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Old 12-01-2002, 02:17 AM   #29
Estel the Descender
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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 ]
Qui desiderat pacem, præparet bellum.
E i anîra hîdh, tangado an auth.
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