March 25th is Tolkien Reading Day

According to the Tolkien Society, March 25th is the day that the Ring was destroyed.  So, since 2003, the Tolkien Society and people around the globe have been celebrating the completion of Frodo's quest and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.Here at the William A. Wise Law Library, we're, well, a law library.  So let's read about Tolkien, his works, and the law.  Below is a selection of readings on just those topics:

  • Colin P. Benton, J.R.R. Tolkien Goes to Law School: Exploring Property Law Jurisprudence Through the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2 Tex. A&M J. Real Prop. L. 25 (2014). Available at:
    • "This Article offers J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic stories, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as useful for Law and Literature scholarship because they have a large audience of all ages, who have either read them in books or seen them as movies. Their widespread popularity makes these stories an effective way to introduce and inspire many to the property law jurisprudence that permeates the texts. While Tolkien’s literature has not been traditionally utilized for Law and Literature purposes, there are several issues of property law jurisprudence that can be elucidated through Tolkien’s writings.This Article begins by briefly assessing the debate regarding the efficacy of Law and Literature, proposes Tolkien’s literature as a legitimate means of stimulating an interest in property law jurisprudence, and concludes by exploring a variety of property law issues using Tolkien’s literature as the background material facts." 
  • Christopher Tolkien, Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, Morgoth's Ring (1993). Available at:
    • In this chapter from book twelve of Christopher Tolkien's 12-volume series, The History of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien discusses the customs and laws of the Eldar (elves), including marriage, divorce, naming, funerals, and rebirth. 
  • Castronova, Edward, The Renaissance of Natural Law: Tolkien, Fantasy, and Video Games (September 18, 2012). Available at SSRN: or
    • "I review the moral systems that designers create inside their video games. There’s much similarity across games, despite wide differences in narratives, backgrounds, target demographics, and mechanics. Using the terms of Dungeons & Dragons morality, most games have three moral factions: Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, and Chaotic Evil. Players usually get to choose between Lawful or Chaotic Good, while the AI plays Chaotic Evil. Now, why does this pattern appear so frequently? I’ll argue it has something to do with Natural Law. Natural Law derives moral judgment from the notion that any reasonably well‐formed human mind can discern what the purpose or end of an item is: What it’s for. It’s a common‐sense morality, which may or may not work well in advanced bioethics but suits the moral world of video games perfectly, where bad guys are really easy to identify but the players fight back and forth about whether to be a rule‐following hero of light or a renegade, rebellious, dark angel. That law/chaos tension is also an aspect of Natural Law. As for how Natural law got into games, the path seems to run through JRR Tolkien – devout Roman Catholic and therefore no stranger to the teachings of Aquinas. From Aquinas to Tolkien to D&D to modern video games, the LG/CG/CE triangle persists as a simple moral world, but one that, judging from player numbers, people very earnestly want to live in. Is this in itself a good thing? Since we’re talking Natural Law, let’s conclude by asking – what is the purpose of fantasy? Does this usage suit fantasy’s purpose?" 
  • Bruce E. Boyden, One Public Domain to Rule Them All, Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog (October 5, 2011). Available at:
    • This blog post discusses the U.S. Supreme Court Case Golan vs. Holder (docket no. 10-545), and whether or not the United States can restore the copyright to the Lord of the Rings novels.