The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) The Fellowship of the Ring discussion


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From a Catholic viewpoint

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message 1: by Frog (last edited Aug 20, 2015 01:03AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog Tolkien was Catholic, and as such his stories were rooted in what he believed were moral truths and principles. He was in a unique place, having a rich religion to draw from as he shaped his world.

I have the idea that the closer our stories reflect truth the more this will show. Lord of the Rings is the best example of this kind of sincerity.

I believe Harry Potter (though perhaps not as well written) is unique among modern Fantasy for the same reason. It actually has a foundation, which is real and true. While other stories come and go these have some sort of lasting value.

Any thoughts as to what particular themes or concepts differentiates these from other Fantasies? What do you feel these have that others are missing?


Ruby I think the temptation theme was very strong in LotR in that way.


Shellie Taylor Redemption is another common theme in LOTR. Who can be saved and who cannot. Obviously Gollum was one who could not be saved, though he was given several opportunities. Boromir on the other hand was able to be saved and as Aragorn pointed out before Boromir took his last breath, "you have conquered." Galadriel too conquered temptation. The good and the bad come with the realm of temptation and Tolkien did not shy away from either. Tolkien's Catholic roots are evident though his mythology is strictly his own and not encroached by any modern religious terminology.


message 4: by Frog (last edited Aug 20, 2015 06:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog The beauty of Tolkien is that he uses (as you said) strictly his own mythology and leaves it up to the reader to apply the messages to anything in reality. This is what the classic fairy tales seem to do.

I dislike books like The Golden Compass, which use religion blatantly to make a point (negative in its case) instead of proving that the point can hold on its own. The reader needs the freedom to apply the wisdom for himself, if it is indeed real wisdom.

Tolkien didn't like using technology or things from our world. He criticized C.S Lewis for putting Father Christmas into his story because he was a "part of the real world."

In my head, I call these "muggle" things. (Even though sometimes even wizards from Harry Potter might use them).
And I am beginning to see that the greatest stories don't usually rely on them.

Familiar everyday objects do not as much help us see something in a new light.
And if we have something worth saying, we ought to be able to apply it in any circumstances, fantastic or no.


Shellie Taylor That's true about using mundane things in fantasy but Tolkien also uses everyday lingo in his writing of The Hobbit. Of course is audience is much younger, but he describes hobbit holes using words we would understand in our world in order to introduce us to his fantasy world. The beauty of Tolkien for me is that there is a remarkable blend of reality and fantasy.


message 6: by Ruby (last edited Aug 20, 2015 08:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby I enjoy Tolkien's way of using themes very much because he doesn't really put a name to them, letting us state them in interesting ways and see new themes emerge. I suppose the way authors incorporate or demonstrate morals or themes in their stories are as part as their style as anything else. I don't really mind if the themes are really obvious and bold as long as it doesn't make the plot nonsensical or confusing.


message 7: by Frog (last edited Aug 23, 2015 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog My issue with either positively or negatively portraying something such as religion is that it can come across as unfair or heavy handed.

I'm Catholic myself, and I don't mind seeing religion in a book. But it's almost a cheap way of telling a story, to tell someone that a real organization is bad or good instead of thinking of a creative way to prove it. It's too political, is what I'm trying to say. I suppose it does come down to style in the end. But generally I think of fantasy as a tool to put things in a new light which you couldn't otherwise achieve with reality.


Poppy Panagopoulos Sometimes it feels like media, particularly music and books, won't be good if it has a Christian message. Why is it that pop songs are so much catchier than the ones on popular Christian radio? Why does the world adore Harry Potter (myself included) and Narnia is far less successful? I think that if Tolkien had focused more on Christian themes, it would have been less popular.

I think being able to make text-to-text connections between a novel and the Bible is really valuable and meaningful, and when we can find God's love in even the most secular of texts, we know that Jesus' truth is universal.

I must say that LOTR and Harry Potter are more fulfilling to read than, say, Percy Jackson books, and I am sure that it is because we can find moral truths that resonate with us in the first two and not in Percy Jackson.


Shellie Taylor I think there is some truth to Poppy's post. I feel like all Christian music sounds the same. How many times can you sing the Message of Christ in a different way? I do think however, the movies maybe not so much, but you will find a great deal of popularity within the Chronicles of Narnia followers over the years simply because it has been around longer. There was also more of a media hype about Harry Potter, having been released in the 21st century as opposed to the 1950s when Narnia was being marketed to a younger less media driven society. As for Tolkien not focusing more on Christian themes, I think it speaks to his creativity and genius that he did do just that, but not overtly. Tolkien's main goal was to create a mythology for his homeland of England because he felt the Arthurian tales did not do the country justice. He felt that they were more concerning the soil of England and not the English people themselves. He also felt the tales were too religious and too intermingled with the 11th, 12th, and 13th century politics and culture that wrote down the stories. Tolkien it took upon himself to create Middle-earth, the story of early Earth before the influence of organized religion and therefore create a more realistic view of an English mythology. Thus the result was a saga of a great and fascinating story without being altered or muddled or censored by the day in which he was writing.


message 10: by Frog (last edited Sep 04, 2015 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog I agree with Poppy.
When something is made for the sake of being Christian (a book, a movie, a song) it almost inevitably feels corny. Why? I think "Christian" was never meant to be a genre.

If you're Christian (truly; not only raised to call yourself one) it's a way of thinking that affects everything. It will show in whatever you do whether you directly make references to Christ or not.
On the other hand, just because you make references to Christ or religion, that doesn't necessarily make your work better for that. Anyone can reference religion; not everyone can tell a meaningful story. It is no accomplishment on the author's part to retell about something that already exists (unless you're writing history).
Fantasy makes us look at things in a new light by using new ideas. The themes will still be universal, but outwardly it looks different.
This is a way of reminding us what the real things are really like once we have forgotten. It's the whole purpose of Fantasy, which many modern Christians forget. That's why Tolkien is one of the best. Even Rowling seems to understand this in her Potter books, which aren't Christian per say (though they have many similar themes if you look close). I think she is closer to the truth than many others (this from someone who has been looking for years; something critics of HP don't understand).
It's about looking at things in a new way. That takes creativity, and also a real solid foundation - Some authors I frankly don't believe have an ounce of wisdom to build on if they wanted. That's why books like LOTR are a breath of fresh air.


message 11: by John (Taloni) (last edited Sep 04, 2015 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (Taloni) Taloni Religion is an interesting thing, both in books and in life.

I'm not a Christian, but some Christian teachers (of the quiet-conviction variety) helped me deal with a bully situation in late grade school. I've had a soft spot for that type of person ever since.

Similarly, a Muslim in my office quietly observed Ramadan while I (unaware) ate an apple and Snickers bar in front on him every afternoon. When I found out I was rather chagrined and took my eating elsewhere. He never said a word; I found out when I asked some coworkers why he looked tired.

For books, I find Narnia good enough, but fairly obvious. LOTR is substantially better put together and also shows a quiet but unshakable religious faith. It is not the less Christian for not having an obvious Christ figure in it.


Sud666 Tolkein's vision of the LOTR realms was greatly influenced by the events of World War 1,in which he was a participant. As far as his catholic upbringing, I am sure it played a part in the book- themes of a "Great Enemy" and Frodo's difficult journey, mixed in with redemption, corruption, temptation, etc. But good fantasy works best in unique realms where the reader may draw their own conclusions based on their own ways of thought. I tend to think of "Catholic" themed books more along the lines of CS Lewis and the Narnia series.


message 13: by Frog (last edited Sep 10, 2015 12:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Frog Good fantasy reflects truth, and the closer to the truth something is, the more I believe people do recognize and remember it. I believe the influence of Tolkien's Catholic faith played a role in making his stories closer to the truth than they would have been.


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