The first thing I’d like to make clear is that Tolkien does not write like an INFP. Though he was known for not finishing projects he started on and for working in “idea bursts,” his writing does not express an Ne-style creativity. If you want a better example of very INFP writing, look to Neil Gaiman as your (exaggerated) example.
Having studied medieval literature at the university level, it is clear to me that Tolkien did not come up with most of his “ideas” himself. Almost all of the cultures and concepts found in Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the Silmarilion are literally borrowed aspects of the medieval era literature he was obsessed with. If you need evidence of this, here you go:
- Wergild: the individual naming of weapons and treasure found in Anglo Saxon culture, wherein each treasure was unique and one of a kind. Where do you think Sting, the Arkenstone and Mithril came from?
- Riddles: Anglo Saxon people commonly played riddles as a form of entertainment. 94-97 of these riddles (depending on how they are divided) have been preserved in the Exeter Book (the book that lives in Exeter and has no title).
- The Monster Quest: Monsters in Old English culture were individuals with personalities, incredible intelligence and distinct names (sound like Smaug, or Shelob to you?) The whole Hobbit story follows a hero who is faced with a bunch of seemingly random quest-tasks, tests and monsters that he must outsmart. It might as well be Beowulf with a happy ending.
- Homosocial Comitatus: The whole storyline in The Hobbit follows a group of male-only heroes who are incredibly loyal to their alpha male leader (Thorin) who are upset because their original alpha male leaders were killed like…a thousand years ago. This is a perfect example of Celtic Comitatus.
- Elegiac: An Elegy is basically an old english funeral song that expresses deep mourning and loss. This not only shows up in actual songs that the dwarves sing in The Hobbit, but also shows up in the entire attitude of Middle Earth (ex. the world is dying, the elves are leaving and the time of men is coming, so sad). If you look at any portion of the Lord of the Rings, you will see an overwhelming sense of loss carried by almost every character.
- Liminality: The name “Middle Earth” is a direct reference to celtic liminality, which is basically any time, space or event that could be considered middle, or in-between this world and the next. In these spaces, Celtic literature commonly featured appearances from mystical beings or Gods. Ex. Aragon is met by the dead in a cave (which is a liminal space because it’s neither considered part of the earth, nor the underworld).
- The Return of the King: Arthurian Legends of the Middle-Ages were all about the return of just kings to save a people in a time of chaos and corruption. Most of the major Arthurian Lore revivals that occurred in Medieval history (namely those brought on by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thomas Malory, and Henry Tudor VII) happened at times when England was in a state of utter chaos and was in need of a great king (for instance, during the Wars of Roses…which we might parallel to the fact that Aragorn is supposed to be King, but some other blokes in Gondor are fighting over it).
- Horses: The horse people (Rohirim) directly references the importance placed by Pagan culture on horses.
- The Woman Warrior: Pagan culture treated women with far more respect than many other cultures throughout history (including ours). Women could fight in war, and were looked to for power in many situations that interestingly enough, were not sexual. Sound like Éowyn? Or maybe Galadriel and Arwen coming to save all the helpless men? Tolkien writes his female characters using very Pagan archetypes –it was very common in celtic literature to see female character coming to the rescue when the men were at a loss for what to do.
- Names: The names Tolkien gives to his characters and places (Éowyn, Théoden, Galadriel, Mithrandir, Lothlorien, Minas Tirith, Helm’s Deep etc.) bear the markings of medieval languages.
- Kennings: cleverly juxtaposed compound words used to create alliteration, puns and allegorical meaning in Anglo-Saxon poetry. (Ex. Worm-tongue, Tree-beard, Witch-king, Hammer-hand, Weather-top).
You get the point.
An INFP writer would probably have come up with all this crap himself (upper-Ne), rather than borrowing it from factual knowledge studied at a university (upper-Si). And just to be clear, I am in no way claiming that Tolkien was plagiarising other works. I think what he’s done here was genius –I just know an intuitive writer probably wouldn’t have done this.
Some people look at this and say, gee, that bloke had one singular obsession for his entire life, and so they conclude INFJ. However, to me, this is not INFJ writing. INFJ writing attempts to convey a singular underlying philosophy, while what Tolkien is doing is relaying his knowledge of medievalism. That is SiTe writing.
Tolkien was first and foremost, an expert in linguistics and medieval studies. He wrote about Middle Earth because he wanted somewhere to use that knowledge (Te). His middle earth world is almost more about the details of world building than it is about storyline, and the fact that it’s so ridiculously detailed points directly to an upper Si function.
In fact, HE REFUSED TO EDIT HIS WORK because he didn’t want to remove any of the details (that, when looked at from a literary perspective, are completely unnecessary and bog his writing down). Thus, we get The Two Towers, in which, Frodo and Sam travel (that’s it? Yeah, pretty much. You might want to skip that one and just read Return of the King).
The reason that Tolkien did not finish his projects had nothing to do with an Ne-distraction tendency, but more to do with the fact that he insisted on including so many details in his stories. This is the same reason that my ISTJ sibling cannot finish the drawings they start –because they wants to go slowly and get every detail perfect.
Tolkien’s writing, albeit poetic, is very factual. He tells more of what happened, than what the characters felt about it, which is why I’m lead to believe that his Te was more dominant than his Fi. People who mistype Tolkien as an INFP do so either because they assume ISTJs are not creative, or because they have recognised the right jungian functions in his work, but in the wrong hierarchy.
Anyone still not convinced?
68 thoughts on “Why Tolkien was an ISTJ”
Absolutely yes. The more you grow in understanding functions/type theory, Tolkien as an ISTJ is obvious. Sorry, NFPs… you have many other writers, artists, and creatives to claim! But truly, there is no question here.
My teenage son is also an ISTJ, and he is likewise a passionate and scholarly historian. He’s also currently OBSESSED with languages (progressing well in Latin and Spanish but studying many more, especially interested in obscure languages like Cornish). He has the most detailed (or tedious) lists of words, pronunciation, regional dialects, etc. He loves to talk about this, but it only interests his listener for about 5 minutes— unless the listener is another ISTJ.
There is a bit of article on your cherry picking. Tolkien books are not at all based on history, they only have some references. The vast majority of Tolkien’s universe is based on folklore and mythology, there is only a bit of history.
Tolkien was the total opposite to an ISTJ. He was a total INFP. In any case, INTP makes sense, but typing him as an ISTJ is retarded.
All authors take a lot of inspiration from different sources, even “the most creative ones” and INxPs are not the exception. It doesn’t make Tolkien less creative. He invented his own shit, with inspiration from many sources, like any other writer.
In fact, having a lot of interest and mixing them is Ne, has nothing to with Si. Tolkien’s universe is an extensive web with hundreds of sub-plots, some of them incomplete. A total Ne thing. An ISTJ would have created a way more concrete and streamlined story.
ISTJs are concrete and practical, they are into tangible stuff. Tolkien was the exact opposite. He was into the abstract and used to daydream a lot.
ISTJs don’t even write fantasy books, LOL. And if an ISTJ wrote a fantasy book it wouldn’t be even close to Tolkien’s creativity.
On top of that, his work style was totally NP. He worked in unorganized bursts of energy, and started a lot more projects than he completed.
Definitely INFP. Or INTP in any case.
By the way, INFPs have also Si in their stack. The fact that he took some inspiration from Medieval History is meaningless in regards to his type.
Tolkien was clearly not a Sensor, he was imaginative and lived in the clouds.
Actually there is a great podcast on personality hacker that shows that Tolkien, like C.S. Lewis and 80 percent of fellow professors (which he and C.S. Lewis were) was INTJ.
J.K. Rowling publicly has stated she is INFJ and there is a great YouTube video by C.S. Joseph to show this to be the case.
There is something about introverted intuition that makes good fantasy writing.
I find it interesting that your main reason for NOT classifying him as an INFP is because you think he would come up with all of those things himself rather than base it on existing history and literature. As an INFP through and through myself, I can actually really relate to how he based so much of his passion for language and historical cultures into his writing. If I were to write a book, I would probably do the same, just no where near as well! You see I LOVE to learn and I get very absorbed into topics that interest me. I would love to get into academia in the future as I LOVE uni with a deep passion, but my biggest challenge is of course organisation. (And I know that academia is a very, very hard road.) Yet difficulty organising myself doesn’t hold me back completely, and it’s not impossible to achieve my goals – it just means it’s harder for me than other people and I have to constantly put effort into making sure I can stay on top of my life. But a love of something and a drive to make a positive difference is for me a powerful motivator, and learning is my life’s passion – particularly about language and culture, incidentally.
Tolkien didn’t just take what exists already and put it straight in to his books; he came up with his own world heavily influenced on things that exist and I do that in my daydreams too. I love to explore things right down to the details and I often find myself daydreaming “stories” heavily based on things that do exist, details and all, but tweaked and altered with imagination.
I also think that the fact that the stories’ basis is heavily grounded in morality and right vs wrong; it is regularly maintained that hope is never lost and even the darkest parts of his stories have optimism and idealism that shine through; as well as the significant personal development of the characters, in my opinion, are all very INFP. These are also perhaps the things that got me to fall in love with the books in the first place!
Have you ever compared Tolkien’s writings with those of Lewis? They’re totally different. They could be the poster boys for what INFP and INTJ writing looks like.
I am absolutely not impressed by the trilogy. I find it boring, and ultimately uncreative, like most ISTJs. Obviously, it is thorough, very long, the work of a lifetime. A bit like an ISTJ with his collections of objects from the past at home, it’s always impressive by the volume. All the characters sweat the introverted feeling, even Aragon makes a bad ISTP, almost ISFP. For the rest, he did not invent anything. There is no deep thought. The good, evil and loyalty. But no real intrigue. Everything is recycled or based on one’s own past feelings.
uncreative series that inspired dungeons and dragons. he created mythical creatures like Orcs, Hobbits(Halflings) dwarfs (Not to mentions he also invented Mythril). litteraly He created the 15 different Elvish dialects, along with languages for the Ents, the Orcs, the Dwarves, Hobbits and more. The dudes literally is FI-NE wet dream.
Interesting. I’m still not decided 100% but you made a good point.
The Si-Fi (or Fi-Si) loop is obviously strong.
I will outright profess my bias as an INFP writer/poet. Mind you, I ‘study’ philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, Buddhism, and, to a lesser degree, physics (conceptually).
Anecdotally, part of what immensely struck me about personality theory was the experience of reading a Tolkien quote halfway down the first page of an INFP description:
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost”
I then discovered that basically all the influencial artistic figures in my life, in addition to Tolkien, were thought to be INFP, too. Discovering the typological tool to better understand myself meant that I was ‘wandering’ a little less.
I brought this up to address the very important topic of liminality you mention. A lot of the way that I use typology in analysis is by the associated archetypal images. Wandering is important because of how it relates to Hermes as one (perhaps the most important) mythological/archetypal representation of INFPs. Hermes, among many other things, is the god of travelling, mediation, crossroads, writing/poetry, magic. The associated imagery and symbolism is also now part of the caduceus (the medical seal/image). This lends well to how INFPs are also archetypally representative of the Healer, the Saviour, the Child, and the Mother. The child is the most pertinent here, because they represent playful imagination, as they act as mediators between fantasy and ‘reality’. However, society is traditionally very depreciating of that kind of imaginative mediation in adulthood. Juxtaposed to (Fi) dominance which can be historically contextualized as feminine (I’m male btw), western society is historically excessively (Te), and archetypal of the Father (quite evidently in the patriarchy). The (Fi)-(Te) axis is then highly representative of anima-animus, in conjunction with the Shadow, in the psychology of western society itself. When taken to its extreme, (Te) becomes the devouring father, the sadist, the psychopath, and authoritarian rule. I find this axis is extremely evident in INFP works. Based on somethings I recently thought about, look at Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro), basically every character of Turn of the Screw (Henry James), or Camus’ interest in the myth of sisyphus.
My theory as to why so many INFPs become writers is that the process of writing engages inferior (Te); it creates order and discipline to the otherwise flightful childlike adventures into fantasy/day dreaming. Moreover, it synthesizes those two. Given this synthesis, its usually quite evident (at least I find) to notice how the content of work is representative of the individuals psychology and process of individuation.
I almost always see the author’s personality by proxy of the journey of the ‘hero’/protagonist. I will grant you that the entire Hobbit culture is extremely ISTJ: stuck in the simplicity of day to day (Si), afraid of adventure (inferior Ne), and their halfling nature represents this (Fi)-(Te) kind of non-binary middle ground between children and adults. However, Frodo is extremely INFP. You can say this only but a small part of the breadth of his work, but most of the lord of the rings can be interpreted as an archetypal dark journey. The ego, Frodo (Fi), journeys to the under/dark world Mordor (Te) to engage with underdeveloped or repressed parts of the unconscious. There isn’t so much what he needs to find there that is missing and needs integration as the journey itself is representative of establishing purpose in his life, which by proxy is a metaphor for the process of writing for the author. Destroying the ring is about managing temptation, and denying the world’s demand for subservience (to abandon the adventure of creativity and fantasy). Mordor represents the (psychological) Shadow that threatens to spread over the world. While that darkness that spreads is a metaphor for the events of the real world of his time, it is also representative (possibly) of his own psychology. One of the things that INFPs struggle most with is understanding and recognition, primarily for the aforementioned reasons of society depreciating their emergent (fantasy oriented/childlike) way of being. Without social/worldly recognition, their inferior (Te) remains possibly undeveloped, and, moreover, gets projected into the world. Not only does the world oppress them, but they are further surrounded by their own shadow projected in the world, thereby at risk of being engulfed in that darkness and depression. Just look at Van Gogh.
His whole process of writing embodies a liminality (a space in between), in this case. I am always aghast by people who actually dislike Tolkien. I always say: he didn’t just write a story, he created 4000 years of history–he is the greatest creative writer in history. You mention here that the story isn’t so much about a single character as it is about middle-earth. Part of my theory of typology is that the auxiliary (x) axis is a mediating force between the dom-inferior. In that respect, middle-earth seems like an auxiliary liminality, and a creative(Ne) home (Si) that Tolkien created to exist between him (Fi) and the world (Te), thereby instantiating his individuation process.
The thing is, though, that I recognize you can take these arguments and flip them around to work as an argument for ISTJ, as well. You cite how he references history, literature and folklore that he studies as basis for a lot of his ideas. However, this kind of bypasses why he may have been interested in those things to begin with. Perhaps he was interested in all those as means to understand his own fantastical proclivities. Maybe, then, he references much of that because of his (Fi) personal connection with them.
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“An INFP writer would probably have come up with all this crap himself (upper-Ne).” Awesome line. As an INFP that can behave very ISTJ at times, this cracks me up because no matter how much knowledge about a subject I love and want to integrate into my stories…well, I end up coming up with fresh crap and getting lost in imagining all that new crap. Very affirming that indeed I lean more Fi Ne than Si Te.
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INFP (aspiring) author here, and for what it’s worth, I have yet to actually READ the Lord of the Rings books. A major reason for this is because, yes, I was getting put off by all of the details! It was kind of difficult for me to sort past all of that to get to the actual story.
Though I admit, I admire his ability to have created such a complex, detailed world. I actually struggle with coming up with a set of rules/systems for the worlds I create in my own stories. I’m more apt to just jump straight into character development and make everything else sort of secondary and just fall into place as the characters become more real to me.
I’m not saying he isn’t an INFP, I haven’t decided that yet (as usual, thanks Ne!). But just from the perspective of myself, as just one INFP writer (it isn’t much to go off, I know), I focus way more on character development than on lots of little details that I consider mostly irrelevant.
I know this is an older post, but just wanted to share that I am an ISTJ that found Tolkien’s books rather boring. I much prefer The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter to The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings any day. I enjoy detail and the connections between the past and present, but I do also enjoy an interesting and fast-paced story.
As an INFP author, I’m not sure you have a rock-solid case for Tolkien not being an INFP based on the fact that all the elements of his work came from the medieval literature he loved. Case in point: me. I write primarily historical fantasy, and also primarily retellings, because I don’t feel capable of building a whole convincing secondary world and would rather use the wealth of detail available in real-world settings; or because I feel I’m not original enough to come up with my own plots. I share that with Tolkien (but then, I have pretty well-developed lower functions).
That said, I have long lol-ed at the idea of Tolkien being an INFP. Impossible: the man found it so important to make sure that the moon was always at the right phase for the date of each scene. No INFP would ever have the patience for that. As an INFP author, my main focus is on embodying an authentic expression of my deepest convictions (Fi) in striking metaphor (Ne), not so much on constructing an internally coherent secondary world.
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Second paragraph, case in point. But yes, I get what you’re saying.
Honestly as an INFP I tend to get right into the “unnecessary” details of things that I’m really into like that, and I can get a bit carried away with it, especially when they are based in reality. I also like to adapt reality into fantasy in my mind, and I get even more excited about it when I get into the details and how it fits together. So I can actually relate to how he would care about moon phases and whatnot. The problem is that even if I could write well, I would never stick with writing a book long enough to finish it! Yet plenty of other INFPs manage to finish books somehow…! (That is no small feat!)
The big picture vs small picture thing is too broad to say whether an INFP is more for one or the other in all circumstances. I usually see the big picture and find details exhausting if it’s day to day things (eg I think about how I want to get to X in my life and understanding the little things you have to do doesn’t come naturally to me, I just have to force myself to be patient and keep at it; or I see a political situation and think “I wish it was like _____” but can’t see the pieces that are needed to bring about that outcome, nor do I try to, because there is too much injustice in the world to invest myself emotionally into every single issue at a deep enough level) but if I’m deeply interested in something I will get right down into it. And it appears to me that Tolkien was very invested in building his fantasy world. I can definitely relate to how he would have loved building it from his knowledge and passion for history and language, down to the weird little blocks.
But even two people who share one personality type are still very different (I see it as a set of continuums for understanding people who think differently to one’s self rather than definitive categories that we are bound to), and there are probably other things that suggest he might be an INTP/J over INFP, I just find the reasoning of “but the details” to be unconvincing.
Tolkien was much too imaginative and innovative to be a sensor (sorry, sensors, but it’s true). He made up languages and it’s obvious from commentary, he had intuitive thought. Most ISTJs I know are not very creative… they can be thoughtful and caring in a way but innovative? Not in that sense. I think that intuitives can be interested in sensory details that have to with the past BECAUSE, if it connects to something they have intuitive thought about. I like history and sensory details but that doesn’t mean I’m a sensor. Rather, I have intuitive thought about the sensory things I like. Even more what I really like.
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Did you read the umm…part where I mentioned that he borrowed all the creative stuff from well known medieval and celtic literature?
I also enjoy history and sensory details, but I don’t make them the crucial aspect of my literature. In other words, I like the history FOR the literature, whereas Tolkien was writing the literature FOR the history.
I have to agree with Hannah’s remarks. Ive met many ISTJs (family, friends, bosses, even dated one once for 5 years when I was a teen). Of about 10 0f them, not one was imaginative as wild as I can imagine a world (Im INFJ). To an intuitive this is EXTREMELY frustrating. Sensors most think you’re COO COO in the head, high on drugs and stuff. Lol. It’s so offensive and difficult. I cant handle detail either. I also know INTP. I think Tolkien seems more INTP, strong Thinking and Intuition, and makes use of knowledge and detail (introverted sensing) into the world he imagined (TiNe). I think so because I myself am INFJ so my NiFe is 90% of how I express, yet in my early 20s I became an engineer because my tertiary function Ti is a ‘hobby’ function youre just drawn to. I think Tolkien’s didnt incorporate imagination (Ne) into his knowledge and details (Si) of his worlds but he incorporated such details (Si) into the world he first imagined (Ne). I think just like me being able to study and work in engineering using my tertiary into my work and studies, he was able to incorporate it well into his work, especially if when he wrote his books he was post 30s and 40s (this is when everyone is more capable of using their tertiary very well).
Forgot to add something…Tolkien definitely has Ti as opposed to Te. Thus he cant be an ISTJ, since ISTJ have auxiliary Te. Let me show how so, evidence. I just have one, tho, but its everywhere bleeding in his quotes and overthinking. Here is Ti bleeding out:
“What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good on this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
A Te user (like my INTJ husband) hates that, and never uses it. Its not to the point, efficient talking.
Ti just goes on and on in exploring an idea deeper and deeper. Te is less exploratory and more executive, minding how to apply the idea in the most efficient way. My father in law is INTP and often speaks like Tolkien in this quote. My INTJ husband just stands there silent, looks at me shrugging his head, says “hello” to his dad, and starts talking about something else, if he needs to, otherwise will walk away to eat some snack or whatever. Lol.
Fascinating piece–and, from what I know of medieval literature, I definitely agree that Tolkein’s stories/concepts are quite similar.
Here’s something interesting for you. My father is an ISFJ–so, like Tolkein, a Si-dominant with a (to me) quite incredible capacity for attention to detail. He wasn’t much into reading fiction as a kid or a teenager, but he really, really loved “Lord of the Rings,” and guess which book was his favorite? That’s right–“The Two Towers.”
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Eww…he actually liked that book?
Yes! His copy had been read so often, it was literally splitting down the middle of the spine by the time I saw it. Everybody’s different, huh? ;-)
I’ve never read any LotR, myself–I quit Tolkein after “The Hobbit” because it just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know why, exactly . . . I LOVED Narnia, though.
There are people who do. Not many of us, yet still there, hiding in the shadows…
Reminded me of how much I hated The Return of the King compared to the other ones, though. Especially book six was a nightmarish heroism overload.
What’s not to like there? It’s the best book in the trilogy, way more than the overrated RoTK
Oh gosh, this is actually hilarious to me first because I am an ISTJ and “The Two Towers” was my favorite. Funny to think it could have something to do with the dominant function. Also my friend who is an ISTJ also liked “The Two Towers” best…This makes me want to start interviewing ISTJs to see what percentages like which book best.
You lot are weird. I approve.
I’d be curious to check out percentages of how many Si-doms and how many Ni-doms prefer Lord of the Rings over Narnia, and how many prefer Narnia over LotR.
In that case, as an Ni dom, I’d have to say that Chronicles of Narnia wins
So would I. Narnia was my whole world, basically, as a kid–it was MINE. I loved it. It felt almost like C.S. Lewis wrote the stories specifically for me, to be honest. (I expect that’s result of shared Ni.) Tolkein . . . well, not so much.
(The above comment was actually mine–I forgot to put my name and so it showed up as “Anonymous.” Sorry.)
I had a similar experience with the Narnia series as a kid. I read them when I was six or so, and after reading something about C.S. Lewis’s connection to Tolkien, I tried to read Lord of the Rings when I was seven but got too bored with the descriptions to keep reading. I didn’t pick Lord of the Rings up again until I was about eleven or so.
You beat me to Narnia, then–I didn’t start the series till I was eight.
But yeah. I never really got into LotR because I found “The Hobbit” really boring . . . and also vaguely disturbing, for some reason. I mean, it’s not technically any darker or more disturbing than “The Silver Chair,” which was my favorite Narnia book . . . but even so, I didn’t like it. I still don’t really like it. (Although Thorin’s death always makes me sad.)
That was my favourite Narnia book too :)
But yes, I read the Hobbit as a bedtime story to my younger brothers because they liked it, but never really got into it myself.
What? No! Narnia is MINE!
Kidding. Wow, other people had my experiences with that series!! It was read to me as a small child, and by the time my parents had gone through it twice with me I was reading on my own and devoured it. Lord of the Rings came a bit later, and I absolutely loved the story, but it took me several tries to finish the series. I refuse to compare the two, because to me, Lord of the Rings is a natural companion to Narnia. The Hobbit, however, is dead boring.
Did anyone think it was amusing how much Peter Jackson altered the tone of The Hobbit for his movie adaptions? I couldn’t get all the way through them. Pretty much the only choice that I approved of was the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo.
Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of the Hobbit…uggh. I enjoyed the book, but the movie had too many things wrong with it. I loved Bard’s portrayal, loved Bilbo’s, but the thing was too long and the jokes were too stupid. Two movies would probably have been a better idea. The realism of LotR wasn’t really there, either. And I hated Tauriel, especially since they essentially had her reprise Arwen’s role.
I didn’t read LotR until I was 17 (and I read the volumes in the wrong order). I re-read them several years later, after seeing the movies. It was something of an aesthetic experience for me: there was an intense beauty in the book that I probably wouldn’t have seen at a younger age. And I think it was, in part, a perception of the book’s beauty that caused C.S. Lewis to have such an intensely positive reaction to it. (But, as Lewis pointed out elsewhere, perceptions of beauty differ, and some people have intensely negative gut reactions to that sort of thing.)
Had I read LotR at the same age I read Narnia, I probably would have liked Narnia better. At this point I like LotR better, but I enjoy both. “The Silver Chair” was great–I have trouble relating to female main characters, but I could relate to Jill–and “The Horse and His Boy” is also a good one. It seems as though Lewis got much better at characterization in the Narnia books he wrote later.
Yes, I would agree Bard was portrayed very well. At the same time, there was much less of him in the book. I’m definitely with you on the 1-2 movie thing though.
Tauriel. No. Please no. As a feminist, I appreciate what they did with Arwen in the movies, but she definitely was not a warrior-type in the books.
Also, this might be an odd question, but I’m morbidly curious. As a genderfluid person, I have no trouble relating to characters based on their gender. I suppose my question is how much does the gender of the characters affect your interest in a book?
*virtual high-five for fellow “Silver Chair” fan*
Seriously, that book is phenomenal.
Kerissa–haha, that’s okay, we can share Narnia :-)
I haven’t seen the Hobbit movies–just a few clips here and there. But what I did find EXTREMELY amusing was the mere fact that they made three whole movies, when they could’ve just done ONE. I mean, by that logic, the Lord of the Rings trilogy should have been nine movies.
I completely agree with you, Arvid, about the Hobbit movies. I have yet to watch the third, and I don’t know if I could have sat through the others if it wasn’t for Martin Freeman.
Interesting that you both like Silver Chair the best. What about it do you like? I always found Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle best.
Actually, now that you mention it, I’d have to say The Silver Chair ties with Magician’s Nephew for the best. I always liked Diggory.
What about “The Silver Chair” did I like? Mmmmmmmm . . . I think I just really liked the overall tone and atmosphere, how it was dark and gritty and yet–somehow–still hopeful and triumphant. I was also fascinated by the whole concept of the “curse,” how Rilian lost his memory during the day but regained it each night. I really loved Jill and Eustace’s friendship–actually, I’d have to admit that I rather ship them. And the whole subplot with old Caspian, who then dies and becomes young Caspian again, was really emotional for me because I pretty much adore Caspian.
Besides, it was all about SNOW, and snow is one of my favorite things in the world, ever.
I really loved “The Magician’s Nephew, too. In fact, there was a point in time when I would’ve said it was my favorite of the whole series . . . but, looking back now, the one that impacted me most, and the one I have the strongest memories of, is “The Silver Chair,” so I think I’ll still go with it as my favorite.
In answer, I’m female and have trouble relating to most female main characters. They usually seemed less interesting when I was growing up. When I made up my own stories, the main characters were nearly always boys, and any girls that appeared were generally Feeling types with whom I didn’t particularly identify. But it was a bit of a breakthrough to read “The Perilous Gard” by Elizabeth Marie Pope, which has a very realistic female INTJ as its main character. Kate seemed strong in a way that I had only associated with male characters, and I slowly began to see that there were other possibilities.
One qualifier…growing up, I read a lot of poor quality fiction…which didn’t necessarily have great character development, period. If adventure was the only good thing about a book, male characters usually engaged in that more actively anyway.
That’s quite fascinating to me. In my fiction, I tend to write from mostly male or non-binary perspectives, but I don’t necessarily have any problem writing from female perspectives when I do.
If you want realistic female INTJs, I would highly recommend reading any one of Ayn Rand’s books.
My INTJ sister often has the same experiences with female fictional characters–finding them unrelatable and uninteresting. I sometimes have that problem, too, although to a lesser extent. I can easily relate to the Fe-types, for instance; but I have HUGE difficulties relating to xNFP female characters (Jo March, Anne Shirley, Scout Finch, Marianne Dashwood . . .)
I’ve actually got a novel in the works right now with an INTJ female protagonist. Wish me luck, y’all.
I find that it’s a combination of personality and moral values that determines whether or not I relate to a character.
Same for me, I think. Because in order to relate to a character, you have to feel that you’d actually make similar decisions to them, given the same circumstances . . . and if their moral values are totally opposite to yours, their decisions will end up being very, very different.
This is a very interesting and, I think, accurate take on Tolkien’s personality. I must admit that I struggled with his writing, as did many of you, but since I study medieval literature and both English and Scandinavian language I find his works highly interesting from this perspective. The blend of the variety of cultural aspects and legends. A world artificially created from the basis of ours. Have you read his collection of essays ‘Monsters and Critics’? I would highly recommend it, there, his SiTe writing shows quite nicely.
Oh, and one last thing – “INFJ writing attempts to convey a singular underlying philosophy, while what Tolkien is doing is relaying his knowledge of medievalism” – your observation is, again (I think), very accurate and also I immensely enjoyed reading your post on Tolkien in general but what would you say are the approaches of, say, INFP or INTJ writers? You pointed out INFJ quite nicely. Or could you maybe someday write your thoughts on the different write styles and final goals of the types INFJ, INFP, INTJ and INTP? Say, where they differ and how? I would love to read your observations about this topic.
I’d like to write something on that topic eventually, but we’ll see how far I can get caught up on the stack of emails in my inbox
You think that George RR Martin fits more the INFP profile than Tolkien?
I haven’t read anything by George RR Martin, but otherwise I would give you my opinion on that…
Martin thinks Tolkien was too soft, so…I doubt it.
Well i think he could.I personally think that being an infp writer doesn.t automatically imply your writing will be soft.
If i understood you correctly
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This is very interesting because a few nights ago my mum and I were discussing this exact topic. I was assuming that because so many type him as INFP that he might have been an INTP. I’ve read a few INFPs’ works, and they don’t compare in my opinion. My mum suggested that he might have been ISTP. Looks like she was a bit closer to guessing Tolkien’s type than I was.
Like Tolkien, I find myself taking ideas/inspiration from other things, but unlike Tolkien (as you stated), I try to also come up with my own ideas (I’m an INTP for the record). I must say, I wish I had his knack for world building. I get very caught up making the characters perfect and making sure the plot goes some where, world building gets put to the side.
The only thing I disagree with is skipping the Two Towers. The part with Sam and Frodo was a bit on the long side, yet I found it all rather interesting. Granted I really enjoy the more details a story has, so to each his own
I appreciate it so much when you detail down the why’s and why not’s of typings in this fashion. There are few blogs and sites where people drill down to this level of analysis after some thorough questioning of their conclusions, and you still keep an open mind about correcting your typings and analyses on top of it all. I’ve really enjoyed the C.S. Lewis and Tolkien posts; in fact, I’d say I’ve come to a recent appreciation of author typings because it also shows in their work, and it makes me see their work with a completely different eye.
I am INTJ and I have to confess: I could not finish reading the LOTR books, they really got on my nerves (not for lack of trying!). Why? I felt there were too many details that did not seem to connect in some sort of theme I personally related to, or made the plot go forward, and I guess it’s this stereotypical INTJ thing I did where my brain just skipped over the “useless” (inefficient?) elf songs and endless descriptions of the surroundings with an annoyed grunt… Until I finally dropped the whole thing and read a summary online to be done with it. In a way, I felt the main character of LOTR was Middle-earth itself, instead of the beings walking upon it, and that was just not my standard cup of tea for entertainment.
My personal reaction and thought are not meant to diminish the quality of Tolkien’s work and the effort behind. What I mean to say is that reading what an ISTJ writing can be like made me realize it could be the reason I was unable to connect with it despite the popularity of those books.
I felt the same way whilst reading Tolkien’s books, but I kept reading them simply because I’d wanted to read them for a long time.
On the other hand, Tolkien probably would have never finished LotR without the constant nagging of an INTJ, C.S. Lewis–who loved the book to the point that he nominated Tolkien for a Nobel Prize. I enjoy the book and know other INTJs who do–as well as INTJs who probably wouldn’t like it at all.
Looking at the INTJ authors who have been typed here–Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, and Jane Austen–there are some pretty enormous stylistic differences. My guess is Ayn Rand could also be typed INTJ, and she’s very different from the other three (in a bad way, in my opinion…). And so on. I’m a little leery of typing authors solely on the basis of their fictional writings. Flannery O’Connor, at any rate, thought that trying to determine an author’s personality from his or her fictional writings was a bad idea. It’s not that you can’t deduce anything at all from an author’s work, but there is a limit to how much you can conclude with accuracy.
In Lewis’s case, his fiction was based mostly on creatures from real legends and mythology, as well as mashups (or not) of real places and cultures. The two exceptions being the first two novels of his Space Trilogy. Otherwise, he did about as much borrowing as Tolkien, despite having no Si anywhere in his function stack. He was less precise about it, though (which annoyed Tolkien). J. K. Rowling–self-typed INFJ–seems to do something similar. Tons of borrowing, but not in a consistently precise way.
I don’t know that I necessarily connect more with writers who share my MBTI type. I do get irritated by writers who ramble about emotional topics without including much actual content, but otherwise it mostly depends on the individual writer. I partly haven’t read Ayn Rand because I expect she would make me want to throw things. :P
Ja, I generally refer to accounts of the authors’ lives in addition to their writings. Personally, I love Ayn Rand.
Why, if you don’t mind my asking? Her objectivist philosophy seems pretty far from Descartes-style rationalism. I’m somewhat familiar with the plots of her books, but not having read them, I don’t know how much they stand on their own as fiction, and how much they exist to push objectivism.
I like Ayn Rand primarily because of the emphasis she places on the value of hard work.
I tend to follow the Descartes style rationalism, but I also don’t believe that you can navigate an empirical world purely through the lens of rationalism. Descriptive ethics is useless without normative ethics. Describing reality is pointless if you can’t figure out how to navigate that reality.
I don’t think I connect more or less to stories solely because of the author MBTI type, though the Tolkien Si aspect really explained a lot to me why I did not enjoy the amount of details of LOTR. I’ve read one C.S. Lewis book only and it was OK, but far from being a favourite. One of my favourite books is Dune, another lengthy story with a lot of details, but it’s presented in a different way than LOTR to me. I don’t know Frank Herbert’s type at all.
I think you’re probably right, it make a time since i read LOTR, but i remember reading somewhere that Tolkien´s intentions was to “rescue” old english folklore (in his opinion, England culture was being “put aside), he want to make an epic thar would honror England culture.
ps: Sorry for the bad english, im not american. haha
I’m not American either.
Whoa. As you described this, I thought: “Much of this sounds like me!” I’ve been mentally debating my type for quite a while, and I suspect I may indeed be an ISxJ.
“An INFP writer would probably have come up with all this crap himself (upper-Ne), rather than borrowing it from factual knowledge studied at a university (upper-Si).”
I have many creative ideas, but a lot of them are expanded from seeds others have planted. Some things I would never in a million years have come up with on my own.
“This is the same reason that my ISTJ brother cannot finish the drawings he starts –because he wants to go slowly and get every detail perfect.”
Sounds like me with the things I want to write or songs I want to learn. I keep my writings in a document, so I can come back to look, and re-look, and re-look, THEN copy-paste them to publish. I’ve noticed that when I write song lyrics, even my approach feels more like a science than an art.
I think this is why I’m drawn to parodies.
Have you ever read “J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century” by Tom Shippey? One of my friends recommended the book to me, and Shippey spends much of the book talking about where Tolkien got his ideas. While Shippey talks a lot about the Medieval poems you mentioned, he also discussed how Gondor, Rohan, and the Shire were based on different English cultures and other points that you might find interesting.
Great job analyzing Tolkien’s writing.
I haven’t read that book. This is all my own analysis based off knowledge gleaned from my Medieval literature classes.
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