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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of English


Auratic Weapons, World War II, and Cultural Hegemony in The Lord of the Rings


J.R.R. Tolkien’sThe Lord of the Ringsis suspended between the medieval and the modern world. In this thesis, I attempt to explore what makes this enormously popularly novel so indelibly relatable to modern audiences. To begin, I look at weapons as the crux between the medieval and the modern elements of the text through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura. By comparing the depiction of medieval weapons within theSong of Rolandto similar weapons inThe Lord of the Rings, I demonstrate that they differ in the level of aura they possess and their transferability between cultures. This difference indicates an impulse to preserve cultural distinctions. Within the context of the historical realities occurring while Tolkien was writing this novel, including World War II, fascism, and industrialization, the impulse to preserve cultural distinctions becomes a direct critique against cultural hegemony.

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