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Arda Inhabited

Environmental Relationships in The Lord of the Rings

Susan Jeffers

Publication Year: 2014

With the box office successes of movies based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, familiarity with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is growing. Unfortunately, scholarship dealing with Middle-Earth itself is comparatively rare in Tolkien studies, and students and scholars seeking greater insight have few resources. Similarly, although public concern for the environment is widespread and “going green” has never been trendier, ecocriticism is also an underserved area of literary studies. Arda Inhabited fills a gap in both areas by combining ecocritical and broader postmodern concerns with the growing appreciation for Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Susan Jeffers looks at the way different groups and individuals in The Lord of the Rings interact with their environments. Drawing substantially on ecocritical theory, she argues that there are three main ways these groups relate to their setting: “power with,” “power from,” and “power over.” Ents, Hobbits, and Elves have “power with” their environments. Dwarves and Men draw “power from” their place, interacting with the world symbolically or dialectically. Sauron, Saruman, and Orcs all stand as examples of narcissistic solipsism that attempts to exercise “power over” the environment. Jeffers further considers how wanderers in Middle-Earth interact with the world in light of these three categories and examines how these relationships reflect Tolkien’s own moral paradigm.

Arda Inhabited responds to environmental critics such as Neil Evernden and Christopher Manes, as well as to other touchstones of postmodern thought such as Hegel, DeSaussure, Adorno, and Deleuze and Guattari. It blends their ideas with the analyses of Tolkien scholars such as Patrick Curry, Verlyn Flieger, and Tom Shippey and builds on the work of other scholars who have looked at environment and Tolkien such as Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans. Arda Inhabited demonstrates how Tolkien studies enhances ecocriticism with a fresh examination of interconnection and environment, and ecocriticism enriches Tolkien studies with new ways of reading his work.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Many, many people were instrumental in creating this book, and it would be extremely ungrateful of me to let this chance to thank them pass by.
Thanks to my parents for encouraging me to read and think and talk about things I care about, and to be an active, aware participant in the world. Thanks to my incredible husband, who will probably never even...

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Introduction: The Professor and the Ecocritics

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pp. 1-18

J. R. R. Tolkien was a person concerned with the preservation of the world around him, as indicated by his professed love for trees and growing things and the detailed attention given to setting in his creative works. Unfortunately, critics have often passed over the secondary world Tolkien so lovingly created in favor of other aspects of his work. A passing mention of his love of trees, for example, might be made, but...

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Chapter One: Community, or “Power With”

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pp. 19-49

The inhabitants of Middle-earth all relate to their places in terms of power relationships. While each group relates to place uniquely, they can be separated into three main power relations: power with, power from, and power over. Looking at a group’s relation to its environment and its attitudes toward consumption can reveal which power relationship that group espouses. Ents, Hobbits, and Elves all work toward having...

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Chapter Two: Dialectic, or “Power From”

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pp. 50-74

Ents, Hobbits, and Elves all live in community with their places and hold power with their environments. Dwarves, the Rohirrim, and the people of Gondor, though, derive power from their environments. These relationships are not the rhizomatic, interconnected nodes of difference discussed in Chapter 1, but are instead relationships based on hierarchy, connected dialectically. These groups are not particularly concerned with replenishing...

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Chapter Three: Oppression, or “Power Over”

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pp. 75-93

Ents, Hobbits, and Elves all have power with their environment and work toward building communities. Dwarves and Men each gain power from their world and build relationships with their ecospheres that are mediated through other things, or are somehow one step removed from true understanding or community. The relationship that Orcs, Saruman, and Sauron have with Middle-earth is one of domination and perversion, or “power over.” Their actions are corruptions of the healthy ways in which...

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Chapter Four: Dis-, Re-, Un-empowered: Journeying and Environment

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pp. 94-118

As we consider how characters in The Lord of the Rings respond to and interact with their environments, we would be sadly remiss if we ignored the fact of the journey itself. Indeed, while many important matters surrounding the events of The Lord of the Rings happen “off-screen,” extratextually, the primary action that occurs within the text itself is travel. F. E. Sparshott claims that “one may conceive of an environment as a...

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Conclusion: Morality and Environment

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pp. 119-127

My goal in this project was to point out that there were significant connections between the people in Middle-earth and Middle-earth itself. A secondary goal was the consideration of how Tolkien offers a corrective to some of the faults of ecocriticism, and how ecocriticism in turn allows Tolkien scholars to see elements they might otherwise overlook....


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pp. 128-141


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pp. 142-146


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pp. 147-158

E-ISBN-13: 9781612778549
E-ISBN-10: 1612778542
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606352014

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 889329063
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Arda Inhabited

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human ecology in literature.
  • Middle Earth (Imaginary place).
  • Ecocriticism in literature.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel), 1892-1973. Lord of the rings.
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