Dominican University

More than the Parts that Form Them: Medievalism and Comfortable Alienation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle

More than the Parts that Form Them: Medievalism and Comfortable Alienation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle

dc.contributor.advisor Sweeney, Mickey
dc.contributor.advisor Perry, David M.
dc.contributor.author Watral, Breeanna
dc.date.accessioned 2016-02-10T21:51:23Z
dc.date.available 2016-02-10T21:51:23Z
dc.date.issued 2015-04-21
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10969/939
dc.description.abstract Medieval literature exists in a multitude of forms; however, the medieval romance grew particularly popular. Originating in France in the twelfth century, it spread to the rest of Europe and prevailed as a literary form throughout the Middle Ages. Although these romances originate from everything from classical mythology to earlier Arthurian legends, they share several elements. In her essay on medieval romance, Christine Chism states that most medieval romances contain a knightly hero, an endangered woman, elements of magic, challenges to the hero’s prowess or moral character, and “the construction of careers and the fall of kingdoms.” Elements of the medieval romance—particularly the quest, hero, and magical elements—still exist within modern fantastic literature and are often central to the genre. Countless works of fantastic literature contain these elements, although they appear in many different ways. Two works of particular interest are J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle. Despite the wide gap in their publication, they demonstrate a similar usage of elements of medieval literature in order to balance foreignness and familiarity. These elements appear in both The Hobbit and the Kingkiller Chronicle and, in general, follow the models set by medieval romance quite closely, although they manifest themselves in slightly different fashions in each of the novels in question. The greatest difference, however, lies in the presentation of two of the central characters: Thorin and Kvothe, both of whom deviate from the typical hero of medieval romance. Although Thorin seems to fit more neatly into this concept of the hero—as a battle-hardened warrior king in exile, he would fit perfectly into a medieval romance—his dying speech demonstrates a departure from the medieval ideas regarding such a hero, as it values humility over glory. Kvothe, the main character in the Kingkiller Chronicle, is treated in a similar fashion. He fits less neatly into the world of the medieval romance, but this is also because he demonstrates a departure from the traditional hero of medieval romance: he lacks the nobility of blood that drove these tales. However, these departures from the medieval hero do not seem like mistakes made by amateurs with little knowledge of medieval literature. Since both Tolkien and Rothfuss were familiar with medieval literature and culture, they presumably could have given their heroes qualities more typical of the great heroes of medieval romance. However, readers would likely have a much harder time connecting with such heroes, since the medieval world operated on a different ideological and cultural framework than the modern one. In including elements of the medieval romance blended with heroes who exemplify modern values, Tolkien and Rothfuss achieve a balance between the foreign and the familiar, allowing their readers to feel separated from reality without alienating the reader to the point that they feel uncomfortable. This phenomena—which I have named comfortable alienation—drives both of these novels as they blend the medieval with the modern in order to achieve the ideal balance of alterity and familiarity. A project in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree with Distinction in English. en_US
dc.subject.other English en_US
dc.subject.other History en_US
dc.title More than the Parts that Form Them: Medievalism and Comfortable Alienation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle en_US

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