Water is omnipresent in many shapes and forms in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. To most critics, this water symbolizes melancholy, hope, and salvation—but then these scholars treat all water as if it were the same. In contrast, I demonstrate that there are six always intertwined and overlapping aspects or facets of representations of water: instrumental (to move the plot forward), geographical (to set up distinctions and boundaries), figurative (images of water employed in rhetorical devices), mystical (magical incarnations of water), pathetic (mirroring the emotions of characters), and intentional (creating meaning by prefiguring and intensifying character’s ideas and decisions and by developing the plot). In addition, I trace similarities between representations of water in The Lord of the Rings and the symbolism of water in our primary world. In the interaction of the six aspects, for instance in the chapter “Helm’s Deep,” representations of water in The Lord of the Rings show that there are always good and bad possibilities in every situation, and they encourage readers to take responsibility and make the best of these possibilities.
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Mythcon 52: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien
Albuquerque, New Mexico; July 29 - August 1, 2022