Exploration of Mortality and Transcendence in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings

  • Ching-Yi Liu

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This paper investigates the essence of death by exploring the distinct races of Elves and Men in John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. I will present the weakness of immortality, and show mortality as a possibility to transcend death for Men in Tolkien's world. In Chapter one "Elves and Mortality," we will see from the stories of the Three Rings of Elves and Lothlórien that immortality, which most Men think as perfection, has its own weakness and causes Elves a certain degree of emptiness and grief. The Elves thus create experiences of "pseudo-mortality" to aestheticize their sorrowfulness. Chapter two "Men and Immortality" is a contrast to that of the Elves and shows that the Númenóreans' fear of death and their desire for immortality are the main reasons that lead to their downfall and the biggest challenges that test their free will and virtue. The last Chapter "Path to Transcendence: Virtue and Love" focuses on the process of gaining a transcendence in the spiritual world through virtue and love. It will show virtue as a path of transcendence by examining the characters Gollum, Bilbo and Boromir, and presents love as a power to conquer the fear of death from the love stories of Beren and Lúthien, and Aragorn and Arwen.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarolyn F. Scott (Supervisor)

Cite this