Date of Award

Spring 2022


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Literature




J.R.R. Tolkien’s impact on modern fantasy fiction is remarkable. However, while some of the changes to the genre ushered in by Tolkien’s work are positive, other aspects of his legacy are more problematic. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion are based on his colonial worldview. They are biographical in that Tolkien draws heavily from his life experience to tell his stories. The biographical influence manifests in a hierarchical representation of everything from trees and their ancestry to the elves, humans, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs that populate his fiction. The hierarchies are value structures and the nearer to the top of the value structure, the more agency is attributed to the character. The hierarchy of people is particularly problematic because it is built on nineteenth and early twentieth century ideologies of race inequality. The popularity of Tolkien’s fantasy fiction and its impact on the genre have allowed these ideologies to become embedded in fantasy fiction and propagate colonial racist ideas in the fantasy fiction genre.