Best known for his work, The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien taught at the University of Leeds before becoming a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. He later became a Fellow of Merton College. A scholar specializing in Old and Middle English, Tolkien was a founding member of the well-known literary society “The Inklings,” in which C. S. Lewis was also a member. As a friend and colleague, Lewis credited his conversion to Christianity in part to Tolkien’s influence upon his life.
Though The Lord of the Rings was not written as an intentional analogy of the Christian faith, Christian themes emanate from a classic struggle between good and evil—between the free peoples of Middle Earth and Sauron and his minions. Below is a quote from the first book of the epic, The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf the Wise, a leader of the opposition against evil Sauron, has just explained to Frodo the desperate situation that is before them. While Frodo’s mournful response is understandable, Gandalf does not accept a spirit of despair, instead he points Frodo to what they can and must do—exhibit courage in the moment.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”1
1 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993), 60.
JRRT not only wrote great fantasy, but also centered his life around the Eucharist, a reality for him.
“The only cure for sagging of fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which [our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)”
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