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littlemanpoet 05-24-2002 10:25 AM

"...and Consciously So in the Revision."
This is a Difficulty level 4 out of 5.

Tolkien said that the LotR was made consciously Christian (or Catholic) in the revision.

All of you who have read the four History of Middle Earth volumes dealing with Tolkien's process of writing The Lord of the Rings: have you been able to detect the differences between the early drafts and the final published version that show it was consciously Christian in the revision? If so, what are they?

I'm looking for hard evidence here. I doubt it will be easy to find, but I want to throw this out there because -well darn it, I'm curious. I hope some of you (maybe even one of you) will be willing to take up the gauntlet.

[ May 24, 2002: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]

Child of the 7th Age 05-24-2002 02:47 PM

Littlemanpoet --

This is a good question but difficult for me. I would say 5 out of 5!

It is hard for several reasons. First, I am only now reading HoMe. I finally bought Morgoth's Ring so I am now the proud possessor of 12 volumes, but that's not to say I have read all of them yet. However, I did decide to start with the ones that relate to LotR since I know that better than the Silm. I'm still struggling along with that. It's taking me a while to plough through.

I have a second problem though. I do not see this open and clear evidence of Christianity or Catholicism in the book which Tolkien talks about, whether you're discussing the first draft, or the tenth! Maybe I don't have the nose for such things.

Birdland and I actually discussed this issue the other day. She and I agreed that we wished Tolkien had made the religious frameword of the LotR more explicit. Even in cases where the characters, for example, cried out to Varda, Tolkien explicitly stated in his Letters that this wasn't prayer. Of course, he's not totally comfortable with people praying to entities whom he viewed as mere angels. And only once in the book is there something which Tolkien acknowledged as a prayer--Faramir's men standing up before dinner and facing West. It was only in the notes of The Road Goes Ever On (1968) that JRRT admitted that the songs sung by the Elves to Elbereth were actually "hymns" or that the invocations to her were a form of prayer.

Having expressed these reservations, let me list a few themes that could be investigated draft by draft to see when these ideas were introduced into the writing:

1. The depiction of Galadriel which
seems to border on that of the Virgin
Mary. (even I feel this when reading
relevent sections)
2. All the various "hymns" and
invocations to Elbereth.
3. The use of what I call the "pregnant"
passive, e.g., "you have been
appointed"..... No agent is given
in these situations, but some of
us can sense the distant hand of
4. The whole discussion of pity and
mercy as an important factor in the
5. The use of the word "chance" in the
story. For example, Tom Bombadil was
in the vicinity to help the hobbits
just "by chance....if chance you call
it" (This is paraphrase--don't have
the book with me.) There are many
instances of "chance" cited in the
book, where something more is hinted.
6. The explicit depiction of providence
in the final scene at Mount Doom.
7. The scene, briefly discussed above,
where Faramir's men rise to face the
West before eating, and Frodo's sweet
and slightly guilty response when he
confided he felt so rustic and
inadequate because he and his own
culture lacked such a gesture.
8. The whole characterization of Frodo,
showing his spiritual growth (#7 just
above is one example) This could
include the motif of the "light in
Frodo's face", his transformation
into a prophet and seer, his visions,
his rejection by the Shire after his
return, and his departure for
Elvenhome. Oh, yes, also his
pacifism. All these have some
spiritual component, I think.
9. The whole transformation of Gandalf
from grey to white. According to JRRT
this was done not by the Valar but
by Eru.
10. The growing importance of Merry,
Pippin, and Sam afer they return to
the Shire. This relates to #8
above and the ways of the world vrs.
the spiritual.

This list could go on and on. These are just a few off the top of my head. If you could find evidence on the above, you would have enough material to write a book, certainly a scholarly article.

Now, let me speak to the only three that I have clear evidence on from HoMe. First, the Greyhavens. This theme was inherent in the book from the very earliest notes and drafts. While Frodo was still Bingo in the early drafts, CT has identified many examples where his father says he would send the Ringbearer across the Sea at the end. In one such note, Tolkien says Bingo would retire to a small hut at the edge of the Shire and later depart for the West.

But, two other themes were definitely later additions. In the earlier drafts of the RotK, Frodo takes a much more active role in the Scouring. He is not hesitant to use his sword, although he does tell the hobbits not to go overboard in violence. This is different from the more passive, pacifistic picture that comes through in the book.

Also, in the earliest drafts, the Shire clearly recogizes and applauds Frodo for his achievements. There's a line where it is said every hobbit will know the name of Baggins and what he has done. In the later drafts, this becomes the very sad statement, one of the saddest to me in the whole book, that Frodo withdraws and is forgotten and left alone by the Shire, much to the annoyance of Sam who feels this is wrong. This, of course, could be tied in to pictures of Jesus who is rejected by the world around him, especially as he goes to his death.

So those are two differences. But are they Christian or Catholic? I don't know. But I certainly think they have something to do with spiritual growth, and how the "world" with its cold heart looks at a hero who is essentially a figure of obedience, commitment, and mercy rather than physical or outward prowess.

Sorry, this is too long. But the topic is complex

sharon, the 7th age hobbit.

[ May 24, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

Nar 05-24-2002 08:20 PM

Child, I think your examples # 3, 4 and 5-- the hints of providence-- are particularly good. I don't have those volumes of HoME, so I can't tell if they were changed, but I do remember that the original version of the final action at Mt. Doom, the King of the Nazgul reaches them, and is advancing-- and Gollum breaks Frodo's finger to get the ring rather than biting it off. Off the top of my head: The broken finger becomes the lost finger, bitten off, this intensifies the theme of absolute loss and sacrifice (I could talk about the communion host here, 'take, eat, this is my body... but I really, really don't think that's applicable-- just my unruly imagination). The lost finger also picks up Beren's story, and others in the Sil.

Cutting that last-second action scene where the Nazgul King was supposed to menace them all at the cracks of Doom leaves Gollum's lucky misstep in elegant isolation: with all its irony of fate and charity of providence. Whether or not losing the Nazgul was intended to heighten the spiritual themes, it was certainly an insightful artistic decision.

Child of the 7th Age 05-25-2002 09:27 AM

Here is one more theme which I believe Tolkien would have conceived as being definitely Christian, and therefore, one that you could again investigate draft by draft---that of hope vrs. despair

Repeatedly, in the letters the author says despair is one of the most henious sins, since it means you are substituting your own judgment for that of Eru, i.e. you are assuming that you know the outcome of things better than the One.

Also, Tolkien defines religious hope in a very serious and reflective essay in Morgoth's Ring, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which is a discussion between the Elf Finrod and the wise woman Andreth. At the end of the essay, the two postulate that Eru will one day come into Arda in order to help heal it, which is an obvious allusion to the incarnation. Along the way, they also discuss the nature of hope:


"What is hope? she said. "An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundations in what is known.? Then we have none."
Finrod replied:


That is one thing that Men call 'Hope'....Amdir we call it, 'looking up'. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel, we call it, that is 'trust'. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of his own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves.... This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End; of all his designs the issue must be for his Children's joy...
It might be possible to take this definition of Estel and apply it to many scenes in the LotR and see just when Tolkien broughts these themes in. Here are a few places you could look: Sam's almost unflagging commitment not to despair even in Mordor, the wonderful scene where Sam looks up at the sky and realizes the Shadow is but a little thing and all is light, Sam's and Frodo's discussions about hope.

Now, isn't that interesting....most of this is about Sam who obviously is the truest depiction of Estel. And I believe Sam wasn't even in the earliest drafts of LotR. And I don't mean that he got his name changed like Bingo to Frodo. He just wasn't there till later.

So that's a possible clue,but raises another question. What did Tolkien consider to be the earliest drafts and what did he consider to be revision. For some chapters, like the first, he did draft after draft. I would guess that the inclusion of these themes was a gradual process. It didn't happen all in one draft or rewriting. It kind of crept in gradually draft by draft. Is it possible that the deliniation of Sam's character was a critical point in this process? That's just a guess.

Oh, yeah, for despair, you could look at the king's suicide and what gradually happens to Frodo in Mordor, especially after the Orcs get hold of him. Frodo turning to despair is a very serious hint that he will be unable to complete the quest, since, according to the definition above, estel rests on our "nature and first being". Loss of hope is obviously an indication that Frodo's basic nature is being destroyed. As an aside, I have often wondered what the Orcs actually did with Frodo. It can't have been good.

Sorry to keep coming up with more questions instead of answers, but I really believe that even the ground work hasn't been thoroughly done for this question. I haven't seen anything about this in the scholarly literature, and I do make a point of trying to keep up with that, at least as far as the LotR goes.

If someone knows anything written on this topic, please list here. There are some articles which, of course, discuss the Christian/Catholic themes (i.e., Joseph Pearce stuff--both the biography and collection of essays; also recent issue of Touchstone magazine, which is a Christian journal, Jan-Feb 2002 which has 6 great articles including one on the hidden presence of Tolkien's Catholicism in the LotR). But I've never seen anyone systmatically relate this theme to the drafts of the text itself.

Littlemanpoet -- what do you think of all this?

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ May 25, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

Evenstar1 05-25-2002 10:12 AM

Okay, first of all, I must confess to not having read HoME, so my weigh-in here is going to be based off of what Child has just said.

But it has occurred to me, in my own reading of LOTR, that different characters, at different times, emulated Christlike characteristics. Gandalf's "resurrection," Frodo's carrying of the burden of the Ring, Aragorn -- The King -- having healing abilities, etc. Now, consider the scenes in Mordor, especially up the side of Mt. Doom, where Sam carries Frodo. (I was totally bawling reading this scene, btw! What a tear-jerker!) By the time they get to Mt. Doom, Sam is quite surprised to find that Frodo weighs practically nothing. This is completely resonant of the concept of Christ carrying us when our own burdens become too heavy (i.e. the "Footprints" story). If Sam wasn't added until later revisions, then this would definitely be evidence of deliberate additions of Christian tones.

I am reading the Pierce bio of Tolkien, "Man and Myth" right now. Perhaps I will be able to add more to this conversation later... [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Genandra of Mirkwood 05-25-2002 03:42 PM

I'm a Christian, but also haven't read HoME yet so I'll speak generally about the idea of Christian themes in Tolkien's work. When I read in the appendix to LOTR that Tolkien said he didn't like analogy and favored "applicability" instead, I knew exactly what he meant. I knew that I wasn't to look anywhere in Middle Earth for who "Jesus" was! After all, Tolkien intends Middle Earth to be a history, and Jesus Christ is a historical figure, not to be confused with any other. To contrast, in the Chronicles of Narnia there is absolutely no doubt who the Christ figure is- Aslan- and this is in fact what Lewis intends, so for the genre he does it well. But Tolkien rejected this genre, so in searching for Christian themes we should keep this in mind.

That's not to say they're not there, but in my opinion the books are more representative of a Christian way of thinking about the world than specific Christian symbols or facts. For instance, a clear portrayal of the unimaginably good, creative, active, powerful life of God and how his creatures can participate in that nature. Definitely the idea of good vs. evil. Perhaps also a principle of the seemingly weak and simple overcoming the pride of the selfishly strong. I think Tolkien said he believed all myth points to Christianity because the underlying basis of Christianity is story.

Don't know if I'm explaining this well but I guess I could sum it up by saying it's probably best to look for principles of Christianity than to get too specific. Unfortunately, unless you're well acquainted with Christian thinking this can be a subtle exercise. Of course, in Tolkien's day it was assumed that well-educated people would be grounded in the Bible and Christian philosophy- that's less often the case today.

[ May 25, 2002: Message edited by: Genandra of Mirkwood ]

Child of the 7th Age 05-25-2002 07:23 PM

Evenstar1 --

I think your reference to Sam carrying Frodo and him feeling very, very light is a good one to investigate. This would seen to fall under the heading of "providence" -- the intervention of the One in human/hobbit affairs.

Littlemanpoet -- By the way, if anyone is interested in the general topic of Christian/Catholic allusions, you might want to get hold of the Jan/Feb. edition of Touchstone magazine. The section with the 6 articles is called J.R.R. Tolkien and the Christian Imagination, and it's one of the best things I've seen on this subject. You can get it for $6.00 plus $2.50 shipping from

One of these articles deals with aspects of both Galadriel and Elbereth which can be tied in to Catholic conceptions of the Virgin Mary. Now, in this article, the author points to a difference in Galadriel which is not based on LotR per se but on the Silm and the later Unfinished Tales.

According to this author, Galadriel is represented in the earliest drafts as being involved in the "rebellion" of the Elves against the Valar (his words, not mine). However, in Unfinished Tales, which JRRT hoped to incorporate in the later edition of the Silm, the protrayal of Galadriel is different.

Actually, according to this article, this change is recorded in "History of Galadriel and Celeborn" which was written in the very last month of Tolkien's life. Here, the emphasis is different and Galadriel is not so much supporting the "rebellion" but simply caught up in the departure from Aman to Middle-earth through no fault of her own.

Now, if this is an accurate depiction, it is powerful evidence of the ongoing revision to make it more in accord with Christian/Catholic principles. Indeed, this is revision that goes beyond and after the publication of the Ring story itself.

Would anyone, who knows the Silm and UT better than I, judge this to be an accurate contrast?

In his Letters, Tolkien does say somewhere that Galadriel is "unstained", an adjectives which Catholics normally use to describe Mary. He also says "she had committed no evil deeds." And again, the author admitted he owed "much of this character (i.e., Galadriel) to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary." I would want to check the dates of those letters to see if this is an early idea or a later one.

Oh, and another topic to investigate is the chronology used in the story which correspond to dates in the Christian calendar, i.e. Gandalf says the New Year of Sauron's demise will always fall on March 25, which is the Christian feast day of the Annunciation, and nine months before, December 25 (i.e. Christmas day), is the date Frodo and his companions left Rivendell.
I wonder at what point in his writing did Tolkien begin to use these precise dates?

That's it for now. Not many answers, but lots of questions.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

littlemanpoet 05-25-2002 07:49 PM

Child, Nar, Evenstar, Genandra, your replies are greatly appreciated.

I own only the Lays of Beleriand (the only purely poetical tome - you know my moniker [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ), but a friend of mine owns every volume and lets me borrow them on occasion.


I do not see this open and clear evidence of Christianity or Catholicism in the book which Tolkien talks about, whether you're discussing the first draft, or the tenth!
Precisely. As Evenstar and Genandra remind us, although there are instances that on the face of it look like they are particularly Christian, we are so insular at our peril. For a more complete discussion of this, see the thread, "Trilogy and the Bible" on "Book" here at the downs. It's long and involving but thorough and courteous for a debate on religious topics. Sorry about that tangent. As I was beginning to say, I'm aware of the "face-value" things that look Christian, but that is not evidence enough to say they are what was "conscious in the revision".

By the way, I'm not in the least ready to write an article or book or do the research necessary to do justice to this topic. Which is why I took the easy and lazy way and asked others to help me brainstorm here. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

I was getting ready, Child, to say "yes, but which of these 10 can you say are actually substantially different from earlier drafts in terms of Catholicism/Christianity"? Then you go and say it yourself. Kudos. Off the top of your head!? I wish I had the top of your head. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]

I think the clear differences you delineate regarding Frodo in the Scouring of the Shire are informative and persuasive. Even more so the Mount Doom scene as related by a number of you. Pieced together, the combination of Gollum's ironic providential fall with the Ring, Sam's carrying the light Frodo who bears so much weight, Sam's undying Estel, and Frodo losing his finger, add up to an exquisitely elegant (thanks Nar) realistic eucatastrophe. No deus ex machina here.

Putting the above word here got me to thinking how Tolkien tied 'eucatastrophe' with his thoughts on the 'evangelium' in On Faerie Stories. Perhaps. PERHAPS, I SAY, the eucatastrophe of Mount Doom is the most Christian thing in the entire book precisely in that there is no deus ex machina, just as there is none at the crucifixion of Jesus, whose Deus had forsaken him according to the story, that very forsaking essential for the next event to be possible, thus bringing about what Christians hold to be the evangelium par excellence.

I like your idea, Child, of Sam as the truest depiction of Estel in the story. I don't think anybody ever thought that one up before. Kudos again.

You raise a reasonable conundrum in terms of "where in the revisions" these conscious Christianizations occurred. It probably could be debated forever without resolution.

One caution, Evenstar, duly noted in the Trilogy and the Bible thread, is that Gandalf's resurrection, Aragorn's healing ability, and other such characteristics can be found just as frequently in myths and religions the world over. What I'm really interested in looking into here is that which is particularly Christian, if anything can be assuredly stated as such in tLotR (which I think I may have found, above). I do appreciate your retelling of Sam's experience of Frodo weighing nothing. It does resonate for Christians as you say; it may not be particular to Christians, though.

Genandra, I think the passage you refer to speaks of Tolkien's dislike for allegory rather than analogy. A fine distinction, I grant you, but important enough to be accurate about. Your caution is well stated and worth abiding by. Thanks. As to principles of Christianity, again, I hope we can find principles that are unique to Christianity. A tough challenge, I grant. I think Child was right: difficulty level 5 out of 5.

I guess I haven't really added much to this, except for the one thing regarding the eucastastrophe with no deus ex machina. Any comments on that?

Kalessin 05-28-2002 08:27 PM

All my instincts are telling me to keep out of this thread, but ... [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]


... As to principles of Christianity, again, I hope we can find principles that are unique to Christianity. A tough challenge, I grant ...
The difficulty here is objectively identifying reflections of Christianity without recourse to allegory, iconography and so on. In addition, I very much appreciate Littlemans caveats, and by inference the recognition of the danger (or potential) for appropriation. On the other hand (pace Gilthalion), I have no problem with Christians finding spiritual resonance in their personal experience of the books - that's (at least part of) what art is about.

So much has been written about this in the Trilogy and Bible thread that I hesitate to broaden the original remit here, to do with Tolkien's specific revisions. However, it occurs to me that two specific areas, whether or not changed in revision, can be cited as exemplars of a specifically Christian conception in Tolkien's works.

One is the Christian contradiction that Tolkien identified as a recurring theme - that Evil can arise from Good. This is embodied in the sub-creative Fall of Melkor (the Beginner of Evil, in Tolkien's words), which mirrors the contradiction of the Fall of Lucifer (and subsequently Man) in the context of an omnipotent and infinitely perfect God. In another thread I talked about how Christian philosophers such as Spinoza had wrestled with this problem from medieval times, and in order to accommodate more sophisticated reasoning the philosophical tradition had moved on from accepting the Biblical translation as literal causality to more abstract conceptions in which Good and Evil became human interpretations (and therefore relative). The contradiction itself has never really been resolved, except by flawed logical axioms (such as the ontological argument). Whilst perhaps other religions have an element or reflection of this, it has been a central 'question of faith' in Western culture for hundreds of years, and a key part of Western art, philosophy and theology.

Tolkien's creation myth, in The Silmarillion, explicitly contains (or mirrors) this contradiction, and without resolving it the narrative invokes a more traditional or literal causality. And in his introduction to the text Tolkien expresses the view that the concept of divinity and sub-creation in The Silmarillion should be 'acceptable' to those with Christian beliefs. "Acceptability" is a somewhat ambiguous term, but taken into account along with the (according to JRRT) thematic contradiction of subcreated Evil, I think a Christian context can be reasonably inferred.

The second (arguably) specifically Christian concept is the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil. This is a somehow symbiotic combination of military and moral struggle, in which powerful destructive forces are materially and spiritually defeated - first Melkor/Morgoth, and subsequently Sauron. My feeling is that this is a particularly Christian conclusion - there is no "re-establishing of equilibrium" (a la Yin/Yang), nor is there a "Nirvana", the devolution or evolution of self into literal selflessness. Each victory is absolute and final.

Having posited these possible Christian elements, I have to also say that the surface narrative is peppered with small-scale but implicitly non-Christian symbols and allusions. We also have Tolkien's own explicit critique of Malory's Arthurian saga for its Christian connotations, and his well-documented dislike of mechanistic allegory (and the interesting subtext of his relationship with Lewis). In addition, I think one can make a compelling case for a number of cultural influences in Tolkien's narrative, elements that reflect both his primary interest in myth and language, and the age in which he lived, the nature of post-imperial England, and so on.

All of which leads me to argue that the attempt to identify (and perhaps emphasize) specifically Christian areas should be put (or kept) in perspective. Naturally the importance of Tolkien's own devout and traditional Catholicism should not be underestimated. Nor the evident morality of his works, which is at least consistent with traditional Christianity, if not uniquely so. But Tolkien himself said, and felt, that the myths he studied and loved in fact contained at heart some kind of timeless or essential 'truth', and did so in their own terms, without reference or dependence. And I believe it was this, more than anything, that Tolkien wished to re-create.

I could be wrong ... it could be argued that the works as a whole were explicitly Christian apologia and that the various characters and narrative elements were in the service of an evangelical mission. Yet many declared Christians distance themselves violently from Tolkien's work for a range of reasons. There is clearly a significant level of ambiguity and room for interpretation here.

For now, I am happy that there remains both mystery and universality in his works, and in the experience of them by generations of readers - and this perhaps goes some way to explaining his enduring popularity. But as there are many on these boards who know more about Tolkien's life and works than I do, we shall have to wait and see [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ May 28, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]

Child of the 7th Age 05-28-2002 10:32 PM

Kalessin --

I've never had a chance to tell you this, but I've found many of your posts very challenging. I approach things as an academically trained historian and as a student of English literature. You must have some philosophy in your background or at least be able to think like a philosopher, something which I find quite impossible!

I am sympathetic with your view that Tolkien's works leave much open to interpretation and ambiguity, including the whole question of explicitly Christian or Catholic themes. As I initially indicated, whether I examine the first or the tenth draft of the LotR, I do not see such a precise delineation of belief.

Although I consider myself to be a religious person, I am not a Christian. Yet many of the themes which have been identified by myself or others as reflective of Tolkien's Catholicism do resonate in my heart because they strike receptive chords. In some cases, I can see echoes of my own Jewish tradition; in others, it is the mythic past, whether that of the ancient north or those more explicitly representative of the later medieval period. If I were a philologist like T.A. Shippey, I could probably see additional tie ins to the entire structure and outline of many ancient languages.

Yet, having voiced these reservations, I do think it would be a valid and possibly enlightening project to examine the draft LotR in terms of themes which I believe Tolkien himself would have identified as Christian and/or Catholic. Fortunately, we do have the author's Letters, and he was often very clear in these about what he considered to fall into this category. I also think such a project, if done well, would be an enormous amount of work.

As far as I know, no one has systematically examined this statement by Tolkien concerning the later Christian revisions to see if it was an accurate reflection of his process of writing, or merely something his mind came up with later because he wanted it to be so.

In your last post, you implicitly raise the additional question whether this process of "Christianizing" the writing was limited to the LotR or instead was extended to his final revisions of the Silm. The latter would be far beyond me, as I simply don't know this book well enough.

Actually, the whole thing would be beyond me, given my present life and commitments, but what a fascinating subject it would make!

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

littlemanpoet 05-29-2002 12:32 PM

Greetings and well met again, Kalessin. I have been expecting you. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I did a "double-take" upon confronting "evil arising from good". Whereas I have thought and discussed the issue before, never had I seen it worded so. I shall resist the temptation to delve into the issue itself, trying to do what hundreds of years' worth of better minds than mine could not. Of course, by calling it a contradiction you have moved the issue into the realm of philosophical logic - which has its limits. Which, further, is why I think the best efforts to deal with the issue have been and will be found in Story, such as LotR.

Where do you see the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil in LotR? The word ultimate is the sticking point for me. "Good" for humans and hobbits means the "Evil" of the death of good things for Elves.

You mention the defeats of Morgoth and Sauron as examples, but Tolkien emphasizes that Evil is NOT destroyed and will arise in some other form - soon.

In "The Music of the Ainur" in the Silmarillion, JRRT has Eru foretell a final Good. That's the only place I know in the entire corpus where good ultimately triumphs over evil. This instance has little to do with the quote with which this thread concerns itself.

I think that you may be referring to the "paradigm" of the struggle of Good toward ultimate victory over Evil; if so, then your example has greater merit, for it's clear that JRRT was writing from this paradigm rather than an equilibrious or nirvanous one.

Your emphasis on keeping things in perspective is worthy. Which brings me back to JRRT's quote regarding "consciously so in the revision". The fundamental question(s) was/were, "what did he mean?" "how did he mean it?" "where can we find the differences in his drafts versus final published form?"


it could be argued that the works as a whole were explicitly Christian apologia and that the various characters and narrative elements were in the service of an evangelical mission.
It could be, but the argument is quite refutable.

I had hoped to garner feedback about the "no deus ex machina" idea in regard to JRRT's eucatastrophe. Please consider the notion and either refute or verify, or whatever. Always in the pursuit of knowledge and the moderation of pride.

I really doubt, Child, that JRRT "came up with [consciously so in the revision] later because he wanted it to be so"; have I proof? No, but I can't conceive of JRRT doing that. Can you?

Kalessin 05-29-2002 03:35 PM

I think you are right that the "triumph of good over evil" is neither exactly ultimate or perhaps explicitly enough a measure of Christian sensibility. It arose in discussion on the Trilogy and Bible thread, out of the rather vague notion that "since LotR is about Good and Evil, that makes it Christian". Opposition to this idea included the equally problematic notion that "Good and Evil operate the same way in all religions". Out of this debate came what seemed to me at the time a distinguishing feature of Tolkien's stories. But I accept your point that this is in fact relative.

The 'contradiction' of Evil arising from Good is explicitly mentioned by Tolkien in his letter to Milton Walden (which prefaces my copy of The Silmarillion). He says that it is indeed a contradiction, and a recurrent theme in his works. On other threads here some have attempted to apply a comprehensive or universal casual rationality to Tolkien's cosmology - which is an interesting exercise - but this contradiction cannot be resolved without reference to either new age 'dark and light coexisting', or the somehow Darwinian 'evil is necessary to test good'. It seems to me that the parallel with the Christian causal conundrum is a fair one.

Thank you Sharon [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] I agree that there is a pathos and moral depth in LotR that can resonate powerfully across denominations (and outside them). We have to acknowledge his craft as a writer, and also the conscientious devotion and attentiveness to his storytelling. This is why LotR is a great book. And all perspectives - historical, personal, literary, academic, philosophical etc. - have a value in the discussion! I respect and enjoy your posts [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Littleman, please explain your "no deus ex machina in the eucatastrophe" in laymans terms (for my humble benefit) ... I thought I was meant to be the opaque one here [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]


[ May 29, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]

littlemanpoet 05-30-2002 08:20 AM

It has actually been argued that Tolkien's eucatastrophe (climactic sudden turn to good when all seemed to be leading to evil) did in fact include a deus ex machina, an interference into the natural order by Eru. I don't see it. I see real human characters (Frodo, Sam and Gollum) with their real human strengths and weaknesses and tendencies, put under great strain; nothing they say or do includes miracle; everything that occurs does so in keeping with the Laws that govern Ea. 10,000 Ainur did not come and at the last minute spare Frodo from making his decision to keep the Ring for himself. Thus I see a parallel to the Christian eucatastrophe, where there is also no deus ex machina. Jesus cries out his famous protest, God, why have you forsaken me? 10,000 angels do not come and spare him death on the cross. All that occurs does so within the Laws that govern life as we know it. Yet by means of both the Mount Doom and Cricifixion eucatastrophes, a great good comes into being; in Middle Earth, the destruction of the last powerful overlord; in our life, the destruction of death itself. I cannot say for certain whether this parallel is unique to the Christian faith, but my guess is that it is.

lindil 05-30-2002 09:06 AM

Child of the 7th Age posdted something re: therevision of galadriel that was ongoing past the lotR. CRRT says in UT that the conception of galadriel which you refered to, his father 'undoubtedly planned to incorporate in the Silmarillion' so this, I think a further aspect of Christianizing revisions. As is the very existence of the aforementioned Athrabeth Finrod he Andreth [ HoME 10].
As an aside in our project to revise the Silmarillion I previously held to the idea that all changes must coincide w/ the material published during JRRT's lifetime. just the otherday before reading this thread came to the conclusion that in fact small sections of the Hobbit, LotR, and the RGEO must also be changed to accomadate the true role of Galadriel. Of course by 'changed' I mean my own private canon, and maybe a few other crazy souls!


Child of the 7th Age 05-30-2002 04:39 PM

Lindil --

Thank you for your confirmation of the change in Galadriel as recorded by Tolkien in UT. After I read the article, I went back and looked at Unfinished Tales, the chapter on Galadriel and Celeborn. I've always felt she was a compelling figure, her ability to read minds (apparently including that of Sauron) and her gifts to the Fellowship (Lembas, the phial, etc.)

But I hadn't realized what an active role she had taken. UT seems to have a much more complete account of what Galadriel did to oppose the Shadow and reach out to different communities, at least in the earlier years of the third age (and the second, I believe).

Also, I'm reading Morgoth's Ring now and I came to Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth. I was really astonished by it. In some ways, this seems to be the most explictly Christian or Catholic or spiritual statement about Middle-earth that I have yet seen. It apparently was written in 1959. Certainly the conjecture about Eru coming into Arda to heal it is something I've never read in those books which are considered "canon".

It must be very dificult to decide what to do with pieces like these. Tolkien must have written them thinking that they would go into a revised Silm. Emotionally, I want them to be part of the book; it's as if he is saying things that I sensed might be there all along (perhaps wanted to be there?), but finally he got around to writing it out in concrete terms. I don't know if this makes any sense, but I'm really struck by his choice of language in this essay.

I'm also struck by the image of the wise woman Andreth. I had always felt that LotR would have benefitted from a human wise woman, especially as I've gotten old enough to fall into that category myself! All the significant women in LotR are of child-bearing age. So seeing her in this essay and hearing her earlier poignant history regarding the Elves is a treat.

Littlemanpoet -- The above ties in with your question to me. I had awkwardly put the question whether the Christianizing of the LotR was an accurate reflection of his process of writing, or whether it came up later in his mind because he "wanted it to be so."

LOL, Good for you. You always get me when I use imprecise language, and I use imprecise language because I'm groping around to come up with an idea.

What I really meant was this. After Tolkien wrote the LotR, completely finished it, he came forward with some things which appear to be much more explicitly Christian/Catholic than anything he'd said before. Two of these are listed above: the portrayal of Galadriel in UT written right before he died, and, in Morgoth's Ring, the essay referred to above(1959) which has some amazing things to say about Eru coming in to the world to heal it and what happens to men and Elves after death and at the end of Time. I'd put one other piece of writing in this category---Tolkien's notes in the Swan music book The Road Goes Ever On (1968). Again, this is seemingly more "religious", referring to some pieces and invocations as hymns and prayers (earlier in the Letters he'd clearly stated these weren't hymns or prayers), portraying how Varda stands on high and looks out over the world to view the affairs of Elves and Men, and a statement at the end of Elbereth's farewell to the Fellowship that the line "Come to Valinor" was explicitly addressed to Frodo. There may well be others in HoMe.

It's as if, after publishing the book,he wanted to make more explicit what had before been only foreshadowed. I didn't mean he'd tried to deceive us or himself, but he does seem to be inching towards a lot of proposed changes,

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

greyhavener 05-30-2002 08:44 PM

Evenstar1's analysis of Sam bears some thought. He is not your typical hero. He is a servant. Servanthood, along with taking up one's cross (or ring) and playing one's role in the fight against evil is a theme is both LOTR and Christianity. Sam is interesting because while he experiences a transformation in which he gains personal strength and leadership ability, he continues to think of himself as a servant. His servant's heart keeps him focused not on himself but on Frodo and Frodo's mission. In contrast, Merry and Pippin become servants in order to gain qualities Sam already possesses.

There is an amazing scene in which Sam, at a loss as to what he should do next and how he can help Frodo basically prays in Elvish, a tongue he does not speak which mirrors a version of intercessory prayer which is accepted in some Christian circles but not particularly within traditional Catholicism...that's kind of intriguing.

I think Tolkien's beliefs about the nature of a Supreme Being, how the universe works, powers arising from good and evil, and transformations in individuals arising from association with good and evil were so much a part of who he was that much of what he wrote emanated from who he was rather than from a deliberate attempt to Christianize his work. I think he incorporated elements from many cultures and myths that resonated truth to him. My conjecture is that perhaps his revisions were an attempt to make the universe he'd created more cohesive with what he invisioned would happen within the framework of what is true for Middle Earth. Not being an omnicient creator he probably needed at least one revision on creating a world.

As a Christian I've put in my two cents worth on the Tolkien and the Bible and origin of Sauron's evil threads so I won't repeat them here. I do think generally Christian and particularly Catholic elements exist in LOTR, but not exclusively.

Child of the 7th Age 05-31-2002 05:35 AM

Greyhavener --


In contrast, Merry and Pippin become servants to gain qualities Sam already possesses.
This is an interesting idea. I had always been aware of how Sam thought of himself as a servant and how important this was to many of the themes in the book--duty, obedience, etc. I'd just never thought of Merry and Pippin in this way, but you're definitely right.

I also noticed you are a librarian. So am I, or at least I was before I became a full-time mom.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ May 31, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

littlemanpoet 05-31-2002 08:18 AM

Child, and Lindil, your posts remind me of an assertion I've heard regarding Tolkien's later thinking, namely that in later life he ceased to subcreate based solely on language, doing so more out of philosophical (and perhaps theological) considerations; this change was believed to compromise Tolkien's efforts, setting him off on tangents that served only to send him into a quagmire of potential implications.

So here's my new question: should Tolkien's later thinking, after the publication of LotR, be taken as improvements and therefore as 'canon', or as philosophical niggling that serves only to confound and confuse what his characters and mythos were, as published? I grant that this question need not be dealt with as an either/or; in other words, which parts of Tolkien's later thinking do we do well to consider as improvements on his legendarium, and which should we set aside? And how do we know? Difficulty level 6 out of 5, eh? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

mark12_30 05-31-2002 08:28 AM


I don;t have the pertinent volumes of HoME, so I am not qualified to provide any answers: but here, a question.

In terms of Catholic mysticism and practice, what about the Lembas? I am certain that to Tolkien the Lembas represented the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. I also recall reading **somewhere**-- (sorry, scholars, I'll try to remember to look it up at home) that Tolkien was **always** punctual about going to confession on Saturday so that he could go to communion on Sunday.

The virtue of the Lembas, for instance, increased as one depended solely upon it. Theological implications abound...

What I have no idea about is whether this idea was developed over the revisions, or whether it appeared whole and entire as the story sprung into being. Can anybody who has HoME, shed some light on that?


greyhavener 06-03-2002 12:45 PM

Lembas actually reminded me of the manna provided by God to the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. I think because it was called "waybread" and "wayfarers" are wanderers, I thought of it as the food for wanderers like manna.

I hadn't considered the Eucharist. That's another interesting idea.

Child of the 7th Age 06-03-2002 01:41 PM

Regarding Lembas --

I certainly think you could look at the drafts in terms of Lembas to see when Tolkien put this idea in and how he developed it.

In Letter 210 Tolkien clearly says Lembas has a religious significance, although he does not define it. He also says it is a device for making credible the long marches with little provisions.

The latter might tie more into manna which helped Jews get across the desert. However, you were supposed to get manna every day from God, except on Friday when you collected a double portion to avoid work on Shabbat. Lembas comes from an immortal creature, but definitely not a god.

Lembas is said to have fed the will and given strength to endure which does sound more than a simple food substance. In Letter 213, Tolkien mentions that one reader views Lembas as a derivation from the Eucharist, but he neither agrees with or denies this connotation.

So I guess we can be fairly open ended and make our own individual decisions how we would view Lembas.

Littlemanpoet -- Did you get this idea from the beginning of Lost Tales? I think Christopher Tolkien said that later his father focused on theological and philosophical questions rather than on myth or poetry as he had initially done. Doesn't he call this trend "problematic"--perhaps CT saw it as problematic because it made his job as translator more difficult. It's possible that CT would view it as problematic, but not the rest of us who would enjoy the additional philosophical/theological comment.

This is just such a hard question. I'd have to be a whole lot more comfortable with HoMe to be able to answer this in a meaningful way.

Emotionally, I would have to say that I like some of Tolkien's later ideas--the essay in Morgath's Ring for example with Finrod, but don't like others such as remaking the flat world into a round one. But this is no way to set a standard for deciding what is "canon". I've never done much exploring in the Silm project on this site. Don't know if they get into any of that or not.

At this point, I would only say that we will never have Silm the way Tolken envisioned it because he left it finished half-way. Whether it's his son or some other editor, only part of Silm really belongs to JRRT. I wouldn't have any trouble with different editors adopting different standards for deciding what to put in their own version of Silm. as long as I knew right up front what criteria that individual had adopted to make the decisions.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ June 03, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

greyhavener 06-03-2002 03:35 PM

Sharon - I always appreciate what you have to say. Your library background further explains your attention to sources and respect for the author's intent.

I'm just now through the Sil. and have read a little of the HoME. Tolkien was an interesting guy. I've read a bit about the Inklings and C.S. Lewis but I'd like to find out more about Tolkien's later life from a more objective source than Christopher Tolkien. Have any of you read a good biographical work on Tolkien?

littlemanpoet 06-03-2002 04:03 PM

Humphrey Carpenter's authorized biography of Tolkien is, I believe, a fair and elegant treatment of JRRT's life. The same author wrote a "biography" of the Inklings. If you can get a copy (try your public library), it's well worth the read.

Child of the 7th Age 06-03-2002 06:49 PM

Greyhavener --

Yes, I've also enjoyed many of your posts. I totally agree with Littlemanpoet that Humphrey Carpenter is the place to start.

If you can't get that, try Michael White or Joseph Pearce. The latter does as much with the writings as on Tolkien's actual life. It's from a Christian/Catholic perspective.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit.

Genandra of Mirkwood 06-04-2002 04:35 PM

Hi all, great analysis here, which I unfortunately only have time to scan and thus just have a few disjointed comments on things I've read along the way. First, ultimate triumph of good- this is definitely assumed in Tolkien's work. Note that the passing of the elves was *sad* (as many transitions in life are) but not evil. There is a quote from the Sil which I do not have time to find, but it basically says about evil in humans, "even these will find that in the end their deeds resound to the glory of my works." Gandalf hints to Frodo that there is a providence shaping events which is much greater than Sauron. The implication is that, sooner or later, evil will go down. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Just as in Christian morality, that does not mean that actions and motives don't matter. A tremendous amount of genuine evil and suffering could have been avoided if Isildur had mastered his greed.

I do heartily reject the idea of LOTR as evangelistic allegory, mainly based on the fact that Tolkien did. It's possible that, as he said his works were not allegory but didn't rule out "applicability," that in later life he was exploring the very applicability of his own work. That doesn't mean that while writing them that he didn't allow himself to be consciously or unconsciously guided by his own devoutly held Christian beliefs. It should be remembered that Christians do not only hold Christian dogma to be helpful and inspiring but to be true, that is factually true. It only makes sense that a writer who is persuaded of this and trying to depict myth that is nonetheless true to life, would bring in many of his persuasions.

Tolkien asserted that all myth points to this truth about the world. I must quote an essay I found on the web, because it says it much better than I can summarize: "Tolkien explained to Lewis that myths are not the dream-wishes that lonely men project onto an empty universe to cheer themselves up. The great mythic repetitions of dying and rising gods, of heroes battling the forces of evil despite their own defeat, are signs of something transcendently significant. Our universal myth-making urge is an anthropological indication that we create because we have been created. We are thus re-enacting the most fundamental order of the cosmos, discerning the basic pattern of all things: life-through-death. However misguided pagan myths may sometimes be they point toward the Truth." ( Perhaps it's our modern orientation (disorientation?!) about the nature of truth vs. myth that makes it difficult for us to grasp Tolkien's approach.

Greyhavener: That hit me about Sam, too, and hobbits in general! "The last shall be first"...and it is precisely because hobbits are little, seemingly insignificant and disregarded, that they are able to play the role that they do. Would any two elves or humans have made it through the wilds of Mordor as they did? No way.

[ June 04, 2002: Message edited by: Genandra of Mirkwood ]

Evenstar1 06-04-2002 08:56 PM

I must confess that at times the depth of this conversation has escaped me! You are all extremely intelligent individuals!

That being said, I promised to weigh-in when I'd read more of Pierce's book: "Tolkien, Man and Myth." I'm about halfway through (I'm a slow reader) and I am now more completely in love with Middle Earth than I previously thought possible! You MUST read this book if you want to understand where JRRT was coming from, theologically (and otherwise)! It is truly fascinating!

First of all, as you may know, the Silmarillion was written first and...

...far from creating a new theology Tolkien merely adopted and adapted an old one to his own use. This Catholic theology, explicity present in "The Silmarillion" and implicitly present in "The Lord of the Rings," is omnipresent in both, breathing life into the tales as invisibly but as surely as oxygen. Whether Tolkien was consciously aware of this is another matter, but subconsciously he was so saturated with the Christian concept of reality that it permeates his myth profoundly. (p. 94)
Pierce goes on to heavily support all of his own words with quotes from direct conversations with Tolkien's friends, family, from other bios written on JRRT (including the aforementioned bio by Humphrey Carpenter), as well as direct quotes from Tolkien's own letters, written to his children. He equates the Sil to a re-writing of Genesis, as seen through the eyes of JRRT's own, deep, Catholic spirituality, coupled with an Augustinian philosophy. Yet he practically and brilliantly manages to accomodate different modern theories at the same time. (For instance, Tolkien did not find creationism and evolutionism to be mutually exclusive, so he had the Ainur unfold the landscape of time and then placed his "children" (Men and Elves) within that landscape.) The LOTR, however, is not so direct of a translation from the Bible. It is more of an offshoot of ideas that he'd germinated in the Sil. Some of what Pierce points out I had completely missed, probably because I, as a Catholic, am so "saturated" with it, myself! But did you know that:

The character of Elrond is (partly) based on Fr. Francis, the priest who helped to raise JRRT and his younger brother, Hilary, after their mother died?

Sam Gamgee "is indeed a reflexion (sic) of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself." (p. 40)

On the headstones of JRRT and his wife, Edith, are the names "Beren" and "Luthien!" (I just loved that!)

In any event, I am thoroughly enjoying reading this book, and look forward to next beginning the "Silmarillion!"

littlemanpoet 08-22-2002 07:37 AM

Just bringing this one back up for the sake of the current discussion started by Gorrothlamiel (sorry sp).

Estel the Descender 09-30-2002 03:04 AM

Actually sir, the Christians regard the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the eucatastrophe of the Christian story and not the Crucifixion. (Personally, I think that Jesus was trying to sing Psalm 22 but couldn't continue: that is why he said, "I could use a drink!" [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] )

As for the LotR eucatastrophe, don't you think that what Frodo went through was more like the Roman Catholic concept of martyrdom than that of the Crucifixion? like St. Francis of Assisi or, more recently, Padre Pio?

As for the generally Christian element in the LotR, what about the desire of the Elves to go to Faerie even though it would mean their death with the Christian statement, "To die is gain"?

[img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img] Just wondering. . .

Estel the Descender 12-01-2002 02:17 AM


The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like `religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien, Letter #142 </div>
I think the revision that Tolkien was referring to was the 1965 revision of the LotR:


But thanks to Donald Wolheim (then with Ace Books in the United States), in 1965 Tolkien had to recreate Middle-earth so that he could properly secure a copyright for it. Wolheim shrewdly guessed that the American university market was ripe for a mass market edition of The Lord of the Rings. So he took advantage of a loop-hole in copyright law to publish unauthorized editions of the book.

After the brouhaha had died down, we were left with the Third Edition of The Hobbit and the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings. In order to qualify for new copyright status, the books had to be substantively altered. Now, a copyright applies only to the expression of an idea, not to the idea of itself. But in literature the expression of an idea can be radically bumped from its normal course as a result of only a minor change in text.

So it was with Tolkien's work, and he did not confine himself to merely minor changes. The plot and characterizations remained the same. Tolkien tightened up the writing in a few places but he mostly altered the backdrop for the story, perhaps so as to preserve as much of the beloved tale as possible, but also (I think) to take advantage of the situation and correct a few flaws in the picture he had painted.
<div align=right>-- Michael Martinez, Middle-earth revised, again</div>
Furthermore, Tolkien wrote:


I am not relishing the task of 're-editing' The Lord of the Rings. I think it will prove very difficult if not impossible to make any substantial changes in the general text. Volume I has now been gone through and the number of necessary or desirable corrections is very small. I am bound to say that my admiration for the tightness of the author's [Tolkien was probably referring to Bilbo or Frodo] construction is somewhat increased. The poor fellow [again probably referring to Bilbo or Frodo](who now seems to me only a remote friend) must have put a lot of work into it. I am hoping that alteration of the introductions, considerable modifications of the appendices and the inclusion of an index may prove sufficient for the purpose....
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien to Rayner Unwin in May 1965, quoted by Michael Martinez, Middle-earth revised, again</div>
So what kind of revisions were there?


Although he did not find much to change in The Fellowship of the Ring, Christopher points out that his father "made substantial emendations to a passage in The Two Towers, [Book] III [Chapter] II 'The Palantir' ... and some others in the same connection in The Return of the King, V 7 'The Pyre of Denethor' ... though these emendations were not incorporated into the text until the second impression of the revised edition (1967)."
Since all my LotR editions are post-1967, I do not know what the changes were but could only speculate. I have read the original Riddles in the Dark where Bilbo won the Ring from Gollum. The first version seemed to show that magic can be used by mortals, but in Tolkien’s later conception magic should not be used by mortals.

This, I think, is what made the LotR consciously and unconsciously Christian and [Roman] Catholic. I mean the attitude towards magic:


I'm afraid I have been far too casual about `magic' and especially the use of the word; though Galadriel and others show by the criticism of the `mortal' use of the word, that the thought about it is not altogether casual. But it is a v. large question, and difficult; and a story which, as you so rightly say, is largely about motives (choice, temptations etc.) and the intentions for using whatever is found in the world, could hardly be burdened with a psuedo-philisophic disquisition! I do not intend to involve myself in any debate whether `magic' in any sense is real or really possible in the world. But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between `magia' and `goeteia'. Galadriel speaks of the `deceits of the Enemy'. Well, enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goeteia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose of use. Both sides use both, but with different motives. The supremely bad motive is domination of other `free wills'. The Enemy's operations are by no means all goetic deceits, but `magic' that produces real effects in the physical world. But his magia he uses to bulldoze both people and things, and his goeteia to terrify and subjugate. Their magia the Elves and Gandalf use (sparingly): a magia, producing real results (like fire in a wet faggot) for specific beneficent purposes. Their goetic effects are entirely artistic and not intended to deceive: they never deceive the Elves (but may deceive or bewilder unaware Men) since the difference is to them as clear as the difference to us between fiction, painting, and sculpture, and `life'.

Both sides live mainly by `ordinary' means. The Enemy, or those who have become like him, go in for `machinery' - with destructive and evil effects - because `magicians', who have become chiefly concerned to use magia for their own power, would do so (do do so). The basic motive for magia - quite apart from any philosophic consideration of how it would work - is immediacy: speed, reduction of labour, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap between the idea or desire and the result or effect. But the magia may not be easy to come by, and at any rate if you have command of abundant slave-labour or machinery (often only the same thing concealed), it may be as quick or quick enough to push mountains over, wreck forests, or build pyramids by such means. Of course another factor then comes in, a moral or pathological one: the tyrants lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such. It would no doubt be possible to defend poor Lotho's introduction of more efficient mills; but not of Sharkey and Sandyman's use of them.

Anyway, a difference in the use of `magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by `lore' or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed by Men as such. Aragorn's `healing' might be regarded as `magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and `hypnotic' processes. But it is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little notions of philosophy and science; while A.(ragorn) is not a pure `Man', but at long remove one of the `children of Luthien'.
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien, Letter #155 </div>

Anyway, all this stuff (It is, I suppose, fundamentally concerned with the problem of the relation of Art (and Sub-creation) and Primary Reality.) is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality, and the Machine. With Fall inevitably, and that motive occurs in several modes. With Mortality, especially as it affects art and the creative (or as I should say, sub-creative) desire which seems to have no biological function, and to be apart from the satisfactions of plain ordinary biological life, with which, in our world, it is indeed usually at strife. This desire is at once wedded to a passionate love of the real primary world, and hence filled with the sense of mortality, and yet unsatisfied by it. It has various opportunities of `Fall'. It may become possessive, clinging to the things made as `its own', the sub-creator wishes to be the Lord and God of his private creation. He will rebel against the laws of the Creator - especially against mortality. Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more quickly effective, - and so to the Machine (or Magic). By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents - or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of domination: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other will. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised.

I have not used `magic' consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves. I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion). But the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference. Their `magic' is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations; more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation. The `Elves' are `immortal', at least as far as this world goes: and hence are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death. The Enemy in successive forms is always `naturally' concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans- is a recurrent motive.

. . .

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. `change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance -this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor - thus approaching `magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. . .
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien, Letter #131 </div>
Compare the LotR’s use of magic (‘sparingly’) and that of Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons. Especially [now] in Harry Potter where the use of magic is excessive: magic chess, magic food, magic games, magic mail delivery, magic spectacle repair, magical everything. On a darker note, why does Hogwarts still have the House of Slytherin, even though it’s history is basically evil? And how can Hagrid remain good when he keeps evil creatures (like the spiders) that would happily devour the hero?

In The Hobbit Gandalf was unable to open the troll door using magic: he had to use a key found by Bilbo in order to open it. In Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf was unable to open the dwarf/elven door using a really impressive magical incantation: he had to use a simple elvish word which in no way was magical in itself (unless you are one of those people who hold the bond of friendship as sacred and absolute) in order to open it. Compare that to the ‘Magic solves everything’ philosophy in Harry Potter.

As I have written elsewhere, the history of the Third Age is about how the significance of magic is diminished. The destruction of the One Ring also destroyed the power of the three elven rings. After the High Elves left Elvish magic also decreased (except in Eryn Lasgalen, but then again Thranduil is Sindar).

[img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] Now one must not think of the LotR as a polemic against magic nor as an endorsement of it. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] Magic is natural for magical folk like elves and wizards (Maiar) but unnatural and improper and ‘dangerous’ and even ‘perilous’ for mere mortals. The knowledge of good and bad may be proper and natural to God but for mortals such as we with limited comprehension and with even more limited power to enforce goodness and prevent badness (even in the unfallen state of humanity) such knowledge would only result in ‘philosophical despair’. For once one has the knowledge of goodness, one would find the irresistable urge to fulfill all goodness. But humans can do only so much, but one with the power of God can do anything. The human with the knowledge but not the ability would desire the power of God, but this cannot be. Like Bilbo, you can stretch only so much of one’s natural power. For even if the early humans were allowed to eat the fruit of Life making them immortal and free from death as well as the fruit of Knowledge giving them the knowledge of God what would be lacking would be the Power of God. And this Power humanity cannot contain, probably comparable to sticking a 110 volt appliance to a kazillion volt outlet. The acquisition of such knowledge would only lead the human into envying and later resenting the ‘advantage of Power’ of God and the angels, much like the Numenoreans envying and later resenting the immortality of the Elves and the Valar.

Here we see another one of the unconscious Christian aspects in the mythos of Tolkien. As for the [Roman] Catholic aspects:


Or more important, I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories), and in fact a Roman Catholic. The latter `fact' perhaps cannot be deduced; though one critic (by letter) asserted that the invocations of Elbereth, and the character of Galadriel as directly described (or through the words of Gimli and Sam) were clearly related to Catholic devotion to Mary. Another saw in waybread (lembas)=viaticum and the reference to its feeding the will (vol. III, p. 213) and being more potent when fasting, a derivation from the Eucharist. (That is: far greater things may colour the mind in dealing with the lesser things of a fair-story.)
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien, Letter #213 </div>
The place of Varda, or Elbereth, does correspond closely to the place of the Virgin Mary in RC theology and affections. As a Protestant, I feel uncomfortable with this but I do not let it bother me much. Neither should non-Christians feel bad if they see Christians point out the Christian elements in the LotR. But since we are talking about Christianity anyway:


The contradiction itself has never really been resolved, except by flawed logical axioms (such as the ontological argument). . .

All of which leads me to argue that the attempt to identify (and perhaps emphasize) specifically Christian areas should be put (or kept) in perspective. Naturally the importance of Tolkien's own devout and traditional Catholicism should not be underestimated. Nor the evident morality of his works, which is at least consistent with traditional Christianity, if not uniquely so. But Tolkien himself said, and felt, that the myths he studied and loved in fact contained at heart some kind of timeless or essential 'truth', and did so in their own terms, without reference or dependence. And I believe it was this, more than anything, that Tolkien wished to re-create.

I could be wrong ... it could be argued that the works as a whole were explicitly Christian apologia and that the various characters and narrative elements were in the service of an evangelical mission. Yet many declared Christians distance themselves violently from Tolkien's work for a range of reasons. There is clearly a significant level of ambiguity and room for interpretation here.
<div align=right>-- Kalessin</div>

It could be, but the argument is quite refutable.
<div align=right>-- littlemanpoet</div>
Indeed. The LotR cannot be used as a Christian tome even though it has Christian elements in it. As for the ‘ontological proof’


It has been said that there have been three to five arguments in favor of God’s existence: the cosmological argument: the effect of the universe's existence must have a suitable cause; the teleological argument: the design of the universe implies a purpose or direction behind it; the rational argument: the operation of the universe, according to order and natural law, implies a mind behind it; the ontological argument: man's ideas of God (his God-consciousness) implies a God who imprinted such a consciousness; the moral argument: man's built-in sense of right and wrong can be accounted for only by an innate awareness of a code of law--an awareness implanted by a higher being. The moral and the teleological arguments are seen as actually one argument, the argument of design, while the ontological and rational arguments are seen as complementary. Thus, strictly speaking, there are only three arguments: the cosmologica argument, the moral/teleologicalargument, and the rational/ontologicalargument.
The ontological proof is a flawed logical axiom only to those who hold a philosophy which is more or less Aristotelian (like St. Thomas Aquinas) but valid to Platonists (like Anselm or Descartes). The debate regarding this ‘proof’ is still ongoing. The proofs stated above are in the category of natural theology:


It [Middle-earth] is a monotheistic world of `natural theology'. The odd fact that there are no churches, temples, or religious rites and ceremonies, is simply part of the historical climate depicted. It will be sufficiently explained, if (as now seems likely) the Silmarillion and other legends of the First and Second Ages are published. I am in any case myself a Christian; but the `Third Age' was not a Christian world.
<div align=right>-- JRR Tolkien, Letter #165 </div>
If Tolkien was consistent as a [R] Catholic I guess he would have favoured the natural theology of St. Aquinas rather than that of Anselm, meaning that he would have espoused the cosmologica argument rather than the rational/ontologicalargument in the natural theology of Middle-earth. But then again, “the `Third Age' was not a Christian world.”

Anyway, the martyrdom thing: the Roman Catholic concept of martyrdom (and all suffering for that matter) was purgative, purifying the soul. Martyrdom was seen as a sort of Baptism. Hence, the good thief who died with Christ, although he did not resurrect like Christ, was made worthy of Paradise because he underwent 'the Baptism of Martyrdom'. Yeah, he was assured that he would see Christ, but the emphasis in RC theology was on the suffering.

In retrospect, Frodo's experience could be described as his descent into purgatory. Because of his suffering, his reward would be to go to the 'Blessed Realm'. I'm sure some of you have read Tolkien's A Leaf by Niggle. The 'journey' described there was actually a symbol for death. It seems that for elves, the journey to Eressea also amounted to that. When Galadriel sent through Gandalf a message to Legolas


If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.

When Gimli complained about his not receiving any word from Galadriel, Legolas said,


What then. . . Would you have her speak openly to you about your death?
Here, the prophesy that Legolas would go over the sea was taken by him (and evidently by all elves) as 'death'.

Going back to Frodo, his going to Eressea should be taken as his death. RC pattern of martyrdom: purifying suffering, glorious death, and then a well earned rest. The Protestant emphasis on 'seeing Christ' is not really there, unless one would count the prospect of healing as a sort of salvation. Eressea is Paradise in that world.

As such, the point in RC martyrdom is usually the 'purifying' and perfecting aspect as opposed to the Protestant 'personal relationship with Jesus' thing. This is not to say that modern Catholicism and Protestantism do not share concepts today, especially in the light of modern Ecumenism. But it must be remembered that Tolkien wrote his books before the openness of the Vatican Council II.

That Frodo not only suffered but also lost his finger, that Beren lost his hand, that despite the apparent failure of St. Louis in the 7th and 8th Crusades, that Joan d'Arc was condemned as a heretic and was burned, that all these guys suffered greatly with no hope of recompense, for the Roman Catholic shows the purity of their intentions, making them worthy of veneration.

Notice also that when Legolas finally felt the call to the sea, he seemed to be happy about it. He thought it to be a definite bonus that he was 'dying'. Hence the similarity with the Christian maxim 'To Die is Gain', 'Whoever loses one's life will find it'. Not only is there a lack of despair but an actual longing for this 'death'.


In Eressea, in Elvenhome that no man can discover
Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!

Traditional Christianity has thought that Christians are not of this world. Neither do elves think that ME would be their real home. The elves trek to Avalon is comparable to Bunyan's and Lewis' pilgrims' trek to the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, this is unlike Liberation Theology's concept of establishing The Kingdom of God here on Terra. Had Tolkien been a Liberation theologian he probably would have had the elves remain in ME and re-establish their kingdoms there, especially in Lorien.

Uh-oh! [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] I wrote too much in one sitting, again! To wrap up:

1. RC martyrdom as a purifying experience. The suffering thing is seen as a triumph in itself, regardless of the reward.
2. Death as a good thing, not in itself but as a means for something better, a means for going home.


Where do you see the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil in LotR? The word ultimate is the sticking point for me. "Good" for humans and hobbits means the "Evil" of the death of good things for Elves.
<div align=right>-- littlemanpoet</div>
If by the death of good things in ME one means the fading of Lorien, one must realise that Lothlorien was in a sense merely a copy of the 'real' Lorien in Valinor. Now that the Elves are going back to Eldamar, of what further use is the ME Lorien? But isn’t this a Platonic concept (espoused by the late C.S. Lewis in his The Last Battle)?

[img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] I hope there isn’t a rule against making such long and boring posts!

[img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] Hennaid evyr a sîdh!

[ December 01, 2002: Message edited by: Estel the Descender ]

Child of the 7th Age 12-01-2002 03:16 PM


You have said many interesting and valuable things.

There are, however, some problems that I see. The main one is this: the first letter, the one where Tolkien mentions the explicitly Christian revisions, came in Letter 142 to Father Murray that was written on December 2, 1953. Therefore, it could not possibly refer to the later revisions of 1965. The Christian revisions he was thinking of had to come before the end of '53.

Secondly, I feel there are times when you push your analogies too far. Let me take one example...your equation of Elvenhome with the kingdom of heaven, and the implication that Frodo's departure is equivalent to RC concepts of death and the rest and reward that follows:


Traditional Christianity has thought that Christians are not of this world. Neither do elves think that ME would be their real home. The elves trek to Avalon is comparable to Bunyan's and Lewis' pilgrims' trek to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Going back to Frodo, his going to Eressea should be taken as his death. RC pattern of martyrdom: purifying suffering, glorious death, and then a well earned rest.
I don't think that Tolkien had primarily Christian or RC concepts in mind when he 'invented' Elvenhome, or allowed Frodo to go there as a reward. Rather, Elvenhome sprang from his knowledge of ancient Celtic and Nordic texts. It was a close relative of Avalon, the place where King Arthur sailed after he was wounded. Like Elvenhome, Avalon lay far West of Arthur's England and could only be reached by ship. It was not, at least in origin, a Christian paradigm. Tolkien clearly saw a tie between Avalon and Elvenhome, since at one point he even took the name "Avalon" as the main city in the West. See The Book of Lost Tales for this.

But JRRT was aware that Elvenhome had even more ancient roots than Avalon. The idea of a magical realm lying in the West to which the Elves sail springs not from the Bible. Rather, it is from Celtic mythology and is associated with a mysterious, magical people called the Tuatha De Dannon.

Many agree that the Irish Tuatha de Dannon are the closest model for Tolkien's Elves. They are tall and majestic and have knowledge of many arts. As mortal men migrated to Ireland, the Tuatha were said to have withdrawn and sailed west to timeless immortal lands across the Sea. The human race is shown staying behind and inheriting a mortal, diminished world trapped in time.

Like Tolkien's Elves, there were remnents of the Tuatha who chose not to sail. They remained behind and hid themselves in sacred mounds, becoming 'diminished'--again much as Tolkien suggests. These images are close to the hidden valley of Rivendell or the enchanted woods of Lothlorien. Similarly, both the Tuatha and Tolkien's Elves are more concerned with their own affairs and history than with those of mortals. It seems clear that Elvenhome owes far more to these mythic roots than to Christian concepts of the afterlife or Kingdom of heaven.

There is one more point to support this in terms of Frodo. In letter 246, Tolkien says the place where Frodo is going is "Arda Unmarred, the Earth unspoiled by evil." Note that it is beautiful and purified, but it is still earth. This is not the Kingdom of Heaven, the analogy you mention in your post.

Also note that Tolkien was uncertain whether Frodo could be healed in the West:


Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him--if that could be done, before he died.
According to this quote, Frodo's healing is not certain in this life. Surely, it would have been certain if Elvenhome was a kind of heaven. T.A. Shippey has even argued that Tolkien had conflicting feelings about the ultimate fate of his own characters because they were not explicitly Christian, but pre-Christian. While I do not wholly agree with Shippey, his argument further weakens the Kingdom of Heaven analogy.

If there was any meeting of mortals with Eru within Tolkien's imagination, it would have to be in the circles beyond this world, or at the end of time. Frodo's trip to Elvenhome was wonderful and magical and full of rest, but it was not his final destination. Death, by his own choosing, would have to come next.

It was only in the debate of Andreth and Finrod written near the very end of Tolkien's life (See Morgoth's Ring) that we find a more detailed discourse on Eru and the ultimate destiny of Man and Elves. None of this, however, is related to the context of Elvenhome.

Therefore, with all due respect, I feel JRRT's images of Elvenhome owe more to ancient myth and to general human themes of rest and reward than to any explicitly Christian portrayal of the Kingdom of Heaven. The latter does appear quite clearly in Bunyan and Lewis, but not Tolkien. JRRT is very different from Lewis or Bunyan!

I think the challenge in reading Tolkien is to be careful not to reduce him to a single dimension, whether that be Christian or any other. He is just too complex for that.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ December 01, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

Kalessin 12-03-2002 08:32 AM

Estel, Sharon

It is something of the ambiguity and universality of Tolkien's work that it lends itself so readily to the supposition of, if not allegory, a 'weighted' symbolism - and equally to the refutation by reference to any of the vast array and diversity of arguably symbolic elements it contains, and indeed the eclectic inspirations cited by the author.

At the risk of repeating myself (this thread repeatedly intertwines with Trilogy and Bible [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]), this aspect of narrative or symbolic archetype, upon which it is possible to project both a personal and particular cultural interpretation, is surely also an essence of myth - timeless embodiments that resonate within collective memory and understanding, and which we can intuitively accept and empathise with.

In a sense, Tolkien could have been said to have succeeded in creating a 'true myth'.

On the other hand, we have not only Estel's arguments but the comments of Tolkien himself - it is impossible to refute that to some degree, in conception and revision, he consciously applied a sensibility and perhaps more that was a reflection of his own faith. The fact that so much of this could equally be a reflection of other faiths, or indeed secular humanism in some instances, does not diminish this.

However (and I have had fairly bruising arguments about this before here), my contention is that this conscious and unconscious reflection of faith is NOT central to each reader's experience of the work. The implications behind my contention are -

1. A devoutly Christian (or RC) reader does not stand to get more from the work, or to be somehow closer to it, or understand it more fully, or appreciate it more deeply, simply because Tolkien was a Christian and the work to some degree reflects his sensibilities. The Kabbalah, or the Gospels, and so on, are explicitly faith-centred narratives, yet even they are subject to the reader, regardless of that readers' culture or belief. Only "he who has ears" will hear, belonging to one club or other makes no difference.

2. Projecting the assumed persona of the author onto all aspects of one's experience of the work is a diminishing of art, and the uniqueness of the creative act. It means the experience is fettered by all those considerations that affect our dealings with people we think we know, and worse, that the reader imprisons his/her own imagination within 'received wisdom'. Tolkien himself clearly said that these were stories, and could (and should) be taken as just as little or as much as that.

In the end, none of us can have it all our own way. An atheist cannot say that LotR is not a spiritual book, but that need not affect his/her experience. A Christian cannot say that Tolkien belongs to or arises from Christianity alone, but can still experience the book as a Christian reader with all the resonance they can perceive. An aesthetic purist (or something [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img], just go with me here) cannot say that the work is not suffused with the author's own psyche, but their reading of it can still be a unique, personal and unfettered experience.

And I - well, I can't say Sharon is wrong, but I also agree with Estel. And rather than admit I'm just a serial ditherer, I would come back to the universality and ambiguity that in some ways are - whether consciously and unconsciously - one aspect of Tolkien's great achievement.

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


[ December 03, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]

Kalessin 12-03-2002 06:13 PM

Estel, just a small point, but you know how easily I am diverted by philosophical puzzles [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] ...


It has been said that there have been three to five arguments in favor of God’s existence ... (including the ontological argument: man's ideas of God (his God-consciousness) implies a God who imprinted such a consciousness ... The ontological proof is a flawed logical axiom only to those who hold a philosophy which is more or less Aristotelian (like St. Thomas Aquinas) but valid to Platonists (like Anselm or Descartes). The debate regarding this ‘proof’ is still ongoing.
I can't help feeling that the classic ontological argument framed initially, I believe, by Anselm, is logically flawed, involving as it does a kind of circular trick of language. As a component of the design argument, in the sense that the formation of any 'infinity' concept implies a consciousness (or reality) formed or informed by the divine, I agree it can be seen as complementary.

Both the Platonic Theory of Forms and the Cartesian circle have been hugely influential on Christianity and western culture, yet I do not think they form an (unintentional) trilogy with the ontological argument, since they represent a process of rigourous philosophical enquiry, rather than the 'fait-accompli' of Anselm. And Plato takes you more to a realm of absolute truth (or essence) than something necessarily mystical or divine.

I am just going to insert the word "Tolkien" here, for obvious reasons [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]. My previous post is more relevant!

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


Man-of-the-Wold 12-05-2002 10:49 PM

Lot of deep stuff here, and I will keep a look out for this, as I get to HoME VII, VIII & IX, but one thing that I've often thought about are the echoes of the seven sacraments, to name actually only a some examples:

Baptism: Crossing Bruinen, Galadriel's Mirror (w/Frodo as Prebyster), Sam's falling into Nen Hithoel, Ent-Draught, and the entire Henneth Annun lead-up and scene.

Matrimony: Aragorn/Arwen obviously

Reconciliation: Boromir's Death, Gollum's First Encounter with Frodo, Faramir & Frodo; Faramir's Encounter with Eowyn; Aragorn's Leading of the Dead

Annointment of the Sick: Boromir's Death, Path's of the Dead, Healing of Theoden, Healing of Frodo by Elrond, Aragorn's Healing of those stricken with the Black Death

Confirmation: Gildor's Naming Frodo Elf-Friend (and/or subsequent stuff with Tom for the others); Gift Giving in Lorien, especially the Phial of Galadriel; Reforging of Narsil; Gandalf's Giving of the Palantir to Aragorn; Merry and Pippen receiving the Colors of Rohan and Gondor.

Eucharist: Lembas (as noted above); or how about Mirovir; Various meals perhaps with Tom, at Elrond's, or Henneth Annun in particular, but I would also consider the planting of the Mallorn in the Shire to be analogous.

Holy Orders: Gandalf's elevation after the Battle of the Peak; Bilbo's, Frodo's and Sam's Ordeals of Ring-Bearing and Ringbearer-Bearing; Aragorn's coronation.

Estelyn Telcontar 03-21-2003 07:43 AM

I was reminded of this thread while reading yesterday; I am slowly working my way through Joseph Pearce’s Tolkien, A Celebration and reached the chapter ‘The Lords of the Rings – A Catholic View’ by Charles A. Coulombe. I found it very interesting to read about the specifically Catholic cultural point of view; though I am familiar with the basic differences between the Christian faiths, as an evangelical Protestant, I do not really understand their significance adequately.

I went through the trouble of rereading this thread (I had to, since I am always deploring those “I can’t be bothered to read what the others have written” posts! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ), so my post will be much shorter than I thought – much has already been said. The major point that the author makes is:

…the uniquely Catholic world-view…is a sacramental one. At the heart of all Catholic life is a miracle, a mystery, the Blessed Sacrament.
The connection to lembas has already been drawn in one of the above posts.

Even more so than Galadriel, Elbereth is compared to Mary, who is often referred to as ‘Queen of heaven’. Another comparison the author makes is one I have not heard before: Gandalf is compared to the Pope!

Gandalf, indeed, partakes of much of the nature of the Papacy. He belongs to no one nation, and in a very real sense he is leader of all the free and faithful. This is so because his power is magical rather than temporal.
There is more about the form of society and the relationship between church and state; I recommend reading it. I would like to mention one last aspect that fascinated me – the comparison between Tolkien’s ‘magic’ and the sacraments.

One may go so far as to say that the effect of magic, wielded for good, is in The Lord of the Rings the same as that of the Sacraments upon the life of the devout Catholic. Protection, nourishment, knowledge, all are held to flow in supernatural abundance from them. In a word, as the Sacraments are the means of Grace in the Catholic world, magic – wielded by the wise – is the means of Grace in Middle-earth.
These points to not answer the original question of this thread (Which revisions were made to be more Christian/Catholic?), yet it makes some of the specifically Catholic standpoints clearer to us, so that we can search for those changes.

davem 03-22-2003 03:49 AM

I think the danger in this approach is that you project too much on to the books. Try a different approach - 'How 'Pagan' is LotR?'
Take Mithraism, an originally Persian religion which was taken up in the pre-Christain Roman period.
Mithras was born in a cave, surrounded by shepherds, on the winter soltice (Dec 25th). He held a 'Last Supper'. Some ancient sources say he died by crucifixion, & rose 3 days later, & will come back as a judge at the end of time, & lead his followers to heaven. One of the Mithraic texts quotes him as saying

" He who will not eat of my body & drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me & I with him, the same shall not know salvation"
-quoted in 'Mystery Religions of the Ancient World' by J Godwin.

In other words, very little in LotR (or indeed, in Christianity itself) can be claimed to be 'uniquely' Christian. Like Lorien, what you find there is usually what you bring there with you.

littlemanpoet 04-03-2003 11:29 AM

Estel's assertion that Tolkien was referring to Bilbo or Frodo when writing about "the author of The Lord of the Rings" is not necessarily so. I remember having read Carpenter's biography, and also the Letters many years ago, and it was my distinct impression that Tolkien was, in the 60s and later, referring to the person he had been when he wrote LotR. Hence, he spoke of '30s-'40s Tolkien in the third person. Thus, we're not talking about feigned history, but about Tolkien's later thoughts about his own creative process and self 20 and more years previously.

One Axe to Rule them All 04-03-2003 02:01 PM

The one that really got me was gandalf's long falling struggle with the balrog, representing our struggle with sin, followed by gandalf's resurrection as Gandalf the white, (our spiritual rebirth after we accept jesus) and he was white and pure once again.

mark12_30 04-03-2003 02:52 PM

Man-of-the-Wold, that was a fascinating list. It is intriguing to consider the sacramental side; the "prophetic", revelatory side gets much more press, but I suspect to Tolkien the sacraments would be at least of equal importance.

There is also the potential connection of eucharist with euchatastrophe, revelation. And revelation in all its other forms (are they truly "other", or is all true revelation, eucatastrophic? Perhaps I overgeneralize Tolkien's "Sudden Happy Turn" from dyscatastrophe.) Somehow to me the threads of revelation, euchatastrophe, and sacrament, connect in a woven fabric. Perhaps sacraments are the warp and revelation the woof.

I'm curious why you equate the Mallorn with the eucharist. To me. oddly enough, it relates more to Gondor's One White Tree (perhaps its solitude and being rooted, as it were, in foreign soil.) Being in my mind related more to Gondor's White Tree, therefore I relate it back to The Two Trees of Valinor, which remind me of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. Those trees speak of Mercy and Law, I think, or of Grace and Truth.

Please do explain the eucharistic connection you make with Sam's mallorn.

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