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Spiritual Formation in Tolkien’s Legendarium

SHAEFFER, ADAM,BRENT (2017) Spiritual Formation in Tolkien’s Legendarium. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In this thesis, I demonstrate that a consistent and powerful imagining of spiritual formation shapes Tolkien’s legendarium, such that the world of Arda and its inhabitants are deeply marked by both dysformation and euformation, and this is not accidental. Because I am convinced that Tolkien’s fiction is “capable of elucidating truth,” I have focused on redescribing his world and characters in order to draw Arda’s deep formational dynamics to the surface. I show that his legendarium in general and The Lord of the Rings in particular are compelling tales of formational imagination. I have not focused on drawing out moral implications for the primary world (though I do suggest the shape some implications might take), but have focused instead on Tolkien’s sub-created world and allowed it to encourage our reimagining of formational possibilities. The first part of this thesis examines Arda in light of Tolkien’s theory of sub-creation, demonstrating how Arda’s marring offers a creative reimagining of sin and evil that shape the way he then imagines the potential for redemption. But Arda is more than just background; it has its own formational story in which the stories of characters moving toward euformation or dysformation make sense. In the second part of this thesis, I examine the formational journeys of Saruman, Gollum, and Frodo, demonstrating that each follows a path that shapes the way he interacts with the world. Where Frodo’s euformation makes him more like the Elves, Saruman and Gollum’s dysformation makes them like the orcs and wraiths respectively. Through their stories, Tolkien invites us to see Arda and its inhabitants as marred, yet capable of redemption. In attending to these things, I show that Tolkien’s work of formational imagination can be read as a distinctive contribution to the theological tradition and deserves a place within its conversations.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Tolkien, Spiritual Formation, Euformation, Dysformation, Arda, Middle-earth
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Oct 2017 12:23

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