Nature in Tolkien's Writing

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While reading any of J. R. R. Tolkien’s major works, be it The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, or The Lord of the Rings, one cannot help but notice the amount of attention that is given to nature. There are numerous details given to describe each location, each character, even each tree. Tolkien did not claim to be an environmentalist, but by spending so much time in his books explaining the importance of nature, it is hard to say that he did not care about it. About the fantasy world that Tolkien recreated, Sherry Turkle argues, “The question is whether that prepares us to live in a world that's complex, where we need to be able to work in a structure where there are no rules and where we have to be really attentive to other people's cultures and other people's ways of seeing things” (qtd. in Grossman 4). Lev Grossman counters this point when he says, “If The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy, it's ultimately a fantasy about growing up and putting childish things aside” (5). Grossman believes that LOTR is a fantasy, but unlike Turkle, he thinks that the reader benefits with a lesson about growing up and sacrifice.

Tolkien placed a great value on the relationship between the characters and nature: from the elves protecting the forest to the hobbits cultivating the ground and living off the earth. He emphasized stewardship and the importance of working with nature, rather than against it. Lucas P. Niiler agrees with this point when he says, “In particular, Tolkien’s work demonstrates one form such an ethic can take: land stewardship, as is modeled by Bombadil and later practiced by the hobbits” (284). Stewardship is evident in how each of the characters relate to their home in LOTR. For example, the Hobbits live in the Shire, a small, q...

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...ronment, and he wanted to save it by destroying the Ring. Through these examples, and ones that I have given previously, we can see that Tolkien truly cared for the environment.

Works Cited

Bowman, Mary R. "The Story Was Already Written: Narrative Theory in The Lord of the Rings." Narrative 14.3 (2006): 272-293.

Grossman, Lev. "Feeding on Fantasy." Time 02 December 2002: 1-5.

Niiler, Lucas P. "Green Reading: Tolkien, Leopold and the Land Ethic." Journal fo the Fantastic in the Arts (1999): 276-285.

Reeder, Ike. "The Silence of Trees: Environmental Agency and the Politics of Power in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion." (n.d.): 107-115.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Ed. Humphrey Carpenter (Boston, New York: Houchton Mifflin 2000).

---. The Lord of the Rings. (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994).
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