Tolkien Did Not Write a Religious Trilogy – Striking Back against Assumptions

by May 9, 2006Critical Viewpoints

A common theme in religious individual study and publications regarding The Lord of the Rings is that there is some kind of spiritual message or assumptions in the book.

This is pretty annoying. The story is clearly about a continental struggle for power between the Free Peoples of the West guided by the Istari and the forces of Sauron in Mordor.

There are no religions in Middle-earth! perhaps because nearly all fantasy stories have religion included in the storyline, some faith-guided people feel a need to attempt to insert in people’s minds the view that books without religious features do infact have them? I find it quite annoying. We aren’t talking about The Chronicles of Narnia, with obvious religious implications like Aslan sacrificing himself for Edmund on the Stone Table!

According to John Bowen: “A worldview is, as the word implies, a way of viewing the world, an outlook on life, an explanation of the world. A worldview is by nature philosophical and spiritual and religious, in the sense that it offers answers to life’s big questions.” Of course he doesn’t provide a source, like Wikipedia, etc. Because it’s his interpretation.

According to Wikipedia,a World view is: “a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. It refers to the framework through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it.” TLOFR is not about our world, but a story about Middl-Earth, a war and the struggles of individuals within it. This is not Marxism Today or any propoganda book about a particular world view, but a story.

As Tolkein said in his only interview regarding his epic work: “I didn’t creatle Middle-Earth, I discovered it!” If he meant a particuar point of view about the world, then he wouldn’t have asserted to have ‘discovered’ another world. The book is not about perception but the journey of many individuals in a time of tourmoil.

But Bowen for example gets worse in his ‘analysis’: “It’s not enough, however, to say that Middle Earth is saved by people making good decisions and being brave and merciful, because that’s not the whole truth. There are hints through the book that something more is work here.” As he inteprets it, yes. But it’s not his story. Did Tolkein talk about the beings of ME being guided by some supernatural being? No, nor does his son Christopher find any notes in his father’s study implying it.

The quote: “”Behind that [Bilbo finding the Ring and the Ring’s intentions] there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that 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.” (69) is not about a supernatural being, but the One Ring. It has a will of its own, it knows it has to return to its maker and master. I would think that is well explained in TLOTR by Gandalf and others.

Nor does Bowen cath Elronds drift when saying: “You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world.” Everyone, including Boromir, were ordered by their friends, forcedd by the Dark Forces of Mordor and political necessity to atten the Council of Elrond. implying anything else is baseless assumption that’s easilly dismissed.

Bowen then, flawedly, asserts a conclusion that: “he explained the connection between Lord of the Rings and Christian faith like this:

“The Gospels [the stories of Jesus Christ] contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels, particularly artistic, beautiful and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance . . . But this story has entered History . . . This story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves.” (The Tolkien Reader [1966] 88, in B&W xiii).” Again, more unproven assumptions. Tolkein did not assert a connection, but clearly implied the Christian God is the master of those he creates. He was making an offhand remark about Christian doctrine as a separate comment from his works.

If I were to say Plato is the lord of philosophy it would be obvious what i meant. It would mean that I feel Plato heavilly influenced philosophers and others after him. Copying his style or using his conclusions for their own persuits. If I write a book and then mention Plato, am I saying that Plato is in the story as a chachter and determined all the events and people in it? No.

I don’t make assumptions about the story I take it as it is. Not look for quotes here and there and add a meaning totally irrelevant to the relevant chapter or story. Perhaps Religion gets in the way of accepting storylines as they are, if it isn’t personal reasons?


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