This thesis asserts that one aspect of The Lord of the Rings which has been previously overlooked is the hierarchical nature of the master/servant relationship, which mirrors in many ways the hierarchical nature of the Catholic church. Through the various master/servant relationships that Tolkien portrays, he reflects not only the ideal of master and servant working together for good, but also the ways in which this intimate relationship can go horribly wrong. Aragorn represents an ideal master, one who is wise and good, and his servants are either rewarded or punished according to their loyalty to him. In the stories of Wormtongue and Saruman, we see how betrayal and seeking to usurp the power of the master leads to the downfall of the servant. Denethor's fall illustrates how a bad servant becomes, in turn, a bad master. The choices of Faramir, Pippin, Beregond, and the servants of Denethor reflect the difficulties a servant has when trying to decide whether or not to continue following a poor master. Merry and Éowyn show us that sometimes grace may intervene in what seems to be a fairly straightforward situation of disobedience. And the story of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, from betrayal to ultimate loyalty, at times reflects the complicated hierarchical relationship between mortals and deity.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Tolkien, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Christianity, master, servant, hierarchy, obedience, free will, The Lord of the Rings