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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Michael Nagy


J.R.R. Tolkien’s contribution to the medieval and linguistic scholarship is only surpassed by his contribution to fantasy fiction. In his Middle-earth, readers experience a wealth of interwoven characters within an elaborate tapestry of his sub-created world; however, some of Tolkien’s most fascinating creations are evil. Much of the scholarship on Tolkien addresses his philosophical approach to evil in the world, and this thesis attempts to convince readers that Middle-earth is wholly Boëthian in its construction. Through an examination of several evil characters in Tolkien’s novels, with special attention paid to the Ring of Power, this argument states that many authors correctly interpret Tolkien’s theology on the origins of evil, yet some authors have proposed that elements within Middle-earth are Manichaean in construction. This thesis attempts to discount those interpretations, illuminating instances of Tolkien’s sophisticated approach to evil under an exclusively Boëthian tent. Readers will examine the Ring of Power in closest depth, since this becomes the focal antagonist in The Lord of the Rings and also because critics often point to passages about the Ring when asserting that portions of Tolkien’s work are Manichaean. By exploring the Ring’s creation and its effects on the characters around it, this thesis illuminates how Tolkien designed the Ring as a study on addiction as well as power. Through this thesis, readers will understand that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, vii along with Tolkien’s extensive posthumously produced works, all fit within the structure of Boëthius’s original teachings.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Tolkien, J. R. R.--(John Ronald Reuel),--1892-1973--Criticism and interpretation
Tolkien, J. R. R.--(John Ronald Reuel),--1892-1973--Philosophy
Fantasy fiction, English--History and criticism
Evil in literature
Middle Earth (Imaginary place)
Philosophy in literature


Includes bibliographical references (pages 115-120)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



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