But where shall wisdom be found? The Lord of the Rings and the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible

— Mattie E. Gustafson

18 October 2021 | Mythlore, Volume 40, № 1, 145

Wisdom literature is a kind of writing that evolved in the ancient world as soon as mankind began to explore the meaning of life and sought understanding and insight. The Hebrew Bible contains three canonical books that scholars consistently identify as wisdom literature – Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. This paper explores the connections (common content, shared plot elements and structure, similar characters with similar struggles and perspectives, and even themes and outlooks), between this body of wisdom and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Specifically, this essay will define wisdom literature, and then compare wisdom literature to Tolkien’s work in three ways: generally — looking at shared overall characteristics; individually — looking at Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes separately and comparing each to The Lord of the Rings; and cumulatively — proposing that the three wisdom books, when taken together, offer a complex and nuanced overall theme, and demonstrating that this theme is also present in The Lord of the Rings.

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