‘Gollum and Caliban: Evolution and Design’

HOPKINS, Lisa (2007). ‘Gollum and Caliban: Evolution and Design’. In: CROFT, Janet Brennan, (ed.) Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language. Critical explorations in science fiction and fantasy . Jefferson, N.C., McFarland, 281-293.

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This paper explores the parallels between Gollum and Caliban and suggests that these have two principal effects. The first relates to the idea of the translatio imperii, which postulated that the cultural authority of Troy and Rome had been ultimately transferred to England. Tolkien was acutely aware of attempting to create an epic for England, and therefore of working within the tradition established by Homer and Virgil; The Tempest, with its Virgilian echoes, is a play deeply rooted in the idea of the translatio imperii, and as such Tolkien’s echoes of it may help us to see the extent to which The Lord of the Rings is a condition of England novel which is interested above all in the idea of the present’s relation to the past. The second reason I propose for Tolkien’s interest in Caliban is evolution. In this respect, what matters is not just what Caliban might have meant to Shakespeare, but also the additional meanings which had accrued to him by the time Tolkien wrote, chief amongst which was his frequent occurrence in texts focusing or influenced by evolutionary theory. The figure of Gollum thus allows Tolkien to pit ideas of evolution and chance against those of design and order as a complex part of the book’s overall sense of historical pattern and of human perception of it.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Depositing User: Lisa Hopkins
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2014 10:34
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2014 10:43
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8702

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