The Red Book and the Red Book: Jung, Tolkien, and the Convergence of Images

This semester I am undertaking an independent study in which I will be exploring The Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung and bringing it into dialogue with what J.R.R. Tolkien called The Red Book of Westmarch, the fictional narrative that became the key books of his Middle-Earth legendarium, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Jung’s Red Book period began in 1913, the same year that Tolkien began his own practice of active imagination in his illustrated book entitled The Book of Ishness. Using additional material from both Jung and Tolkien, as well as contemporary secondary sources, in conjunction with some of the insight provided by archetypal astrology, I will explore the similarities (and significant differences) between what was emerging through both of these men’s creative imaginations.

I will be culminating the independent study with a paper that I will post on this website, and with a PCC Forum lecture that will be filmed and also posted. If anyone has source material or other recommendations for this project I would greatly appreciate the feedback!

Jung and Tolkien

Preliminary Bibliography

C.G. Jung – The Red Book

C.G. Jung – The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung

C.G. Jung – Memories, Dreams, Reflections

C.G. Jung, Meredith Sabini (ed.) – The Earth Has A Soul: The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien – The History of Middle-Earth

Humphrey Carpenter ­– J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (ed.) – J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator

Verlyn Flieger – A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie

Lance Owens – J.R.R. Tolkien: An Imaginative Life – A Series of Three Illustrated Lectures (Audio)

9 Replies to “The Red Book and the Red Book: Jung, Tolkien, and the Convergence of Images”

  1. mmmmm

    Wow! That will keep you out of mischief. I, too, have noticed the timeline shared by Jung and the “trauma authors” – Tolkien, Hemingway, Lewis and others – the ones who served in WWI, got bloodied and muddy. I feel that between them all, they created a “sacred seedbank” in which to preserve something very basic that, I feel, does not need to be dissected too heavily: less the integrity of its kore be lost.

    Do some scratching around the term ‘hysterical men’ and see what you see.

    1. Hi Grace,

      Thank you for your comment. I definitely appreciate the need to approach this “sacred seedbank” of material, as you call it, with care and from a non-reductionistic perspective. In studying Jung and Tolkien’s periods of creative imagination in conjunction with each other, I am looking for patterns and ways in which the archetypal realm comes through the symbolic expressions of their imaginations and correlate with each other, rather than trying to reduce their images and narratives to a distilled historical meaning or some other simplistic interpretation (or even interpretation at all).

      I will certainly look into “hysterical men.”


  2. I just got my 3 volume edition of the complete history of middle earth. Wow, what a work. Liber Novus two years ago. Something tells me those books aren’t going to stay in your little cubby for very long, because they are going to find enough new and worthy friends to need a bigger case.

    Have fun with the History of Middle Earth! After getting your noodle in a bind trying to follow jung working out the problem of opposites, you can pick up the Lay of Leithian to “wind down a little” before bed.

    At any rate, good luck!

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