To Wander in the “Shadowed Land”: The Fearsome Enchantment of Tolkien’s Woods

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Book Chapter

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Medieval representations of the ‘wood’ are marked by a distinctive ambivalence. On one hand, woodlands are seen as zones of exclusion and danger while, on the other hand, they are presented as spaces of refuge and spiritual renewal. J.R.R. Tolkien’s academic work as a medievalist contributes to the formation of his fictional universe. A dual conception of the forest as both treacherous and personally enriching is integral to the quest narratives in Tolkien’s fiction. The forests in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit are spaces of transformation and maturation in which the moral courage of his characters is tested and from which some emerge with renewed wisdom and self-possession while others experience a more complicated change. Tolkien’s interest in trees and forests is more than academic, however: his personal fascination with trees and his animistic conception of arboreal existence demonstrate that for Tolkien, trees are possessed of autonomous existence and agency, independent of humanity.


ISBN: 9783631821657 (ebook); 9783631793398 (hardcover)