Comments about ‘Hamblin & Peterson: Author J.R.R. Tolkien's tales deeply rooted in Christianity’

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Published: Sunday, Nov. 18 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

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TheDevilsAdvocate
West Valley City, UT

The Hobbit has nothing to do with Christianity. 1) J.R.R Tolkien was Roman Catholic. 2) The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings is a tale based upon Northern Paganism, Magic, Witchcraft, Polytheism, and Mythology. 3) J.R.R Tolkien used to have discussions with C.S. Lewis about The Tales of Narnia being too Christian. J.R.R Tolkien intentionally tried to stay away from Christianity in his writings. He was not, in any way, a Christian writer.

skeptic
Phoenix, AZ

It is wonderful to see Mr. Peterson has embraced literature medium more compatible with his fairy tale mind set.

Mukkake
Salt Lake City, UT

Once again attempts to Christianize "The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit". The sorry examples given here could also be compared to the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey. Yes, there is a Catholic morality, but the bulk of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit is taken, word for word (dwarves and elves), from Norse pagan mythology. Self-sacrifice, honor, and duty were strong themes in Norse mythology as well.

Unlike Lewis, Tolkien didn't feel the need to reduce his fantasy world into mere Christian allegory and evangelism, although he did find it necessary to claim as much. Obviously, Tolkien was aware of how pagan his books were, so had to make some attempt to point out the vague, Christian-like parts.

Better yet, Tolkien's fantasy had a strong anti-industrialist and pro-environmental theme. Nature is sacred in these books, which is a very pagan concept.

Clinton King (Ephraim)
Ephraim, UT

RE: mukkake and TheDevilsAdvocate
In other words, Professor Tolkien was a liar when he said that the Lord of the Rings is essentially a Catholic tale.
There is one sense in which Tolkien was a Christian writer. He was a 'Christian', and a 'writer'. Thus a 'Christian writer'.
If you've ever read the Silmarillion, some other interesting things show up. The evil god, Morgoth (Melkor) and the chief benevolent god, Manwe are 'brothers'. Morgoth and his followers, including Sauron, are depicted as fallen gods or angels. There is also a supreme Deity (Eru Iluvatar) over all who retains all power.
One other thing of note is that unlike most other pagan mythologies with which I am familiar (Norse, Greco/Roman, Mesopotamian ie Gilgamesh) is the near complete absence of any sex or anything remotely sexual. And that is certainly a Catholic ideal.

Verdad
Orem, UT

And yet, as he's quoted in Peterson's very article, Tolkien himself described "Lord of the Rings" as a Catholic Christian work.

Mukkake
Salt Lake City, UT

Clinton King (Ephraim):
[In other words, Professor Tolkien was a liar when he said that the Lord of the Rings is essentially a Catholic tale.]

Such a strong way to put it, but yes.I have no doubt he was a devout Catholic and, as a devout catholic, it was probably hard for him to come to terms with the fact that he probably created the best Pagan literature in Western Europe in nearly 1000 years. His work has also spawned polar interest in Paganism as well.

[If you've ever read the Silmarillion, some other interesting things show up. The evil god, Morgoth (Melkor) and the chief benevolent god, Manwe are 'brothers'. Morgoth and his followers, including Sauron, are depicted as fallen gods or angels. There is also a supreme Deity (Eru Iluvatar) over all who retains all power.]

Interesting, but this sounds more like Mormonism, Zoroastrianism or Norse Paganism, than Catholicism. Which further leads me to believe that his Middle Earth universe is not as Catholic as Tolkien hopes and claims it should be.

Verdad:
[Tolkien himself described "Lord of the Rings" as a Catholic Christian work.]

But that doesn't make it true.

You
SLC, UT

The Christian influences on Tolkien's work are minor compared to the heavy borrowing from Norse and Germanic mythology, the experiences of two world wars, various literary sources, and Richard Wagner's opera series, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

What are the authors hoping to accomplish with this one-dimensional, inaccurate analysis of Tolkien's writing? Cherry picking evidence to support personal preconceptions and biases seems to be the modus operandi of Mormon apologists.

Dennis
Harwich, MA

The difference between Christianity and Lord of the Rings in my life is very simple. I believe in Frodo, Samwise and Gandalf. Spelling aside. Makes more sense.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

Let's see if it passes the Christianity test...

Good vs. Evil (check)
Virtue vs. Vice (check)
Selflessness vs. Selfishness (check)
Seeking for the welfare of other vs. Seeking out riches for self (check)
When you loose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself (check)
Social Justice (check)
The needs of the many outway the needs of the few, or the one. (check)

Passes my Christianity test, OK.

Coach Biff
Lehi, UT

I wonder why it seems so offensive to anti-Mormon, anti-christians when someone points out corollaries in JRR Tolkien's works? Could it be it doesn't fit their world view and the urge to vent on these boards is beyond their control? Appears so.

Mukkake
Salt Lake City, UT

LDS Liberal:
[Passes my Christianity test, OK.]

Norse Checklist:
Good vs. Evil (Norse)
Virtue vs. Vice (Norse)
Selflessness vs. Selfishness (Norse)
Service to others (Norse)
Needs of many over the needs of few (Norse)

Here's an essential one to the Christianity checklist, though:
Salvation through Christ alone? (Fail)

Also, Tolkien claims it is Catholic:
The Triune nature of God? (Fail)
Baptism? (Fail)
The Eucharist and Transubstantiation? (Fail)
Confession and Penance? (Fail)
The Pope as the sole successor to Saint Peter? (Fail)

@Coach Biff

My irritation is that these are the same arguments used over and over for why Tolkien's work is acceptable reading for Christians, despite its overwhelming Pagan themes, but other fantasy literature is frequently suspected of indoctrination into the occult.

Simply because Tolkien was a devout Catholic who insisted, with all evidence to the contrary, that his books were "Catholic/Christian", he gets a free pass among many Christians, while other fantasy literature is considered a "gateway to the occult".

In fact, his books are so devoid of "Catholicism", that I've never heard of his books being accused of being "too Catholic" by anti-Catholics.

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

Call me old fashioned, but I find it the height of presumption and audacity to contradict the author of a book about the theme of that book. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien was the world's foremost expert on the book. If he said that the "'The Lord of the Rings' is of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" then it is to him a fundamentally religious and Catholic work. Especially if that author was a professor of English at Oxford University, then I believe he has greater authority to speak on the topic than any other person. Unless the author is a rake like say, Oscar Wilde who would probably say things cleverly tongue-in-cheek, Tolkien wrote a Catholic book. Just because you cannot or will not see it, it doesn't mean it isn't there.

Obviously the book has many other pagan sources. This is very clear, and I don't dispute the pagan sources. I hardly think it is cherry picking when the author himself explicitly states the thesis of this article.

SammyB
Provo, UT

There is no middle ground to this discussion. For those who believe that God created the world and shared religious truths with ancient prophets, then they see the pieces of truths found in the ancient pagan world as originally coming from the bigger picture of truth. For those who do not believe in God, they disbelief that the origin of truth was later shredded into pagan teachings.

I have a degree in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and have spent decades studying ancient and modern comparative religions, including mythology from all over the world. Lord of the Rings is my favorite literature and I could write a book on all of the ancient truths Tolkien put together to reflect the greater eternal truths from God. I believe that is one reason the story resonates with so many people. Their hearts recognize the pattern of God's plan.

Mukkake
Salt Lake City, UT

@Red Headed Stranger

The entire basis of literary criticism, which can also be applied to mediums such as Film, is that an author doesn't have the final say on their own work. Authors often have unconscious or ulterior motives when they write. Even motives which to their conscious mind, or public reputation, may be objectionable. D. W. Griffeth insisted often that "The Birth of a Nation" was not a racist work, but any analysis of the film disputes this.

You list a bunch of reasons why Tolkien MUST be the greatest expert on his own work, but then proceed to declare that other authors, such as Wilde, can't be trusted. This is entirely my point, Tolkien is given goodwill by Christians, not because of the content of his book, but because of his reputation and statements. You distrust Wilde on the other-hand, simply because of his reputation. I could make a stronger argument for "The Picture of Dorian Gray" being a Catholic work than anyone could for Middle Earth books.

Seriously, if all memory of Tolkien was forgotten, and only his novels remained, would anybody insist it was a "Catholic" book based on its content alone?

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

Um yeah, Wilde was a comedian, Tolkien wasn't. Kind of like saying that Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers are news comedians and Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are news reporters. One set you take with a grain of salt and the meaning is implicit, the other the meaning is explicit. This isn't hard to understand or some great mystery.

If this is the basis of literary criticism, that authors' statements can and should be discarded as not being valid and that the critic's analysis is the correct one, then frankly this is a ridiculous field. Believe me when I say this as I do have a college degree and have written my fair share of literary analysis and dated my share of English Lit majors. If in this field, authors' statements are so eagerly tossed aside and critics' embraced, then frankly we learn much more about the critic than the author. The author creates a work, the critic shouts "ME TOO!"

Tolkien disliked some interpretations of his works such as "The War of the Ring" = WW2, Sauron = Hitler, or even pipe-weed = marijuana. Yet some critics still insist that those are the true meanings of Tolkien.

donn
layton, UT

To: Mukkake, he gets a free pass among many Christians, while other fantasy literature is considered a "gateway to the occult". True, A simple plowboy can understand the gospel ,it takes a priest to make difficult, Martin Luther.
They had the creeds in common
...that there professors ( J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis )were all corrupt.

PP
Eagle Mountain, UT

"The entire basis of literary criticism, which can also be applied to mediums such as Film, is that an author doesn't have the final say on their own work. Authors often have unconscious or ulterior motives when they write. Even motives which to their conscious mind, or public reputation, may be objectionable. D. W. Griffeth insisted often that "The Birth of a Nation" was not a racist work, but any analysis of the film disputes this. "

Could there be a more arrogant statement? to whit. "I know you wrote the book, and you are one of the greatest literary minds of the 20th century, but I know more than you about your book because I am some 2nd year English major (or professor for that matter) with an opinion and I want to be heard for the controversy. Ignore that I have long ago rejected God and am devastated that my favorite book is a reflection of the christian authors values".

PP
Eagle Mountain, UT

Tolkien himself said that his works had influences from mythology. He said himself that despite the similarities it was not a book about the wars or Hitler. Most of his notes precede Hitler in any event so that is easy to verify. If you take any war or any good vs evil story you could find commonalities in WWII and Hitler. It is pure arrogance to ignore the authors own words.

Contrary to the posters here that are trying to convince everyone that Christians should have LOTR because it is a pagan book there are 2 things. One, Christians are fine enjoying literature that has a basis in mythology. Two, You are trying to project your hatred and rejection of Christianity on others. just accept that you are the person that exercised your freedom of choice and left the church. Quit trying to find absolution in twisting the words of others and attacking things you dont understand.

Red Headed Stranger
Billy Bobs, TX

Let me flip your argument. Let's say hypothetically that Tolkien had stated in a letter to a friend "War of the Rings = WW2, Sauron = Hitler, Denethor = Chamberlain, etc. ." and then someone 60 years later says, "Oh no, the LOTR wasn't about WW2 at all. The author's statements on the book cannot be trusted about meaning of historical allegory, my analysis is better" What would you say about that? Is it that Tolkien said that the book is about (gasp) Catholicism that gives you fits?

I never said Wilde couldn't or didn't write a Catholic book, just that Wilde could be trusted to give coy, witty tongue-in-cheek responses and Tolkien was much more straight forward. "The Selfish Giant" is a marvelous, deeply Christian story using pagan tropes like anthropomorphic weather and giants.

It is ok to use Pagan symbols to make Christian points in otherwise Christian books. See Dante's "The Divine Comedy" for illustrations.

Just because you choose not to see it, doesn't mean Tolkien wasn't right. I would think you would be happy because unlike Homer, Virgil or even Shakespeare we have Tolkien's own words to provide meaning.

Gadfly
Smyrna, TN

Please everyone understand red headed stranger's comment for the way in which I am sure it was intended, as a "what if" type of question. Many have tried to make the WWII connections in the work and have, at the same time, ignored Tolkien's stement that he disliked allegory and that LotR was not an allegory of WWII. Of course many commentators here seem to disbelieve his statement that it is fundamentally a Christian work.

All of this having been said, I think that many Catholics would disagree with the article's implication of Galadriel as a Mary figure. Galadriel was a rebel who spent thousands of years working out her repentence as the only survivor of her people in Middle Earth. Her actions in early life lent to the deaths of many elves and the extermination of her own race.

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