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The Lord of the Rings and Religion

17 November, 2003 11:21 PM

With the upcoming release of Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King I've noticed a few Christians asking questions about the trilogy. Some ask about the religious symbolism in the movie, others are talking about Tolkien's understanding of faith and others are wondering whether Christians should go see it.

Following is a few Lord of the Rings links and books that attempt to answer some of these questions (and more) - enjoy.

Lord of the Rings: Christian Myth at Work - At Islam Online

Lord of the Rings: Judeo Christian Ethics and Mythos

"Lord Of The Rings" Based On Christian Beliefs?

Finding the Lord, in 'Lord of the Rings'

Why The Lord of the Rings Is Dangerous

The Lord of the Rings: Christian or not?

Christian History Corner: The Lord of the Rings: What Harvest? - A reader's guide to the best of epic fantasy

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: A Christian Classic Revisited

Lord of the Rings: Tolkien's Christianity - Lord of the Rings -- A Christian Classic?

The Lord of the Rings and the Christian Faith

Sacred Texts: Sources of Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy- One Book to Rule Them All (Book)

Does The Lord of the Rings Teach Salvation By Works?

The Lord of the Rings rooted in racism: Academic

Lord of the Rings Two Towers - Spiritual Connections

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Truth, Myth or Both?

Lord of the Rings - Return of the King Review

Did Tolkien Intend for Gandalf to Represent Christ?

Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring: Review at Hollywood Jesus

Frodo's Quest Inspires a Search for Allegory

I hope that there is something there that interests you - feel free to suggest your own links or comment on the questions raised in comments.

You may also be interested in a similar collection of links about the Matrix and also Harry Potter

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Comments

Page:

Awesome man! I'll have to read some of those pages you've linked to once I am home from work. I'd posted about this exact topic, so I appreciate you having shared this. Thanks!

Scott » 18 November, 2003 4:07 AM

Nice links! I've read through some of them. I think there are a bunch of Christian hints to these movies. Even when magic is used, like when Gandolph (sp?) said "You shall not pass!". Being a Christian our words are our weapons. He did say it, He didn't just wave his staff around. I guess it's just how you decide to look at it really.

Jessica » 18 November, 2003 5:14 AM

Thanks Darren. I've been thinking about this for a few days, but hadn't yet done anything about it.
Shalom,
Jan

Jan » 18 November, 2003 7:05 AM

I found that the best insight into JRR Tolkien's works for me was the collection of his letters to family, friends and readers found in the book "The Letters of JRR Tolkien" edited by Humphrey Carpenter. It contains some of his thoughts as he's actually writing the stories and some responses to people's questions about religion in LOTR etc.

Your local library probably has a copy. The link at Amazon (UK) is
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0261102656/qid=1069103121/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_3_2/202-9889733-7159029

Stephen » 18 November, 2003 7:06 AM

LOTR is a huge phenomenon that has major upside potential for Christians to talk about how doing life is a great Quest done in the company of Friends. I can't wait for the next movie to broaden the discussion of Christian themes
GHT

Glenn Teal » 18 November, 2003 11:53 AM

Christianity and Middle-Earth

http://entropyhouse.com/baillie/candme/

Baillie » 27 December, 2003 2:25 PM

Christian Symbolism in the LOTR Trilogy

Having just come back from my second viewing of the LOTR ROTK and having been a Tolkein fan since I was first introduced to these books in the early 70s I would like to contribute some ideas as to where this debate could go.

Firstly in Peter Jacksons interpretation we see some particularly obvious Catholic symbolism.

I think Tolkein was Catholic not Anglican, and this is important in understanding the symbolism that pervades the text and the film.

Firstly Arwen the Elvish Princess chooses to marry Aragorn gives up her immortality to found a line of Kings.

Again although the Elves are developed from the Finnish myth cycle The Kavela an important source of some of the mythic strands in LOTR, Arwen especially in Jacksons imagery has a uncanny resemblence to Mary the mother of Jesus in Catholic iconography. We see her in ROTK firstly in close up with a blue scarf very similar to thousands of statues of Mary found in Catholic churches. A interesting visual coda.

Also a side issue the language the Elves speak is directly related to the Finnish language. Tolkein whilst at Oxford was I think a Linguist and one of his specialities was the study of Finnish. In fact Finnish speakers find striking similarities between Elvish and Finnish.

So the iconography ( which I think means religous images ) of Arwen is strikingly similar to the portraits of Mary.

Also for those interested in Art History, other images of Arwen in the film trilogy are totally Pre Raphaelite which was also heavily influenced by religous imagery. I am sure Peter Jackson would not deny this.

Ok now to the debate about what the ring represents.

I think it is vital here to understand what Tolkein means when Frodo refuses to destroy it ???

This I think is what makes the LOTR more than just a great fantasy book and actually allows it to be seen as literature : probably a point that Lit undergrads will want to argue LOL : ) .

And this I think is also the mystery. Why does Frodo not destroy the ring? Why does Gollum actually overpower Frodo and become the agent of the rings destruction and ultimately the physical power of evil ?

This is the mystery in the book ? A ambiguous ending? Frodo a flawed hero like all humans are flawed in a christian perspective by the power of "sin" however that is defined ?

The fascination with this ending is that it leaves us with a number of differing ways of seeing the text or the film ?

In fact it in some ways subverts a standard christian symbolism allowing a number of differing interpretations.

Onee way the LOTR could be looked at is as a modern day Pilgrims Progress a book by John Bunyan which was pure religous symbolism and allegory .

We have a group on a journey with all kinds of perils along the way. Kind of like our journey through life.

It is a journey into faith with the battle against temptation and peril.

But at its heart it is a journey towards wholeness and love and forgiveness.

The ultimate Christian interpretation of LOTR could be that only because Frodo ( Everyman )... note the linkages to the play Everyman in the York Mystery cycles (sorry I am getting Academic here will explain this in another post if necesssary)forgives Gollum not once or twice but constantly does his quest end succesfully. The idea of forgiveness. Only by forgiveness of others and ourselves can we transend the power of negativity. Reaching for the light amidst the Darkness.

Secondly Sam Gamgee as Frodos companion plays a mighty role as friend and constant companion who does not ever give up. In fact he has always been my favourite character in the book . His is a simple faith but one strong upright and firm . Could Samwise be an example of the "ideal" christian?

The LOTR is a magnificent book the films to me excellent and like all great books can be read on a number of different levels . Thats the great thing about them you can find your own meaning in them.

So to me I find great themes running through LOTR ideas of good and evil, forgiveness, team work overcoming fear, greed,the perils of war, the evils of industrialism and globalisation swamping the individual soul, the power of nature, and I could go on etc etc.

Ultimately for me the outstanding scene in the film from a Christian and spiritual perspective was that of Sam and Frodo at Mt Doom where Sam says to Frodo
"I might not be able to carry the ring for you Mr Frodo but I can carry you"

The music soars and Sam carrys Frodo forward.

That to me is the ultimate image which is like the poet John Dunne saying "no man is an island".
An isolated individual.

Together in Fellowship we can indeed fulfill our quest which I think in life is to walk humbly with our idea of a loving God love justice and achieve the peace of God which passes all understanding and the light of Love which shall shine in the darkness . Surely a message of hope that we need so badly in this troubled world.

I hope to post again with more thoughts

PS Kevin great site mate and a great way to use the internet to pass on the good news or as it was known as in Hebrew " Gospel " = Good News

Richie

Perth Australia.

References

Everyman " York Mystery Plays "

John Donne 17th Century Metaphysical poet

The Kavella Finnish Myth Crcle

Pre Raphaelites 19th Century Painting School

The Pilgrims Progress 18th Century Novel by John Bunyan (English Puritan Minister and evangalist)

Posted by richie at January 9, 2004 09:58 AM

richie » 10 January, 2004 5:14 AM

Richie said: "And this I think is also the mystery. Why does Frodo not destroy the ring? Why does Gollum actually overpower Frodo and become the agent of the rings destruction and ultimately the physical power of evil ?
This is the mystery in the book ? A ambiguous ending? Frodo a flawed hero like all humans are flawed in a christian perspective by the power of "sin" however that is defined ? "

Yes, ambiguous indeed. I don't think it can be said that Frodo doesn't destroy the ring. Whether he tries to retrieve it from Gollum for himself or to throw it over, is ambiguous and can't be known.

amanda » 31 January, 2004 1:09 PM

It is ridiculous to connect the tale, history, or any of the characters with religion. Numerous people who blindly believe in everything they are told always try to connect such things to their beliefs. It is stupid, shortsighted and narrow-minded to express such thought. J.R.R. Tolkien said himself in foreword of the book: "As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. ... I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence." The least people can do is respect authors wishes.

Anonymous111 » 1 February, 2004 4:57 PM

i agree

» 3 February, 2004 10:33 AM

is there anything on friendship and what is oh so opened up in LOTR: being alone, loneliness and all of the like, is it written?

Kerina » 6 February, 2004 8:27 PM

The books captured me and the movies blew me away a true masterpiece. When I watched the movies it felt like I waz there its just so amazing it made me think wow what if there was realy a world out there like this once apon a time. Truley brillient.

Karina Lee Coleman » 29 February, 2004 5:34 PM

To me, Arwen is a lot like the Virgn Mary. She is pure, good hearted and is patient in waiting for Aragorn. She also appears luminescent at times.

» 7 April, 2004 5:35 PM

I sort of agree with Anonymous111. It kind of annoys me how a lot of Christians will try and say that things like Lord of the Rings and The Matrix are basically the Bible with eveyone's names changed. I think the writers have drawn on characters and situations from the Bible though.

Christop » 6 May, 2004 1:58 PM

I saw something, a very violent image, an image of an ancient war, that had

Larry Squires » 26 May, 2004 7:51 AM

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is based on morality, honesty and the truth. Many of its scenarios have been taken taken from teachings of different religions, with special reference to mysticism in Islam.
The final battle very closely resembles the Armageddon as described in Islamic teachings with Gandalf as the Messiah Jesus, the one eye on the tower as the one-eyed anti-christ (funny isn't it; we see this one eye everywhere but fail to question it's purpose, evil message or objective - such as the american dollar, cbs news, aol logo, etc.) and the two armies being destroyed by the ghosts (as in one of the great battles in Islamic history where the small Muslim army overcame the large horde of evil polythiests with the help of angels), etc.
I aint no Islamic believer, but I have studied many religions quite closely.

Jon » 28 July, 2004 3:18 AM

I agree to an extent with Christop and Anonymous111. Lord of the Rings is a great work of fantasy and deserves its classic status, but to read into it more meaning than was actually intended, and then call it "evil" because it doesn't measure up in Biblical comparison when it wasn't meaning to, is ridiculous. Not only has the fact that LOTR is not an allegory been clearly stated by Tolkien himself; but it is downright dangerous, not to mention misleading, to try to fabricate deeper messages than are there. LOTR deals with some great themes, such as power and courage, and I'm not saying it doesn't have a positive response to these. Some situations and characters, too, can be seen to have parallels to Biblical counterparts. But taking Lord of the Rings as the Bible in fantasy form was clearly not the author's intention.

» 28 October, 2004 3:32 PM

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test » 4 December, 2004 5:39 PM

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» 4 December, 2004 5:40 PM

i think that the lord of the rings has alot to do with the bible and i think the author did mean to use so much symbolism because if he did mean to then he did a good job of it, but if he didn't he accedently did a job of it there are so many parralels to draw from the book how could the author not mean to.

Nazgul Archer » 5 February, 2005 4:22 AM

i don't believe that the film nor the book has any intential allegory. As someone has mentioned before, JRR Tolkien even admitted himself that he disliked it. I do believe though, that his books can be interpreted in many ways. It really depends on the individual. That's why it appeals to so many people. Each person can find their own meaning in the novel.

Niphredil » 7 March, 2005 6:52 PM

i think that lord of the rings can be refered to a christian understanding, but it also has several element that refer to other religions such as islam, hinduism, tolkien himself said that �The Lord of the Rings is a course of fundamentally religious and catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in or cut out practically all references to anything like �religion�, to cults or practices, in the imagery world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and symbolism�., but after revising it thouroughly, he realised that his faith is imbedded in the novel. i'm not a christian, but i know quite alot about the novel, am in fact a muslim, i think that you can see several religions in the novel. i am qiute sure, that although christians may beleive in mythiology, the lord of the rings may be influenced by several other religions after all �good verses evil� is a common theme in several religions, not just Christianity. In fact there are only a few figures that could be seen to have similarities to those figures/ characters from the Christian tradition, though there might be enough to state that it may manifest Christian influences.

BiBs » 15 March, 2005 12:54 AM

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