Platonic Tripartition and the Peoples of Middle-Earth
Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings employ traditional races from fairy tales: elves, men and dwarves. These peoples are differentiated principally by their dominant desires, but also by their speech, diet, and realms. I argue that these three races are significantly inspired by the three aspects that characterize the Republic’s tripartite soul—logistikon, thumoeides, and epithumetikon—along with their respective principal desires: desire for truth, greatness, and material goods. For Tolkien, therefore, these races have a corporate or political psychology that explains who they are as peoples in the history of Middle-earth. I offer a comprehensive view of the major races, connecting the dwarves with the appetitive artisans of the Republic, humans with the honour- and glory-seeking auxiliaries, and elves with the ruling guardians. This treatment explains the artisanal dwarves, as well as the battle-loving men (and women) of Rohan and Gondor, and the nostalgic, ‘anamnetic’ condition of exile that distinguishes the elves. Indeed, the condition of elves in many descriptions recalls a Platonic philosopher returned to the Cave, as well as the Neo-Platonic sagacity pictured in the biographies of Plotinus and Proclus.
Copyright (c) 2022 Kevin Kambo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with thersites agree to the following terms:
- Publishing in thersites is free of any charges.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication.
- Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, so long as the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. The journal is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. More information about this license is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).