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The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  351 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Readers have repeatedly called The Lord of the Rings the most important book of our age—absorbing all 1,500 of its pages with an almost fanatical interest and seeing the Peter Jackson movies in unprecedented numbers. Readers from ages 8 to 80 keep turning to Tolkien because here, in this magical kingdom, they are immersed in depth after depth of significance and meaning—pe ...more
Paperback, 169 pages
Published October 31st 2003 by Westminster John Knox Press (first published September 30th 2003)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThe Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Middle Earth
86th out of 130 books — 66 voters
Blink by Malcolm GladwellThe First Pillar by Roy HuffA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le GuinEverything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran FoerProof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
2013 A
90th out of 109 books — 12 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 809)
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Matt
Jul 05, 2008 Matt rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Tolkien lovers of an intellectual bent, Christians who have a hard time seeing Christ in LoTR
It's been a few years since I read this book, and so I won't risk the sort of complete review the book deserves.

I used to hang out frequently in various online Tolkien fan communities to share my love of Tolkien's works with other geek. One thing that always struck me about the conversations which developed in this places was how much fuller, deeper, and well reasoned the arguments were than those I encountered in published works by literary critics and scholars. The average literary critic rea
...more
Phillip
There is more going on in this book than merely showing the reader that J.R.R. Tolkien's Christianity is present in The Lord of the Rings. I read this book when it first came out in 2005. I think I may have read it one other time along the way. But I have just read it again in preparation for meeting the author, Ralph Wood, at a conference last week. This time I really liked the book.

The Gospel According to Tolkien brings together scripture, Christian history and doctrine and shows those things
...more
Angela
Dec 29, 2014 Angela rated it it was amazing
Amazing and incredibly insightful, especially for those of us who are fans and know and live the great story better (thanks, Dad!). Even if you're not a Lord of the Rings fan or aficionado, you can still appreciate the parallels between Tolkien's work and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, a former atheist converted to Christianity by Tolkien himself, merely scratch the surface. Just as Tolkien spent so much time creating a high-fantasy (detailed) world with its own fun ...more
Michael Jones
May 28, 2015 Michael Jones rated it really liked it
Definitely gives you insight into the gospel themes and Christlike analogies found in Tolkein's writings!
Bethany Phillips
Jun 24, 2015 Bethany Phillips rated it really liked it
This book was great. If you love to know more about Tolkien's world then this is a great book.

It was a great companion to the books and I really enjoyed this book. The only thing that was a little was hard was that he quotes the 3rd book of the Lord of the Rings and I should have known that before going in because I have not yet read the Return of the King.

Besides that I really did enjoyed the book. It was a very good read and I liked how he matched the themes in the Christian belief and connec
...more
Nicole Pramik
Sep 17, 2015 Nicole Pramik rated it it was amazing
Unlike similar books that try to force Christian connotations onto a story, Wood recognizes that Christian doctrine and The Lord of the Rings (as well as Tolkien's other Middle Earth-centered stories) go hand-in-hand on their own accord. (So as you might have guessed, one literary method this book doesn't employ, thankfully, is the postmodernist "death of the author" approach, which discredits any comments an author has made about his own work. I never understood the logic behind that but that's ...more
R. Michael Fox
Apr 01, 2013 R. Michael Fox rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-study
It's hard to pinpoint one's rating in the 5-star rankings. I'd actually give it 3.5 / 5 stars, or 7 / 10, but if I have to choose between 3 or 4 (as is the case), I'll give it 4 / 5.

In this brief but penetrating book, author Ralph C. Wood accomplishes 2 things that make it pleasurable as well as insightful reading.

1) He gives a meaningful, insightful reflection on LOTR from a Christian perspective. As a Christian myself, it is hard to say whether or not this book would be equally valuable to non
...more
Daniel
Sep 12, 2007 Daniel rated it liked it
From my Weekly Standard review [http://tinyurl.com/3x7pha]:

But among all these new books, Ralph Wood's The Gospel According to Tolkien stands out for its discussion of the Christian theology that informs the depictions of evil in The Lord of the Rings.

Other writers--notably Joseph Pearce and Bradley Birzer--have written on the orthodox Christian character of the trilogy, but many of these authors tend to overplay the superficial Christian elements like the eucharistic symbolism of the elven wayb
...more
Ethan
A very entertaining listen, this book has helped me to see the world of Tolkien in new and interesting ways. The author tends to draw more allegorical connections that I agree with, and Tolkien was very clear that no allegory was intended in his writings. This is not to say no connections can be made between Tolkien's world and our own, and there is much to be learned from studying his literature. Many things pertaining to the Christian life were made clearer to me and I feel that I grasp more o ...more
Arava
Dec 10, 2014 Arava rated it really liked it
Many hold the works of J.R.R. Tolkien high as magnificent works of literature, while others criticize them from afar. After reading Mr. Wood's analysis of the Christian themes inherent in Tolkien's books, I have a much-increased appreciation for the lovely writing and powerful stories I've discovered in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Beyond skilled artistry, Tolkien's works brim with gospel-saturation. The Gospel According to Tolkien is an incredible guide through Tolkien's writings, brin ...more
Garrett Cash
What a brilliant book! By far the greatest interpretive work on Tolkien's fiction that I've ever read. This is possibly the only work of literary-criticism I've read that opened my eyes to unseen depths in the world of an author's fiction while simultaneously enriching my own immediate world on the same level. I was frequently stunned at Wood's succinct and lucid genius in explaining perplexing issues of Tolkien's thought, while all the while imparting the profound wisdom of his main themes into ...more
Dennis
Feb 05, 2015 Dennis rated it it was amazing
It'll be difficult for a non-Christian, Tolkien fan to come to grips with this book... But I have always argued that an atheist will see The Lord Of The Rings as a "good" story but nothing more...

With discussions on Faerie, Tolkien's dislikes of allegory, and Iru in human form this book is a gem--simply brilliant.

In my opinion, Wood handles Tolkien's works with specificity and care.

5 stars. To be read time and time again.
Julie Davis
May 18, 2015 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hey! I discovered the library has the audiobook and it is read by Nadia May. She is a fantastic narrator I can tell you after listening to the first CD.

I am also really enjoying this book. Some of the insights I already knew, but others are from things I didn't know referencing a larger literary view, Tolkien's past, history, and Christianity. Wood is a graceful and interesting writer.

FINAL
Simply fantastic. Though the audio was really good it was a bit more than I could absorb well without seein
...more
Nathan
Dec 19, 2014 Nathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Great book that connects faith and fantasy in a way that isn't a stretch.
Colin
Sep 26, 2015 Colin rated it it was amazing
A must read to anyone interested in the religious implications and subtle Christian theology that is contained in the writings of Tolkien!
Alicia
Nov 14, 2015 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Fans of Tolkien and Middle-earth will love the rich tapestry that is weaved through this book but even more as a Christian my heart was blessed to see the beauty of redemption shown through a favorite book.
Doug Adamson
Oct 26, 2011 Doug Adamson rated it really liked it
Overall very good with good insights and connections to Scriptural themes. Noticed a couple of errors that surprised me: on p. 90 hestates that Farmer Cotton helped Frodo and his friends "from the very beginning"--should be Farmer Maggot. And later on p. 155 he states that Aragorn and the two hobbits give Boromir a reverent funeral ceremony--should be Aragorn, Legolas (the elf), and Gimli (the dwarf). Those, however, are minor faults and the book is worth the read.
Karen Floyd
Jan 16, 2011 Karen Floyd rated it it was amazing
A very wise book, which I seem to re-read once a year since I first got it in 2004. There is something to meet me at whatever stage I am at in my life. And there is always something to give me insight about other people as well as about myself. At the moment I am reminded to beware of self-righteousness and the inclination to rush to judge others harshly. One of the temptations of Sauron is to let myself think I'm somehow better than people with whom I disagree.
Phil Barnes
Oct 01, 2015 Phil Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tolkien and the Good News

I really enjoyed this book. Wood articulates ideas that I felt but could not clearly express whenever I pick up Tolkien. Highly recommended for any Tolkien fans.
Blake Kanewischer
Jun 19, 2013 Blake Kanewischer rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Ralph Wood is the best sort of scholar--he takes ideas from the "ivory tower" and makes them accessible to readers. The ideas he presents are illustrated with plenty of references to the books (though it would be interesting to see how he handles the Peter Jackson oeuvre). He builds a case for Sam and Frodo as the pattern for Christians, and shows how the other characters in the LOTR universe have their own roles to play. Well done!
Jenny
Aug 24, 2011 Jenny rated it it was amazing
This book is for anyone that is interested in the fundamentals of myth and religion historically and spiritually. It is also for anyone that loves The Lord of the Ring books and responds to their story at a deep level that they may not fully understand themselves. Tolkien was an amazing writer and scholar. This book by Ralph Wood brings to light why Tolkien's Mythologies feel so true.
Titus Hjelm
Nov 15, 2013 Titus Hjelm rated it did not like it
The back cover recommends this for 'Christians and non-Christians alike'. I beg to differ. No one who's read Tolkien's letters can deny that he was a profoundly Catholic man. Yet, beyond a couple of OK insights, most of the book is theological gobbledygook that speaks only to a particular constituency. Fair enough, the author himself doesn't claim to be doing much else.
Maggie
Sep 02, 2009 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
second reading. just as good as the first time. i am an unrepentant christian and love reading what others say about this strong faith tradition. RCW does justice to Tolkien's view of modern life, christian thought, and good story telling through myths. yay tolkien. thank you, RCW.

first reading: 18 march 2009
second reading: 3 september 2009
Jude Morrissey
Mar 22, 2013 Jude Morrissey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Absolutely wonderful look at Tolkien's Middle-Earth works and the Catholic theology that influenced them. While it is definitely scholarly, it is also definitely Christian, which may throw off some readers. But I would recommend it to anyone interested in theology and literature, or the thought behind The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Courtney
Oct 28, 2013 Courtney rated it liked it
I was so excited to read this book which brought together my favorite books with Christianity. It took me over a year to read and digest this very deep philosophical book. In the end i felt that perhaps this may have been someones thesis turned into a book. It missed the forest because of the trees.
Karl El-Koura
Nov 19, 2014 Karl El-Koura rated it really liked it
A fun and thought-provoking guided tour of Tolkien's fantasy world from a Christian perspective. (One minor quibble is that the author chose the RSV for his Bible verses, which I find is a very dull translation - extra strange in the context of Tolkien's poetic language.)
Becky
Mar 17, 2012 Becky rated it liked it
It was a good book, some very good points. Wood has a lovely way with words. It felt at times as if I was reading a devotional. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it did get annoying at times because that's not what I was looking for.
Tim
Apr 23, 2012 Tim rated it liked it
Pretty good analysis of Tolkien's themes but there's a bit too much "cut and dry" dealing with Tolkien's themes. I'd recommend Battle for Middle-Earth by Fleming Rutledge as a follow-up for more in-depth study.
Dustin
Jan 27, 2016 Dustin rated it really liked it
Shelves: christmas2015
Very good. A lot of the ideas in the book I had heard through the Tolkien Professor, but since he recommended it that was expected. The final chapter on The Consummation was an unexpected joy.
Noelle Campbell
Dec 15, 2011 Noelle Campbell rated it liked it
It was interesting, but full of a lot more speculation than quotes from Tolkien. Not as reverent or honoring as "Tokien's Ordinary Virtues" - but longer and a little more like a college lecture.
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Ralph C. Wood has served as University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor since 1998. He previously served for 26 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he became the John Allen Easley Professor of Religion in 1990. He has also taught at Samford University in Birmingham, at Regent College in Vancouver, and at Providence College in Rhode I ...more
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“to shrink the circle of intimate community to the smallest possible circumference. This is the spoiling of faithful friendship.” 2 likes
“Sam Gamgee is the ultimate hero of The Lord of the Rings because he is the ultimate servant.” 0 likes
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