Philosophy Explained Using Überhobbits, Existentialist Elves, and Rings of Power

Theory of Knowledge was a college-prep level class I was required to take in high school. Suffice to say, grasping epistemology was difficult and frustrating at a time when even selecting a daily outfit was terribly confusing. But my teacher found a way, by using it as a language I totally understood: book nerd. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All marries Tolkien’s original mythos and many tenants of philosophy—old, new, modern, introductory, and strange.

The first chapter has to do with Plato’s story of the shepherd Gyges, who also came upon a ring of invisibility and used it for immoral acts. Plato uses the story to explain the implications of power dynamics, choice, and morality when the threat of punishment is removed. Tolkien, of course, illustrated that struggle amongst the characters who interacted with the ring and their various reactions to it.

Other chapters focus on the fetishization of the ring (because what philosophy text would be complete without a discussion about erotic control), the existentialist dilemma of elvendom, and the environmentalist’s dream of living trees and giant eagles.

If you’ve never been interested in the Prisoner’s Dilemma but always suspected that Gollum and Sam represented the two opposite ends of the happiness spectrum, then this is the philosophy book for you.