule" (RK, 155). Both Gandalf and Aragorn, the great King, speak repeatedly of _purpose_ in the operations of apparent chance; the source of that purpose is never identified. The existence of one ordering power in the universe, however, is explicitly indicated in the appendices which recount the history of all the races involved in the Quest for Ring's destruction. There we find repeated mentions of "the Valar, the Guardians of the World" (e.g., RK 314, 315, 316, 317). In a moment of cosmic crisis, we are told, "the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed" (RK, 317). Again, death is referred to as "the gift of the One to Men" (RK, 343). This sort of reference to "the One" is all we have as precise evidence that Tolkien's universe has a Ruler, but it is sufficient, when combined with the repeated [page 10] mentions of cosmic purpose, of beings "sent" for some particular mission. If the trilogy, as has been said, deals with a "pre-religious" age, an age in which worship was confined to adherence to a special ethos, the fact remains that its author includes in it all the necessary materials for religion. So it is that the Fate which governs all here is not arbitrary. Indeed, as has been hinted already in relation to Bilbo's act of mercy, it is to some extent determined by individual acts of will. "Now we have chosen," says the Lady Galadriel, "and the tides of fate are flowing" (FR,381). In the Council of Elrond, in which the final decision that the Ring must be destroyed is taken, Elrond says, "That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world" (FR,255). The theme is constant throughout the trilogy: over and over we find similar statements denying the existence of mere chance, insisting on some plan governing the activities of all. Tom Bombadil implies that his appearance for the rescue of the hobbits was no accident; Galadriel tells the company that their paths are laid out, although not apparent to them; Frodo feels that a way will be found for him to reach the Dark Tower because such is his "doom"; he speaks to Gollum of a fate moving them both. And, although all participants in the Quest realize that the Shadow repeatedly rises again, far more forceful is the affirmation made by Frodo -- "in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach" (RK, 199). The universe of Tolkien, then, unlike that of the Anglo-Saxons, is ultimately affirmative. Within the vast affirmative context, however, there are enormous possibilities for immediate evil: the individual exists in a realm where choice is always necessary. The freedom of that choice, for the virtuous, is of paramount importance. "I count you blessed, Cimli son of Gloin," says Legolas the Elf to a dwarf member of the Ring-Bearer's company: "for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise" (FR,395). When Aragorn meets the Riders of Rohan, their leader asks him what doom he brings out of the north. "The doom of choice," replies Aragorn (TT, 36): all men must now choose good or evil. Sam, Frodo's closest companion, realizes how many opportunities they have had of turning back, and understands that heroism, in legend and in fact, consists of making repeatedly and freely the choice of good (TT, 321). In his moment of crisis, he knows that destiny has put him in this dilemna, and that his most important responsibility is to make up his own mind (TT, 341). In this world as in the Christian one, the result of repeated choices of good is the spiritual growth of the chooser. Frodo's stature increases markedly in the course of his adventures, and the increase is in the specifically Christian virtues. When Gandalf first tells him of Gollum, he feels no pity, and rejects the pity that Bilbo has felt. But by the time he has his own first encounter with the creature, he himself makes the choice of pity and mercy: he does not kill Gollum when he has him in his power. When they reach the depths of Mordor, Sam watches while Frodo sleeps. He notes in Frodo's face that a light seems to be shining within. "Now the light was even clearer and stronger [than when he first noticed it a few months earlier]. Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiseling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed" (TT, 260). Finally, Frodo has mercy even on Saruman, who has been far more definitely than Gollum an active agent of evil, an agent who, indeed, has just tried to murder Frodo. Saruman looks at him with "mingled wonder and respect and hatred. 'You have grown, Halfling,' he said. 'You have grown very much. You are wise...'" (RK,299). And, at the very end, it is Frodo who [page 11] asserts the necessity and value of sacrifice. "When things are in danger," he says to Sam, "Someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them" (RK, 309). So he gives up his beloved Shire, and goes unto the unknown West, to a land equivalent to Arthur's Avalon. He has become heroic in mind as well as in action; heroic in mind as a direct result of his action. The course of the evil beings is equally well-defined. By using their freedom to choose evil, the wicked destroy freedom: emphasis is consistently upon the essential _slavery_ of the servants of Sauron, who can no longer accept freedom when it is offered them. Pride and self-will, here as in so many other great works, are often the sources of evil. Saruman has been corrupted through pride; even the trees of the forest which attempt to capture the Hobbits are said to have become evil by the growth of pride in them. Denethor, the Steward of the King, kills himself as a direct result of pride and that other great Christian sin, despair. It is pride that leads Boromir to want the Ring -- pride, indeed, that lures all toward the Ring: Sam is able to resist its pull solely because of his humility, the fact that he is content with his own garden (RK,177). Saruman and Gollum are the main case histories here of the gradual destructive effect of willing submission to evil wills, but Gandalf makes it clear that the result of such submission must always be the same, even for one predominantly virtuous at the outset. Even Bilbo began his ownership of the Ring with a lie intended to make his claim on it more secure. If a mortal often uses the Ring, says Gandalf, he "_fades_: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later -- later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last -- sooner or later the dark power will devour him" (FR,56). The Ring, of course, represents power; and Frodo the Hobbit is no more capable than Tamburlaine the Great of controlling unlimited power without himself being destructively controlled by it. Not even Gandalf is capable of wielding such force. Frodo offers him the Ring because he is already "wise and powerful," but he rejects it vehemently. "Do not tempt me! 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. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to @weild@ it would be too great for my strength.... 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" (FR,70-71). Indeed, Saruman began from precisely the position of Gandalf, and even without posession of the Ring, pride and the lust for power destroy him. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the trilogy, Gandalf confronts Saruman in his ruined stronghold and offers him the choice of complete freedom -- "free from bond, of chain or command: to go where you will, even, even to Mordor, Saruman, if you desire" (TT,188) -- or continued slavery to Sauron. But the sorcerer has become too corrupted to retain the ability to choose; he is forced by the decay of his own will to remain in a slavery resulting from free choice made long before. So too with Gollum, a far more pitiable creature, essentially amoral, but degraded to the uses of evil: amorality is not really possible in Tolkien's scheme. Gandalf tells the story of his slow destruction through possession of the Ring: "All the 'great secrets' under the mountains had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything, and the Ring most of all.... He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. _He had no will left in the matter_" (FR,64; italics mine). <once again, italics represented by underlining in publication> As Frodo's Quest nears its end, Faramir advises him against trusting -- [page 12] as he is -- to Gollum's leadership. Faramir is convinced that Gollum is wicked; Frodo maintains that the creature is not altogether wicked. "Not wholly, perhaps," agrees Faramir, "but malice eats it like a canker, and the evil is growing" (TT, 301). And this is apt: the progress of evil in an individual cannot be reversed without a specific, conscious act of will, an act that Gollum, like the other characters devoted to evil, is quite incapable of performing. Yet this same Gollum, ever more corrupted by lust for the Ring, his "Precious," becomes finally the instrument of Grace for Frodo in one of the most perplexing episodes of _The Lord of the Rings_. At the very end of his Quest, having struggled against hideous adversity to reach the Crack of Doom -- at the very end, Frodo "changes his mind." "'I have come,' he said, 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!'" (RK,223). He still uses the language of free will -- "I do not choose" -- but the speech and the act which accompanies it (he puts on the Ring) represent rather a crucial failure of will. For "he was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-Earth; _all other powers were here subdued_" (RK,222; italics mine). <authorial italics changed to underlining in publication> Strong as it is; Frodo's will here succumbs. Yet still he is saved -- not by an act of will, but by an act of Fate. Gollum, whose corruption is complete at this moment, leaps on Frodo, bites off the finger which wears the Ring, waves it aloftin @aloft in@ triumph, and -- falls into the Crack of Doom with it: the Quest is thus accomplished. Dramatically, this final twist is quite unnecessary. It prolongs the suspense by barely a page; the dilemma raised by Frodo's failure is immediately resolved. Thematically, however, it is essential. In the presentation of this event, the idea of free will intimately involved with fate receives its most forceful statement. The same idea has been suggested before; now, however, it becomes inescapable. Free choice of good by the individual involves his participation in a broad pattern of Good; individual acts become a part of Fate. Frodo has repeatedly chosen to behave mercifully toward Gollum, even in the face of treachery on the other's part. His merciful acts determine his fate and, because he has by his acceptance of his mission come to hold a symbolic position, they determine also the fate of the world he inhabits. Gollum, on the other hand, though he is comparatively weak in evil, has become the symbolic representative of evil. His original acceptance of evil has made him will-less; it is quite appropriate that at the last he should be merely an instrument of that essentially benevolent fate through which, as Sam realizes, "his master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free" (RK,225) -- free at the cost of physical maiming, the emblem of his human (or Hobbit) weakness -- like Lewis's hero, Ransom, who is in _Perelandra_ successful in physical struggle with the Devil, but emerges from it with an unhealable wound in the heel. So, although _The Lord of the Rings_ is by no means allegorical, it gains much of its force from its symbolic concentration on the most basic human concerns: the problems of man's relation to his universe. The fact that Tolkien's cosmos seems at first totally alien to our own might mislead us into thinking that his trilogy has no more right than ordinary science fiction to be considered as serious literature, that it is really the "juvenile trash" that Wilson thinks it. Yet Tolkien removes his fiction from the realm of "real life" only to be enabled to talk more forcefully about reality. A serious reading of _The Lord of the Rings_ must produce the realization that its issues are profoundly relevant to human problems. To be sure, Tolkien's method of communicating that relevance differs markedly from that of Lewis and Williams, who write always with the clear and specific purpose of Christian apologetics. If they create weird and alien worlds, worlds of science fiction, of the ghost [page 13] story, it is with the basic intent of demonstrating the engulfing power of Christianity. Their primary referents are Christian and (especially in Lewis) classic myth, and didacticism lurks always behind their tales: the ultimate success of _That Hideous Strength_ or _All Hallows' Eve_ would be the conversion of its readers. Tolkien, on the other hand, has no such ax to grind --and this fact itself aids in the communication of true mythic power in his work. Like true myth, his trilogy bears no specific message, despite its heavy overtones of moral significance. It has mythic scope, mythic imagination; it projects a quality of originality fused with timelessness. If it fails at all as myth, its weakness lies at the opposite pole from that of Lewis and Williams, who suffer a bit from the comparative simplicity and the constancy of their didactic purpose. Tolkien tends rather to over-complicate: his account of Frodo's adventures is perhaps too heavily decorated to survive as genuine literary myth. Yet Tolkien's achievement is no small one: his work must be considered relevant, despite the fact that it is far removed from the main tradition of twentieth-century literature. Gigantic in effect, unique in conception, his trilogy must assume, it seems, a central position in the canon of serious supernatural literature. WELLESLEY COLLEGE FOOTNOTES 1. One notable reply to Wilson is Douglass Parker's "Hwaet We Holbytla..." (_Hudson Review_ 9, Winter 1956-7, pp.598-609), Which brilliantly refutes Wilson's attack and makes a strong defense of the trilogy. Mr. Parker is largely, though by no means entirely, concerned with the success of _The Lord of the Rings_ as fantasy. He reads the trilogy as being most essentially concerned not with the struggle of Good against Evil, but with an account of "the end of an age," an account which defines the human condition perceived in basically pagan terms. Although I agree enthusiastically with Mr. Parker on most counts, I must quarrel with his easy rejection of free will as a there of Tolkien's ("Free will has not, as some critics think, been restored as a result of the Ring's destruction]; it never existed in the first place, nor did determinism reside in the Ring"; p.604). Surely the situation, for Tolkien as for the _Beowulf_-poet, is more complicated: the universe is one which paradoxically combines qualified determinism with qualified free will. 2. J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Fellowship of the Ring_ (New York: Houghton Mifflin, n.d.), p.279; hereafter referred to as FR. The other volumes of the trilogy are _The Two Towers_ (New York: Houghton Mifflin, n.d.), referred to as TT; and _The Return of the King_ (RK) (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1956). The edition of _The Hobbit_ referred to is published by George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1956. This article originally appeared in _Critique_, v. III No. 1, Spring-Fall, 1959, pages 30-42. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ COPYRIGHT 1959 by _Critique_. Reprinted by permission.

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