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Free Study Guide for The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien

 

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SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / IMAGERY / SYMBOLS

The imagery of light and dark has been very well used to stand for good and evil respectively. Gandalf the White stands for good, as does Galadriel who gives Frodo the Phial to show him light in dark places. The Black Riders stand for evil and all of Mordor is covered with a shadowy blackness. Every time a Nazgul passes overhead, the sun or moon is completely blocked out. Evil creatures live in dark places; Shelob, for example, lives in a pitch-black cave called Cirith Ungol.

Tolkien has used the images of light and dark to portray good and evil. White stands for the forces of good whereas black stands for evil. Gandalf the white stands for the forces of good. His staff issues for lightening. Galadriel gives Frodo a Phial that lights up places that are dark. The coming of dawn always brings hope and gladness to the heart of the dwellers of Middle-earth. Night always brings fear and evil. The dark is symbolic of the power of Sauron. He commands a thick cloud to cover Mordor for his own protection. His power is greatest under cover of darkness. Even Gollum hates the light of day and craves the anonymity of dark.

Tolkien has used this image very effectively, borrowing from manís natural fear of night and the unknown.


STUDY QUESTIONS - BOOK REPORT IDEAS

1. Is there a true Lord of the Rings? Explain your answer with specific details from the text.

2. Compare Middle-earth to Earth. Be sure to include politics and religion in your comparison, as well as social issues like racism and war.

3. What is the thematic importance of the Ring? Of the Eye?

4. What does power do to those who wield it? List some characters who appear to be immune to the corrupting influence of power.

5. Discuss responsibility and the concept of the "greater good" in The Lord of the Rings.

6. Explain the significance of the "changing of the guard" that takes place at the beginning of the novel between Bilbo and Frodo. Relate this to the similar scene at the end of the novel between Frodo and Sam.

7. Compare Denethor (father of Boromir and Faramir) to Aragorn. How do they differ as leaders?

8. Compare the relationship between Gandalf and Sarumon to the one between Frodo and Bilbo. (i.e., both are mentor relationships)

9. Discuss the symbolism of light and dark in The Lord of the Rings.

10. How does Sam change as the story progresses?

11. How does Frodo change?

12. Compare the characters of Aragorn, Gandalf and Sauron as leaders of their people.

13. Lady Galadriel and Tom Bombadil are purely benevolent characters. Discuss the roles they play in Frodoís adventure.

14. Boromir is redeemed by a last-minute repentance. Denethor, his father, dies in the shame of his own corruption. Where does Faramir fit into this scheme?

15. Make a list of the following three groups of characters: Good Characters, Conflicted Characters, Evil Characters.

16. Which characters from the above lists are the most compelling? Why?


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