“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peter Kreeft on Christianity in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

Here is an excellent lecture by philosopher Peter Kreeft on Tolkien’s Christian faith and its presence in The Lord of the Rings. A few among many of the interesting points he makes...

  • Tolkien said that his faith was so deeply a part of him that anything he wrote would inevitably reflect it, whether or not he consciously intended it to be so.
  • Tolkien wrote of LotR that "the conflict is not basically about power or freedom, though these are naturally involved; it is about God, and his sole right to divine honor.” Wearing the Ring is about playing God, and the quest to destroy it is carried out in resistance to this temptation.
  • The Lord of the Rings is a "pagan, pre-Christian myth”: although it takes place in a time before Christ and the religious element is never explicit, Tolkien’s faith is deeply present in the form of the story and in the very shaping and structure of the world. An unbeliever wrote of LotR that “some sort of faith seems to be everywhere, like light from an invisible source.”
  • God, the Creator of Middle-earth, shows up once or twice in LotR, although more can be learned about him in The Silmarillion. His divine providence, says Kreeft, is “spectacularly present,” especially in the events surrounding Gollum and the Ring (Gandalf tells Frodo “you were meant to have it, and not by its maker [Sauron]”).
  • The beautiful setting of Middle-earth is what enchants us the most. The fact that we so easily accept Tolkien’s cosmology of a world where spirit mediates matter and all things live according to a high purpose suggests that we resonate with this worldview and, on a deeper level, know it to be true.
  • Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn each undergo a sort of sacrificial death and resurrection (respectively, in bearing the ring, battling the Balrog, and travelling the paths of the dead); the resemblances to Christ are striking in each case.
  • The sudden “eucatastrophic” victory at the end, in which our hopes are unexpectedly vindicated, reflects the true Eucatastrophe of Christ’s resurrection, wrote Tolkien. "Is everything sad going to come untrue?” asks Sam? It does in Middle-earth, and it is happening in reality as well.

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