J.R.R Tolkien: ISTJ

Guest post by E.J., INTJ

J.R.R. Tolkien ISTJ | The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI #ISTJ

Introverted Sensing (Si): Tolkien’s mother died when he was eight years old, and his memory of her motivated him throughout his adult life. Since her family had abandoned her after her conversion to Catholicism, and her health had subsequently deteriorated, Tolkien considered her a martyr. Her memory was part of the reason why Tolkien became such a staunch Catholic. He remained haunted by his experiences in World War I, and some aspects of those experiences made their way into his books. Tolkien could have difficulty with change, and he was frustrated when Catholic churches began holding services in English rather than Latin. He strongly opposed Nazism and thought he would have been more motivated to fight in World War II than in World War I (the war he actually fought in) because the Nazi abuse of Germanic mythology, his lifelong interest, infuriated him.

J.R.R. Tolkien ISTJ | The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI #ISTJ

Extraverted Thinking (Te): Tolkien wanted his fantasy world hold together logically: in fact, the world existed in the first place because he considered it the logical outgrowth of the Elvish language he spent years developing. Tolkien had a very critical and perfectionistic approach to his own works, which slowed his writing down, but he was simultaneously frustrated by his failure to complete so many projects. Tolkien could be blunt about his opinions, refusing to mince his words when he disagreed with someone.

J.R.R. Tolkien ISTJ | The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI #ISTJ

Introverted Feeling (Fi): J. R. R. Tolkien was an intensely emotional man, even claiming on one occasion that he had “feelings more than ideas.”  He possessed a strong, internally-based moral drive, and morality is a major theme in his writing. He was a staunch Catholic for all his adult life, despite the fact that Catholics were a religious minority within his circle of friends and in England as a whole. Although equivocating on some Catholic beliefs might have given him a more comfortable relationship with other people, he held to the beliefs that he considered authentically right. Tolkien was conservative but largely apolitical.

J.R.R. Tolkien ISTJ | The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI #ISTJ

Extraverted Intuition (Ne): Tolkien was known for jumping from one burst of inspiration to the next and, as a result, had difficulty completing projects. Of his full-length fantasy works that are available today, only two (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) were completed in his lifetime. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien completed the work largely because C. S. Lewis loved it and regularly urged Tolkien to keep writing. Tolkien’s son, Christopher, has spent a large portion of his life organizing, editing, and publishing the various partially completed works that Tolkien left lying around.


Editor’s note (Arvid Walton): Tolkien is canonically argued as either an INFP or INFJ. In the next week or so, I’m going to write a sub post for this one explaining why he’s an ISTJ rather than INFx. Most of my reasoning is based off of my understanding of Medieval literary traditions.

In the meantime, just be patient.

7 thoughts on “J.R.R Tolkien: ISTJ

  1. Even in this analysis arguing for ISTJ, Fi and Ne sound like they were much more dominant traits in him than Si or Te.

    “Extraverted Intuition (Ne): Tolkien was known for jumping from one burst of inspiration to the next and, as a result, had difficulty completing projects.” <— This is a big part of why I'm not convinced he was an ISTJ. The way you describe Ne in Tolkien matches someone who has dom or aux Ne, not someone who has inferior Ne. Because their Ne is inferior, an ISTJ would not be naturally prone to jumping from thing to thing and not completing projects. They would likely be naturally distrusting of Ne and frustrated by people who jump from thing to thing.

    The statement, "I have feelings more than ideas" is such a Dominant Fi statement that I really can't see anyone besides an INFP or ISFP saying it.

    Finally, the way you describe Tolkien using Si and Te sounds like they were tertiary and inferior functions, respectively. "Tolkien had a very critical and perfectionistic approach to his own works, which slowed his writing down, but he was simultaneously frustrated by his failure to complete so many projects." <— this screams Inferior Te to me, and matches the frustrations/sentiments I hear from INFPs. And, because Si is tertiary for INFPs, they do hold a respect for tradition in many ways — particularly traditions that align with their deeply held Fi values.

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  2. That’s the post I’ve been looking forward to since I requested typing Tolkien. His approach to his past, to religion, to literary tradition… his relation with INTJ Lewis… Everything always shouted “ISTJ” to me, and I only saw people typing him as an INFx, mostly INFP. As a one myself I called bullshit on that immediately, usually trying to use his mother… issues(? or maybe that’s just how Si-doms roll?) and attitude towards language creating as pro-SiTe arguments. It never worked,
    “but he was a fantasy writer”. Oh, you obviously haven’t read his opinions on Celtic mythology… Very non-INFPy point of view on fantasy worlds. “And he was nice” Because no ISTJ ever had a heart. It’s confirmed, scientifically.
    (Also, was he really that nice? He surely was kind and well-mannered, but nice… I don’t know, maybe I just don’t understand the word correctly).
    The only thing I see as really far from ISTJ stereotype is the chaos connected with finishing his fictional works (and modern translation of poor Sir Gawain, Pearl and Orfeo…), but it can be easily explained.
    “reasoning based off of understanding of Medieval literary traditions”… I may understand what you mean – but I may all the same be totally wrong about that! (And I probably am.) Well, waiting it is, then.

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  3. I love this post! I believe this and the following post on him coming up have the potential to shatter the stereotype that types with inferior Ne lack imagination. I have read on a few forums about ISTJ and ISFJ stereotypes and that one was mentioned very frequently. I think that J. R. R. Tolkien is proof that ISTJs and ISFJs can create beautiful things filled with creative imagination.

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  4. I approve of this post, being an ISTJ myself, Tolkien is, and has been for a long time, my favorite author. Him being an ISTJ is a little surprising to me though.

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