. Alas, not me: "Pity, Power, and Tolkien's Ring" shortlisted for The Tolkien Society Best Book Award 2024

21 January 2023

"Pity, Power, and Tolkien's Ring" shortlisted for The Tolkien Society Best Book Award 2024


Pity, Power, and Tolkien's Ring:

 To Rule the Fate of Many


Thomas P. Hillman

A brief description
As the magical ring Bilbo found in The Hobbit became the One Ring to rule them all in The Lord of the Rings, the tale he told of how he had won it became a lie, and the pity that spared Gollum’s life emerged from the darkness beneath the Misty Mountains to challenge the might of Sauron. Yet the pity that Gandalf holds essential to destroying the Ring and defeating Sauron offers the bearer no protection against the corruptions of its power. By joining Tolkien and Frodo on their long and weary road, Pity, Power, and the Ring: To Rule the Fate of Many illuminates the inner struggle Frodo had to face, and Tolkien had to create and explore, between the power Frodo weighs in his hand and the pity for the darkness he comes to hold in his heart.

In composing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien spent over a decade exploring the dynamics of the power of the Ring and powerlessness of pity. As he did so, all the themes his mythology had embodied since its earliest days during The Great War – Death and Immortality, Fate and Free Will, Divine Justice and the Problem of Evil, Power and War – took on a new aspect at once more vulnerable and more heroic in Frodo Baggins. In turn, as Tolkien began to ponder the expression of these constant themes in The Lord of the Rings, his meditations led him onward to a more philosophical and theological treatment of the unfolding of Ilúvatar's themes in history in later works like the Atrabeth Finrod a Andreth and Laws and Customs Among the Eldar. Like the Beowulf-poet he understood so well, Tolkien could encompass in his sympathy Christian religion and Pagan mythology, the Primary World in which he lived the questions of life and the Secondary World in which he imagined the working out of their answers.

Kent State University Press has in recent years extended a warm welcome to the study of The Inklings, publishing twenty-seven titles so far, including fourteen on J. R. R. Tolkien. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I announce the forthcoming publication of my book, Pity, Power, and Tolkien's Ring: To Rule the Fate of Many, which studies the evolving dynamics of the Ring of Power and the paradoxical yet all-important quality of pity, and how this quality came to resonate throughout the entire legendarium as a result of the decade and more Tolkien spent unfolding the history of Arda through the writing of The Lord of the Rings

I am abashed, to say the least, to find my book keeping the company of works by scholars such as Verlyn Flieger, Diana Pavlac Glyer, and Amy Amendt-Radeuge -- to name only those who have won The Mythopoeic Society's award for scholaship in Inklings Studies for their work on Tolkien. These and the other scholars who have published on the Inklings with Kent State University Press have of course been nominated for or won awards from scholarly bodies too many to mention here. It is a very flattering thing for my book to be included among them, to borrow a phrase from Tolkien, as a member of 'a class not as a competitor' (Letters no. 156, p. 201)

The ISBN for my book is 9781606354711. It may be purchased from all the usual suspects. 


  1. Congratulations, can't wait you read your book, I've learned a lot about works I thought I'd understood from this blog.

  2. Thank you, Jim. Sorry I haven't replied sooner. I hope you will find the book useful as well.

  3. Congratulations! It is a lonely life writing books, and these moments are precious. :)