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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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Today's reader of modern narrative, however medieval its
spirit, may be reluctant to accept a truly medieval monster-
a dragon or fiend-but he is accustomed to accepting
internal conflict. Frodo the monster-queller might not be
credible. But Frodo tortured by growing evil in his own
nature... is believable and compelling.... In the final
moment, standing at the Cracks of Doom, Frodo succumbs
to the darkness within him. He puts the Ring on his finger,
claimed by it even as he claims it.... For man always loses
to the monster at last. Frodo is defeated as surely as
Beowulf is....

Although Frodo recovers from the battle, he can no longer
be what he was.... The fairy-tale hero, inconspicuous and
unassuming, has been made to suffer the bitterness and loss
of the medieval epic hero. Like Beowulf, like Arthur, he
loses the last battle and pays a heavy price for his struggle.
Such an ending is dreadfully inappropriate....

And that, of course, is just Tolkien's point. It is not meant
to be fair. We are beyond epic now, beyond romance and
beyond the fairy-tale ending. In the real world things
seldom turn out as we would like them to, and the little
man is as subject to tragedy as the great one.

Verlyn Flieger, "Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of Hero
in 'The Lord of the Ring,'" in Isaacs and Zimbardo, eds.,
Tolkien: New Critical Perspectives, 1981


The Lord of the Rings, then, although it presents no "God,"
no "Christ," and no "Christians," embodies much of
Tolkien's "real religion" and is a profoundly Christian
work. No "God" is required in this story.... Gandalf and
Aragorn need not turn our thoughts to... Christ... but they
persuade us that if we are to have hope in our lives and in
our history it must be hope for the kind of power and
authority revealed in Aragorn the king and on the basis of
the kind of power revealed in Gandalf's "miracles" and in
his rising from the dead. What Frodo does and undergoes
speaks to us of what a man's responsibility, according to the
Christian faith, must always be: to renounce the kind of
power which would enslave others and ourselves and to
submit to that power which frees us all.

Gunnar Urang, "Tolkien's Fantasy: The Phenomenology of
Hope," in Mark R. Hillegas, ed., Shadows of the
Imagination, 1969


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, the remote and alien villain
with the plucky little homegrown hero.... For the most part
such characterizations as Dr. Tolkien has been able to
contrive are perfectly stereotyped: Frodo the good little
Englishman, Samwise, his doglike servant, who talks lower
class and respectful, and who never deserts his master.
These characters... are involved in interminable adventures
the poverty of invention displayed in which is... almost

Edmund Wilson, "Oo, Those Awful Orcs!" in The Nation,
April 14, 1956

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