Dept. of English


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


This paper examines Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth—the idea that great myths (heroes’ journeys) throughout history adhere to a single, basic structure. The most important step of this structure is arguably the Belly of the Whale/Descent into the Underworld, as can be seen in the Redcrosse Knight of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Book One) and Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. These individual heroes reveal that the way in which they overcome (or fail to overcome) their underworlds determines the success or failure of the character as a Campbellian hero. Most importantly, these characters show that this phase determines the ability of the hero to reintegrate into his home society: if he overcomes his Belly of the Whale, then he is able to return home and reintegrate, but if he does not overcome this crucial step, then even if he does find his way back to his ordinary world, he is unable to rejoin society. As we will see, Redcrosse and Aragorn prevail in their underworlds, so they are able to ascend and reenter the real world, and are changed in a way that will help them complete the rest of their journeys. Gandalf and Frodo, however, fail in this phase and therefore must leave Middle-earth and travel to the Undying Lands at the end of the novel. They are too changed by their failure in the underworld to return and reintegrate.


B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Tolkien, J. R. R. -- (John Ronald Reuel), -- 1892-1973 -- Criticism and interpretation; Spenser, Edmund, -- 1552?-1599 -- Criticism and interpretation; Campbell, Joseph, -- 1904-1987 -- Criticism and interpretation


The Faerie Queene, The Lord of the Rings, Joseph Campbell, Monomyth, Belly of the Whale, Descent into the Underworld


English Language and Literature

Document Type



62 leaves




Under copyright.