`The Lord of the Rings' is about more than Christianity

Published: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 11:10 p.m.

The Sun story titled "Rings' trilogy follows Christian themes" (Dec. 27) is overly revisionist, though it makes some good points.

J.R.R. Tolkien was certainly a lifelong, devout Roman Catholic, but his book's spiritual insights are universal and not doctrinally connected to any branch of Christianity - Christian indeed, but not exclusively so.

He was, after all, also a professor of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and a devotee of that tradition and its pre-Christian roots (the people of Rohan are Anglo-Saxons with horses added), so you could also say that the book "follows Anglo-Saxon themes." Both statements are true, but incomplete.

Analysts with their own agenda often wait until an author is conveniently dead before fooling with his work, but Tolkien's foreword to the revised edition (1965) is already deeply involved in refuting such oracular rewriting. For example, he calls himself a "tale-teller" and specifically says that "The Lord of the Rings" is not allegorical and not influenced by World War II.

No one should make pronouncements about the trilogy unless they first read "The Silmarillion," its true prequel and the focus of Tolkien's creative energy from the end of World War I. There you learn that Eru/Iluvatar, The One (guess who?), first created the Valar (great gods/goddesses or archangels) and the Maiar (their helpers-lesser deities or angels).

After He created Earth, certain Valar came to it as "the guardians of the world" and worked to fulfill Iluvatar's purposes. But the mightiest of them, Melkor (Morgoth to the elves), coveted Earth and became a Satan/Lucifer figure who corrupted Maia spirits Sauron and the balrogs into his service.

Gandalf and Saruman were Maia later sent by the Valar to oppose Sauron, but Saruman's arrogance and lust for power led to his downfall.

So, Tolkien deviates substantially from orthodox Christianity's story line, but why shouldn't he? The tales he tells are all set long before our history's most ancient civilizations.

Lance Lazonby is a singer and songwriter who lives in Melrose.

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