J.R.R. Tolkien discussion

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Criticism & Interpretation > Tolkien's Catholic Imagination

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message 1: by Aldean (new)

Aldean | 17 comments I know this is not everyone's cup of tea, but for those who are interested, I was recently privileged to be able to deliver a short lecture on Tolkien and the influence of his Catholicism on his creative works. I was pressed for time (and without access to my collection!) in preparing for this talk, so I admit I leaned rather heavily on J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth for my research; while I don't agree with all his assertions, Birzer has done a very impressive work in synthesizing a vast pile of material into a very readable and cogent book.

But anyway, if you are interested:

Full text of my lecture
video of the lecture (approximately 40 minutes)

Enjoy, and I certainly welcome a conversation!


message 2: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks Thanks, that sounds wonderful, and thanks for posting both links. I will definitely be reading it, maybe not soon, but as soon as I clear some of my currently reading books (that might take a while, as I am supposed to be reading both The Name of the Rose and The Kalevala for group reads this month, I am just a wee bit intimidated).


message 3: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 24 comments Yes, thanks for sharing! I just checked it and there are some more stuff I never thought of.

I always felt Galadriel is somewhat like Virgin Mary. Recently I did some reading and found out it is in fact true.


message 4: by Deniz (new)

Deniz (denizb33) | 2 comments Thanks for sharing!


message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue Bridgwater | 9 comments http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives...
Above is a link to an article by Stratford Caldecott about Tolkien's Catholicism in his work, also search the Touchstone Archives from that page, for other Christian-perspectived articles.

Caldecott's book 'Secret Fire' is also interesting.

And don't forget Tolkien's Letters!


message 6: by Sue (new)

Sue Bridgwater | 9 comments My pleasure


message 7: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Thanks for the links, Carlos and Saranna! Mr. Caldecott also wrote an updated version called The Power of the Ring, a new version of that just came last year I think. I've read it.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 8: by Odi (new)

Odi deMelian Aldean wrote: "I know this is not everyone's cup of tea, but for those who are interested, I was recently privileged to be able to deliver a short lecture on Tolkien and the influence of his Catholicism on his cr..."

I'm not catholic though protestant. Although I consider my self as Christian (by following Him) and find this link pretty interesting. I'm busy reading other stuff lately anyway I'll save the link on my mobile to check it out soon!


message 9: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Stegall (georgieelle) | 6 comments Amalie wrote: "Yes, thanks for sharing! I just checked it and there are some more stuff I never thought of.

I always felt Galadriel is somewhat like Virgin Mary. Recently I did some reading and found out it is ..."

Ah, but Tolkien disliked the thought that LOTR was at all allegorical. So I am sure that he did not intend for Galadriel to be that. I didn't like it when people tried to make LOTR allegorical.


message 10: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
I don't really see Galadriel as Mary myself (except for that marvelous scene in the movies where Frodo has a vision of her in Shelob's Lair, which likely was not meant as a Marian scene but can certainly be seen as one). I think Elbereth is more likely a Marian figure, which numerous people have noted. Admirers have noted Galadriel's Marian aspects from the beginning and Tolkien himself acknowledged them. In response to one admirer who wrote to him about this, he said "I was particularly interested in your remarks about Galadriel. .... I think it is true that I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary, but actually Galadriel was a penitent: in her youth a leader in the rebellion against the Valar (the angelic guardians). At the end of the First Age she proudly refused forgiveness or permission to return. She was pardoned because of her resistance to the final and overwhelming temptation to take the Ring for herself." (This is from a quote from The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien that I found on the web. I don't have the copy in front of me myself to cite the exact page or what the quote left out).

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 11: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Carlos wrote: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7fQs...

A long but worthy lecture."


Thanks, Carlos! I have added it to my list to watch. Peter Kreeft rocks. He is such a joyful fan.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 12: by Joanne (new)

Joanne | 79 comments I enjoy all the posts and the great group of Tolkien readers. I know this is a Christian work. Especially when Sam on his journey looks up to stars and recognizes that there is a Great Beyond all this agony and devastation. ( or was it Merry?)


message 13: by Philip (new)

Philip Dodd (philipdodd) | 84 comments Joanne wrote: "I enjoy all the posts and the great group of Tolkien readers. I know this is a Christian work. Especially when Sam on his journey looks up to stars and recognizes that there is a Great Beyond all ..."
Your comment reminded me of the song Sam sings in the chapter called The Tower of Cirith Ungol in The Lord of the Rings:

"In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the stars farewell."

I like the hobbit poems in The Lord of the Rings. For one thing, they seem most personal to J.R.R. Tolkien himself. I Sit Beside The Fire and Think, by Bilbo Baggins, for example, ends with the lines:
"I listen for returning feet,
and voices at the door."
That sounds like J.R.R. Tolkien thinking of the friends he lost in the First World War, wishing they were still alive and could visit him again. The Road Goes Ever On is another fine hobbit poem, I think.


message 14: by Joanne (new)

Joanne | 79 comments Yes. Thank you for reminding me of that poem. He did still love the beauties of this world which the Lord made for our joy. There is sorrow and joy still...


message 15: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (Falling Letters) (fallingletters) | 20 comments I like this thread! I'll have to check out the links. However, I struggle a bit with this subject (even though I'm really interested in it) because I don't know very much about Catholicism. Can anyone recommend some reading to help me fill this gap in my knowledge?


message 16: by Philip (new)

Philip Dodd (philipdodd) | 84 comments Reno wrote: "I like this thread! I'll have to check out the links. However, I struggle a bit with this subject (even though I'm really interested in it) because I don't know very much about Catholicism. Can any..."

A good book to read on how being a Catholic influenced J.R.R. Tolkien in his writing of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien: Man and Myth, A Literary Life by Joseph Pearce.

Tolkien Man and Myth, a Literary Life by Joseph Pearce


message 17: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Reno wrote: "I like this thread! I'll have to check out the links. However, I struggle a bit with this subject (even though I'm really interested in it) because I don't know very much about Catholicism. Can any..."

As far as Catholicism itself goes, you can check out Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John A. Hardon (http://bit.ly/1GzsTda). That will start you out and get your feet wet. You can trust also anything from Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute Press, TAN books, Saint Joseph Communciations, and Saint Benedict Press, but many of those are more advanced studies. There are other reliable publishers also I am sure but not everyone who calls themselves Catholic truly are, so as Gandalf tells Frodo about choosing companions for his departure from Bag End with the Ring, be careful in choosing. Hope that helps you!

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 18: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (Falling Letters) (fallingletters) | 20 comments Thank-you both, Phillip and Anne Marie! That's exactly what I was looking for. I will check out your recommendations :)


message 19: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel | 13 comments Anne Marie wrote: "Reno wrote: "I like this thread! I'll have to check out the links. However, I struggle a bit with this subject (even though I'm really interested in it) because I don't know very much about Catholi..."

Err... should maybe point out that at least some of those groups are associated with Traditionalism, rather than real Catholicism. TAN, for instance, published openly schismatic, anti-VII books by 'priests' not recognised by the church, and its founder was apparently himself a member of a fraudulent 'military order' opposed to the pope.

While it's not my place to judge anyone's religion (not having one myself), I'd say some of their material may not be entirely "safe" in terms of getting a sense of what mainstream catholicism actually beleives.


message 20: by Anne (last edited Mar 14, 2015 01:29PM) (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Reno, you may also want to attend a Eastern Rite Liturgy which is fully Catholic yet celebrated basically identically to the way the Russian or Greek Orthodox do. It's in English for the most part and is a much richer experience then most Masses said in the Western Rite these days. I was raised in both and the East is far superior. I second Carlos' recommendation of Dr. Carroll's series and his suggestion of a Traditional (also known as Latin or Tridentine) Mass.
The Baltimore Catechism would actually be an ideal place to start because of its simplicity.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 21: by Codex (new)


message 22: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
I've wondered how other religions would view Middle-earth. I found the Buddhist one the most interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 23: by Jenna (last edited Mar 23, 2015 09:07PM) (new)

Jenna (Falling Letters) (fallingletters) | 20 comments Thank-you again, Carlos and Anne-Marie! The idea of actually visiting a church and attending mass is a great one. (I was raised in the United Church and never really understood what mass is about...) (When you use the terms mass and rite, are these the same ceremonies [is that an appropriate word, even?] or are they two different things?) Right now I live in Japan, so that would be a bit difficult, but when I return to Canada in the fall, I'll have to ask my Catholic friends about it :)

Codex, thanks for the links, I'll check them out now. I lean towards Buddhism myself so I am intrigued!


message 24: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Hi Reno, as far as rite and mass goes: there is what is known as the Roman Rite or Latin Rite which is how Roman Catholics celebrate Mass. In the Eastern Rite, the Mass is called the Liturgy and the way it is celebrated is virtually identical to the way the Greek or Russian Orthodox celebrate it. Both are Catholic and believe the same things and are under the Pope, but the way the Mass/Liturgy is said, the prayers used, the songs sung, etc. differs. As a non-Catholic, you would not be able to go up to Communion/Eucharist, but you could participate in every other way. I highly recommend you check out the Eastern Rite first. I am always pleasantly surprised when Western Catholics know of the Eastern Rite because it is a lot smaller in number - but it is much greater in richness. You might want to check out this site for lots more info about the East/Byzantine Catholic faith - http://www.byzcath.org

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


message 25: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Stegall (georgieelle) | 6 comments Reno wrote: "Thank-you both, Phillip and Anne Marie! That's exactly what I was looking for. I will check out your recommendations :)"
As a Catholic myself, I might be able to help with questions, but there is also this link which leads to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which might be daunting, but you can generally find what you are looking for pretty easily.
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015...


message 26: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel | 13 comments A 'rite' in this sense is a set of rituals - different churches have developed different rites over time. Essentially, mass is what is performed, and the rite is how it is performed. By extension, the 'rite' can stand for the whole church that practices that rite. There are about two dozen rites currently in use by catholics, though the overwhelming number use the Roman rite. This in turn has several forms that are sometimes loosely known as rites - most famously the Tridentine mass (the one used between 1570 and 1960).


message 27: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 38 comments Codex wrote: "Here is an alternate view of LotR by a Buddhist: http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/tolki...
a Muslim: http://www.henrybayman.com/the-hobbit...
a Hindu: http://www.quora.com/Can-y..."


What a such good articles. Too interesting.


message 28: by Brentt Russel (new)

Brentt Russel (thishalfling) | 1 comments Tolkien's myths wonderfully reflect the beauty of Catholicism (brought about by his devotion) in all its aspects. Tolkien's myths are somehow, so to speak, paintings of great Catholic values and beliefs that are often overlooked by many. Great alternate views by friends from other faiths!!


message 29: by Anne (new)

Anne Gazzolo | 390 comments Mod
Galactic wrote: "Tolkien's myths wonderfully reflect the beauty of Catholicism (brought about by his devotion) in all its aspects. Tolkien's myths are somehow, so to speak, paintings of great Catholic values and be..."

I love what you said about the works being paintings. So true.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


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