Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David F. Goslee

Committee Members

Thomas Heffernan, Michael Lofaro, Robert Bast


This study examines the influence of William Morris (1834-1896) upon J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973). It concentrates specifically upon the impact of Morris’s romance, The Roots of the Mountains, upon Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. After surveying the scholarly literature pertaining to this topic, it proceeds to discuss their work within the context of the nineteenth-century revival of interest in the medieval period and in folkloric and mythological narratives. It then analyzes numerous parallels between the two works in characterization; plot motifs; archaic diction, syntax, and semantics; and topographical description and reanimation are then analyzed. These parallels demonstrate that Morris’s work had a profound influence upon The Lord of the Rings. Significant differences that do occur between the two texts are evaluated within the context of the Romantic tradition and the divergent ways the two authors interpret the paradigm of the Fall. The study concludes that, while Tolkien’s work surpasses Morris’s in many respects, its achievements would not have been possible without the example of The Roots of the Mountains to build upon. It closes with possibilities for future directions of research pertaining to this topic.

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