My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We need the truth, but we also need to know how to live in and through and by that truth.
What we need, in short, are stories.
Louis Markos begins with the idea that in the past stories weren’t only told for children’s entertainment and instruction, but for that of adults as well. We’ve lost not only that idea but a lot of the time-honored values that we used to teach and cherish in such stories. The author “mines” two of the most honored stories in modern times, the Lord of the Rings and, to a lesser extent, The Chronicles of Narnia, to show how they can help us return to classic virtues these days.
Ancient literature, modern culture, and scripture are all woven into Markos’ book. The main emphasis is on Tolkien and Lewis, but the depth of material means that it hits you where you live. Before delving into the virtues, Markos begins with the idea of the hero’s journey and the road. These are the heart of good story telling, after all, and so are themes that are returned to repeatedly throughout the book.
In the greater tales, the ones that matter—the ones that change both us and our world—the heroes do not so much choose the Road, as the Road chooses them. For our part, we must be ready, prepared in season and out, to answer the call, whenever and however it comes. And we must be prepared to press on, trusting to an end that we often do not, perhaps cannot, see. It is easy to claim that we would have done what Abraham did, but that is only because we stand outside the story. We see the good end, the fulfillment that Abraham could not see from within the story.
Markos is not detached with his subject at arm’s length. He loves these stories and the themes they embrace and his enthusiasm comes through to make a warm, lively reading experience.
I’ve read several other books looking deeper into The Lord of the Rings, in particular, and this book still managed to provide new ideas for reflection. Markos really does a fantastic job of revealing the characteristics of various characters in Middle-Earth and Narnia and the virtues we can see in them. This is a thoughtful and thought provoking book which I can’t recommend highly enough.
I’ll be looking for more of Markos’ books in the future.
I received this review copy from Aquinas and More, the largest on-line Catholic bookstore. They’ve got a lot more than books. Check them out for all your Catholic needs … rosaries, communion gifts, and so forth.
I originally wrote this review of On the Shoulders of Hobbits for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.