J.R.R TOLKIEN A BIOGRAPHY OF THE CREATOR OF MIDDLE EARTH
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born to Arthur Tolkien, who was of German ancestry and third generation English and English woman, Mabel Suffeld on the night of Jan 3 1892. Arthur and Mabel had been married on April 16, 1891. Tolkien would later say, “I am in fact far more a Suffeld than a Tolkien and English than German.”
As a baby in South Africa, Tolkien was once stolen by a black boy named Issac. The boy stole him so he could show off with pride a white baby to his village. He was also once bitten by a tarantula; luckily a nurse grabbed him and sucked out the poison, saving his life. [he would later say that this did not have any effect on how spiders are viewed in the Hobbit or LOTR]. In the spring of 1895, his mother,Mabel, took him and his brother back to England, leaving his father for some time in South Africa to visit family. Soon after, in February of 1896, Tolkien’s father, Arthur, dies. Mabel then returns for good to England with Tolkien and his younger brother Hilary. After living for a short time in Birmingham, they move south and rent a cottage in the town of Sarehole mill. Tolkien was raised in poverty.
In 1900, Mabel converted from Anglican to Catholic and they moved in to the city. Tolkien and his brother then attend King Edwards School. When his mother joined the Catholic Church, their extended family was resentful and most cut off all their funds and support. Most of their family had been Baptist/Anglican and Unitarian. Tolkien’s fathers had been an Anglican and his father’s side of family was mostly Baptist. At age 10, Tolkien attended St. Phillips School[catholic] where Father Francis Xavier Morgan had a big influence onhis life. He [Father Francis] smoked a large cherry wood pipe,Tolkien stated that “my own later addiction to the pipe derived from this.” In 1904, Mabel is found to have diabetes and dies in November, at the age of 34. Before his mother’s death, she gave Father Francis guardianship of her sons. By 1908, the boys move to Mrs. Faulkner’s house on duchess road. This is where Tolkien met Edith Bratt, his future wife. Edith was an Anglican and conservative, actively attending party meetings.
Tolkien’s first diary entry of the new year read, “god help me, feel weak and weary, New Years Day, 1910.” Later, in 1911, while at King Edwards School in Birmingham, Tolkien, Rob Golson, Geoffery Smith and Christopher Weisman formed TCBS “Tea Club and Barrovian Society.” TCBS was designed to testify for god and truth. Tolkien’s best friend Chris Wiseman said regarding Tolkien, “he was by nature cheerful...with a great zeal for life.” Wiseman, a staunch Methodist, said they would argue religion without bitterness. Tolkien excelled with languages and words. He studied and learned many languages while at King Edwards. These included German, French,Greek, Latin, Anglo Saxson, Middle English, Spanish, Welsh, and Gothic. He even started to invent his own language by the age of 16. Later in his life, he would also learn more languages as well as inventing his own. A lover of words and languages, Tolkien once said, “as if something had stirred me, half awakened from sleep,there was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind these words.”
Tolkien attended oxford in 1911 where he played rugby. He also joined the collage essay club and dialectical society. He took part in the debating society and started his own club, “Those devoted to selfindulgence.” During this time, there were papers, discussions,debates, dinners, and plenty of tobacco. Tolkien was viewed as being very humble, having a good sense of humor and easily making friends. He would often pull pranks in school and was a bit of a troublemaker. He once dressed as an anglo-saxson warrior, complete with axe, and chased astonished neighbors down the road.
After converting to Catholicism, Edith Bratt was married to Tolkien by Father Murphy on Wednesday March 22, 1916. Shortly after being married, Tolkien was sent to war in 1916. In France, the terrors of trench warfare hit Tolkien hard. Many of his friends lost their lives during the war. Tolkien contracted “Trench fever” and was sent to the hospital on Friday October 27th. The fever did not relent and he was sent to England on November 8th. While in hospital, Tolkien started his epic and writings/stories that would make up the Silmarillion. While on sick leave in Birmingham, Edith became pregnant. She gave birth to a son on November 16, 1917. During this time, Tolkien had been discharged from hospital and was residing at the military camp. Because of this, he could not be there to see his newborn son and wife until almost a week after he was born. The child was named John Francis Reul Tolkien, in honor of father Francis Morgan, who came from Birmingham to baptize the baby. After being promoted to full lieutenant, he was not sent back oversees. When on leave, at home with Edith, he would work near growth of hemlock. This location was used in the story in the Silmarillion, the tale of a mortal man,Beren, who loves an immortal elf, Luthien Tinuviel, who is dancing among hemlock in the woods.
In November of 1918, Tolkien and his family moved to Oxford and received a job working on the new English dictionary. During this time heal so taught Anglo Saxon. He later became a professor at age 32 at Leeds University. He was the youngest professor as reader of English language at the university. He and Edith went on to have three morechildren; two sons, Micheal Hilary Reuel and Christopher Reuel, and a daughter, Priscilla Mary Reuel. His son Micheal won a medal in WW2 as anti aircraft gunner. His other son, John, became an ordained priest in Catholic Church. In 1925, a professorship at Oxford of anglo-saxson opened; Tolkien applied and got the position. A professorship at Oxford required 36 lectures or classes a year.Tolkien felt that was too few. During his second year he did 136. Teacher Jim Stewart said this of Tolkien, “he could turn a lecture into a mead hall in which he was the bard and we were the feasting listening guests.” By adulthood, Tolkien was well versed in many languages, these include: Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian,Spanish, Old and Middle English, Finnish, Gothic, Old Norse, Modern and Medieval Welsh, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Lithuanian,Russian, Swedish, Lombardi, Middle Dutch, Middle High and Low German,Old High German, and old Slavic.
Tolkien believed that we live in a fallen world and he saw himself as a weak man. He had a profound christian attitude towards life and was a very humble. He could hold no opinion half heartily and could not be uncommitted about any topic that interested him. He stated about himself, “I have a simple sense of humor, which even my appreciative critics find tiresome.” He hated cars and fast travel; he rode a bike to get around. If he did have to use a car,he was daring not skillful. When accelerating across a busy main road in Oxford to get to a side street, he would ignore all other vehicles and cry “charge ‘em and they scatter,” and scatter they did.Tolkien was a storyteller, often telling stories to his children. Every Christmas he would write a letter with pictures from “Father Christmas” to his children. He authored many poems, and many went unpublished. Late in life he lived quietly, mostly at home. The change in the upcoming generation at Oxford [less christian] also caused his withdrawal from the public. He suffered from boredom and depression late in life asa result in him being removed from men groups such as the inklings.
He grew up poor his whole life up until LOTR. After LOTR, for the first time he was wealthy. Tolkien was very generous, giving to children and the local parish church. His dress and behavior was ordinary, as well as his house. He had no electronics gadgets in the house even though he could have easily afforded them. He enjoyed wine and a pipe, as well as grand-parenting later in life. He lived an ordinary middle class conservative life. Edith died on Monday November 29,1971, at age 82. Tolkien died Sunday September 2, 1973, at the age of 81. Tolkien and Edith’s grave marker says “Edith Mary Tolkien Luthien 1889-1971 John Ronald Tolkien Berern 1892-1973.”
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning”
- J.R.R Tolkien
Tolkien spent endless hours writing personal letters to friends, family, and fans. He also wrote many short stories and poems, but he is most well known for Lord of the rings, a vastly popular book with over 150 million copies sold, and the Hobbit, a book with over 100 million copies sold. By the mid sixties, the books prompted a large cult following in America. LOTR and the Hobbit sold ¼ billion copies worldwide; second only to “A Tale of Two Cities” in all time novel sales. He never intended to write a sequel to the Hobbit; he had thought all his good ideas were used in the Hobbit. In a letter,Tolkien said that “he would not write a bio of himself as his nature “expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales and myths.”
LOTR was written to entertain and to create a mythology for England. Tolkien said that LOTR was primarily to be enjoyed not as an allegory, but “fairy story has its own mode of reflecting truth that other ways cannot, some of the authors own reflections and values will be worked in, not the same as allegory. We all exemplify principles but do not represent them.” He gave many different reasons as to what the Lord of the rings was all about: the fall of man, morality, god, religion, the machine, life,power, death, words, languages and politics. When writing his epic tales he did not see himself as an inventor but instead that “I had the sense of recording what was already there somewhere, not inventing” and “I ceased to invent, I wait till I seem to know what really happened, or till it writes itself.” When talking to the inklings he said, “A new character has come on the screen, I did not invent him, I did not want him, though I like him.” Tolkien wrote to a publisher on August 31, 1939 saying, “Following along and getting quit out of hand.... progress towards quiteun foreseen goals.” When asked a question about LOTR, he would answer something like, “I don't know, I will try to find out.” He was not an inventor but a discoverer. He said the true writer of the story was Eru [God], “that one ever present person who is never absent and never named.” He told the inklings it was god who was the true inventor since god created man and mans mind, so it all originated with god; He believed man was only a sub creator.
He saw Middle Earth as real history that did take place in a period of the actual old world of this planet. He said, “To me it is not an imaginary world...the theater of my tale is this earth.....but the historical period is imaginary.” He wanted people to take in his writings as actual history. Tolkien did not care for Disney or cartoonist depictions of LOTR. Tolkien created the Hobbit for kids, but later on regretted some of the childish aspects of it. Tolkien said he would have went back and changed the Hobbit to be more like the LOTR if he could, and that LOTR had priority; his favorite and “best” work. Tolkien was a perfectionist in his writings. Nothing hit the press unless revised,reconsidered and then finally published. Lewis said his friends had“hoped for a final text of an old work, what they actually got was the first draft of a new one.”
Tolkien felt himself most like his character Faramir. He made many connections from his personal world to the world created in his books. Tolkien said, “My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflection of the English soldier of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as far superior to myself.” There are many other connections as well;such as between Bilbo and Tolkien, and The Shire and England. He said that bag end was like his Aunt Jane’s Worcestershire farm. Hobbits reflected rustic English people with small imaginations,great courage, and the able to survive against all odds such as in WW1. An example of an event taken from his real life and put into LOTR was when Tolkien was chased by an old farmer for picking mushrooms.
His friends Friendship between C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien and the Inklings
Tolkien enjoyed the company of friends and clubs [common in England of the day] that would follow him from high school through adult life. Tolkien co-started a club called T.C.B.S at King Edwards School that outlasted him. C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien first met in 1926. They talked for the first time as Oxford professors on Tuesday May 11, 1926. Tolkien founded a club at Oxford in the spring of 1926 named the “coal-biters.” This club was created to read Old Norse sagas and myths. Tolkien enrolled Lewis in the coal biters club to join in Icelandic saga readings. Lewis and Tolkien both loved all things “northerness,”such as Norse poetry/sagas, etc. Both authors loved William Morris. They would stay up late into the night talking on Norse gods and giants. They gathered a group around them of many Oxford dons that would read their works to each other. Some such works read were LOTR and the screw tape letters.
The group, “The Inklings,” owe their existence almost entirely to Lewis. The Inklings members were all male, all Christian, and all conservative. They entered literary history; not just Lewis with Narnia and Tolkien with LOTR, (although C.S Lewis was the nucleus oft he group) but other members included Warren Lewis [brother of C. S.Lewis], R.E. Harvard, Owen Barfeild, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams,Nevil Eaghill and Charles Wenn.
They generally meet Tuesday mornings at a pub they nicknamed “The birdand baby,” and then again on Thursdays met in Lewis's big magdalen sitting room. The Inklings enjoyed highly intelligent and experienced debate.” Lewis’ magdalen room was a “man cave;”with cigarette ash on floor, not particularly clean, ink stains,tobacco burns and beer bottle imprints. Often they would move their meetings to a pub. Reading would start the discussion; they woul dread poems or stories, giving praise and criticism, and talk of all kinds. Sometimes, this would turn to heated debates, lasting intot he late hours of the night. These discussions always involved enjoying tea, beer, pipe tobacco and rum, but always started with the tea. Tolkien, when reading or talking, was not always understood; he often was with a pipe in his mouth or waving one around.
The Inklings writings were influenced by the idea of a pre fallen Adam and Eve and original paradise on earth. All the Inklings recognized that they were fallen men; paradise and the fall was a subject that greatly influenced much of Tolkien and Lewis’s own works. Tolkien played a large part in Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. Lewis,who would later become a Christian apologist, said as a youth that “I believe in no religion;” that man invented god. At this time, he also told a friend he should be emancipated from the old beliefs in Christianity. However, on many occasions Lewis argued with Tolkien other inklings on the subject of religion. In a discussion one night on the subject of the cross of Jesus, Tolkien compared Christianity to a story, where god is the author, who used real men and realhistory to tell the story. After becoming Christian, Lewis spoke of becoming a Christian and of that night saying, “My long night with Dyson and Tolkien had a great deal to do with it.” After Lewisbecame a Christian, Tolkien said that Lewis was “a lover, at last,after a long pilgrimage of our lord.” Lewis would grow to become what many today consider the greatest Christian apologist ever. Lewis became a northern Irish protestant, but he became more catholic as time went on. Lewis purposely avoided being labeled Anglo-catholic or evangelical because he hated those terms. But hedid think in terms of not liking “liberals” and liberalism within the church. Like Tolkien, Lewis believed that great truths[Christianity] did not need reinterpretation in each age, but needed to be championed and defended.
The friendship grew between Tolkien and Lewis. Tolkien said, “Friendship with Lewis compensates much.” Lewis and his brother, along with Tolkien, took long hikes in the woods on holidays, talked about theology, and enjoyed and discussed beer. Lewis and Tolkien would meet for a hour on Mondays and end their meeting with a beer. Sometimes they would also go on afternoon walks together. Warren,Lewis's brother, became jealous of all the time they spent together. They wrote good reviews for each other’s books and Tolkien even gave and recommended “Out of the Silent Planet” to his publisher after Lewis publisher rejected it. The two were very similar in their worldview. Lewis and Tolkien were both strongly conservative in their politics and both feared the rise of communism and the growing power of the left. The whole Inklings group was conservative politically. Tolkien, like all the Inklings, was against Marxism and progressivism. Lewis’s enemies were “progressives.” Like Tolkien, Lewis disliked modern thoughts and was described as being very Old Testament about sexuality and beliefs against homosexuality. Lewis and Tolkien shared a dislike of newspapers and journalist,feeling they are inaccurate. Like his friend Lewis, Tolkien viewed“new” [paper] as on the whole trivial and fit to be ignored. Both were strong advocates of Biblical creation care and Stuarts of God’s green earth. Both were strongly in love with the natural world and strongly against the industrial revolution. Lewis called the mechanized world the post christian world. Part of what inspired Lewis and Tolkien to write was when Lewis wrote to Tolkien [tollers], “Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.” Lewis and Tolkien both felt myth could convey truth in a way that no abstract argument could. “The unplayable debt I owe to him…sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea my “stuff” could be more than a private hobby,” said Tolkien of Lewis. Treebeard's booming voice was even modeled after C.S. Lewis.
His environmental vision
“If you really want to know what middle earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as is, particularity the natural earth”
"He was an unapologetic defender of nature before environmentalism had yet been made into a cause"
–Ralph Wood in “The Gospel According to Tolkien
"Tolkien felt no kinship with the 20th century and its terror regimes, mass genocides and overwhelming, conformist technologies and industries."
Tolkien was a strong lover of Gods green creation. He was a creation care advocate and an agrarian; that is influential and noticeable in his books. He was against the industrial revolution and what it did to God’s creation. He said the industrialization of both the shire and Isengard were what happened to England in his time. He would see rolling hills/trees and farmland destroyed by a ever growing city and industry machines;"evil" destroying "good.” He saw the roads of England destroyed by automobiles and chose to instead ride a bike. He was a man who loved the scenery of nature and a simple life. Tolkien was known for spending time in his own garden; he could name every flower and vegetable and even the kinds of grass in his garden. He was known for taking long hikes. He also loved birds, but it was trees that Tolkien loved best. Tolkien perhaps speaks for himself when he has Treebeard confess that "nobody cares for the trees anymore."
But as the authors of “The Environmental Vision of J.R.R Tolkien”said, “Is Tolkien an environmentalist, our answer is no,” who also said, “We came to environmentalism through Tolkien.” He does not fit into the modern environmental fold. In fact, he spoke out against the modern environmental movement. In his view, creation has value apart from human usefulness; it had value before humans were created. The world was created by a god of love and has value. Tolkien understood mans biblical role as stewards of the earth; not lords to rule over, but stewards to care for it. He contrasts the two views of steward in Denathor and Gandalf; proper stewards are meant to serve not rule over. As a child, Tolkien would watch his ather in his garden tending vines or planting saplings, grows offirs, cypresses, cedars, etc.; he had a “passionate love of growing things.”
Tolkien liked drawing and playing on trees as child, and even talked to them;he loved trees above all. Treebeard expressed his love of trees in his books. Tolkien implied in all his works to “take the part of trees as against their enemies.” Tolkien stated, “I am obviously much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been, I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill treatment of animals,” and, “The savage sound of the electric sawis never silent wherever trees are still found growing.” Fangornforrest was tense with hostility; threatened by a machine lovingenemy. He was a supporter of locally grown food. He had a love for landscapes and gardens. In LOTR, hobbits were like man but more in touch with nature. In the books, the hobbits best rooms in the house are not the biggest or the ones with the best furniture, but the ones that have best view of the landscape and garden. Hobbits live close to earth [in the earth hobbit holes], wear no shoes, love growing things, and name their female children after flowers. In Lothlorienit was beautiful because “there the trees were loved.” Beorn,from the Hobbit, loved animals as his children. Also Tolkien did not see population control or loss of technology as answers to environmental problems, but rather a solution could be to build and live in harmony together, like Lothlorien, Rivendall, and the shire.
Mordor assault on middle earths creation and industrial revolution
The environment of Mordor is described as “dreadful,” “loathsome,”“gasping,” “chocked,” ”sickly,” ”poison stained,””obscene,” ”desolation,” ”dark,” ”defiled,” ”disease beyond all healing;” nearly everything is dead. The trees, river,and air are all polluted. Further into Mordor it is completely barren; devoid of all vegetation. There are large scale slave operations and it is control by totalitarian government, which [Sauron] leads to decay. The picture painted of Mordor is in contrast to that of the Shire, where small communal farming and private land ownership leads to a good environment.
Isengard,Gandalf says, went from “green and fair” to “pits and forges”with the development of mines and industry. Sauromen tells his orcs to clear cut Isengard to feed the furnaces; No trees grew there.” Treebeard says Sauromen has a “mind of metal and wheels and does not care for growing things.” Orcs were cutting trees for nouseful reason; just so they would rot. In the scourging of TheShire, the waters are poisoned by factories, all the way to the Brandywine. In the poisoned areas, cut down trees were also“rampant.” Of the real world industrial revolution, Tolkien said that labor saving machines “just cause endless and worse labor.” Because of the fall of man, the machine devises not only don’t meet he expectations, but turn to new and horrible evil. “Look at how we have “progressed” from daedalus and icarns to the giantbomber...I’d go back to trees,” Tolkien states. His friend Lewis said, “We have “progressed” to universal suburbia; we need to know when to stop.” Tolkien called WW2 the war of the machines.
“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism”
-The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot.
“A thinker far out of step with the rank and file intellectuals of his time and ours, the intellectual establishment of his day hated god and loved big brother. Tolkien loved god and hated big brother. Unlike many self appointed “radicals” in lockstep with spirit of the age, he was the true radical- the round peg in the square hole of modernity”
-The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot.
Tolkien was an old-time catholic conservative, from a modern American perspective libertarian. His political leanings were toward anarchy(abolition of control). He said, “The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” He hated socialism, communism, and progressivism; he thought totalitarian governments and control were evil. Tolkien said that the evils of the world are mechanism, scientific materialism, and socialism. “It goes by many names but always ends in greater centralization political authority at the expense of individuals, families and the church.” He warned that if England and others were to adopt the up and coming socialism “It would reduce each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherds.” Tolkien viewed all men as fallen, including politicians we might elect and hope to bring about a better society. Tolkien said that in contrast to the politicians, “I am not a socialist in any sense....most of all because the planners when they acquire power become so bad.” He felt that as a devout traditional catholic, the lust for ultimate power in government was to try and place oneself in gods place. Tolkien was a strong advocate of creation care and a lover of God’s green earth; this is just part of the reason he hated totalitarian governments.
“Diluting their followers with images of paradise in the future, a modern utopia, but what one often gets... are the blasted landscapes of eastern Europe (Eastern European socialist countries that tried to obliterate private property), strip-mined, polluted, and even radioactive.”
-Tom Shippy, author of “J.R.R Tolkien: Author of the Century
In communist Russia they banned LOTR. 1991, in Moscow, anti-communist Russians held up a banner that read, “Frodo is with us” as Russian tanks closed in. Tolkien, his son said, “could not speak of income taxed without boiling over.” He was a strong supporter of private property. He agreed with the American founders that the need for moral culture to maintain freedom; believing only moral Christians could maintain freedom. He liked limited government and free society. He thought sin is the main reason we need government, yet also the reason to limit government. Tolkien did not like newspapers because they print false info. He was however, a former liberal. He said of his early life, “liberal darkness out of which I came knowing more about bloody Mary in the mother of Jesus.” However, starting in his 20's and until his death, he “was socially and politically conservative even by hobbit standards, and his conservatism was closely bound up in his deeply Christian and specifically catholic vision of man and creation.”
Conservatism in the Lord of the rings
Tolkien said that the importance of the political significance of LOTR was second only to the religious significance. The Shire was portrayed as being a favored form of government and of old time England. As a libertarian, he created the Shire with no government or active police. The only force would be volunteer sheriffs, who carried no weapons, and wore regular clothes. They did not police the shire, but guarded boarders; mostly returning stray animals. In the shire’s government “families for the most part managed their own affairs.” The shire was a libertarian society,Tolkien’s preferred government system. The Hobbits enjoyed total freedom from any authoritarian government control. This is one of the main reasons for the attractiveness of the shire to modern readers and watchers of the movie.
“No department of un-motorized vehicles, no internal revenue service, no government officials telling people who may and may not have laying hens in their backyards, no government schools lining up hobbit children in geo metric rows to teach regimental behavior and group think, no government controlled currency, and no political institution even capable of collecting thrifts or foreign goods”
-The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot
Scourge of shire government gone bad
Left out of the movie is the last section of the LOTR, the scourging of the Shire. It contains much on Tolkien’s view of government. It is a section that “conservatives and progressives alike have recognized this final portion of LOTR as a critique of modern socialism.” When the hobbits return, they find there libertarian paradise controlled by an oppressive government led by Saruman, with Orcs and local evil men to help. No longer is it a peaceful happy paradise, the Shire and Hobbits are under government control. Those now controlling the Shire are referred to as “sharkey and the ruffians.”
“The character of government is totally altered while its forms are not markedly changed. Before, the shire enjoyed easy going with max freedom and min government interference, the new regime operates through expanded restrictive rules, enforced by equally monstrously expanded military and para-military forces…the purpose of government is plainly to maintain, consolidate, and expand its own power.”
-Robert Plank, author of “The Scouring of the Shire: Tolkien’s view of fascism”
During the scourge there are groups of “gatherers and sharers...going around counting and measuring and taking off to storage, supposedly for “fair distribution.”” Yet it just ends with, as one hobbit says, “Them getting more and we get less.” Tolkien,the lover of all things green, showed that when liberty and private property were secure in the Shire, the landscape was beautiful and gardened. But that was “all gone” due to “The gatherers and sharers.” The new government in the Shire controlled more and more; land, taxes, and regulations. The government killed off the hobbit farming community and replaced it with industry.
Ring of power and control
“A free society isn't something nice if you can get it, it’s worth laboring, fighting and dying for. The reason free people of the west fight Mordor to preserve their freedom.”
The good guys in the book are called the “free peoples.” Tolkien knew that complete power corrupts completely. Even Gandolf, with the power of the ring, would try to do good; but knew that good could turn into a evil, greater than that of Sauron. A warning to the people of his day and today is that even good intentions can end with evil when there is too much power and control. At the council of Elrond the “good guys” chose to destroy the ring rather than use its power; they reject the power to dominate. Tolkien said“the supremely bad motives, domination of others free wills.”
Fall of Numonor and Gondor
Tolkien,the traditionalist, was of the opinion that society at large was falling away from faith and morality; this was reflected in his book. Gondor,he said, “was a more primitive culture, less corrupt and Noble.” What led to the fall of Numonor was its form of government and its stance against life. The government no longerserved its people as it should, but it became a place where the people were instead forced to serve the government. However,the kings of Numonor became “Proud men eager for wealth.” “They appeared now rather as lords and masters and gatherers of tribute than as helpers and teachers.” In time, “They hunted men and took their goods and enslaved them.” The cultural decline in the third age of Gondor, this resulted in lower fertility rates. Just as what was happening in England with the increase hostility to life during Tolkien’s time. Tolkien, who was pro life [Sam Gamgee had 13 kids], warned of the danger of such philosophy. Gondor’s decline was because of the lack of children. Gandalf said that MinisTirith was already lacking half the men that could dwell at ease there and that many houses of great families “Were silent.” “For more than a thousand years the Dunadain grew in wealth and power, yet the signs of decay had than already appeared, for the high men of the south married late, and their children were few....childless lords sat in aged halls and the last king of the line of Anario had no heir.” The Ents are another example of what happens with lack of fertility due to culture decline.
“We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory,we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.”
-J.R.R Tolkien’s response when questioned on the purpose of life
Roman Catholicism "pervaded all his thinking, beliefs and everything else."
-Michael Tolkien, Tolkien’s Son
Tolkiens father was an Anglican; his mother was also an Anglican who later converted to Catholicism. The Tolkien side of his family was mostly Baptist. Tolkien was received into the Catholic Church on Jan 8,1914. His catholic faith would play a large part in his daily life,his writings, and how he shaped his worldview. “Any close scrutiny of his life must take into account the importance of religion his commitment to Christianity and in particular to the Catholic Church was total;” “His religion was therefore one of the deepest and strongest elements in his personality.” He was an “Ultraorthodox defender of the faith,” always going to confession before communion, “Tolkien rigid, almost medieval instance on confession.” He hated when the mass was changed from Latin to English; in response, after the change was made, he would speak loudly still in Latin while in church. Tolkien had entirely traditional Catholic views. Tolkien said to leave the Catholic Church would be to leave Jesus and break allegiance to him.
To Tolkien, sacraments were by far the most important part of a Christians life; he said“The one great thing to love on earth, the blessed sacrament...[Eucharist].” Regular attendance to mass with communion, taken only after confession, together with private prayer,was the center of spiritual life. On the Mother Mary he said, “All my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity isfounded.” Tolkien did not believe that interpretation of Christianity was crucial. However, he did view all true Christians as true Christians, regardless of denomination. Tolkien’s view of a just war came from the early church fathers, such as St. Augustine and from the Old Testament. He once said “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
Tolkien believed in a personal devil, a fallen world and fallen mankind. He believed in a original Eden on earth, saying “I do not fell either ashamed or dubious on the Eden “myth” ...certainly there was a Eden on this very unhappy earth…we all long for it...our whole nature is soiled with the sense of exile.” When Tolkien felt the sadness of seeing dead animals, or thought of memories from his past and felt nostalgia, he connected those feelings to being derived from Eden. Of man he said, “We do so little that is positively good, even if we negatively avoid what is actively evil.” He also believed in the redeemer Jesus; “It has been my feelings[Joyous feelings] that God has redeemed the corrupt making creaturemen.” Tolkien fully recognized his sins and fallings; he considered himself the least worthy to pray to God of all believers.
He believed in the reality of angels and demons; he indicated Hitler was inspired by demonic forces. He once said the Lord’s Prayer into a microphone speaking Gothic into a tape recorder to cast out any devils that might be lurking within. On evolution he said, “Evolution as popularity imagined, the modern concept of progress is simply a fiction supported by no evidence whatsoever....and for most people has now taken the place of religion.” “Quite simply the belief that the universe process is from imperfect to perfect it has always seemed immensely implausible, because it makes the general course of nature so very unlike those parts we can observe.” He believed marriage was between one man and one woman. Christian marriage and sex in marriage is the only road to total health; most satisfying sex is in marriage. Toleration of divorce is toleration of a human abuse; divorce has done great societal harm. He said, “The'real soul-mate' is the one you are actually married to.”
He believed in a millennium kingdom, “I think there will be a millennium thousand year rain of saints.” He was very favorable to Jews and Jewish race. He helped translate the book of Jonah in the Jerusalem bible. Late in life, in the increasing atheistic world of England, Tolkien viewed elves very much as Christian’s; both controlling fewer and fewer areas and having less influence. Tolkien saw the new oxford generation as being less Christian and that, in part, caused him to be remote later in life. He did have the view of God being ultimately in control of events, constantly referring to God as being in control, and that things were in God’s hands.
Biblical and Christian themes in the LOTR
“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”
“The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
“In LOTR the conflict is not basically about “freedom,” though that is naturally involved. It is about God, and his sole right to divine honor. The Eldar and the Numenoreans believed in the one, the true god, and held worship of any other person an abomination. Sauron desired to be a god-king, and was held to be this by his servants.”
As a devout catholic, Tolkien’s worldview could not be hidden in his works. His worldview is the worldview that produced the LOTR. He included many Christian and biblical themes into his works. He did not however like straight allegory and disliked C.S Lewis’ strong Christian allegory (Lewis, who sought to give Christianity a home in mythology, used strong Christian allegory). Tolkien said, “Ihave written a tail which is built on or out of certain religious ideas but is not an allegory of them.” Of first most importance,Tolkien’s work was to be for enjoyment, yet he knew he could not withhold his own worldview. At a lecture at Saint Andrews, Tolkien said LOTR was a specifically a Christian venture to write such a story as he was now engaged in. [FONT=Georgia, 'Bitstream Charter', s, serif] Wheaton College (IL) professor Clyde Kilby once sent Tolkien a paper by a professor in New South Wales that argued, “At every point, the human dynamics of The Lord of the Rings are drawn from the traditionascribed to Christ’s redemptive activity.” Tolkien wrote back to Kilby and said that this was true, though not always conscious on his part.[/FONT]A student said he feels “clean” after reading LOTR, with no sex, morality, power,and with its concern for ethical/spiritual life.
Tolkien included many aspects of biblical theology into his books. Councils of the past play a large role in catholic thinking, doctrine, and decision’s on important issues. In LOTR there are many councils that decide the fate of Middle Earth, such as at the council of Elrond or the Ent moot. In the book “Walking with Frodo, a devotional journey through LOTR,” author Sarah Arthur goes through the many choices faced by LOTR characters good versus evil with biblical counterparts and lesson. It includes chapters on darkness/light, pride/humility, corruption/integrity,betrayal/loyalty, deceit/honesty, control/servant hood,bondage/freedom, and despair/hope. The creation of Middle Earth wasdone by singing, just as in the bible, God spoke creation into existence. “The elf food called “lembas,” was clearly reminiscent of the Eucharistic wafer.” Tolkien said Elendil was a Noahchian figure [Noah]. He said Aman was a form of purgatory forFrodo and mortals until their eternal destination. When Tolkien said that Frodo gave into the ring of power, but that he was still a “good”person, he was thinking of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 and the Lord's Prayer. Biblical marriage, monogamy, was commonly practiced in the West by the free people. Other systems of marriage or union were regarded as “things only done under the shadow.” Tolkien said Frodo was under demonic pressure bearing the ring, and was given grace, divine grace, to carry out his task. Much of Galadrial comesf rom the teachings of Mary.
The Fall and Eden Restoration
Tolkien believed strongly there had been an Eden on earth and that man’s original sin was responsible for this fallen world. The immortal Elves for all intent and purposes were men before the fall. Like the world pre fall (Garden of Eden), Lorien was without “stain,” no death, sickness or curse. The Elves represent the eternal and supernatural aspects of humanity and are the creatures most like eru(God). Elves by nature are good, but can be seduced. At the council of Elrond, Elrond says, “Nothing is evil in the beginning,even Sauron was not so.” This is a Christian understanding of evil, that God’s original creation was good, with no death or suffering and evil. The devil himself was created “good.” Andreth says that men were born to live everlasting in the beginning just as the bible teaches. The elves thought God’s gift to man was death, because to go on as fallen creatures forever would be worse. Reflecting the biblical teachings in Revelations chapter 21, Andrethsays, “The one [God] will himself enter into Arda, and heal men and all the marring from the beginning to the end.” Tolkien said,“Fantasy serves as “A far off gleam or echo of evangelium [good news gospel] in the real world.” In the history of Middle Earth,when Arwen dies, it says “There is her green grave, until the world is changed.”
In the Hobbit it says, “The world will ultimately be “renewed.” “The world was fair, the mountains tall in elder days before the fall,” speaks Gimli in The Hobbit.
Melkor’s fall was like that of Satan in the bible. Like Satan Melkor fell“From splendor, he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitless. Understanding he turned subtly in perverting to his own will all that he would use,until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of light [creative action] but when he could not posses it for him self alone, he descended through fire and wrath into great burning, down into darkness and darkness he used most in his evil works upon arda and filled it with fear for all living things.” Like Melkor, The biblical tempter, the angel cast out of heaven, the father of lies,the one thrown into darkness are all biblical connections. Melko’s rebellion was to increase power and glory as the biblical Satan intent was as well. Melkor forges a crown for himself and give stitle “king of the world.” Melkor like Satan could not create,but only corrupt or cause marring of the once good creation.. Frodo said “The shadow that bred [the orcs] can only mock and it cannot make, not real things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them”.
Angels Demons Satan Evil
To the Catholic Tolkien, angels can and are prayed to. Frodo prays and is helped by the angelic valar Elberth or Gilthoniel when the witchking is about to stab him. Galadriel possesses intercessory powers and is a reflection of Mary, the mother of Jesus; she also seems to have divine powers, reading the hearts/minds of the fellowship. In the LOTR, the higher powers [valar/maiar/angels] help in creation. Some biblical interpreters have said that Genesis 1:26 refers to angels helping in creation, just as in Middle Earth with the valar .Also, just like in the bible, the holy spirit casts out darkness and demons. For Tolkien, the secret fire was the holy spirit; Gandalf said, “I am a servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame ofudun... go back to the shadow you cannot pass.” Gandalf tells the witch king, “go back to the abyss that awaits you and your master.” This is the biblical understanding of hell being created for the devil and demons. But how can it be Christian with pagan wizards init? The Proper name for wizards is scholars or istari. When asked,Tolkien said “wizards distinct from sorcerers or magicians...equivalent in the mode of these tales of angels, guardian angels.” Wizards on middle earth had limited power, he said “wizards..when enemy forces are to powerful can act in emergency as an “angel”no more violently than the release of St Peter from prison.” Gandalf and other good “wizards” did not use magic to do“spells,” their power was given to them by Eru (God). Paganmagic in LOTR is sinister; it seeks to alter the created world. Bad magic is the “Desire power in this world, domination of things and wills.” Hobbits never studied magic and Tolkien viewed modern technology as a form of magic. Sauron, Saurman, and the king of the wring-wraiths are the sorcerers of Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and evil. Gandalf’s staff and powers were constant with Judges 6:21 & 13:19-20.
God's in control
People like Galadrial, Elrond, Tom Bombadil, and Gandalf remind us as Gandalf said “I can put it no plainer than by saying Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.” Like the God of the bible, Eru is involved in providential and guidance; Tolkien called “Gods management of the drama.” A natheist said to Tolkien, “You create a world in which some sort of faith seems to be everywhere without a visible source, like a light from an invisible lamp.” Tolkien felt a spirit was working through him, that he attributed to god.
“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”
Detail’s written on Strider make him out to be “The queerest” of all the folk in the prancing pony, yet he would end up being a king and helper. This follows the biblical idea of not looking at the outward appearance, but looking inward. King David was the youngest of the family and most unlikely to be selected king, being a shepherd and not a warrior. But as God says in 1 Samuel 16:6-7 in selecting king David, God does not see outward appearances as man sees, he sees the heart. Another king in the bible, Jesus, was a lowly, poor, working carpenter, born in a manger with no special visual qualities (Isaiah 53:2-3), yet will be the future king of the earth.
Shutting out the night
“Come dear folk...laugh and be merry...let us shut out the night. Fear nothing”
-Goldberry addressing Hobbits, LOTR
With all the dark danger of the old Forrest around and them being chased,the Hobbits are able to put the fear away because of the love and grace poured out by Tom Bombadil, the most ancient and powerful light. Good can drive out evil, Nehemiah 8:10 & 1 John 4:18.
“We always seem to get left out of the old lists and old stories.”
-Merryspeaking to Treebeard, LOTR
The Hobbits were often overlooked by the outside world, where they were referred to as “Halflings.” Saouron overlooked them until the discovery of the ring. Yet they were chosen of all the free peoples for the most important task. Throughout the bible God chooses people of weakness to do his tasks, such as Joseph, Moses, David, the twelve disciples, etc. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
“There is a seed of courage hidden waiting for some final desperate danger to come along to make it grow.”
Hobbits are small, friendly, peaceful people, enjoying the fruits of life;like drink, beer, food, parties and extended sleep. Not the worrier kind of folk like Dwarves and Strider. Yet over and over again theHobbits perform great acts of courage against all odds. The small ordinary Hobbits do extraordinary things that most men of Rohan or Gondor would be scared to do. They choose self sacrifice over self preservation and enjoyment. In the Bible when David was fighting Goliath, he was just a small boy (shortest of 8 brothers) and a shepherd. None of the grown men in the army wished to face Goliath,yet a small shepherd did, and against all odds defeated the giant.
“When things are in danger someone has to give them up, lose them so that others may keep them.”
-Frodo speaking to Sam, LOTR
Frodo was willing to sacrifice his own good and his life on Middle Earth to save the Shire and all of Middle Earth. Jesus’ death on the cross was when he gave up his life for ours.
Saved on the wings of eagles Exodus 19:4
Many times in the Hobbit and the LOTR good peoples are saved on the wings of eagles, literally. Such as with Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom,Gandalf on Isengard, and the Dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf in the Hobit.
Lighting of beacons to ask Rohan for help from Minas Tirith
This was done in Israel when Jerusalem asked for help.
Gospel the true best story
“If literature teaches us anything at all, it is this that we have in us an eternal element.”
Tolkien said of the gospel, that Jesus, God in flesh, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. “There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits...to reject it leads either to madness or to wrath,” Tolkien went on to say, “This story is supreme and is true. Art has been verified. God is the lord of angels, and of men and of elves, legend and history have met and fused.” Tolkien viewed the gospel as a story that entered history,a true story. “The resurrection…was the greatest fairy story…the gospels tell a fairy story, by the greatest author, who is the supreme artist and author of reality.” Also believing that “The only just literary critic is Christ,” because of “the gifts he himself bestowed.”
“He[Tolkien] created a body of work that is imbued with a profoundwisdom-a wisdom that our civilization desperately needs-drawn verylargely from the Catholic faith in which he was raised.”
-SecretFire: The Spiritual Vision of J.R.R. Tolkienby Stratford Caldecott
For a true autobiography, as Tolkien said, “Read lord of the rings.”
-The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien Houghton Mifflin 2000
-J.R.R Tolkien The Authorized Biography Humphrey Carpenter Houghton Mifflin company NY 2000
-The Inklings C.S Lewis J.R.R Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends.Humphrey Carpenter Harper Collins Publishers 2006
-Ents, Elves, and Eriador the Environmental Vision of J.R.R Tolkien by Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans Kentucky University press 2006.
-The Hobbit party the vision of freedom that Tolkien got, and the west forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards Ignatius Press San Francisco 2014
-The Gospel according to Tolkien visions of the kingdom in middle earth by Ralph C. Wood Westminster John Knox Press 2003
-Finding God in the lord of the rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware Salt river 2001
-Walking with Frodo a devotional journey through LOTR by Sarah Arthur Tyndale House Publishing 2003
-Lord of the Rings series and the Hobbit Ballantine Books NY 2012