The Poet Auden and The Lord of the Rings

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At the very moment that such champions of modernism as Philip Toynbee and Edmund Wilson were mocking and realigning The Lord of the Rings as "dull, ill written, whimsical, and childish," coarse fodder for those readers who have "a life-long appetite for juvenile trash," Auden, among the great modernist poets, wrote this admiring and penetrating analysis of Tolkien's great epic.

Auden considered *The Lord of the Rings *to be the kind of work that shapes an enduring, universal mythic and psychological pattern in human culture and consciousness. It is, he says, a "literary mimesis of the subjective experience of becoming." Dismissing the left-wing paper warriors who attacked Tolkien as a fascist and a racist, Auden calls attention to the political and social ideals the novel upholds: a "benevolent monarchy," within which the Shire exists as "a kind of small-town democracy." It is Sauron's kingdom, which all the free peoples of Middle-earth abhor, that is "a totalitarian and slave-owning dictatorship."

Part One, an analysis of the Quest Hero is here.

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