Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring Man and the Natural World

Man and the Natural World

The first conflict that comes to our mind when we think of The Fellowship of the Ring is, of course, the great clash between the good guys and the evil overlords. But another war of sorts exists beneath this, a battle of man and the natural world.This battle takes place quite literally throughout the movie as the hobbits and the fellowship must brave the dankness of swamps and frigid Misty Mountains. But it's also a part of the races themselves.

The orcs are an industrial people, cutting down trees and working in armories with steel to forge weapons, while races like hobbits and elves live at one with nature, building their homes into the natural landscape. Anything man-made (or really orc-made) becomes a symbol of evil.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Are the dwarven homes, like Moria, closer to a natural sanctuary or are they a manufactured affront to nature?
  2. Aside from Bree, we see very little of the homes of men. Would we think of them differently if Bree were an enormous, mechanized city in the heart of a wasteland?
  3. Why do the hard edges of Orthanc and of Saruman's staff seem evil? Is there something inherently threatening about them?

Chew on This

The Fellowship of the Ring puts forth an environmentalist argument: industrialization has destroyed the barren lands of Mordor while the hobbits, who live in the technological past, enjoy a quaint, happy life free of the physical and moral pollution.

The Fellowship of the Ring takes no stance on environmentalism. The imagery of orcs is merely meant to suggest senseless aggression.

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