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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Quite the opposite, actually, Dagor -- you have been more than clear and articulate in every way, expressing yourself upon these matters...I am the one has been guilty of some fuzzy, blurry thinking - and some slap-dash writing - mainly because I have been coming at this all from an emotional stand-point - and many times, because I really wasn't sure exactly what it was I was trying to say!
 
I am going to "revise" my thoughts one more time, and see if I can get any closer to what I was trying to say...
[ but, before I begin, I need to reiterate, all my reflections are reflections on [ H ] & LOTR only - and are not based on any of the subsequent books or any other sources...]
 
I think what my "theory" boils down to is something like this:
After JRRT was indoctrinated in the Roman Catholic faith, there would have been certain "traits"
( which I think are rather peculiar to people having been so indoctrinated )
certain ways of looking at the world, a certain "outlook on life" -
and that these "attitiudes" would tend to  have some effect on his creative endeavors... 
perhaps only in very subtle ways...
 
When I was much younger, I read these stories without noticing one scintilla of any religious overtones, undertones or even "meanings" - and enjoyed them exceedingly, viewing them ( and I think, completely
"unprejudiced" ) in that way...
Now that I am older, I feel like I can step back a little, and view everything from a more objective distance -
[ when I was young, I felt much "closer" ( much more "close up and personal" ) - both to the world of
Middle-earth - and to the religion which I had been raised in - ] -
[ and - I'm sure  Mr. Tolkien himself would have been perfectly horrified to know this ( and I am rather embarassed to even admit this ) - but, by a certain point, I was so
much "taken" with his stories ( enchanted, you could say ) - that Middle-earth seemed more real and more believable and more pertinent to me than my own "real" religion that I had been raised in - you could say
Tolkien's books had even "superceded" my own religious indoctrination ]
Now, I am looking back in a more sober frame of mind, and I am just considering what I know about what
indoctrination in the Roman Catholic faith does to sort of permanently "alter one's psyche"--
[ and, I know, in Tolkien's youth, this "indoctrination" was much more thorough and complete than by the time I was growing up and being
"indoctrinated" - I still remember Masses spoken in Latin - but by the time I was seven or so, the "Vatican II"
reforms were already getting put into action ] -
So, I feel like I can readily recognize some of these "outlooks"
and patterns of thinking  that might have originated from JRRT's own indoctrination...
 
Ardo
 
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Just to elaborate a bit more...
 
Although JRRT did not try to "super-impose" any specifically Christian values on the framework of those stories, there are still certain aspects of those pagan, pre-Christian sources, and those ancient cultures
from which those sources were derived - that just don't "translate" well into the kind of outlook and overall tone that we find in the stories...
Going back to this whole idea of "Good and Evil" ---
And going back to the Human Sacrifice Debate/Debacle -
If we were able to go back to those pagan times, I think we would find the people at the time would not only consider that kind of activity ( the Human Sacrifice ) a perfectly acceptable thing to do - but even the "right" thing to do - even a "good" thing to do... ---
I think they tended to fear the power of "The Otherworld" - but I think they saw that same "Otherworld" as a power to be bargained with, or appeased...
But not necessarily that that power was "wrong" or "bad" -
In fact, my impression is that, overall, they assumed "Might makes Right" in just about any given situation...
The fierce, the merciless, the bloodthirsty, even, were to be admired and emulated...
 I'm sure they had their own "moral code" -
 ( probably revolving around Loyalty, Honor, obeying your leaders, honoring the gods, commiting your whole being into a battle and not fearing death ) but - as far as certain other values go, ( values more familiar to us today ) it would not a code that we would readily recognize by today's standards...
At any rate, I don't think they saw Good/Evil in the same way that we might - in fact, I'm not even sure if
they saw the presence of "Evil" per se - they may have seen things in terms of that
"Struggle between Darkness and Light" [ especially considering how closely their lives were tied to Nature ]
but I don't think they saw: "Darkness="Evil" & Light ="Good" [ except, of course, "light" would represent the
"life-force" - which is "good" - but not "morally good" - just more like:"Being alive is a good thing!" ]---
 
But in [ H ] & LOTR, we have these allusions to pagan culture, but there definitely is that very non-pagan,
post-Christian idea there, that there is definitely a right way to behave, and a wrong way to behave,
there definitely is the presence of "Good" and "Evil" [ more as we might tend to think of it ] - and those same concepts of Good and Evil seem to be closely tied to those concepts of Light and Darkness, as well...
 
Of course, this could be another case of where all those more "odious" aspects of paganism
[ or at least, those aspects, which to JRRT, might have seemed to him to be "odious" ]
got "dumped" on the heads of those poor, unfortunate orcs, again! ---
 
Just as a side note, I think it is also interesting to note, when Hitler and the Nazis re-invented their own "New Religion" -supposedly based on Nordic/Tuetonic Myth - they glorified those original pagan "virtues" - and removed the "super-imposition" of those post-pagan, Judeo-Christian ideas that had superceded those pagan values, and created their own perverted, very orc-like ( Mordor-like ) culture of fear and cruelty...
Sort of a "Neo-Paganism Worst Case Scenario" ---
And - no of course not - I don't mean to imply in any way that "neo-paganists" are like Nazis! ---
 
  Ardo     
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Afternoon, Everybody... ---
 
I'd just like to apologize - I feel like I sort of got a little too carried away [ a little too "extreme' ] in my previous post - talking about my personal feelings for the religious tradition I was brought up in, and my feelings for Tolkien's books... I sort of slipped into an " comparing apples and oranges" situation there...
 
It would have been more accurate to say that: ( in my youth ) my religious feelings and my love for Tolkien never even "crossed paths" - they were very two very distinct and seperate "compartments" in my mind...
After the point where I started to quietly "slip away" from the Church ---
[ there was no real "rebelling" on my part - it was more just a case of gradually "loosening the ties" - I was even up to the point where it was time to start studying for my "Confirmation" - but there was no follow-through...and as time went by, I went into the process of "falling away" ( as they say ) - but never divorced myself completely and absolutely from the Church ] ---
 --- at that point, Tolkien was still there for me, in the same "place" that it had been before...  ---
 
Ardo Whortleberry
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

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 -
--------------------------------------------------------
It's a bit beyond the echoes of "Catholic guilt", and it encompasses more than Catholics or Christians. If you've never watched it, count yourself lucky. But if you ever come across it you know exactly what of I speak.

It is just a supposition I have towards Tolkien, I don't really have adaquite data.
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Dagor
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Re Ardo's -- "I think what my 'theory' boils down to is something like this: After JRRT was indoctrinated in the Roman Catholic faith, there would have been certain 'traits'
( which I think are rather peculiar to people having been so indoctrinated ) certain ways of looking at the world, a certain 'outlook on life' - and that these 'attitudes' would tend to have some effect on his creative endeavors... perhaps only in very subtle ways..."

RE Ardo's -- "... I am just considering what I know about what indoctrination in the Roman Catholic faith does to sort of permanently 'alter one's psyche'-- [ and, I know, in Tolkien's youth, this 'indoctrination' was much more thorough and complete than by the time I was growing up and being 'indoctrinated' ..."

This is interesting, and I think I can agree with your premise here that Tolkien (with the redoubled vigour of being a "convert" to that religion, and suffering ostracism from his extended family because of his beloved mother's conversion) was rather more heavily than most RC youths self-indoctrinated with that faith's value system. One way of substantiating this proposition and helping us to understands the self-constraints he put upon his Middle-earth, in terms of religion, might be to compare his works with others of a similar type written in a similar cultural milieu and in a similar time. Wm. Morris wrote historical-fantasy fiction books just a score of years before Tolkien started his own efforts, and several of them deeply influenced Tolkien in his formative stages as a writer of fiction. But Morris, despite his own late Victorian training in Christian beliefs, never felt uncomfortable in giving his pre-Christian heroes a proper pagan religion (based on what modern scholars knew about the Germanic tribal religions of the 300 BC to 100 AD era). Tolkien, on the other hand, chose, in his depiction of the Anglo-Saxon derived hobbits and Rohirim, to suppress this aspect of their culture. I see this "suppression" as a personal quirk of JRRT's, based on his own internalizations of the Christian dogmae, and not necessarily something that the RC faith automatically bestows upon its members. In this case, I see Tolkien as being at the extreme end of the RC continuum, a man so concerned with religion that he was willing to largely erase it from his accounts of Middle-earth cultures until time might catch up with his fantasy realm, and Christianity could properly be introduced. Had Tolkien written sequels to LotR, carrying the tale into the present, would he, after the advent of Christianity, have started introducing daily scenes of religion in the Shire of 500 AD, hobbits trooping off for mass each Sunday morning?
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Edited by Ardo on July 7th, 2008

JesseBC wrote:
...this very fuzziness, this difficulty in pinning down religious influences on LOTR (all the while, so many readers see them) is, in itself, very Catholic...

... Catholicism concerns itself very much with mystery and myth and Grand Story...

The grand, mythic themes of LOTR beg for religious speculation and, even had I not known Tolkien was a Catholic, I wouldn't have surprised to find out he was. The books FEEL very Catholic to me in tone, even though I'd have a hard time pointing to any specific allegory..heading more in the direction of Tolkien's Roman Catholic religion's possible influence on the story...




I wished to reprint some selected parts of JesseBC's previous letter here ( and certainly not with the intention of starting up another "firestorm" of ideological argument and debate on the subject )...
I know I went off on a tangent of my own, afterwards, more or less elaborating on what was said in this letter
( and I still meant everything I said in those subsequent letters ) but, at the same time, I was also mainly just complicating and obfuscating a simpler, clearer message ( which, if one reads JesseBC's letter with a quiet and open mind, I think might reveal itself to one in its own succint clarity )...
Also, I feel JesseBC's letter was dealing a with FEELINGS ( more than anything else ) and whatever ones own opinions on the technicalities involved with the subject at hand, it's difficult ( if not impossible ) to "prove" or "disprove" someone's FEELINGS about anything...
All I'm saying is, give that letter ( or, at least, the portion that remains from my editing )
a quiet read, and perhaps, see what the author was trying to say with it... 
 
Ardo Whortleberry
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

hmm,

Well Ardo gets a new title PEACE MAKER.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Afternoon, Dagor! ---
 
I agree with much of what you had to say in your last posting...
I think this all sort of ties in, as well, with something I was trying to sort out much earlier in this Thread - that business of JRRT taking Pagan elements and stripping them of their "darker" connotations - turning them into something more "innocent" - whereas, if he had allowed the presence of a genuine pagan "religion" in his stories [ at least, in the cases of "H" & LOTR ] that would have somehow inferred a "validiction" of those pagan "ideals"...
And, of course, there was his "middle-ground" method of methodically removing all traces of any form of "official" religion and religious practices from the stories [ although that bit about the Numenorean's 
"moment of silence" and "turning to the West" almost seems like almost just a "nod" in that general direction ]   ...
I would agree that JRRT's "suppression" that you talk about is not exclusively a result of his RC upbringing -
but I still think there are certain peculiarly RC "attitudes" that show up in the make-up of the stories - [ again,
this would have occurred  unconciously on JRRT's part ] - just certain ways of "looking at the world" which, in my mind, feel rather RC in their nature...[ again, I admit I am probably somewhat "prejudiced" in this matter, on account of my own RC upbringing, and how I know it always influenced my own ways of looking at the world ]...
 
This idea of the hobbits "trooping off to Mass" [ in the Shire of 500 AD ] still paints an incongruious picture, no matter what... The rules may have changed, but in the old days,  you were supposed to fast before recieving Communion [ at least one hour before - and I have a feeling my grandparents ( and even my mother, as a result ) would simply not have breakfast before going off to Mass in the morning ]...
I picture a bunch of rather unhappy hobbits, unable to consume their big breakfasts, before they had to "troop
off" to Mass! ---
 
Ardo  
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

This idea of the hobbits "trooping off to Mass" [ in the Shire of 500 AD ] still paints an incongruious picture, no matter what... The rules may have changed, but in the old days, you were supposed to fast before recieving Communion [ at least one hour before - and I have a feeling my grandparents ( and even my mother, as a result ) would simply not have breakfast before going off to Mass in the morning ]...
I picture a bunch of rather unhappy hobbits, unable to consume their big breakfasts, before they had to "troop
off" to Mass! ---
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Not to be flippant; but I think if Hobbits were asked to fast at all, in mass they'd succeed from catholicism.

They much like, what I grew up with. Breakfast, then sunday school with doughnuts and such throughout, sermon, and then chicken after.
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macross
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Im an active member of the Catholic church, alltough im no hobbit, Ill be damned if I go to church and not eat before lol. What about prayer? When rarely see any of the characters in prayer at all in LOTR.
On a wing and a prayer.
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Actually ( technically speaking ) the rule was no eating one hour before Communion,  and Communion comes towards the very end of the Mass, and Sunday Mass averages about one hour ( these days ) so - taking into account the travel time to get to church, it's still very easy to follow that particular "rule" [ if that "rule"is still in effect - which, I kind of think it might be ] without even realizing that is what you are doing... --- 
 
The times I was referring to ( like, right up into the early 1960's ) I believe there were a good deal less "options" for when you could come to Mass, as to what Catholics are used to, nowadays, [ such as, for instance, these Saturday Evening Masses, and possibly there was only one Mass scheduled on Sunday, instead of three or more ] ...But, anyway, it must have been up to the individual whether or not to eat before coming to Mass - although, I do think the big Pancake Breakfasts in the Reception Hall ( usually the school cafeteria ) were designed to be consumed by the "After-Mass-Goers" ( as a reward? ) ---
 
On the other hand, if we were talking about life in "The Shire 500 A.D."  ( or simply life in the real world,
say, Northern Europe in the year 500 A.D. ) ...rules were MUCH more strict, to say the least, and more strictly enforced...There must have been fasting and other forms of self-sacrifice going on right and left, like you wouldn't believe... ---
 
Thanks for your comments!
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lorien
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

We did have some discussion on Aule and his creation. We did skip ahead a bit to the Silmarillion and maybe we whould resurrect some of these ideas. I am sure there are more lurking around in all our other threads. (If the powers that be don't just delete eight months of valuable research and discussion). I gather Eru is another name for Iluvatar.

 


Fanuidhol wrote:


Fanuidhol wrote:


lorien wrote:

It seems they were made by Aule, who is the Valar craftsman who made the form of the earth, and he dearly loved his creations (I know where Gimli got his trait from). And waiting for Eru to get around to produce these elves and men, he crafted his own humanoids because he wanted something to love and to cherish created by his own hand. These were the dwarves. But Eru was not happy with this situation and chastised him for exceeding his authority. At once Aule repented and was ready to destroy his creation. But Eru took pity on him told him he could keep them but they would have to sleep until Eru had awaken the First Born or the elves.

Now I don't know if they ever got souls, and I would hate to think that orcs had souls and dwarves didn't.

Lorien, Eru made Dwarves his adopted children. The thing that Aule could not do was to give the Dwarves independent being. They were puppets. Once Aule repented, Eru gave Dwarves "free will". To me, this implies a soul.
Tolkien's history with Dwarves is complicated. Until the Hobbit was written, Dwarves were mostly an evil race. I believe that Tolkien wrote the Dwarves creation story after he wrote LotR (I'm not checking my books, this is only from memory).
Fan


I was reminded by Letter #212 that Tolkien's mythology within (most of) Silm is Elf centered and from their point of view (which is not necessarily the "truth" ). You might want to check that letter, since the Dwarven creation story figures into it.
Fan


Message Edited by Fanuidhol on 04-21-2008 04:44 AM

Message Edited by Fanuidhol on 04-21-2008 04:48 AM

 

 

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Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth: The Silmarillian


BarbaraN wrote:
Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Dagor wrote:
Hmmm, maybe we need to open a new discussion thread on "Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth" -- something where "belief systems" (god concepts; after-life; ethics of daily behaviour) and their "ritual expressions" (forms of worship) might be discussed? A part of this might be: just how "Pagan" is Middle-earth and how "Christian?"
----------------------------------------------------

And we should. It is a valid subject. Maybe the first question we should address is "if" there is religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth and if so how is it manifested?

 

After many pages of discussion here, I see no one found anything too specifically religious in Tolkien's LOTR. However, as I get into the Sil, at least at the beginning, I do see the influence of a religious philosophy and maybe this will carry through as the moral underpinning of LOTR. I am still reading the introduction to this fascinating book called Splintered Light. In that introduction (page xx) Flieger says:

"...only in the most general sense can The Silmarillion be characterized as Christian, and in no sense at all can The Lord of the Rings be given so definitive a label. That both works are informed with the spirit of Christianity is clear. However, the seeker after explicit Christian reference, as distinct from Christian meaning, will find little in either book to get a grip on."

And as she points out in Tolkien's own words and quotes Letter #172:

"I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion.' to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."

Then she goes on to say: (page xxi)

"The Silmarillion is Tolkien's gloss on Christianity, illustrating its universals, not repeating its specifics. The legendarium is concerned...'with Fall, Mortality, and the Machine'...subjects that, in their broadest sense, are the concerns of all mythologies in all ages.'

This statement gives us our three major philosophical discussion points -- Fall, Mortality, and the Machine. Mortality and Machine are certainly major issues in LOTR and, as we address those two issues, it would be worthwhile to return to LOTR with specific references there.

 

She then ends her Introduction with this statement:

"The Silmarillian and The Lord of the Rings are parts of a whole vision, ...they derive from and express that vision -- Tolkien's obliquely orthodox, highly unorthodox, ultra-Christian, extra-Christian exercise in creative imagination. The Silmarillion can be fully understood without reference to The Lord of the Rings, but the reverse is not the case. Any attempt to read, to understand, and to evaluate Tolkien's fiction and his contribution to twentieth-century thought and fiction should begin where he began -- at the beginning. Only then can there be any understanding or where he is going and, even more important, of why he is going there."

I have a feeling this thread is going to get a whole lot longer!