Publication Date

Spring 2019


College of Arts and Sciences


English--Teacher Certification


art, authorship, beauty, Coleridge, craftsmanship, domination, dunamis, enchantment, fancy, fëa, fëar, fire, Flame Imperishable, goeteia, Great Tale, Holy Spirit, Imperishable Flame, light, machine, magia, magic, magician, Middle-earth, Music of the Ainur, necromancy, occult, power, Second Music, Secret Fire, soul, spell, spirit, story, subcreate, subcreation, sub-creation, subcreator, telos, Tolkien


Aesthetics | Catholic Studies | Children's and Young Adult Literature | Christianity | Fine Arts | Literature in English, British Isles | Modern Literature | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Theory and Criticism


Despite the highly developed nature of his fictional world, Middle-earth, Tolkien never formally laid out a tabulated magic system for his fantasy creation. Nevertheless, unlike many stories by others in the fantasy genre, the magic he does include is far from just a shallow, world-building mechanism. Instead, it encapsulates the core theme of his fiction and the purposes which Ilúvatar (the God of Middle-earth) has given to the story’s many characters.

This paper will examine the nature and function of this magic from many angles: the identification of good magic with art and evil magic with domination; the delineation between good and evil magics; the source of magic; the intricate relation between magic and the inner being of the individual; the connection between magic and the activity of Ilúvatar; and the status of magic as a multi-level, self-conscious contemplation of Story itself. In other words, this paper will be a teleology of magic, an exploration of Tolkien’s purpose and meaning for this power in his work.