I made the same mistake as thousands of students before me: I believed that since I loved to read and write, my only choice was majoring in English. I completed most of the required course load, but ended up in Medieval Studies instead when I realized that lit crit classes were not compatible with an appreciation of fart jokes. Although I never completed that English major, I learned that I had a dark and terrible gift: give me a story, and I can weave a cloth of bullshit analysis so thick that logic cannot penetrate it.
Tolkien begins his saga as all of human history began: in a pre-capitalist agrarian society called the Shire. The Shire is populated by Hobbits, who are comfortable and happy because they are not alienated from the means of production or burdened with industrial relationships.
But evil comes to the Shire in the form of the One Ring, a golden trinket that tempts all who see it with the promise of unlimited power. The Ring is capitalism; its presence corrupts the Shire and threatens to destroy this peaceful idyll. Our heroes must overcome this corruption by destroying it–but in order to do this, they must seek help.
Gandalf–clearly a stand-in for Marx–leads the fellowship first to the elves. These are the intelligentsia of Middle Earth; they know what must be done to destroy the power of capitalism, but are too comfortable with their current position and thus unwilling to participate in the necessary struggle. Instead of helping in the coming war, they wall themselves off from society. Legolas is the only member of the intelligentsia who realizes that the class war must be fought, not argued.
They wish to seek help from the dwarves, who are clearly the proletariat; they control the mining operations, but they see little profit from their labors. Whole societies have been wiped out by the quest for more gold–literally, “The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep” and unleashed the horrors of the Balrog, the ultimate form of capitalism (which is, of course, imperialism according to Lenin).
They also are also promised help by Boromir (who falls prey to greed because he still subscribes to the feudalistic class structure) and Aragorn (who is resistant to the power of the ring because even though he is heir to a throne, he has chosen to identify himself as a member of a fellowship of equals, thus engaging in class struggle).
The core of the Fellowship is made up of hobbits, who are presented as uniquely resistant to the power of capitalism because they have not been brainwashed by growing up in a capitalist society. As they progress across Middle Earth, they learn a series of lessons about the perils of avarice and the ultimate triumph of the masses (Saruman’s rise and fall, Denethor’s madness, Théoden’s trust of Wormtongue, and so on). Frodo is tempted by the promise of wealth and power, but with the help of Sam, he overcomes his greed and casts the ring into the fire, where it is consumed entirely.
The hobbits return to the Shire, but they have changed in their travels, and so has their homeland. With their new-found class consciousness, they eradicate the last remaining vestiges of capitalist corruption from the land. Merry, Pippin, and Sam settle down to their peaceful, productive post-revolution lives, but Frodo knows that his work is not done. He sails off for new territory, along with the enlightened dwarf (proletariat) and elf (intelligentsia) who have decided to work together at last–by taking the light of Communism into the West.