Where the Shadows Lie: Tolkien’s Medieval View of Free Will, Temptation, and Evil


J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings in such a way that the story “absorbed” specific parts of Tolkien’s own beliefs. Such an absorption allows for distinctly Medieval Christian beliefs to appear throughout the narrative. With careful observation and comparison, I will show how Tolkien's theories of evil, free will, and temptation fit into a broadly Medieval Christian tradition. I will show the connections between some of the foremost philosophical scholars of the Middle Ages and J.R.R. Tolkien by examining his letters and fantasy narrative, in conjunction with the relevant works of St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus. In my first chapter, I introduce the influences on Tolkien and how he intentionally included such elements in the story. In my second chapter, I investigate how Tolkien adopts a Medieval privation theory to explain evil. I then proceed to investigate the benefits of reading Tolkien's discussion of free will as an illustration of St. Anselm’s two-will theory. Finally, I conclude by briefly examining the role of Grace in Tolkien's narrative and how it influenced his portrayal of evil and free will.



J.R.R. Tolkien, Medieval Philosophy, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Will Theory, The Privation Theory, Free Will, Evil