How J.R.R. Tolkien Shows Us Ourselves

Characters in 'Lord of the Rings.'
Lord of the Rings is one of Musk's favorite books. (Image: via New Line Cinema)

Some authors and literary geniuses are marvelous philosophers, too, and their insight into human life and mind is nothing short of astounding. One of them is legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien.

His fantasy series The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings have been made into movies, and these films have millions of fans globally. However, he did not write fairy tales only to entice children and ignite their fantasies. Instead, his vision of fairy tales was much more invasive.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a lengthy and insightful essay on fairy tales and in his view, fairy-tale stories serve as a mirror for us to look into. These fairy tales are not merely meant for allowing your mind to escape to a realm that does not exist.

He makes us think about ourselves by reading fairy tales. And as we do, we become more aware of our traits as we relate to the characters depicted in these fantasy stories. This claim can be verified by studying the characters shown in his works.

The late British author J.R.R. Tolkien pictured in Oxford, England, in 1972.
The late British author J.R.R. Tolkien pictured in Oxford, England, in 1972. (Image: via Public Domain)

In his essay, J.R.R. Tolkien said that fairy tales make us realize our limitations and faults. Thus, the greatest fairy-tail stories can also be deemed realism works. This can be understood by studying the critical characters in his most famous work, The Lord of the Rings.

In this fictional work, one character named Boromir happens to be the only human character in The Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship includes four hobbits, a king, a wizard, a dwarf, an elf, and a human, with Boromir being the sole representative of humanity.

How J.R.R. Tolkien shows us ourselves as Boromir, Faramir, and Aragorn

Boromir commits an act of betrayal in the story. He betrays the Fellowship and is shown resorting to evil means for one good end. The noteworthy aspect about Boromir is that he fails to see that he can’t utilize evil means without corrupting the good end itself.

If you observe human history, you will find plenty of characters following the path of Boromir. They tried to use evil means for a noble cause. However, the noble cause was corrupted in the end. Think of what happened to the French Revolution and how it paved the way for the reign of terror. Communism also witnessed some nefarious activities in the name of equality and nationalism.

In The Lord of the Rings, there are other characters to whom humans can relate. For example, there is Faramir, the sibling of Boromir. He is portrayed as an honest and morally upright character, the antithesis of Boromir. If Boromir shows what tempted people are like, Faramir stands for an ideal human being. Even in real life, we encounter such characters, with and without a sense of morality.

Gollum is not a simple villain. The Ring has corrupted him, but his tragedy is that he is not beyond hope — a spark of goodness survives, crippled by his gnawing obsession with the Ring. (Image: via New Line Cinema)

There is one more character that can be placed in the human category. This character is Aragorn, the rightful heir to the throne and a sage and brave man. He is shown to protect those innocent citizens living far away from their homes because of war.

These three characters, Boromir, Faramir, and Aragorn can be termed as the representation of what humans are like. All three stand for different traits and characteristics that exist in humans. This is an example of how J.R.R. Tolkien uses fantasy to show real-life traits in his characters.


Then there is the character called Gollum. He is so consumed by his passion for self-gratification that he can’t get rid of habits that are killing him, destroying his soul in the process. It is not hard to find humans aware of their destructive traits, but who still fail to rein in their habits.

So it is fair to say that J.R.R. Tolkien illustrates characters resembling humans closely in the fantasy world called Middle-earth. These characters also highlight traits that we should strive to develop and the ones we should discard.

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