J. R. R. Tolkien's
The Christian Gifts of J.R.R. Tolkien
Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
In this highly readable work, the author shows us that Tolkien created a world that in certain respects is truer than the world we think we see around us and he did so by employing the genre of myth. We are also clearly shown that Tolkien was profoundly Catholic and that "The Lord of the Rings" is a deeply Catholic work.
We have a brief biography of Tolkien, followed by, among other things, a discussion of his love of language: of Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh etc. His love of the great work "Beowulf" is further discussed, another profoundly Christian work.
One of the most interesting parts of the book details his complex relationship with C S Lewis.
Lewis's overt anti-Catholicism was well documented and Tolkien discussed this in his unpublished article "The
Ulsterior Motive". Tolkien was less aware of Lewis's attraction for the Catholic Faith. Certainly, as is well
known, Lewis adopted much of Catholic practice in his own spiritual life: belief in the Real Presence, frequent
confession, prayers for the dead, etc.
Tolkien had a Catholic and sacramental regard of the created order, as seen in "The Lord of the Rings". Middle-earth represents real creation which is neither paradise nor, in the Calvinistic sense, utterly depraved. Good can and must triumph over evil. We have here a series of myths because myths for Tolkien express "far greater truths than do historical facts or events."
The book is replete with Christian themes: of sin and redemption, priests and sacraments, angels and demons. Frodo represents a type of Christ who carries the Cross of Christ, as symbolized by the Ring, which bears the sins of the world, to Mordor. He acts as priest while Gandalf is prophet and Aragorn is king. They thus represent the three offices of Christ. Sam represents the loyal saint who is returned to life from death. Galadriel is like Mary and the Lembas which sustains the group is like the Eucharist. The secret fire is like the Holy Spirit. It is noted that these representations are not strictly allegorical. Thus Frodo is not quite like Christ and Galadriel is not quite like Mary.
The work is filled with the virtue of hope. Weak hobbits can overcome the evil Saruman and other demonic beings if they cling to Christ and his Church.
This is simply a wonderful discussion of a Catholic author and his deeply Catholic writings.