I was sixteen when the first Lord of the Rings movie hit theaters. I knew nothing about it, but a friend invited me to attend an opening day showing with him at the biggest screen in the state, so I went, without expectations or knowing what would unfold. That three hour experience changed my world forever. I saw an epic battle for good and evil unfold on the screen. I met unforgettable characters. I saw deep religious symbolism throughout. And I ran home to read the books, just to find out what happened rather than wait a year between installments.
The franchise gave me my best friend. We met online as we co-moderated a Christian Ringer community, stemming from a website I used to host about the Catholic and Christian symbolism in the story. It gave me three years of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and Men. It made a full-blown fantasy fan out of me, and made me realize that God reveals Himself in unexpected ways. I discovered the film series is even more blatantly allegorical than the books. Given that Tolkien was a believer and Peter Jackson isn’t, that intrigued me. How could such a thing be possible?
It’s because Tolkien opened the door with his symbolism, and when the movies settled in, God sat down in the midst of it and said, “I’m here… look for me.” To some of you, this concept may seem foreign. How can religion be in a series about wizards and all kinds of ethereal creatures? He is in the subtext. In the characters. In their actions. In their words. It’s more than Gandalf’s death and resurrection into a glorified being, or Aragorn fighting a final battle and claiming his throne. It’s more than Frodo bearing a great burden of sin to its demise, or Bilbo having a willing heart. It’s about how an author set out to write a story, and his faith was so great that it came out in his tales.
Many of the articles in this issue reference that. It may prompt you to become more familiar with these events and figures, or it may open your eyes to things you missed in the past. But whatever your stance, wherever you are in your walk through life, know that everyone who contributed to this issue has one thing in common: we all admire, respect, and love Middle-earth very much. Without it, we would have no Gandalf, no Bilbo, no Frodo, no Sam, no Aragorn. Tolkien had a brilliant mind that served him well… and without his friendship, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of our age, C.S. Lewis, might have remained contemplating “riddles in the dark,” rather than finding the truth.
Thank you, “Tollers,” for everything. ■