Archetypes / C.G.Jung / Literature / Literature & Art

Jungian Archetype Checklist for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings


In his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien created what he called a “new mythos”. There is undoubtedly much in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that invites us seeing it through the Jungian framework.  However, on a closer look, comparatively few archetypes are present, and the main protagonist’s (Frodo’s) individuation arguably fails. A Jungian view must offer more than “In a fairy land lived a halfling who, together with some helper-figures, became a wiser and individuated hobbit’.  On the first glance (and even on the second) Frodo listens more to his shadow than to his Anima – if he has an own Anima at all.

Now, how do we avoid  the “If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail“, problem?  By systematically testing elements in the Jungian framework on its applicability to the Lord of the Ring and comparing the results with similar elements  in Richards Wagner “Ring Cycle”. The result is surprising and I hope a bit entertaining.

Where is Frodo’s Anima?

anima

anima

The story, set in a world Tolkien called Middle-earth, puts forth a possible alternative past for our Earth, one that could have occurred before our written history began.  Tolkien was fascinated with the pre-Christian mythology of northern Europe. To make his story, he pulled elements from these myths. He also imbued it with elements from his own Catholic faith. The story follows a basic plot of a heroic quest. And here it gets meager for Frodo in regards to individuation and Anima.  Without doubt Gollum is Frodo’s shadow. When the Fellowship goes out into the evil lands, passes the trials of Caradhras, the Wargs, and the Balrog, they encounter in Lothlorien  a fair and terrifying Anima.  Galadriel, who sees into one’s heart and forces people to look honestly at themselves, to see the shadow within, giving Frodos followers a hint of individuation – the initial dream.

While the characters with most depth are Hobbits,  I am not quite sure, if you can interpret Frodo’s quest as his individuation, self-actualization and search for enlightenment. Without blasphemy, one may find a resemblance to Jesus’ hesitation to take the cross. Most of Tolkien’s writings can perceived in the dualistic view of good and evil in distinct ‘mythic’ flavor of a very personal evil and even an evil empire.  However, unlike in  opera or theatre, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is not myth per se, but a cleverly fabricated  and artistically elaborated piece of art,  more for effect than symbolic.

Many of Tolkien’s protagonists resemble thus somewhat more shallow characters of fairy stories, than those, say in Wagner’s Ring,  which Jungian’s generally easily find representation of the collective unconscious. Tolkien’s  (human) figures are more theatric  than archetypal images – or  archetypal per se (templates) :  Sure, the King(s), the Warrior and the  Wizard are quite obvious and map easily and directly to Jung’s “standard” archetypal images.  But all in all it is more Shakespeare than Wagner. Why then, does Lord of the Rings have such an overwhelming emotional impact on me and on others?  Precisely of that. For many of us, the simple identification with the most obvious Jungian archetypal images is the unconsciously response to a typical hero quest and the lure of alchemy. Take the wizard Gandalf, his name was part of 50 % of the root passwords in Unix systems, long before the movie came out. To the younger and/or non-techies, Unix was predecessor of Android OS and is after a rebirth in Linux still base of most Internet infrastructure.

Tolkien’s “brave old world”

galadriel

galadriel

As we experience today really, “The End of an Age,”  people’s attitude toward religion in the contemporary West (true more than Europe than the United States) has changed. The Hobbit’s Shire creates a suitable sugary pagan (or pseudo religious) setting similar to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s understanding of “good” nature and savage before Christianity and science took over.  And as Campbell puts it, “It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit.” This is why “Lord of the Rings” speaks as deeply to people who share neither Tolkien’s faith nor his opinions as it does to those who do. It transcends the personal and the particular to touch us all.  As a put off,  it is often argued that the “analytical psychology” developed by C. G. Jung in the early years of the last century was always more religion than a science anyway. Jung was intrigued by the imagery of dreams and waking visions experienced both by himself and his patients, and how this same symbolic imagery appeared repeatedly in religion, mythology and alchemy–areas of which the patients in question were most often ignorant. His concept of archetypes and archetypal imagery has permeated our culture, especially in the arts and humanities.  Hence, an ‘emotional response problem is expected in Tolkien’s approach. It is one thing to like a piece of art, but another to analyse and assess it as a collective unconscious. One may value Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as a book of undoubted literary quality, whereas even more respond enthusiastically to a trashy sequential  also by another British. Lord of the Rings especially seems to have ‘spoken’ to many of its readers via its archetypal images and the “American National Park” motifs. I have heard, that he had traveled to the US – when I moved to the states and saw them for the first time I was able to map  my own, self created images having read the book 10 years before.

Jungian framework and art

I want to suppress the understandable desire to prove that the book I love is also a ‘good’ book in a literary terms but look at it in another way of exploring the reader’s (my) psyche.   Jungian literary criticism is, in my opinion, a method very well suited  exploring the psychological dimension of fiction. I have written about, say Herman Hesse,  Max Frisch.  Both obviously succeeded in creating a work of art rooted in the Western tradition that ‘speaks’ to millions of readers, and a Jungian approach can give a reason for this success, namely that it constitutes a compensatory set of archetypal images that transcend age and culture for a greater balance. Yet, the Jungian framework also harbours some grave dangers – the subject of the analysis becomes too easily confused with the concepts and terminology of what should be the meta-language; the ‘critical’ distance between ‘theory’ and ‘object’ is often dangerously small and causes us to confuse and mix the two levels.  It becomes post-modern mud like those ‘history studies’ blissfully ignoring sources, parallels and analogues and mixing facts and opinion. I use the  Encyclopedia of Arda to keep me honest about the content, Timothy R. O’Neill’s  book “The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien and the Archetypes of Middle-Earth” of 1979 and Wagner’s Ring and Its Symbols” originally published 1984 from the English musicologist Robert Donington, both major landmarks in the uncovering mythical-archetypal structures in art. I found little other (and better) than that.  O’Neill’s 1979 book-length study comes from an army psychologist but is not based on professional training in analytical psychology. I am also  aware of the study of  Jungian analyst Pia Skogemann “Where the Shadows lie” in 2009.

The Heroic Journey

Tolkien started out just to write a sequel to The Hobbit.  Tolkien tells us in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings that “the tale grew in the telling” into something much larger, darker, and complicated than his original intent. At the end of his first draft of Chapter III, Tolkien wrote to his publisher that the story “has taken an unpremeditated turn.” By the time he was writing Chapter VII, he reported that “It is now flowing along, and getting out of hand . . . [it] progresses towards quite unforeseen goals.” When Faramir appeared, Tolkien reported to his son that “I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him . . . but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien . . .” Later he said “Gollum continues to develop into a most intriguing character.”The Lord of the Rings follows the basic plot of the hero’s journey.

Night Journey

Night Journey

Joseph Campbell recognized a basic pattern in many of those  narratives and has named those necessary stages to this journey:

  • Separation and departure from the safe haven of home or childhood,
  • Initiation,
  • The Fight or the underworld,
  • Return and reintegration.

To accomplish his quest, the hero will need to call on his own strengths. These qualities are represented as companions with different qualities.  Heroes are almost always the most unlikely person possible. Each time Frodo and Sam begin another stage of their journey, they encounter one or more threshold guardians (wise men or wise women).

Spot the archetype

The method is playing “spot the archetype” with Tolkien’s characters is a game that many scholars have played with relish – functional complexes or archetypes as Ego, Shadow, Anima and Self and collective archetypes  as Warrior, Magician, Hero,  King, among others.

Archetypes (per se) are described as structural templates  in the collective unconscious, invisible nuclear elements and potential carrier of meaning. C.G. Jung stresses the point that aarchetypes are not inherited but only structural patterns of potential representation. When they are touched by the light of the conscious mind they may become in the lower plane instincts and the higher realm images. Archetypes (not per se!) may be equated with complexes, particularly the those of personal unconscious (like shadow) which are often refered as functional complexes.

Complexes according to C.G. Jung are described as sources of intensity or energy around a nucleus ( an archetype per se) which may drain (or provide) energy and integrity from/to the conscious Ego and are typically in the personal unconscious but also in the collective unconscious,  Jolande Jacobi describes the “complex” as a node of unconscious feelings and beliefs, detectable only indirectly, through behavior.

Symbols are perceptible to the conscious mind and are for the most part a representation of archetypes per se conscious mind. Obviously they can be inherited and they my personal or collective as source of all mythic, symbolic and dream representations. This mankind’s experience and knowledge is  not available directly — only its images and created patterns can become manifest as symbols potentially unlimited in number and variety. Symbols are the core of our culture being the universal patterns of myth, religious symbols and Tolkien.

Symbols

Though there are many symbols in the story, four symbols of personal power are central to our theme:

  • The evil ring, and the relationship with the other rings.
  • The phial of light.
  • The invisibility cloak, confers the power to change but it also entails the power to deceive.
  • The sword, stinger,  the weapon for the heroic struggle against the Orks.

The number four is very significant in Jung’s analytical psychology.Jung loves the number four.  One can compare the three Elven rings plus the One Ring to Jung’s analysis of the Christian age in the light of alchemical symbolism, with the good Trinity and the hidden (evil) or later in live (female) fourth. by Pia Skogemann argues that the Fellowship is not really nine but eight, divided into two quaternities.

Functional Archetypes

The total psyche: (Mantra - Jolande Jacobi "The psychology of C.G. Jung"

The total psyche: (Mantra – Jolande Jacobi “The psychology of C.G. Jung”

The Ego and the Self are terms which are often interchangeably used.  The psychological term Ego is the center of consciousness and ensures the physical survival . Ego often has an extended meaning in the spiritual language and referrers in general terms to an obstacle for Self realization.

Jung distinguishes sharply between Ego and Self and differentiates the unconscious thoughts and feelings of both types of memories: the ones we can remember easily and those who are suppressed for some reason. In addition he introduced the collective unconscious, which belongs to the common humanity, as part of an individual psyche.

The Ego

Frodo and the Shire express the realm of Ego.  The Ring is the Ego inflation  The return of the ring into the deep currents of the fire  completes this life cycle. The self is made whole. The cognitive conscious world of Ego is reconciled with its spiritual origin; the Self is reconciled. Howver, the Ego must also be overcome and accept the shadow. When Galadriel shows Boromir his shadow, he refuses to see. As C.G. Jung said, people would do anything to avoid admitting  failings and working to overcome them. This is part of the power of the shadow. Frodo passes this test, but the price is loosing himself, dissolving the Ego.

Animus and Anima

galadrielAndFrodo

galadrielAndFrodo

It has been noted, the beautiful Galadriel, who forces people to look at themselves, is the primary Anima. Through her, Gimli realizes that not material wealth but  love is the highest form, Merry and Pippin begin to grow up and take responsibility,  Sam makes his final commitment to the quest going with Frodo all the way and Legolas, another Elf answers the call to action and joins the fellowship. Boromir fails this test.

Frodo represents the archetypal hero, but I am missing a dedicated love (or female) who represents the necessary union between the conscious realm and the realm of his Anima. He does not come close to her, and thats in my opinion why he in end fails on the mountain of doom to give up the ring.  The gifts from Galadriecome with the words: “And you, Ringbearer’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said,’ is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.  Frodo took the phial, and  Stinger (that symbol should be clear) and the dangerous female become again “like a queen,  fair and beautiful.”  Only later  in Golums’s death we see him freed by the burning away of his accepted shadow. Love might be found between Aragorn and Arwen. When Arwen and Aragorn commit to each other forever,  Arwen chooses to turn and embrace her shadow, her human side, and remain in Middle-earth. The rest of Elvendom chooses to remain within the rapidly shrinking circles of light until finally they lose the world entirely. Arwen, by committing to Aragorn, gives him the inspiration to complete his part of the quest. Aragorn becomes through her the leader he is meant to be.

shadow

shadow

The Shadow

In the realm of Shadow, represented by Gollum reside rejection, frustration, anger, hate, evil. According to Jung, we all must struggle with our shadow. The shadow is our unconscious self, all the parts of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge or are shamed by. The more we try to flee from or ignore the shadow, the more it grows and the more power it gains over us. To master the shadow, we need to stop running, turn, and face it. “The hero . . . must realize that the shadow exists and that he can draw strength from it. He must come to terms with its destructive powers if he is to become sufficiently terrible to overcome it. Gollum is Frodo’s shadow made manifest. He represents Frodo’s biggest fear: that he will succumb to the Ring’s siren call. Frodo fears and even hates Gollum up until the moment he actually meets the wretched creature. Once he sees Gollum in the light of day, his heart is moved to compassion. We cannot gain mastery over our weaknesses until we first admit that we have them and then forgive ourselves for that. Only then can we see clearly how to overcome them. Looking at Gollum, Frodo feels pity. Out of this pity he finds the strength to control Gollum — who even calls him “master” — and resist the lure of the Ring.

The Self

To me Sam represent the Self.  He is the only one who can resists the ring. In the end Frodo leaves the shire and Sam inherits it.  The ring itself represents for us the lure of gold, or lust of power. Possession of the ring confers power over the world. We set out to relate the life-cycle of the ring to the life-cycle of the psyche. The circle of a ring suggests how this might be done. The story begins in the realm of the Self, which has its origin in the value of life. O’Neil’s book identifies (wrongly)  the thoroughly evil “One Ring” with the Self, based on its superficial symbolic characteristics. Sam is a much more satisfying and nuanced view of both of the Self archetype.

The Persona

In Wagner’s The Valkyrie teach in “The Ring” a fundamental cultural lessons about society. I do not really see a complement in Lord of the Rings.

Autonomous Complex

It is on of the effects of the Ring–”the normal identity disappears and is taken over by the norms and values of autonomous complex (The Ring) takes over. Gollum is clearly an overpowered Ego becoming a merge of Shadow and an autonomous Complex. In one scene his remaining  good and bad side even talk even to each other.

Archetypes of Transformation (Rebirth)

The landscape of Middle-earth and the actual journey of the Fellowship have particular archetypal significance : rivers and forests; descent (death and rebirth); changing of the wind; and man-made towers. Significant are borders, crossroads, river crossings and other points of decision, and their relationship to the unconscious.  Jung enumerates five plus one  different meanings of Rebirth:

  • Metempsychosis – transmigration of souls
  • Reincarnation -  continuity of personality (main Buddhist theme)
  • Resurrection  – reestablishment of human existence after death (main Christian theme)
  • Rebirth Renovatio – rebirth in the narrow sense within a span of a life with the implication of healing, improvement
  • Rebirth Transmutation  – such as transformation of a mortal in an immortal being
  • Participation in a process of transformation.

In Lord of the Rings I see the latter. The transformation  (or the quest to counter  Mordor transforming the world in a hell ruled by the evil enforced by Orks)  takes place outside of the individual. In other words, Frodo has to take part in some rite of Transformation. Jung was, as Tolkien, leaning Catholic (although Jung’s grandfather was a Free Manson and his Father an unconvincing  Protestant Pastor).  Jung meant witnessing the transformation of a substance in ceremony such as a mass, e.g.  the mystery of the Eucharist. It is of the five mysteries  the Church cannot explain,Catholics have to accept them on faith. Of course there is also a strong pagan mystery in it: The grace (more the curse) of immortality.  Jung refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone. based at Eleusis in ancient Greece (and every Easter in Washington State). Demeter’s rebirth is symbolic for the eternity of life that flows from generation to generation:

Truly the blessed gods have proclaimed a most beautiful secret Death comes as a blessing to men (Elusian epitaph, quoted by C.G Jung).

Collective Archetypes

In his book  Four Archetypes C. G. Jung refers to the Mother, Rebirth, Spirit and Trickster. The mother is just very brief present in the second book (the self sacrifice) and at the very end when Sam becomes father. There are strong women visible, but the narrative is a men’s world. As presented above, one of the five aspects of the Transformation archetype participation in a transformation – is the core of the Narrative. In addition, “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine” ,  a C. G. Jung based interpretation of masculine behavior is very applicable to the human fictional characters ´Tolkien.  All four representations of the archetypes have one positive (right amount) and 2 negative poles (deficit or surplus). For example, the positive King archetype rules his world wise whereas the negative Kings are the weakling and the tyrant. The Hero or warrior archetype is a timeless, present in all art and global. Two examples of my articles: Jianghu seen as Archetypes defined by C.G. Jung (Magician, King, Lover, Warrior and Hero) and Wagner’s Ring, Richard Wagner from Scene to Scene utilizing C.G. Jung.

C_G_JUNG_FEMALE_ARCHETYPES

C_G_JUNGFEMALE and MALE ARCHETYPES

The Magician

The Magician, Trickster or Wise Man, represents Logos according to Jung a masculine principle, is sees the unseen. He is like Gandalf the mediator and communicator of secret knowledge, the healer, technologist, teacher, and spiritual. A wizard or a witch, a man or woman of power, advises and sometimes accompanies the hero . This person represents supernatural aid and is another sign that the quest is guided and blessed. But we do not see Gandalf’s true power until Frodo and Sam have gone on without him. Magician, however, always has a tendency to abuse his power, being the negative Magician, the manipulator like Sauron, the most powerful of the wizards,. But Saruman has let his shadow control him. He lies to others and to himself about his true motives. Lies are always a sign that the shadow is in control.

The King

The King is the life giver and the most important responsible for the safety and well being. The book quotes from history and art that every society must have king or leader who is entrusted with guiding his people to success and comfort. The benefits and virtues of the king are many, but the responsibilities are many as well. And if the king fails in his duties he is traditionally disposed. The shadows sides are tyrant and the weakling.  The Aragon of volume III may be seen as a personification of the the King.  The self-effacing Ranger, Strider, learns to embrace his heritage and destiny. He has to rise above his self-doubts and take on his rightful role as the King of Men, which he does on the plains of Rohan: It is only after he declares himself openly to Eomer and takes his full power that Aragorn can look Sauron in the face and not be conquered.

The Warrior (or Hero)

The Warrior is a destroyer who destroys the enemies and clears a space for renewal and change. The prototype of the warrior is the soldier. In The Lord of the Rings, we have many heroes (and even more warriors), but the two primary heroes are Frodo and Sam. Both express aspects of the archetypal hero. Frodo is an orphan and the adopted and spiritual heir of Bilbo Baggins, who himself does not quite fit in the Shire. Frodo appears to be a normal hobbit up until Bilbo’s disappearance. The Warrior is besides the Wizard  the most viable of the archetypes.  It is vital that this quest be accomplished not by God or agents of God, but by a mortal being. And the hero must fulfill the quest using his own strengths alone. This is the only way he can learn what those strengths are. The lesson for us here is that when we find ourselves in great trouble, not to despair, for that’s when we’ll learn who we really are. The hero must make a formal commitment. His aggressiveness are a highly needed characteristic responsible for his achievements and those of middle earth. Properly accessed, the Warrior provides self-discipline, and protects. The two shadow sides of the Hero are the Sadist of Mordor, the Orks.  The other pole, the Masochist, is not visible in Lord of the Ring.

The Lover

 The Lover like the feminine principle Eros manifests energy and fertility of the nature. The gendering of Eros and Logos and synergy is a consequence of Jung’s anima/animus synergy. Generally the Lovers are represented by the elves, easy with our own deepest and most central values and visions, and with others. Those are archetypal parents, people and more power and wisdom than the hero does at this stage of his development offer place of safety where the hobbits can relax and  and give gifts to help the hobbits on their way. At the Council of Elrond, the true scope of the quest is made clear: to take the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it. Frodo is still hoping that the quest is not his. But the wise Elves, brave Men, and strong Dwarves sit in silence. I will take the Ring,” says Frodo, “though I do not know the way.”

In King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, a point has been made that every man has to have those (ideally) balanced archetypes.  Jolande Jacobi’s book gives  also a good explanation of how archetypes, complexes and symbols are perceived, interact with each other and gain autonomous power.

Jungian concepts

Furthermore one has to deal with the so-called archetypes of transformation and  more general concepts. Tolkien resembles individuation,  how humans develop into mature, emotionally healthy adults. C. G. Jung: “. . . the essential function of the heroic myth is the development of the individual’s ego-consciousness — his awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses — in a manner that will equip him for the arduous tasks with which life confronts him.”

Personal Layers

Personal Layers

Jungian Types

 Skogemann examines the four hobbits as “team consciousness” with each individual representing one of the four Jungian psychological functions (thinking, intuition, sensation, feeling).  Repeated literal losses of consciousness and subsequent awakening of the hobbits correlate with the awakening of the various psychological functions. That may be the case,  but this team building aproach is ultimatly not helping much.

Individuation

 The Jungian concept of individuation is tailor-made for studying the coming-of-age story, and The Lord of the Rings is rife with such stories. Frodo and Sam an descent into the Underworld. This is the descent into the darkest parts of one’s own soul. Before the hero can face the One problem, or destroy the One Ring, he has to master his own shadow. Frodo allows his shadow Gollum to be his guide through the Underworld. They traverse the Dead Marshes and Shelob’s tunnel. Here, Frodo is betrayed by Gollum and appears to die. This is Sam’s crisis, that he would not be able to protect Mr. Frodo.  But he resists the Ring, takes on a tower full of Orcs, and rescues Frodo. The initiation continues as Frodo and Sam are tempered by their passage through the shadow lands of Mordor. Frodo, who is still struggling with his shadow, cannot see anything beyond that. But Sam, here almost being Frodo’s Ego has gained perspective. Finally they reach Mount Doom. At the ultimate moment, Frodo succumbs to the temptation of the Ring and claims it for his own. However, his earlier compassion for this failing saves Frodo from a terrible fate. Because of both Sam and Gollum the quest of Frodo can be fulfilled.

Eternity and Judgment Day

The Ego, the Self and God

The Ego, the Self and God – Individuation and Transcendence

Once the quest has been fulfilled, supernatural power can be used freely, so Gandalf and the Eagles can save Frodo and Sam as Mount Doom erupts and Barad-dur collapses. Barad-dur crumbling means Sauron has been completely defeated.

The World Tree, the Tree of Life, has bloomed. This tree only blooms in the garden where there is no shadow. The restoration of the White Tree in Gondor and the presence of the mallorn in the Shire let us know that things are truly balanced and healed. After wholeness has been restored, it is time for unions. Sam marries Rosie,  Eowyn and Faramir marry and solidify the ties between Gondor and Rohan. And Aragorn, now King Elessar, marries Arwen. This is the Great Marriage, the union of the mortal hero with the immortal goddess, that ensures that the world will be renewed.

The time for judgment has come. Aragorn sits in judgment on Men, and his decisions reflect the wisdom and mercy of the returned King the world is now ready for. Sauron is condemmed to endless existence as a “mere shadow of malice.  Saruman’s fate turns out to be the same as that of the master he served and betrayed. Those who cannot become whole and balanced, who remain in the power of their shadows, are cast out from the reborn world.

No marriage forFrodo. But he said to Gandalf: “At last I understand why we have waited! This is the ending.” and finally leaves Middle-earth. This can be interpreted two ways. In a first interpretation, Frodo did, in a sense, fail.  Secondly his disappearing resmbles essentially the dissolving of his ego, which is one common way to see individuation (see The Death of the Ego as prerequisite to find God). In any case, Frodo’s fate is bittersweet. Sam becomes Frodo’s spiritual and material heir – the Self.  He also becomes a parent, symbolic of true maturity. It was a simple story, but had all ingredients of C. G. Jung’s Red Book ( C. G. Jung’s Red Book in a hurry – Narrative)

Conclusion

Analytical psychology acknowledges the importance of the spiritual life, but is not tied to a specific religion. Those focused on Tolkien as a Christian author might find Jung’s  alternative psychological explanations thought-provoking.  Like Wagner’s Ring, Tolkien starts with a world of  animistic beliefs threatened by modern science, a trajectory that leaves people cut off from the idea of nature. It may very well be, that Tolkien’s and Jung’s early experiences with the Perilous Realm (whether one calls it Catholic Mystic or the Unconscious) had much in common, even the style of the language in which their experiences were expressed. In his “Red Book” Jung found such language to be a characteristic of archetypes. Both, Jung and Tolkien had serious problem with their era and its lack of any means of spiritual transformation, overwhelmed by science and technology. The Lord of the Rings is and the Red Book not an allegory of World Wars, however World War II affected the conception and portrayal of Mordor and the Red Book anticipated the streams of blood in World War I.

Sources

  • O’Neill, Timothy R. The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien and the Archetypes of Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979
  • Robert Donington, Wagner’s Ring and Its Symbols”,  originally published 1984  both antiquaries
  • Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power von Jane Chance
  • Jung, Carl. Aion. Collected Works v. 9ii

Links

6 thoughts on “Jungian Archetype Checklist for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

  1. A fascinating study of Tolkien, the master of archetypes. A few years ago when I was still living in Poland my friend and I organized a workshop dedicated to the archetypes and symbols in the LOTR. I was responsible for the Jungian perspective, his was the astrological one. I am happy that a lot of what you wrote was also covered during our workshop. I must admit I still do not feel I have fathomed fully what the ring really means. I also have a different view of the role of Sam but I find your perspective very inspiring and I will ponder on that, as I deeply trust your insight into the Jungian realm. I hope to write something about the LOTR in the future as well.

  2. Thank you for your kind remarks, but I wish I would have had more formal training in this area. Sam as Self is just a hunch based on an sermon of an Monk – “Death of the Ego” and because it seems Frodo let himself lead by his Shadow rather than by his Anima. Well, Art and Archetypes always invite a nice glass bead game, we will see where it leads with LOTR…
    Next article will be about another set of Jungian archetypes connected with “Crazy Wisdom”: Fools, Clown, Jester and Trickster. Seen from a Consultant which of course are Court Jesters…

  3. Having studied Jung’s works for over 20 years I can see the parallels between characters in the LOTR and his description of Archetypes – now comes the confusion. Although there is an obvious connection to be seen in f.e. Gandalf (Wise Old Man)/Saraman (Shadow of WOM) and others, it seems to me, having attempted it myself, to make the effort to categorize them and bring clarity to their effects and attributes i.e., naming Sam as the Self and thus achieving archetypal status, that misses the point of understanding the living experience.
    This I believe is an error because not only can we fail in joining the right character to the right archetype but we also fail to factor-in the changing nature or dynamic effect such a type can produce, and although they appear to have a continuous form/character, I suspect they by their interaction with our world actually develop and dare I say change.Please note I have only a subject opinion on the previous and not any empirical facts to state.
    Therefore, the analytical tendency to illuminate by rationallity when speaking about the archetypes loses what I would suggest is the mysterious nature of the archetype. Is it not more interesting, more exciting to view the output of the characters, their twists and unexpected turns rather than to grasp them in a rationalistic hold?
    Finally, I don’t view Sam as a reflection of the Self. This is stretching a point to breaking because the Self is an amalgam of development that encompasses all of the previous characters/parts of the psyche and yet in no way presents itself as a single character. Thus when the appearance of the Self comes forth it is often as not in the form of a Mandala; a perfectly formed structure that readily reflects the perfect nature of the Self. I do believe Sam covers that one although he may reflect the positive ego attributes of the hero Frodo….. and I’ll leave it there.

  4. Thanks for your interesting comment. Presenting Sam as a reflection of the Self was indeed a very bold move in my hopefully entertaining “Glass Bead Game”. Nobody in the LOTR community accepted it easily. Furthermore, my mapping was just a spilt second personal hunch, an intuition or most likely my spiritual association, certainly not a scholarly analysis. Your point is therfore well taken. From a Jungian view, The Self could be seen as an amalgam encompassing all functional complexes of our psyche (or Jungs primary archetypes).
    However, discussing The Self with Jungian trained monks, with catholic priests and studying Jung along with Catholizism and Taoism for some time, I came to a very personal conclusion: Jungs concept of The Self represents Jesus, or at least some divine in us. And while I do agree that humble Sam in no way can be seen as God, to me The Self represents a single divine entity, which can be mapped to a single character. This brings me in deep water, because my spiritual experience tends to be more pantheistic than Catholic…. I may refer you to my article “The Death of an Ego”.

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