Tolkien hates allegories?

I watched a snipet of The Lord of the Rings bonus features today with my brother. They talked about how Tolkien didn’t like allegories and his readers thinking of his work as an allegory. As one interviewee [put name here] explained, allegories make one-to-one relationships between something in the work and something in a real-life event. Tolkien thinks that it’s too simple. He didn’t want his trilogy to be seen as too-simple. This makes me ponder about Animal Farm and The Crucible. But musings on those two works will probably be for a later thread.

The idea I want to continue for this post is the use of allegories. I can see how he thinks that allegories are too simple. I don’t know about simple…does he mean coming up with allegories or interpreting allegorical work? Or both? I don’t know the answer to this yet but what I have thought about is how allegories limit the work and the reader. It limits the work to a specific event. Because of this, it also limits the work to a specific time. In effect, the work becomes not-timeless. The reader is also not free with an allegory because they are not free to explore other possible meanings. By this, I should rephrase: the reader is not free to interpretation if they know that the work is an allegory. But does this mean that allegories are completely the author’s intentions? I know they are but how much “authority” do they have over it? I’d say they have full authority. If the reader knows this, they know that there are one-to-one meanings to find in the piece. This also means that there is a right or wrong interpretation.

However, SYMBOLISM is different. Can we say that symbolism allows for multiple allegories in the same work? Mmm…maybe. I’m just going to put it out there for now and write another post later after I’ve thought about it some more (and pestered some people via email). What the consensus seems to be is that symbolism allows for more possible interpretations. Uh-oh…but what is an interpretation? Is interpretation 1) what we think something stands for in a literary piece 2) the relationship between the things that are symbols 3) both 1 and 2? Hmm….I just found out that I don’t know anything.


One thought on “Tolkien hates allegories?

  1. tolkien said something like ‘I think many confuse ”allegory” with ”applicability”; one is the willful ____ of the reader and the other the purposeful domination of the author.’

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