I know it’s often said that Tolkien’s Catholicism is greatly influential of his epic fantasy. I’m curious to know what catholic ideas, attitudes, cultural aspects that you as a Catholic can find in his stories of middle earth or even the movie depiction. Non-Catholics are welcome too.
Personally, the elves remind me of monastics, with their great houses at Rivendel and Lothlorien (the forest with lady Galadriel). Lady Galadriel herself in many ways reminds me of a saintly foundress of a great monastic order-kinda like Teresa of Avila, or a great feminine spiritual authority like Catherine of Siena. Many people think she’s more like Our Lady though, and I do see it too. The songs of the elves in the movie sound like what I’d expect at a monastery, no?
The elven lembas or waybread is like the Blessed Sacrament…or Viaticum: “food for a journey”.
The valier queen Varda (an angel) reminds me more of Our Lady.
With Manwe dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars…too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Iluvatar [The Creator] lives still in her face…Of all the Great Ones who dwell in this world the Elves hold her most in reverence and love. Elbereth they name her, and they call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle-Earth, and uplift it in song at the rising of the stars. [The Silmarillion: Valaquenta]
Sam cries out to her during his confrontation with Shelob. He touches the Phial of Galadriel:
and then his tongue was loosed and his voice cried in a language he did not know
[INDENT]A Elbereth Gilthoniel…
If you Google “Elbereth”, and then click “Images”, some good stuff comes up. Some not so good, too.
The book series, and especially the film adaptations, are extremely popular among the Chinese people. It is to my belief that the Valar and Maiar represent greater and lesser angelic powers, while Eru is the Middle-Earth name for the one supreme God and the creator of all Men and Elves. Manwë represents Michael, the greatest of the loyal “Powers”, while Melkor represents Lucifer or Satan, who rebelled against Ilúvatar’s design in the elder days.
Sauron’s repeated efforts to corrupt and destroy mankind at every turn is also symbolic of Satan’s attempts to do so in our world. Galadriel is significant in that she rejected the temptation of “demonic” power and refused to take the One Ring, while some similarity can be drawn between Frodo and Christ, in that they both willingly shouldered their burden, the Ring for the former and the Cross for the latter, and in the end made the ultimate sacrifice (Frodo leaving his home and his friends forever and Jesus surrendering His life) for a greater purpose.
There really is some neat stuff in his works. I posted these on another thread yesterday, but here they are again:
*]“Many that life deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be so quick to deal out death in judgement.” -Gandalf admonishing the death penalty
*]“I will take the Ring… though I do not know the way.” -Frodo. Also, I swear I’ve heard practically the same line in a hymn once (but, alas, I don’t think I did)
*]“For this is what your folk would call magic. I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy.” -Galadriel on Elf-Magic. IMHO, the same quote could apply to transubstantiation
*]“The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s memory had been filled with food, and the longing for simple breads and meats. And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.” -Book 6, Ch. 3, “Mount Doom” I’d say that could also describe the Eucharist. Food that, quite frankly, doesn’t fill the stomach much, but at the same time, feeds the spirit
I’m glad to know that such an admirable story resounds in the hearts of the Chinese people. One personal curiosity: how is Christianity doing in that magnificent and mighty country, China? I’m from a country where one of the first Christian missionaries to China studied, Matteo Ricci, who was a student at University of Coimbra (Portugal) during the XVIth century.
With every viewing of the movie version I like it less and less. It was filmed by a modern pagan who did not ‘get’ what LOTR is about, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
With every reading, however, I love it more and find more that is Catholic. Good point re the monasteries!
I could go on about the difference between prideful Denethor and humble Theoden; how Sam’s humility saved him, his prayer to The Lady for water, the Waybread. So much more it would have to be a thesis.
I always, personally, found Aragorn to parallel St. Peter. First King in the new world of Men, as Peter was first Pope of the Church, the body of the New Covenant. Gondor, too, would represent the Church in this case. Always poignant to me is the scene in the movie where Gandalf the White (who, in my opinion, is a Christ figure himself, with his death and resurrection in a glorified state) crowns Aragorn as the new king, giving him the authority for which he was born.
That quote from Galadriel about magic is important. I think the thing that makes this work profoundly Catholic is its sacramentalism- if I can call it that. Mystic or heavenly power (supernatural) living in the regular natural world of man. It’s not like magic or witch-craft, but closer to Catholic sacramental and miraculous perspectives of this world and grace. Maybe that’s why so many Christians instantly resonate with it and recognize it as very Cristian. The devotion to the Holy Ladies is very Catholic as noted-Think of the Hail Holy Queen. And that stuff about lembas? The mystic bread of the gods? Surely, only a Catholic mind could come up with that in his fantasy!
I’ve never actually heard this one before! It took a bit for me to get it, but then I realized you’re referring to the Reunited Kingdoms in the 4th Age, I believe?
Like has been mentioned before, Gandalf is a Christ figure, but along with Frodo and Aragorn (Prophet, Priest and King, respectively)
Gondor as the Church doesn’t make as much sense to me. A brief history of Gondor- Númenór. Island nation. Kings were originally good, but started worshiping Melkor. He convinced them to sail into the West to visit Valinor. Long story short, Númenór was sunk (random fact- the local name sounded an awful lot like Atlantis) and those who were still faithful were sent to Middle-Earth. There they founded Gondor and Arnor. Then Isildur went and got himself killed by orcs after taking the One Ring, and anyone who’s seen and/or read Lord of the Rings knows the story from there. Point is, an analogy for the Church wouldn’t have its leaders be corrupted by the equivalent of the Devil.
Finally, I’ll still go with the Gandalf is resurrected analogy, but Gandalf returning is actually closer to reincarnation than resurrection
Couldnt agree more. Action! Action! Action! Whizz! Bang! Wallop! When were children, we want all of that. Adults should want more depth. Over-the-top CGI.
The distortions are revolting…
JRR Tolkien`s Catholicism is never mentioned in the “Special Features”.
I always thought that it was kind of about the fall and redemption of man. At first, it was isildur who kept the ring because he wanted power, but was killed eventually because of it (much like Adam and Eve were tempted to eat the fruit and ended up being separated from God). Anyway, man eventually redeemed themselves. Aragorn could be seen as a kind of savior, even though a better argument is that frodo and sam were the saviors of middle earth.
Also, its pretty obvious that Sauron is satan. Apparently, if you read some of tolkiens other works about the middle earth universe. Sauron decieved people into taking the rings by appearing as a more angelic being. In this i see parallels in the fall of Lucifer.