Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Lesley A. Northup

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Oren Baruch Stier

Third Advisor's Name

Whitney Bauman


Tolkien, Myth, Fantasy, Religion, Literature, Enchantment, Modernism, Mythopoeia, Poetic, Mysticism

Date of Defense



J.R.R. Tolkien was not only an author of fantasy but also a philologist who theorized about myth. Theorists have employed various methods of analyzing myth, and this thesis integrates several analyses, including Tolkien’s. I address the roles of doctrine, ritual, cross-cultural patterns, mythic expressions in literature, the literary effect of myth, evolution of language and consciousness, and individual invention over inheritance and diffusion. Beyond Tolkien’s English and Catholic background, I argue for eclectic influence on Tolkien, including resonance with Buddhism.

Tolkien views mythopoeia, literary mythmaking, in terms of sub-creation, human invention in the image of God as creator. Key mythopoetic tools include eucatastrophe, the happy ending’s sudden turn to poignant joy, and enchantment, the realization of imagined wonder, which is epitomized by the character of Tom Bombadil and contrasted with modernist techno-magic seeking to alter and dominate the world. I conclude by interpreting Tolkien’s mythmaking as a form of mysticism.





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