Sic et Non
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Gandalf the Wizard
Today’s Hamblin/Peterson column in the Deseret News:
Posted from Chicago, Illinois.
Terrific article (and a well timed one, too!)
I was weaned on Tolkien by an older brother, and so the stories are so familiar to me that I often miss the obvious.
For example, it was only when I narrated the overall plot to my wife (a Tolkien novice) that she pointed out the utterly obvious fact about Galadriel being a Mary figure. I simply hadn’t seen it! Though obvious in hindsight.
The comments on the Deseret News site are a dispiriting bunch from an assortment of know-littles. Oh well.
The comments are, as many of them commonly are, worthless or worse. They argue, or simply assert, that “Lord of the Rings” isn’t a Christian work when Tolkien himself — who had an arguably closer acquaintance with the author of “Lord of the Rings” than any living reader of the Deseret News does — said that it is.
A quick reading of Tolkien’s other works set in his imagined world – chief among them [I]The Silmarillion[/I] – gives the game away, somewhat. The religious (and particularly Christian) underpinnings are pretty clear.
I do think the question of Norse and other pagan myth is worth addressing, somehow. I have a pet theory that Tolkien was, on some level, trying out out his hand at a kind of Augustinian synthesis.
Just as Augustine brought together Classical Greek philosophy and culture with the Christian Gospel, so too does Tolkien try to merge the best of the Norse, Celtic and Germanic realms with Christianity – at least in an imaginative or speculative fashion.
I was surprised at how dumb every comment I saw was and how little each bothered to deal with the evidence. As you said, each commenter seems to think one can just wave aside Tolkien’s explanation of his own work. It reminds me of the story of Ray Bradbury walking out of a UCLA class when the students insisted on explaining to him what Fahrenheit 451 was actually about. (To be fair, I’d always been told the same thing the students were insisting on. Still, I think I’d defer to the book’s author.)
I rarely read the comments but when I do I’m usually sorry that I did. Wasn’t that a Woody Allen movie where Woody pulls Kurt Vonnegut or somebody out to argue against some character pontificating about Vonnegut work? Fantasy backup? Anyhow, I’m shocked that’s debatable at all–I do remember some people arguing that the Ring was the Bomb back in the day and Tolkein denying that was his intention but this is a new approach. I guess they want to be able to like Lord of the Rings and if the work is not in lockstep with their views they can’t. I don’t know why that is…
LBRussell: You are thinking of a scene from “Annie Hall” in which Allen and Diane Keaton are standing in line to see a movie (“Cries and Whispers”?) and he gets in an argument with the next person in line about the meaning of the theories of Marshall McLuhan, author of “The Medium is the Message”. Allen conjures up McLuhan himself to tell his adversary “You don’t understand anything about my theories!” Sort of the dream of everyone who has gotten into an argument with someone who appears to be a clueless know-it-all.
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