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Memory, Mortality, and Journeys in Tolkien’s Poetry

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Mortality and death are constantly present throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Doom and fate are inescapable motifs, as Tolkien presents the question of where the journey of life leads to in the end. In the poem “I sit beside the fire and think,” Bilbo not only reflects upon his own journeys, he also recognizes that the journey goes beyond himself and continues even after his life ends. Furthermore, Bilbo’s poems connect to one another as the poem “The Road” is alluded to in “I sit beside the fire and think” when he mentions “the door” in order to indicate a circular flow of life. Death is a necessary part for life. When a life ends, there is the space for another to begin. However, the current situation of Middle-earth in the novels, sets up an ambiguous future for the upcoming generations. Tolkien ends the novel without a clear indication that either good or evil will prevail. Through his poetry, Tolkien reinforces a theme of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that although an individual’s journey and life must eventually end to make way for the future generations, the natural world will continue on, and those generations will carry the same burden of their ancestors of continuously fighting good versus evil.

In the poem “I sit beside the fire and think,” Bilbo reminisces on his past journeys and expresses disappointment that he will not be able to go on the next adventure. His journey has come to the end, thus all he has left to do is to sit and think of all that he saw. Tolkien uses an anaphora with the beginning line, “I sit beside the fire and think,” in order to emphasize the warm and comfortable environment in which he reminisces. The atmosphere in which he reminisces is a reflection of the happiness he feels towards ...

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...egan, and the purpose of the journey is pondered. Tolkien’s work carries the argument of why God created mankind mortal, and on the road and during the journey, the purpose and destination is not always clarified. These questions that Tolkien presents do not always have an answer. He is neither a real pessimist nor optimist in the ending, instead he is realistic that there will always be the possibility for evil in the world. Past generations can attempt to rid the world of evil to make the future a better place, but it is inevitable that each generation will have to continue the fight for good. Tolkien recognizes the necessity of mortality and death in his poetry so that life can continue on in others. The end of one life or journey is always the beginning of another.

Works Cited

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
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