Re-enchanting Nature: Mythic and Medieval Environmentalism in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium

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McCollum, Dylan Miller
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Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis seeks to examine the ways in which J.R.R. Tolkien uses the literary theory of enchantment, as described in “On Fairy Stories,” in order to dramatize environmental destruction and the relationship between humanity and nature. Inspired by Patrick Curry’s work placing Tolkien’s use of enchantment within Max Weber’s theory of disenchantment, I seek to highlight the way enchantment is connected to environmentalism and disenchantment with industrialism, commodification, and ecological destruction. Following the work of Jefferey Jerome Cohen, who proposes medieval literature and philosophy as a source of inspiration for stories that inspire enchantment and environmentalism, I draw a direct line between Tolkien’s environmentalist stories and the medieval traditions, myths, and folklore that inspired his mythopoetic fantasy. I then propose that Tolkien uses fantastic actions within his stories as a way to re-enchant both his characters and his readers, allowing them to see nature as something with inherent value.
Ecocriticism, Fantasy, Medieval, Tolkien, Literature