Monday, March 31, 2008

Milton's influence in The Lord of the Rings

In class today we began to talk extensively about John Milton's Paradise Lost in its relation to The Lord of the Rings. We see Tolkien's view of the orcs vs. the elves in comparison to the faithful vs. the fallen in Paradise Lost. Another similarity is Isilador vs. the fall of man.
We further discussed the elves being angelic figures and orcs are elves fallen from grace; they may not want to be associated with Sauron but nonetheless follow him because there isn't anything better to do and what other races want to be associated with orcs.
I was wondering if my colleagues found any other connections that can be drawn between the two texts. I also was hoping for Dr. Joy's input on the idea of Tolkien drawing on a lot of ideas from Milton's work.


Eileen Joy said...

Ben: this is a great comment and I have thought a lot about the connections between Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Tolkien's trilogy, but mainly in relation to the triangle of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum and the idea of "felix culpa," or "the fortunate fall"--this is the idea, in Biblical terms, that without Adam and Eve having sinned and fallen from God's favor [by eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge] then redemption [through Christ's sacrifice] would not be possible, so the "sin" that Adam and Eve commit is a "fortunate" sin in that it leads our ultimate "salvation" through Christ. It's a bit of a mind-whirl to really think through this all the way and is related to larger and thornier philosophical/spiritual questions, such as: if God is ultimately benevolent [all-good] and omnipotent [all-powerful] and omniscient [knows everything in advance], then why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there disease, war, famine, natural disasters, etc.? And one of the answers, which Milton illustrates with the figure of Satan in his poem, is that God *allows* evil to exist in the world so that human beings can find their way to "grace" from the lowest possible vantage points and so that when they exercise their "free" will, they will do so to choose good over the evil that is all around them and somehow, that "choice" then matters more, because if goodness has no opposite, then there is no choice, and if there is no choice--goodness just is--well: can you begin to see the dilemma? And this might bring us back to Tolkien if we ask ourselves: what is the function of Gollum in this narrative/journey?

Jacob Carlson said...

I posted a comment under the topic "Wisdom and Traveling" that lights upon the fall of Man and wisdom and all of that jazz. I don't mention Milton's account directly; however, since Milton based Paradise Lost directly off of the Biblical account (with some freedom, of course), then it would apply to this topic, I think.

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