THE INDIVIDUATED HOBBIT: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-Earth by Timothy R. O'Neill

THE INDIVIDUATED HOBBIT: Jung, Tolkien, and the Archetypes of Middle-Earth

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The most remarkable thing about this pleasant bit of Tolkienana is its source: O'Neill is a career Army officer who teaches ""Behavioral Sciences and Leadership"" at West Point. The times, they are indeed a-changin'. In any case, O'Neill works from the possibly awkward assumption that his readers know everything about Tolkien and nothing about Jung: He begins with two simple, readable chapters outlining Jungian psychology, and then proceeds to argue that Tolkien's work is ""probably the clearest repository of Jungian themes in recent literature."" Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he claims, illustrate the search for the Self through the process of individuation, on the part of individual heroes (Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Frodo, etc.) and Man in general. Middle-earth is a map of the psyche, with its realms of the conscious (Numenor, Gondor) and the unconscious (Fa‚rie). Bilbo struggling with Gollum may be read as the ego coming to grips with its shadow. Gandalf in his redemptive phase embodies both Fa‚rie and Middle-earth (Maia and Man, God and Man, as O'Neill would have it), and hence reveals the union of opposites--a key to the realization of the Self. The concluding Fourth Age of Middle-earth marks the golden time when the human psyche finds its equilibrium and reaches its potential. If Tolkien never explicitly intended any of these analogies, they do his thought no violence, since he and Jung share broadly compatible mythical-humanist frames of reference. A bright, lively essay, recommended devotional reading for the Tolkien faithful.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin