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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332

Tolkien attempts in Fellowship of the Ring to unite two conflicting world-views: the essentially cyclic Old Norse system and the more linear Christianity, reflecting the hope he derived from his religion but also his frustration in watching Europe torn apart by two world wars during his lifetime. Sauron thus receives...

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Tolkien attempts in Fellowship of the Ring to unite two conflicting world-views: the essentially cyclic Old Norse system and the more linear Christianity, reflecting the hope he derived from his religion but also his frustration in watching Europe torn apart by two world wars during his lifetime. Sauron thus receives a vaguely reptilian name, representative of the evil dragon that appears both in Norse mythology devouring the Tree of Life and as representative of Satan in the Christian "Revelation of Saint John." The Ring itself obviously symbolizes the never-ending cycle, but is also a strong Christian symbol of the mystical marriage of Christ to the church. In the tomb of the barrow-wights, the Hobbits encounter both death and a rebirth into life along traditional Christian lines, even leaving their old clothes in the tomb as Jesus left his burial cloths. But this resurrection comes about through the efforts of Tom Bombadil, a nature god figure of clearly pagan origin, symbolizing the cyclical changes of the seasons and again combining elements from the two belief systems.

Tolkien also undertakes in Fellowship to describe the fundamental nature of evil, which, contrary to Norse belief, Tolkien feels is the natural result of allowing humanity the ability to make choices freely. Tolkien generally describes evil in terms of its opposite, and it often appears in lack or in deprivation. Sauron is the Dark Lord, and his minions dress all in black and appear generally faceless, hiding their true nature. Tolkien describes his influence as a "shadow" over various lands—a lack of light—and even the wizard Sarumen must give up his white robes for multi-colored garments upon coming under Sauron's sway. Thus, evil appears almost unreal, an anti-good as opposed to a thing unto itself. Nonetheless, Tolkien does portray evil as real, at least in its effects on people and nations. To do otherwise might disempower individuals otherwise inclined, or at least capable, of taking a stand against that evil, by moving them toward apathy.

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