The Purpose of Monsters: Divining the Monstrous Beasts of Middle-Earth
In his estimation of the monsters of the Beowulf poem, J. R. R. Tolkien calls them “essential, fundamentally allied to the underlying ideas” of the work (“Monsters” 19). It is this statement which is indicative of all monster-rich literature which followed, including his own. This thesis examines the purposes of monsters in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings using Tolkien’s own estimation of the monsters of Beowulf as its base, as the heroes of Middle-Earth are able to defeat these monstrous Others and reveal how the monsters of reality might be overcome. This thesis examines three major categories of monsters in Middle-earth: The human-like Gollum and the Orcs, the monstrous female Shelob, and the dragon Smaug. I argue that it is through the limitations of redemption for the Other, the rejection of sexual purity and classification by the female monster(s), and the reimagination of the traditional dragons of Anglo-Saxon legend that the reader is able to fully realize the hero. It is the monster which gives the fairy-story its verisimilitude, and the realization of the hero which indicates that the monsters of reality can be defeated.