Senior Lawson Smith was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Trivium Award for his Senior Tutorial presentation and paper entitled “Tolkien: Reinterpreting Immorality Through Myth.” The other two finalists were Zachary Raybourn, “The Moral Implications of Covert Operations,” and Florence Solomon, “Not a Tame Lion: A Theodicy for the Wrath of God.” Laws examined Tolkien’s writings on and glorification of the Elven race. His abstract and 10 minute presentation are below, and his full paper is also available here.
This paper examines the contrast between the glorification of the Elven race and the curse associated with continued existence leading to the blessings to be found in a mortal life. Furthermore, it examines the reason behind the apparent contradiction between the glorification of the Elven race and the pain associated with their immortality coming from Tolkien’s desire to display truth indirectly in the form of myth – as myth is the only means by which he believes deeper significance can be conveyed to his readers. In defending this argument, I examine the initial convictions about immortality one obtains by a simple reading of his works, followed by the counter proposals of Tolkien’s true intent laid out in his personal letters and reflections. Proceeding from this exploration and defense regarding mortality and immortality, I turn to Tolkien’s purpose for conveying his ideas in this specific method of myth – examining both the structure and application.