FRIENDSHIP AND FREEDOM in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Part II

JRR Tolkien’s great work, "The Lord of the Rings," continues to be prescient and relevant to our present situation. Through the vehicle of a secondary world, Tolkien explores universal questions of the human person’s place in a world of contesting forces. Tolkien examines the control of external, hostile forces over the human person and to what extent the person has freedom to respond. Tolkien masterfully responds both to the modernist elevation and exultation of human autonomy and the postmodernist devaluation of the same by presenting a strongly Christian understanding of free will and the human person’s inherent dignity and worth.

Because of the length and richness of the text, this course will study and discuss Tolkien’s central work, The Lord of the Rings, over three semesters. The Spring 2022 course will focus on The Two Towers. It is not required that a fellow have taken the first course on The Fellowship of the Ring to enroll in the 2nd of the 3 courses. However, if a fellow has not read Tolkien’s work prior to this course, then it is expected that he/she will have read (not simply watched!) The Fellowship prior to beginning the course on The Two Towers.   

In this 2nd course, we will continue to examine how Tolkien presents the extent of human autonomy before superhuman, evil forces. He returns his reader to an understanding of the centrality of community, the existence of providential powers that prevail over demonic ones, and the fundamental dignity of the human person. Questions the course will consider: What is the role of the person before overpowering evil? Does freedom exist and to what extent? How does Tolkien present friendship and community? Why is the Christian God not made explicit in Middle-earth? How is God both nowhere and everywhere to be found in Middle-earth? Why does Tolkien’s work continue to resonate with contemporary readers?


Required Texts:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999, 2002, 2005.

Suggested Texts:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Course Syllabus:

Page numbers correspond with the standard Houghton Mifflin division. Universal Book and chapter numbers are also provided if a fellow does not have the matching edition.

Class I: Pages 15-46 / Book III. 1-2: Freedom and Limitation of Choice: Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas

Class II: Pages 47-90 / III.3-4: False and True Communities: The Orcs and the Ents

Class III: 91-130 / III.5-6: Acedia, Friendship, and Action: Théoden, the Rohirrim, and Gandalf

Class IV: 131-180: III.7-9: Courage, Sacrifice, Honor and Reward: the Battle of Helm’s Deep

Class V: 181-206: III.10-11: Deception and Division, Friendship and Trust: Saruman and Gandalf

Class VI: 209-255: Book IV: 1-3: Pity and the Extension of Friendship: Frodo, Sam and Smeagol

Class VII: 256-302: IV: 4-6: Unlooked for Friends: Faramir

Class VIII: 303-352: IV: 7-10: Betrayal, Death and Decisions: Samwise Gamgee

About Instructor

Helen Freeh

Helen Freeh received her B.A. in Politics and Masters in American Studies from the University of Dallas. After working in the business world, she entered Baylor University’s graduate program and earned her Ph.D. in English, writing her dissertation on fate, providence and free will in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. She has worked at Baylor University Press, taught at Baylor University, McClennan County Community College, Hillsdale Academy and Hillsdale College where she met her husband, Dr. John Freeh. She is a contributor to Tolkien Among the Moderns, edited by Ralph Wood, an occasional contributor to The Catholic Thing, and a Senior Fellow at Albertus Magnus Institute. She and John are co-founders of Kateri College of the Liberal and Practical Arts in Gallup, NM, and are traveling around the country in their missionary motor home, “Tekakwitha,” promoting and fundraising for the College while fulfilling their primary vocation of raising and educating their three children, Theresa, Joseph and John Paul.

3 Courses

Not Enrolled

Course Includes

  • 8 Lessons
  • Course Certificate