Reimagining Tolkien: a post-colonial perspective on the lord of the rings
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This thesis analyses J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings from a post-colonial perspective. An Oxford don and philologist, who was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa but spent the majority of his life in Britain, Tolkien is best known amongst the general reading public for being the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, although he also published a number of other texts during his lifetime. The primary aim of this project is to conduct a close textual examination of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in light of twentieth century post-colonial concerns regarding the representation of the Other, Orientalism, language and the environment. By approaching his text in this way, it will be possible to ascertain whether or not Tolkien utilises some of the issues which arise in his text in such a way that they engage with the concerns raised by twentieth century post-colonial theorists, a feat which would determine whether or not The Lord of the Rings can be seen to function as a twentieth century post-colonial critique of colonial attitudes and ideas. In conjunction with this central aim, this thesis will also endeavour to challenge the often cited belief that The Lord of the Rings and texts which utilise fantastical elements in their narrative/fantasy fiction as a whole have little more to offer readers other than an escape into a mythical realm, as by undertaking a post-colonial analysis of Tolkien’s text, it will be possible to demonstrate not only the relevance of this approach to the text, but also the fact that Tolkien uses The Lord of the Rings as a device through which he can engage with some of the central concerns of the period in which it was written. However, even though The Lord of the Rings is the main focus of this study, in order to ensure that this investigation is as extensive as possible, it will be necessary, on occasion, to utilise information garnered from The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, as both of these texts recount events prior to but related to the events that occur in The Lord of the Rings. In addition, it will also be necessary to draw upon the work of post-colonial scholars such as Trinh T. Minh-ha, Edward Said, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Val Plumwood. v The arguments of Tzvetan Todorov and Chinua Achebe will be drawn upon as well. Therefore, the overall argument made in this thesis is that even though Tolkien utilises fantastical elements in his text, The Lord of the Rings is a text which ‘is replete with themes that directly pertain to discourses involving Orientalism and postcolonial concerns ...’ (Winegar 2005, p.1), and as such, should be viewed as a product of both Tolkien’s personal experiences and the timescale in which it was written.
KeywordsLord of the Rings