Tolkien and Catholicism

I know that Tolkien was a Catholic, and that he went to daily Mass, and his faith influenced his writings… but does anyone have more information? :slight_smile: I know there are others here who read his books :thumbsup:

Hitler was also a catholic.

Just joking monica!

Not all catholics who are involved in popular media are actually faithful to the faith.

Tom hanks was a catholic. I think… Rosie O Donnel is a catholic. Oops!

Yes, he was Catholic. Yes, there are Christian undertones to his writings. No, he’s not as preachy as Lewis.

Tolkien is very subtle with his Christian themes. You have to be looking for them in order to find them really.

What are you implying?

Some context: this passage is from the Return of the King, as Frodo and Sam are making their way across Mordor to Mt. Doom. Sam is reflecting on lembas bread.

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 mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread 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.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Indeed and tis a good thing he wasn’t. Even if you don’t go looking for the Christian undertones, a journey through a place like Middle-Earth is quite an experience in of itself. :stuck_out_tongue:

I am not the foremost Tolkein expert by any means. But, I do remember a scene in one of the movies where Gandolf fights a dragon, falls into a firey crevasse and returns triumphantly as a “White Wizard.” I’m not sure this so subtle.

I’m rereading LotR again (my third time through) and I’ve started to notice how Tolkien distributes Christ symbolism across at least three characters: Gandalf is the death and resurrection of Christ; Aragorn is the conquering king; and Frodo and/or Sam are the destruction of sin and the evil one. There could be others, but those are the ones that most stand out.

I’ve also never noticed before how powerful is the scene when the Company first enters Lorien. It fills one with such a longing for Heaven, such an anticipation of standing in the presence Reality Himself. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything in any novel that has inspired such an immediate spiritual response.

I want to name my first son John Ronald Reuel :wink: (and any successive sons Clive Staples and Gilbert Keith, haha)

@Sammy. Yay to converting! Oh, and welcome to CAF.

Inside of Tolkien’s book the Silmarillion which is essentially the history of Middle Earth up until the lord of the rings, you can find a creation story which mirrors christianity, and you can find versions of angels and the devil which helped form the world and battled since the beginning. Looking at the entire mythos you can see that this is a world that mirrors the Christian view of the universe. You also have many christian themes, which as others pointed out, are very subtle.

Tolkien once wrote his son, telling the latter that one cannot live without the Eucharist… :slight_smile:

Here is a set of articles by Anglicans, Catholics, and others about his faith: “The Catholic Imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien”. My dear Franciscan friend, who happens to be a friar, is reading the Lord of the Rings over, and from a Catholic perspective after many years in the faith. It’s certainly easy to read it from the eyes of a child (albeit a Catholic one), but when you have a more mature faith that has prayed the Mass thousands of times and read countless books of the Fathers, the trilogy comes alive in a new way. :wink:

I find this one especially good: “Catholic Poem in Time of War”:

I think it might be best to actually read Tolkien before offering up such comments.

Tolkein was asked for literary advice in the Jerusalem Bible, book of Job from memory:thumbsup:

Tolkien himself hated the idea the work was an analogy. He might argue that these characters represent archetypes that are founded in the nature of humanity and which Christianity represent most fully. Undoubtedly though all three of these characters do resonate in the ways you mention.

Galadriel might be seen as a very imperfect analogy for the Theotokos also I suppose. Although she is by no means without sin although she is a woman of great virtue. If you understand her history from the Silmarillion the scene where she refuses the ring has a great deal more impact. It shows how she has mastered true humility as pride was her greatest weakness and it is one she has overcome due to her inherent compassion for others.

Gimli was always reminscent to me of Old Testament warrior figures for some reason. I most definitely agree LOTR is far less preachy in tone than the Narnia works. The Narnia works have great virtue and many insights but Lewis at times is a bit too much ‘message above story’. Tolkien succeeds better at making the message a part of the narrative and thus the delivery generally is better. Lewis’ ‘Cosmic Trilogy’ work which is aimed more towards adults is more succesful in certain respects.

This might be true for some people, but I wouldn’t say it was true for Tolkien :slight_smile: it seems that he was a faithful Catholic. He wasn’t involved in popular media… he stayed away from the limelight and he was a philologist/university professor. He had a family and went to Mass. He created Middle Earth just to give a context for his languages. :slight_smile: there are some Catholic themes in his books so I was wondering if anyone knows more on this :slight_smile: There is nothing I can see in his life that goes against Catholic teaching… he’s not like one of those celebrities. God bless!

thanks for the replies everyone!

A couple of things as a HUGE Tolkien fan and amateur scholar of his books…

First, the overall theme of salvation coming from the most unlikely of places, of God using the weak and “foolish” things of this world to save us all…a small, innocent, unwise halfling bearing the weight of the world to it’s destruction in a fiery mountain, a poor carpenter’s son born in a stable in a backwater country under Roman domination.

The themes of Aragorn, Gandalf, and Frodo all being Christ images are spot on observations too. Read the Silmarilion, brilliant allegory of the fall of Lucifer and Melkor’s pride, wonderful reading.

I think Tom Hanks is Greek Orthodox. He converted when he married.

Hitler was BORN Catholic. William Shirer in his “The Rise and fall of the Third Reich” relates that Hitler was a “nominal if noncommital” believer. There’s a lot of controversy about how devout he was. Mussolini and Franco were Catholic too.

I saw this beautiful quote about the Eucharist by JRR Tolkien :slight_smile:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament… There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste -or foretaste- of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

Tolkien is very subtle. I’ve read the books and I think the movies are more obviously Catholic. But I saw the movies first.

Oh yeah, in the books Frodo is FIFTY and slightly pudgy. Now how might that have affected the movie’s success?:ehh:

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