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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Whoops! --- I'm not done yet... I guess my "tiny little trilogy" must now convert itself into a smallish "Quadropendium"...
 
It does seem hard to imagine that Tolkien could have somehow "divorced" himself so completely from something that must have been at the "very core of his being" - his Roman Catholic faith - as he was writing his stories [ although, his own faith was not what was at the center of his own "Field of Study" - all that lore and language that he was so well steeped in  and had studied so assiduously for so many years ] ---
 
But anyway, here are a few aspects of the stories that could be considered in the light of this discussion...
 
First, there is [ as JesseBC has pointed out ]  that very recurrent theme [ one might even say that it is the
"over-riding" theme of LOTR ] of the constant struggle between the LIght and the Darkness...
 
Then, there is the aspect of the honor, respect and allegience owed towards the "Rightful Authorities" -
The Good KIng - the truly Wise and so forth - but then there are also examples of those same figures of authority who fail in their responsiblities - who become corrupted or deluded and fall into the clutches of the will of "The Enemy" -
and thereby ( sorry, Mr. Lucas ) wind up going over to "The Dark Side"...
 
There is also the general impression that people and creatures ( in general, again ) tend to either have basically "very good natures" ( they are basically "pure of heart" ) - or else they seem to have basically
"very bad natures" - they are cruel and evil and "bad-hearted" ---
There are exceptions, of course, and examples of where these two forces might do battle within one person - but, for the most part, everyone seems to fall into one or the other of these two categories...
 
And, some might consider this sacreligious [ indeed, Tolkien himself might have considered this idea to be so ] but - if one so desires to go looking for a "Christ Figure" in LOTR - what about Aragorn ? ---
( instead of Frodo or Gandalf - although I suppose all three of these characters could be considered to be
"Christ Figures", each in their own way...
 
Whew! OK - I shut up now ( for now,at any rate ) --- Ardo
 
  
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Hi, lorien...
 
[ concerning that Buddhist "Feel" to LOTR ]
 
All I know is that Tolkien did study Joseph Campbell's works - specifically, he referenced "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" in his "Fairy-Stories" Essay...
And from what I have seen from Mr. Campbell, he tends to take on "The Big Picture" - an overview of Myth and Religion from all over the place - and he also tends to see the correlations and similarities between all these varied mythologies and religions from many different cultures ( and from the vantage points of different eras over time ) - and I'm sure I have heard Mr. Campbell discuss at length concerning the Buddha and
Boddhisatvahs and Buddhist concepts in general...
 
However, it is still hard to imagine JRRT really being particularly "drawn" to that Buddhist philosophy - although anything is possible...
But it would seem more likely, perhaps, that the "Buddhist feel" you might have sensed from the stories was created inadvertently by JRRT - when he may not have had that specific goal in mind - but was "aiming" elsewhere ( or - as also has been suggested - that he was trying NOT to "aim" anywhere specific )...
 
One more thing - I'm no expert on Buddhism - but I think believe there are various forms and methods of employing the Buddhist philosophy ( that have evolved over time as Buddhism spread out from its originating place and evolved into different "sects" [ if you will ] in the various places where it had landed  
and taken root ) - although in the "Western Mind" we might tend to think of Buddhism as lacking
"religious ritual" - ( perhaps this perception is reinforced by comparison to Judaism and Christianity and all the rituals we might know about and feel more familiar with ) I think there might be a great deal more of that same "religious ritual" being practiced by some Buddhists, ( than might be noticed at first glance ) ...
 
Ardo...
  
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Since this has become a sensitive issue, let me first state that the following is simply my opinion, as such, it claims no particular, superior validity to any of the effusions of alternative opinion expressed on any of the pages above, by any of the various authors.

_________________________

Tempest in a Teapot? Or -- One last time!

For me, the basic issue concerning "religion in Middle-earth" is fairly simple: Is Middle-earth a Christian (Roman Catholic) allegory, or is the fantasy universe JRRT created validly open to alternative interpretations? Perhaps a comparison with C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" may help? Integral to understanding Lewis' tale is the deliberate allegoric nature of the work. Aslan is not simply "Christ-like," Aslan IS Christ. The Narnia books are composed to illustrate Christian principles, dogmas, histories in action, and it is only with great difficulty that a reader can go through these narratives without frequent cross-references to that particular religion. In LotR, however, Frodo, Gandalf, Faramir, Aragorn, even Gollum -- all have their Christlike salvific moments, but none of them IS Christ.

Tolkien's efforts were, from the beginning, designed as exercises in creating a national mythology for England rooted in the Anglo-Saxon pagan experience. He did not even try to create a myth for Great Britain, which would include the Celtic regions of the union, but strictly a mythology to illuminate the Anglo-Saxon nature of the teutonic area of the islands. In his initial writings, JRRT modeled his works on the pagan Finnish Kalevala, the pagan Nordic sagas/ myths, the pagan Classical Graeco-Roman traditions, and "The Silmarillion" tales reflect this quite well. "The Hobbit" never had any real religion in it, something quite foreign to its purpose as a children's fairy tale/ adventure. At best it has a few examples of "fate or destiny" loosely woven into its fabric, without any indications that this "destiny" represents a Christian thing, or whether it is an example of the pagan concept of "wyrd."

By the time he got well into LotR, JRRT had reacted to Christian criticisms, and he had started ever more deliberately trying to make LotR consistent/ congruent with Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic version of that religion. But even then, JRRT never allegorized his masterpiece. He was always careful to observe the rule of "applicability."

"Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author." (FotR, foreword, p. 7 hb version)

For me, the above statement has always been the key to the "religion problem" in Middle-earth. While Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, heavily influenced by that system of faith, and I can understand how its tenets would subtly flavour all his efforts as a writer -- there is still, I would argue, nothing that demands an understanding of Christian dogma/ or its list of personna for the enjoyment/ valid reading/ understanding of LotR (or any of the earlier Middle-earth works). In this connection, those wishing to view LotR (and ONLY LotR) as an RC piece of literature usually quote the following Letter:

"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

For my money, this simply means just what it says, there is nothing in LotR that would keep it from having an RC Christian applicability, but it is still NOT a work of Christian allegory. The ethics, values, and "rewarded" behaviours of LotR CAN be viewed in a Christian context, but they may just as validly be seen as elements of the ethical systems of Stoical Graeco-Roman paganism, or Buddhism, or Islam, or even a secular-humanist, agnostic system of belief. You do not have to understand Christianity, know its histories, its doctrines in order to make sense of LotR. It is not a dogma-dependent Christian allegory.

Had Tolkien lived longer, a LOT longer, he may have eventually overcome his antipathy for allegory, and he may have deliberately revised all his works, even those heavily pagan-influenced stories in the Silmarillion. He may have gradually turned all Middle-earth into an RC allegory as his "revisions" in "Morgoth's Ring" (HOME vol. X) suggest. But, as we have LotR today, this process was but little furthered, and it is still, I would argue, a work of "applicability" rather than "allegory." Consequently, the readers are left with a personal decision as to how THEY wish to interpret the ME corpus. It is just as valid to enthuse it with RC meaning and purpose as it is to view it as essentially pagan, Buddhistic, or even non-religious.

I like this "reader-freedom," it allows for a wide variation of individual interpretations, and simply enhances the book's over all impact as a "useful" piece of escapistic literature universally valid for anyone (regardless of religious or philosophical affiliation).
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Afternoon Dagor, ( and Everybody ) ---
 
Speaking ONLY for myself, I must say that I have no quibbles whatsoever with everything you have just said.
I myself have never sought to show that ANYTHING in [ H ] or LOTR "stands" for anything else that just whatever "it" is on its own ( and to consider whatever "it" is completely on its own merits )...
Indeed, I think you sort of just reiterated a lot of things I was trying to say in my last few overly-verbose posts, only in different terms, and in a more succint manner...   
I have always taken Tolkien at his word when he said he detested Allegory "...In all its forms..." ---
I guess I'm just saying that this area of "applicibality" should be opened up more in this discussion, perhaps -
that we should all feel free to "explore" whatever our own interpretations of what the presence of relgion or spirtuality in the books might be...
I realize that Tolkien was very careful to "weed out" any specific religious allusions or references in his works
( especially in "The Hobbit" and LOTR ) but that does not mean that religion or spirituality may not have found some way to enter into stories, perhaps totally unconciously on the part of Mr. Tolkien himself...
And I think this is an area we should all feel free to roam about in, if we are so inclined...
 
Again, speaking only for myself, I am still simply curious to know just exactly what JesseBC meant when talking about how the books could have been considered so inherently "Catholic" in their make-up -
( although I myself had never noticed that aspect particularly, before, in my first readings of the books )...
I too, am still basing all my knowledge almost entirely on only [ H ] & LOTR - and the only "Letters" I have read so far have been the ones reprinted here, at the Book Club...
 
Ardo Whortleberry
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Hi lorien ---
 
Please allow me to hasten to add: In my previous post on "The Buddhist 'feel' in LOTR" - I had no intention whatsoever in trying to "disprove" any of your ideas - or to try and show that your interpretation was somehow not "valid" in any way...( I just want to make sure my thoughts were not construed in that way )...         Ardo 
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Alright I have a proposal (suggested by several of you, but we never seam to get down to it)

As clearly as each of us can. Let's openly state each religious incidence in Tolkien's works and the religion we think each is tied to.

If you find one shout it out and add to the discussion. We can enjoyably discuss back and forth each piece in a for once in a non general way. I just think it's time we got specific.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth


TiggerBear wrote:
Alright I have a proposal (suggested by several of you, but we never seam to get down to it)

As clearly as each of us can. Let's openly state each religious incidence in Tolkien's works and the religion we think each is tied to.

If you find one shout it out and add to the discussion. We can enjoyably discuss back and forth each piece in a for once in a non general way. I just think it's time we got specific.




After some 125 postings I can't think of a single thing! :smileywink: Everything was pretty vague and far-fetched. However, it is my feeling, but I don't know, that we might find more to talk about on this subject when we get to the Silmarillion and other subsidiary writings.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Hi,  TiggerBear ---
 
The problem with that is ( as lorien points out ) --- it  is not really a case of "incidence" - [ such "incidences" being very few and far between in the stories ]  unless, by "incidence", what you mean is something less specific, like the "Themes", "Trends" or "Motifs" or what-have-you that we find in the stories...
I don't think I would mind prescribing the possible influence of a specific religious tradition to these elements found in the books...
 
Ardo 
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New Thread: The Presence Of Magic In [ H ] & LOTR

A Very Good Day/Evening To All...
 
As long as the creation of this Thread was suggested, I thought I might take the opportunity to go ahead and "kick off" some ideas on the subject  for the bouncing back and forth biz...
 
In my own opinion, there definitely IS the presence of "Magic" in these stories -[ although Tolkien himself seemed to disdain that term itself - as, to his mind, it had connotations of "the conjurer's tricks" ]
 - But, fortunately, the stories are not "sugar-coated" or over-lathered in an overabundance of "fantastical" magical happenings, but there is a well-proportioned "sprinkling" of magical occurance throughout the stories, none the less...
 
Let's just start with "The Hobbit" ---
Right off the bat, we are admonished that, concerning hobbits in general :
[      "...there is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary, everyday sort..." ]
Sort of a "heads-up" to the reader - this is not going to be the kind of fantasy where the "Laws of Reality" are circumvented at every turn - hobbits are NOT lephrachaun-like creatures who can appear and re-appear at will - and they can't just "think or wish something and have it be so" ...
 
On the other hand, that description of Gandalf's fireworks - it sounds like there has to be some sort of magic
involved in their creation [ and well, Gandalf IS a wizard, after all ] ...For even in our far-advanced, techno-wonder, modern-day world, it would be darn near impossible to re-create fireworks of the same exquisite beauty and complexity as they are described in [ H ] & LOTR -[ except, of course, in the CGI - Special Effects form ] ---
 
I'm afraid I'm just warming up right now, I'll have to return with some further thoughts on all this...
 
Ardo Whortleberry   
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Re: New Thread: The Presence Of Magic In [ H ] & LOTR

Once again, my attempt to put a new Thread on the boards ( on purpose ) didn't work out the way I had intended it to... Once again, I hope somebody can take my last posting before this one and do the necessary
"Thread Magic" in order to give it its own place on the boards... Ardo
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Re: New Thread: The Presence Of Magic In [ H ] & LOTR


oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
Once again, my attempt to put a new Thread on the boards ( on purpose ) didn't work out the way I had intended it to... Once again, I hope somebody can take my last posting before this one and do the necessary
"Thread Magic" in order to give it its own place on the boards... Ardo





OK, Ardo, :smileyvery-happy:. I will start your new thread and move your message.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

The problem with that is ( as lorien points out ) --- it is not really a case of "incidence" - [ such "incidences" being very few and far between in the stories ] unless, by "incidence", what you mean is something less specific, like the "Themes", "Trends" or "Motifs" or what-have-you that we find in the stories...
I don't think I would mind prescribing the possible influence of a specific religious tradition to these elements found in the books...
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
After some 125 postings I can't think of a single thing! Everything was pretty vague and far-fetched. However, it is my feeling, but I don't know, that we might find more to talk about on this subject when we get to the Silmarillion and other subsidiary writings.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(nodding) You guys have found the point I was being cute about.
IF and it is a big if. If there are no specific religious, then perhaps all these vague feeling we get are ONLY our own. That there are no shading come from Tolkien's camp.

Just a theory. (shrug)

However, I gleefully welcome anyone to prove this wrong.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

(nodding) You guys have found the point I was being cute about.
IF and it is a big if. If there are no specific religious, then perhaps all these vague feeling we get are ONLY our own. That there are no shading come from Tolkien's camp.

Just a theory. (shrug)

However, I gleefully welcome anyone to prove this wrong.
----------------------------------------------

:smileyvery-happy: Ok, Tiggerbear, I guess you have made your point after our 7 pages of fruitless discussion! Amazingly I think this has become one of the longest threads in our discussions. Though there have been books and groups devoted to the Christian aspects of LOTR, I am very surprise that we never got anyone arguing that point of view.

Now we can move onto magic.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Whoa - hold on half a moment...
I didn't mean to imply that I felt like the whole "argument" over "Religion &  Spirituality" in LOTR had finally been concluded and was not open for any further discussion...
Herewith, I will quote from my own post, ( to save the trouble of having to run down my "points" I was adding up together before ) ---
 


Ardo wrote:
 
It does seem hard to imagine that Tolkien could have somehow "divorced" himself so completely from something that must have been at the "very core of his being" - his Roman Catholic faith - as he was writing his stories [ although, his own faith was not what was at the center of his own "Field of Study" ...]  ---
 
But anyway, here are a few aspects of the stories that could be considered in the light of this discussion...
First, there is [ as JesseBC has pointed out ]  that very recurrent theme [ one might even say that it is the "over-riding" theme of LOTR ] of the constant struggle between the Light and the Darkness...
 
Then, there is the aspect of the honor, respect and allegience owed towards the "Rightful Authorities" -The Good KIng - the truly Wise and so forth - but then there are also examples of those same figures of authority who fail in their responsiblities - who become corrupted or deluded and fall into the clutches of the will of "The Enemy" -
and thereby ( sorry, Mr. Lucas ) wind up going over to "The Dark Side"...
 
There is also the general impression that people and creatures ( in general, again ) tend to either have basically "very good natures" ( they are basically "pure of heart" ) - or else they seem to have basically "very bad natures" - they are cruel and evil and "bad-hearted" ---
There are exceptions, of course, and examples of where these two forces might do battle within one person - but, for the most part, everyone seems to fall into one or the other of these two categories...
 
And, some might consider this sacreligious [ indeed, Tolkien himself might have considered this idea to be so ] but - if one so desires to go looking for a "Christ Figure" in LOTR - what about Aragorn ? ---
[ Edited by Ardo on 06/17/08 ]
 
_______________________________________________________________________________
----------------------------------------
To these "elements" in the stories, I'd also like to add the recurring theme of "Hope Beyond Hope" - the need to "Keep The Faith" - even if the face of seemingly completely overwhelming odds - when it seems as though the power of darkness and evil is unbeatable and there is nothing to do but resign yourself to the inevitable... There is the example of Denethor, who loses all hope and submits to what he has been deluded into thinking is the inevitable...
[ and subsequently commits suicide, long considered a "Mortal Sin" by the Catholic Church -
it used to be said ( by the tenets of the Church ) that commiting suicide even denied one's soul
entry into Heaven - I think there has been some softening on this position as of late ]
 
One of the reason 's I included Aragorn ( as a "Christ Figure" ) is because I was thinking about that whole "lineage" business - it sort of reminded of all that lineage reported in The New Testament ( The Book Of Matthew, as I recall - where great lengths were taken to show that Jesus had descended directly from King David ) - and of course, that journey through that Tunnel of the Dead under the mountains - reminiscent of a "descent into Hell" and then coming back to the land of the living in Triumph... There is that title given to the third volume in the "Trilogy" [ which Tolkien did not favor, because he felt like it "gave away" too much of the plot ] - which I'm sure to those who might be more inclined to read Christian themes into LOTR - sounds like it could be some sort of vague reference to The Christ...{ and the "Coming of His Kingdom" }
Of course, there are still extreme differences between how Christians might see the actual Christ himself, and these tenuous comparisons between Aragorn and whatever "Christ-like attributes" [ or "parallels" ] Aragorn might retain...---
 
Ardo
 
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth



oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
Hi,  TiggerBear ---
 
The problem with that is ( as lorien points out ) --- it  is not really a case of "incidence" - [ such "incidences" being very few and far between in the stories ]  unless, by "incidence", what you mean is something less specific, like the "Themes", "Trends" or "Motifs" or what-have-you that we find in the stories...
I don't think I would mind prescribing the possible influence of a specific religious tradition to these elements found in the books...
 
Ardo 


You see, I really DID mean what I said there ( up above ) - if it is themes, trends, motifs
 we are discussing, then yes, I would go ahead and ascribe the possible INFLUENCE of a specific religious tradition upon these same elements found in LOTR [ and yes - I'll go ahead and say it - I am talking about
Tolkien's own religious tradition of the Roman Catholic Church ]  ---
 
I want to reiterate, however, that I still totally agree with you, Dagor, in that:
It is not necessary, in any way, to have any kind of an understanding beforehand ( when reading the stories )
of any particular religious tradition in order to fully and completely appreciate, enjoy and understand LOTR by itself, on its own... ---
 
Furthermore, I still do not feel that Tolkien intended to build into the framework of LOTR
any specific concepts  native to his own personal brand of religion - or indeed, anyone else's personal preferences for religion, either...
In fact, it appears as though JRRT went out of his way to make sure there was nothing in LOTR that might
even be construed as being some sort of "allegorical reference" to these same religious beliefs...
 
It just seems to me that perhaps his own religious beliefs might have still "entered into" LOTR ( in some forms ) whether JRRT was aware of it or not - even taking into account his meticulous attention to detail -
because this is not really in the "details" so much as in "The Big Picture", anyway ...---
 
Ardo 
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

[ Edited ]

oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
Whoops! --- I'm not done yet... I guess my "tiny little trilogy" must now convert itself into a smallish "Quadropendium"...
It does seem hard to imagine that Tolkien could have somehow "divorced" himself so completely from something that must have been at the "very core of his being" - his Roman Catholic faith - as he was writing his stories [ although, his own faith was not what was at the center of his own "Field of Study" - all that lore and language that he was so well steeped in and had studied so assiduously for so many years ] ---
But anyway, here are a few aspects of the stories that could be considered in the light of this discussion...
First, there is [ as JesseBC has pointed out ] that very recurrent theme [ one might even say that it is the
"over-riding" theme of LOTR ] of the constant struggle between the LIght and the Darkness...
Then, there is the aspect of the honor, respect and allegience owed towards the "Rightful Authorities" -
The Good KIng - the truly Wise and so forth - but then there are also examples of those same figures of authority who fail in their responsiblities - who become corrupted or deluded and fall into the clutches of the will of "The Enemy" -
and thereby ( sorry, Mr. Lucas ) wind up going over to "The Dark Side"...
There is also the general impression that people and creatures ( in general, again ) tend to either have basically "very good natures" ( they are basically "pure of heart" ) - or else they seem to have basically
"very bad natures" - they are cruel and evil and "bad-hearted" ---
There are exceptions, of course, and examples of where these two forces might do battle within one person - but, for the most part, everyone seems to fall into one or the other of these two categories...
And, some might consider this sacreligious [ indeed, Tolkien himself might have considered this idea to be so ] but - if one so desires to go looking for a "Christ Figure" in LOTR - what about Aragorn ? ---
( instead of Frodo or Gandalf - although I suppose all three of these characters could be considered to be
"Christ Figures", each in their own way...
Whew! OK - I shut up now ( for now,at any rate ) --- Ardo






Of course this following essay is not an attack, nor even a contradiction of your message quoted above, Ardo. It is simply an attempt to demonstrate, again, how very difficult it is to attribute, as some do, "intent" and hidden meanings to JRR Tolkien in his Middle-earth narratives. Especially here, I am interested in looking a bit deeper into the supposedly Christian concept of "The Good King. Is it really Christian?

RE Ardo's -- "Then, there is the aspect of the honor, respect and allegience owed towards the 'Rightful Authorities' - The Good KIng - the truly Wise and so forth - but then there are also examples of those same figures of authority who fail in their responsiblities - who become corrupted or deluded and fall into the clutches of the will of 'The Enemy' - and thereby ( sorry, Mr. Lucas ) wind up going over to 'The Dark Side..."



Hmmm, the concept of the "Good King," the king who mediates between his people and the gods/ God; who stands ready to sacrifice himself for the good of the people -- and is, therefore, deserving of the respect and obedience of the people -- is one of those complex points that may illustrate the futility of seeing a specific Christian nature for any of the Middle-earth institutions. This conceptualization of "legitimate," God-granted, and God-guarded kingship is actually pre-Christian in origin, and it seems to have an ancient pedigree, going back, if we follow anthropological-historical thought on this matter (Frazer "The Golden Bough," Henri Frankfort "Kingship and the Gods" ), to the Sumerian kings of Mesopotamia like Tammuz/ Dumu-zi -- kings who, when hard times required it of them, sacrificed themselves to insure the annual rebirth of the vegetation necessary for settled society to exist. In fact, the "Good King" aspect of Jesus of Nazareth, acting as a messianic saviour, is derived from this same tradition of "dying-and-rising" god-kings, and it is not an inherently, uniquely Christian concept. We know Tolkien read Frazer, and Frankfort's book was widely available since 1949, while its arguments were on hand much earlier during the debates concerning the religious aspects of kingship that were the "rage" on college campuses from 1890 on. Tolkien, as a scholar of such matters, could and should have been well informed in this regard from 1910 to 1950.

In the specific Germanic/ Nordic tradition, Tolkien's area of expertise, the concept of the Good King -- the sanctioned ruler who acts as the intermediate between his people and the gods -- was also an early part of the pagan societies of the northlands. The early Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain brought this type of kingship with them, and it is persuasively argued by William A. Chancey ("The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England" ) that the Christian era Anglo-Saxon ideas of kingship are in fact survivals of the pagan A-S instutution:

"We shall examine this continuity from paganism to Christianity as it relates to kingship and the religious, sacral nature which permeated that institution among the English under both the old and the new cults." (Chancey, "Cult of Kingship," p. 2)

"[The king] ... stood between his tribe and its gods, sacrificing for victory and plenty, 'making' the year. Tied into temporal and cosmic history by divine descent, he represented and indeed was the 'luck' of his people. Thus it was the king's relationships with the gods which 'saved' his folk as much as did the gods themselves; this royal function, when translated into Christian eschatology, was to be part of medieval rulership throughout the following centuries." (Chancey, pp 2-3)

In this regard, the examples we have in LotR of kingship, Theoden (the name means "The peoples' king" ), Aragorn, and the concept of "Good Stewardship" -- seen to a degree in Denethor, but more so in the earlier stewards and in his son Faramir -- embody the pagan tradition of the "Good King." At the same time, because of its later adaptation/ adoption of pagan "Good Kingship," we are equally justified in seeing a Christian aspect to this concept of kingship. So, here again, "applicability," rules the day. Was Tolkien (a scholar of ancient, pagan cultures as well as being a staunch RC Christian) basing Middle-earth's concept of the "Good King" on pagan or Christian models? Since both the pagan and the Christian versions of the "Good King" are so similar, and have the same roots, is it really possible, or even advisable, to make a distinction? Here again, Christian readers seeking to find something Christian in LotR, may read the "Good Kingship" of Aragorn as a Christian virtue. But equally valid, would be a neo-pagan's interpretation that Aragorn is simply following in the footsteps of the "Good" pagan kings of old.

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-17-2008 08:32 PM
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Morning, Dagor...
 
I think just maybe we have wound up at "cross-purposes" here...
I still feel that in no way was I trying to imply any "intent" { on JRRT's part }
or to uncover any "hidden meanings" ...
As you said in one of your earlier posts, you could see where Tolkien's own personal beliefs could just possibly "subtly flavor" the make-up of his stories -( to a small degree )
 and I believe that's all I was driving at...
As to the "Good Kings" - I really had more in mind ( and again, I'm just thinking that these ideas might have entered unconciously into Tolkien's works - and not that he was trying to put them there on purpose )
"Figures of Authority" in the Catholic Church itself...
 I was not trying to say that "The Good King" concept is strictly, inherently a Christian ideal...
 
I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, so perhaps my upbringing is clouding my mind and making me "see" Christian elements where none exist...
I have also been a basically very "non-practicing" Catholic for many years...
( My wife, who "converted" herself to Catholicism by her own perogative, is probably more of a "True Believer" now than I have ever been since my childhood and early adolescence )
I know I have flirted ( at various times ) with Agnosticism, Atheism, even Neo- Paganism ...
But I know the profound effect one's upbringing in almost any form of religion can have on the make-up of one's mind...
[ whether one continues to accept that religion all of one's life - or rebels against it - or simply discards it and replaces it with something else - or replaces it with nothing at all ]
I think that is what I'm thinking about here -
I realize that Tolkien was an extremely scholarly man -
and his deep well of knowledge was used to a great extent in making up his stories, of course ---
But I think there is still a lot of his own "Collected Memory" from his youth which also enters into the make-up of his works - and sometimes subtly influences them...
and that his Roman Catholic upbringing was a large part of his own personal, "Collected Memory"...
 
Ardo
 
 
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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Ardo Whortleberry
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Dagor
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

[ Edited ]
Hi, Ardo!

No, actually, I do NOT think we are really working at cross-purposes here, I'm just not expressing myself as well as I need to on such a sensitive topic. Here I'm thinking of how JesseB felt persecuted, when I believe that his/her posts simply provoked a good and very interesting amount of reaction, and counter-opinion that was highly educational. In this present case, I was trying to show that I know YOU were not presenting such "intents" concerning JRRT, merely opening up the thread to an important avenue of investigation: how much of JRRT's RC background training bleeds into his writings? Tolkien himself admitted that in Middle-earth he could not help but express his own core beliefs, even in the early material based on the Kalevala and the Nordic sagas, so that he was at first subconsciously injecting these values, but then, after the success of "The Hobbit," and after the first few books of LotR had been written, he began ever more consciously to inject material, ideals, values that were "consistent" with Christianity. In the last years of his life his Middle-earth efforts seem to have been largely devoted to revising even his early pagan-based material with a deliberate intention of "Christianizing" the whole corpus.

What I was trying to express was my current understanding that, as late as the publication of LotR, the matter is still highly ambiguous, and what some people who have published books of Tolkien criticism see as Christian allegory is in fact open to equally valid interpretation as being pagan in theme as well as Christian. So, my comment about "hidden meanings" and "intent" did not refer to your messages at all.

The problem with seeing RC traits in Tolkien, as some published authors do, is precisely that the RC faith is in itself an historically evolving tradition that absorbed many earlier pagan ideas, forms, values -- so that it is often impossible to tell what is meant as Christian parallel and what is just as likely to be a pagan parallel. In this regard, JRRT was correct in simply leaving it up to the readers -- the principle of applicability allows an RC zealot (NOT YOU!) to see the Virgin Mary in Galadriel, to see Aragorn as a "Good Christian King" based on the shepherd of the people ideal of Jesus, the lembas becomes an exact eucharist, etc. etc. The only real point I'm making here, is that those readers who do not wish to interpret Middle-earth along these lines, are just as valid in seeing Buddhistic principles here, or pre-Christian pagan religions and philosophies. I think here, there is general agreement from the participants on this board, even from JesseB, that Middle-earth is what the individual reader wants it to be.

So, when you, Ardo, look into the matter of RC values in Tolkien, you are quite correct to do so. It was JRRT's home-base tradition, it would naturally enter his writings in one form or another. But, in looking more deeply into such things as a list of RC values, I find they are often general re-statements of preceding systems of belief, and so are valid for more than just the Christian faith. In this case, the "Good King" complex is not a Christian ideal, except by adoption, and it is difficult to use such a category as an example of Christianity in Middle-earth, as you recognize. Others have presented the concept of "self-sacrifice" in Middle-earth as an exclusive Christian value, but the pre-Christian texts are full of examples of "self-sacrifice," so even this salvific function can be interpreted without addressing the RC faith, etc. etc.

Re Ardo's -- "But I think there is still a lot of his own 'Collected Memory' from his youth which also enters into the make-up of his works - and sometimes subtly influences them...
and that his Roman Catholic upbringing was a large part of his own personal, 'Collected Memory' "

Correct, but keep in mind that part of JRRT's early intellectual experience was the reading of and internalizing of classical Graeco-Roman pagan texts, and then the pagan Nordic sagas. The forms of these stories were impressed on his youthful mind just as deeply as his Christian catechisms, and these values are the ones more easily seen in his early, derivative attempts at creating a "Mythology for England." In this regard it is interesting that the Valar show far more similarity to the Olympian deities and the Aesir than they do to Christian archangels. When he first wrote the Silmarillion tales the Valar were called "Gods," capitalized. Later they were demoted in succeeding revisions to mere "gods," and finally they were further lowered in status to "powers," which term, in the Letters written after 1956, he defined as "angelic beings."

I guess what I'm saying here is that Tolkien was a complex individual, and his own personal development reveals several different phases of his thought. As he grew older (nearer death?) I think his RC values began to dominate his thought. But, since he did not have the time to do a final, thorough Christian revision of all his works, Middle-earth still stands as an allegory-free zone of the fantasy realm, and it is still a useful field of play for many differing interpretations.

Thanks Ardo!

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-19-2008 11:09 AM
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Friends, forgive me for playing devil's advocate.

But recent post have brought this to mind. How much of Tolkien's revisionism was caused by outside criticisms? And how much was caused by a phenomenon I'm no sure how to politely label. Have the rest of you noticed a tendency in the aging to cling even more tightly to religion as their age progresses? Time and again, I've watched an elder lapsed Christian return to their forgotten faith with a rabid desperation as death approaches. I had a dear professor become viciously atheistic after turning 70. Something I notice I guess because I'm taking care of my elder inlaws, it's on the spousal conversation table nightly. But it strikes me that mabey post war, as he aged Tolkien might have suffered.

Anyone care to guess which onus Tolkien was suffering?
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Hi, TiggerBear ---
 
I don't know, I just don't see Tolkien having suffered from any kind of "onus" like that. Perhaps it is because I have never witnessed first hand that particular "phenomenom"of which you speak - but anyway, I picture
Tolkien's Catholicism as being a rather even, steady and non-fluctuating part of his make-up ...
I picture Tolkien as the kind of man who would tend not to be become even slightly "fixated", "obsessed" or "unbalanced" or "fanatical" in any way...( including with his own religious beliefs ) ---
It would also seem like the greatest "test" of his beliefs ( or else, the only stimulus that could have driven him to "cling even more tightly to his faith" - to seek  solace and safety in the protective arms of
 The Church )  would have come soon after he had been through World War One - and had experienced all that human suffering first hand - and had lost so many of his close friends and compatriots...
But it was at that point that he "ploughed ahead"  and dove into his studies...
 
Of course, as he grew older, and felt like the "next stage" might be approaching, he might have started to
concern himself more with these matters of Faith...
My own personal opinion is that it still was more likely that he might have felt some tinges of
"Catholic Guilt" [ at having encouraged, inadvertently, the popularity of a new "Neo-Paganism" in 
Popular Culture ] - and was trying to "make up" for all that...[ by making more "revisions" ] ---
 
Ardo       
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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Ardo Whortleberry