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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  570 ratings  ·  68 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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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  570 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Jun 13, 2008 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
Maria Tzoganakis
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Too bad the highest rating allowed on Goodreads is only 5 stars. If you needed more reasons to love Tolkien, this book is the answer. Nothing is done without a purpose in his works. Unlike other writers, Tolkien does not make his Christianity blatantly obvious or shove it in your face. But the amazing thing is that it's still there, subtly, in everything. This book explains in good detail how Tolkien weaves it all in.
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
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. A decent, general overview of themes in the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion as viewed through the lens of Catholic theology. It goes beyond superficial comparisons in most cases, but wasn't as meaty as I was hoping.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Not a bad little book. I think the best thing about this book was that it got me thinking about the Lord of the Rings from a new perspective. I don't think the author's analysis is perfect, or even excellent, but it is eye opening. It causes one to think. And it got me excited to read the Lord of the Rings again!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

The hobbits' problem is, ironically, that they have no problems. They enjoy a virtually Edenic existenceso peaceful are their relations, so delightfu
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: tolkien
While I liked much of Wood's analysis of LOTR, I wish the organization of the book had been stronger. The grouping of themes didn't make sense to me, and it often felt like he was jumping from one point to the next in a haphazard fashion. The TOC could be more informative.

The book also seems to be stuck half-way between a commentary for the average reader and a scholarly work. As an average reader with a basic familiarity of LOTR, I would need more context for many of the illustrations and quote
Anna Elizabeth
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Elizabeth
Shelves: academia
Okay, wow. This book was good all the way through - very thorough, plenty of Biblical quotes and analysis in conjunction with them. But then the end hypothesis... WOW. This needs to be a thing in Tolkien academia. *adds to my list of papers to write*
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
probably 4.5, I found it quite insightful
May 28, 2012 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
Julie Davis
May 08, 2014 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.

Simply fantastic. Though the audio was really good it was a bit more than I could absorb well without seein
Michael Jones
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Definitely gives you insight into the gospel themes and Christlike analogies found in Tolkein's writings!
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
No one could seriously deny that Tolkien’s Middle-earth resonates with the message and values of Christianity. Not only was Tolkien himself a devout Roman Catholic, but he was steeped in Old and Middle English literature, one of the oldest works of which, Crist, contains the lines that became the first inspiration for the world he, to use his own term, sub-created:

éala Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended

Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
Sent over middle-earth to men.

Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's an indication of how good a book is, when it can be reviewed over and over and something new brought out every time.

Wood analyzes Tolkien in the light of Tolkien's Christianity, and how that informs the story and the characters themselves. And while you can certainly read LotR without ever referencing religion - his or that implicit in Middle Earth - it makes for a good read. There are things in LotR, places where the story punches you in the gut rather than handing you what you feel that y
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is unlikely to be of interest to anyone who is not already a fan of Tolkien's writings. I am a fan, so I picked it up hoping to get a little more insight into where Tolkien's Christianity came through in the story.

I did not come away the book feeling that I had really made any new connections with meaning in the story, but it did help to reaffirm some of the things that I like so much in LoTR. The book points out some connections that to a strongly believing Christian are already intu
Brent Johnson
Wood is a serious Tolkien scholar who has pioneered much of the field of Tolkien studies. This book could have benefited from a better editor. There are some frustrating errors in grammar towards the end of the volume that speak of lazy editorship. Wood also makes the mistake of describing Boromir's funeral held by "Aragorn and the two young hobbits" (pg. 155) when it was Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf who assisted Aragorn.
Wood's term "hobbitic" when describing Hobbit kind and behavior is
Sally Ewan
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a lovely book making connections between Tolkien's wonderful stories and the hope and truth of the Gospel. I am not familiar enough with The Silmarillion to appreciate the first section, "The Great Symphony of the Creation", but this certainly whetted my appetite to read it again. This book makes me grateful for those whose work points us to God.
Kingsley Layton
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: apologetics
For a book with not many pages, this is a complex read. Although the title says 'gospel' do not look for a comparison with the Gospels. Rather, take the meaning of the word (good news) and you will be on the right track as you discover the kinship between Tolkien's writing and the Gospels. A very rewarding and illuminating read.
Stephen Ballard
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolute thrill to read. The author really approached certain elements of how Tolkien's faith penetrates the Middle Earth Book Series! It is both a must read and a must own for any true Tolkien fan who wants to see more behind the story than just the events.
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful and profound examination of the heroes and quest of "The Lord of the Rings" as one of the best of guides to Christians striving, hobbit-like, to serve their King and His purposes in a work far greater than themselves.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
A book that provoked lots of good thinking on both the Lord of Rings as well as Christianity.
Ryan Reed
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rather than try to squeeze the gospel into a Middle-Earth mold, Wood instead exposes the worldview in which Tolkien wrote. This small work stokes both a love for Fantasy and a love for the Gospel.
Eldon Siemens
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
I have not read the full works of Tolkien, but now am fully tempted to do so and carefully reexamine this tale in a new light. very good book, highly recommended
R. Fox
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 12, 2007 rated it liked it
From my Weekly Standard review []:

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
Bethany Phillips
Jun 16, 2015 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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkien
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
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
Andy Hickman
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wood, Ralph C. The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Excellent insight and application of broader worldviews

Lady Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, reveals a Sophia Christology, or Sancta Sophia. In Tolkein's fantasy world, Galadriel is the “Lady of Light,” telepathically wise and wearing shining white clothes. She is the mightiest, fairest, greatest of elven women and refl
Hank Pharis
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I hate to confess that I want to like Tolkien but always come away disappointed. I have actually only read the Hobbit which I thought was good but not GREAT. It may be that my expectations are too high based on the virtual reverence many feel toward Tolkien. Nevertheless this is a helpful survey of Tolkien's spiritual vision. Tolkien wrote from a Catholic worldview. But little things like the stories are set before Genesis and Jesus helped me understand better what was going on. (I had previousl ...more
Nov 26, 2014 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
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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
“to shrink the circle of intimate community to the smallest possible circumference. This is the spoiling of faithful friendship.” 2 likes
“Tolkien reveals that our personalities take on the quality of our acts. Outward behavior manifests inward convictions, whether for good or ill. "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).” 1 likes
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