Our Lady Eowyn

Tolkien loathed allegory. It was too obvious; too blatant; too literal; too dead. In allegory one thing means one thing and that’s it. Myth, on the other hand, is alive. It’s a real story with the real ambiguity and complexity of real life. Tolkien’s world is multi-layered and yet full of Christian meaning all the same.

In LOTR one female doesn’t represent the Blessed Virgin Mary; they all do. Galadriel and Arwen and Aragorn’s mother all represent the Blessed Virgin in different ways–so does Rosie back in the Shire for that matter.

See Eowyn? When she slays the dragon she is the valiant victor over evil prophesied in Genesis 3:15. There, where woman is defeated by the serpent it is prophesied that the seed of woman will trample the head of the serpent. In the film version the Nazgul hisses, ‘No man can slay me.’ Eowyn removes her helmet, shakes out her hair and sneers with victory, ‘I am no man!’

At that moment the Christian story comes alive again, Our Lady Eowyn reveals Our Lady Mary who also, with her meek victory and humble strength reclaims the battle as the second Eve and tramples the serpent’s head.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06821950576683551325 Esther

    My son Joey really enjoyed the other post on Gollum. Can’t wait to show him this one too. BTW, Fr. Dwight, one of my friends here in Hawaii recently discovered your story. She just can’t get enough of listening to you on EWTN and tapes I think she bought. She may write you one day and tell you. Just thought I’d let you know. Sure hope someone invites you to speak here in HI one day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Hi Esther. If your friend is interested she can link from my latest post to some podcasts of my homilies at St Mary’s, Greenville.

  • DGus

    Tolkien “loathed allegory”? I can understand preferring something else (say, myth), but to “loathe allegory”?–say it isn’t so. Who could loathe Sir Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” or John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”–the one learned and literary, the other from a mud-on-his-boots genius, but both of them moving and powerful. Bunyan’s allegory is “obvious”, yes of course. With characters named Christian, and Hopeful, and Mr. Worldy Wise Man, the student hardly needs to ask “And what does THAT character represent?” The book is NOT a code where the trick is to interpret it. Rather, the meaning is deliberately obvious and the purpose didactic, and the literary question is simply, Does it succeed? And the answer, from four centuries of Christian readers, is abundantly Yes.And for that matter, aren’t Jesus’ parables allegorical? E.g., “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wisked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.” (Matt. 13:38-39.) That’s pretty much a one-for-one correspondence between story element and real-word thing, no?Affirm myth, but don’t deny allegory. A man is more often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies. (Or something like that.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I think Tolkien didn’t like allegory because it was too simplistic, ‘inyerface’ and didactic. It limits the language of symbolism by saying, ‘This is what it means. That’s it. Learn it.’Not only does allegory limit the meaning of the symbolism, but it robs symbolism of it’s intrinsic ambiguity and mystery, and thus degrades symbolism to simple sign language.Jesus’ parables may be interpreted allegorically, and he himself interpreted them thus (although some commentators think when he was doing this he was being ironical ‘You want to know the meaning? Here it is. This equals that.’ His allegorical interpretations must also be set against the times he declined to interpret his parables at all and allowed them to just stand) The Church fathers have also historically allowed for an allegorical strand of Biblical interpretation–so that Old Testament stories were interpreted allegorically.So allegory certainly has its functions.The other half of ‘a man is most often right in what affirms and wrong in what he denies is Thomas Traherne’s dictum, “Can a man be just unless he love all things according to their worth.’I do affirm allegory…for what its worth. Its just worth less than myth in the same way that a Norman Rockwell painting is worth less than say, a Rembrandt. Both are great, but one is greater.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09015745990344837357 Nârwen

    As a matter of fact, Tolkien did not like “The Faerie Queen” at all, and got into friendly arguments about it with C.S. Lewis, who thought it wonderful.

  • Bill

    Yes, DGus. Tolkien loathed it. Pick up his Letters. True, it has its purposes. But Tolkien found it too didactic (as Dwight pointed out) – it makes the focus of the story a singular point rooted in a singular earthly concept rather than being able to wrestle with multiple overarching ideas – like loss, forgiveness, divine intercession.As to Dwight’s list. Shame on you for only looking at the Trilogy! (“shame” being a jab between friends and not actually a curse). What about Elbereth?!? She’s not only the wife of the head Valar (god/angel/being), but is an object of adoration by the elves – all without diminishing the honor of her husband, Manwe.I highly suggest picking up the Silmarillion if you haven’t already. Especially the two short stories at the beginning that describe the creation of the world – created through music.(and as I write this, I realize that I have described an allegorical rather than mythic relationship between Elbereth/Mary… trust me, there’s much more there!)


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