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Old 07-05-2016, 09:07 AM   #83
Formendacil
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Silmaril

Having a day off post-Mooting has given me a deep dive into the Archives for interesting material, which is now coupled with a wake from my normal Huorn state into posting.

Rereading this thread, it occurs to me that while I answered the black and white question of which religious confession I call home, I did not really delve into the implicit question of "how does your faith (or lack thereof) affect your reading of Tolkien, or vice versa?"

Perhaps that's just as well--ten years ago I would have been even wordier than I am now, and I think my answer has probably changed. The black and white question hasn't: I remain a practicing, believing Roman Catholic; but I have grown a little bit in the intervening decade, both as a Catholic and as a Tolkien fan.

Ten years ago, although I was happy to note that I shared Tolkien's faith, I was actually rather bristly towards most arguments that tried to read anything religious into his work, a stance drawn largely from Tolkien's own cordial dislike of allegory. I started reading Tolkien when I was ten or eleven and I was neck-deep in fascination with his world before I discovered he was a Catholic and while I did eventually discover the Letters and was happy to discover he had been a Catholic too, I did not really change in my conviction that this had no implicit bearing on anything in his fiction. I was, after all, also discovering "On Fairy-stories" about that time, and my summation then of my response to Tolkien would have been to disavow anything overtly Catholic in Middle-earth as attempting to force upon the text an interpretation that did not allow the art of storytelling to be supreme.

To an extent, I still feel that way, though I might highlight the connection between good storytelling and my faith a bit more strongly. As I see it, the best storytelling has the quality of Truth to it, so what allows the story to excel as a story will make it more congruent with Truth itself, which as a believer of course means my faith. In the precise case of Tolkien, this is an easy transition to make, since his own worldview and thus his own tastes in storytelling, were formed and fed by his Catholicism.

Beyond that, in the last decade I have left seminary and the deliberate path of a life in the Church and gone on to a secular career. Tolkien has remained a major influence on my creative thought and has become even more of a rolemodel (or warning) of how to live as a practicing Catholic in a non-Catholic context. In some respects, he has been a model that has encouraged me to be a Catholic amongst non-Catholics rather than seeking to be within the company of other Catholics.

His works too, mainly The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are read a little differently these days. They are well-worn pieces of mental furniture to me. Coupled with the breadth of their content and their beauty, this has made them a solace to me in hard times, not entirely unlike the Bible. Which is not to say that I think of them as Divinely Inspired, but I do incline--more than I used to--to see them as the products of a Catholic mind and thus to find the struggles within them as reflections by a mind with similar faith working through the great issues of life.
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