Though I started my journey into the world of Tolkien as brought to life by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh late in the game (2016), I am now obsessed. In this article, I will expound on a few of the reasons why.Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CHARITY BISHOP
One of the most fascinating races in Middle-earth are the Elves. They’re Tolkien’s favorite, and he spent many years creating their culture, history, and languages. His love of the Elves speaks of his deeper love for Creation and God. By creating myth in Middle-earth, he borrowed from and honored his faith. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CHARITY BISHOP
Tolkien fills his stories with elements of Christian theology and symbolism, particularly when it comes to his many Christ-figures. These include Frodo (the “Suffering” Christ, bearing a burden of Sin to its destruction), Gandalf (the wizard who is more than he appears, and after sacrificing his life for others, comes back “glorified”), Arwen (who intercedes for and sacrifices her mortal life for those she loves), and even Sam (as the eternal helper and servant). But never is the Christian theology more clearly expressed than in the story of Aragorn as it unfolds in The Lord of the Rings. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY HANNAH PRICE
There are many tragic characters in the Lord of the Rings, but arguably none quite as tragic as Gollum. This abused, twisted character is fascinating to study because he’s so complex. There are two sides to his personality and the constant internal war he endures makes him unique. His story begins and ends tragically as Gollum treads the path of self-serving evil, and as Galadriel says in the prologue for the Fellowship of the Ring, “the power of the One Ring cannot be undone.” Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CAITLIN HORTON
Magic is one of the major themes in Middle Earth, if not the major theme. Tolkien created a world that defies imagination with characters almost too numerous to count and rich in their varying personalities. Some of them, the best and most unique, are nearly always forgotten from screen and radio drama adaptations. Beorn, the shape-shifter who is both man and bear, appears as a hero in The Hobbit. Radagast the Brown is a wizard kinsman to Gandalf who forgot his calling and can never leave Middle Earth. And finally there’s the cheery, enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who can put the Ring on his finger and not vanish. These are men of magic and of ancient wisdom and Tolkien’s finest creations. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CHRISTY McDOUGALL
In our modern myths and fairy tales our heroes are larger than life. They’re fabulously strong or wealthy or intelligent or brave. In Marvel’s Captain America, Steve Rogers is a plucky but ultimately ignorable little guy; it’s not until he’s turned into a near-immortal near-giant that he’s worth writing a story about. Iron Man is fabulously wealthy and has a suit that makes him nearly invincible. Super-genius Bruce Banner is uninteresting until he becomes the indestructible, destructive Hulk. We want to see power in our heroes.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote an English myth about something a little closer to what Christians know as reality. He wrote about the upside-down logic of a great and desperate task achievable only by the smallest, weakest, and humblest of characters. We find this logic hard to understand, but it’s made clear in the writings of Paul the Apostle and illustrated beautifully by Tolkien in The Lord Of The Rings. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CARISSA HORTON
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit… and that’s where the story of Middle Earth truly begins. Not with wizards and elves and mighty dwarves and a certain Ring of Power, but with a lowly hobbit. One who’d prefer to stay safely indoors, eating seed cakes, and well out of the way of trouble. This isn’t Frodo Baggins, the unlikely hero of The Lord of the Rings. Rather, this is his uncle, ages before he threw the party for his one-hundredth-and-eleventh birthday and then vanished in a puff of smoke. Yes, Bilbo Baggins is his name. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2012: BY CAROL STARKEY
I first read The Hobbit when I was ten and The Lord of the Rings a few years later. I think reading those books at such a young age cemented in my head what a wizard should be. Wise. Strong. Discerning. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve seen more and more that Gandalf presents a fairly accurate picture of Christ. Continue reading
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. ■