Holy Saturday and Lord of the Rings

Aragorn Enters the Paths of the Dead
Aragorn Enters the Paths of the Dead

One of Catholicism’s greatest contributions is the great artists it has produced. I have written elsewhere about how the deeply incarnation and sacramental vision of Catholicism helps to inspire art that works at a deeper level than anything the world (and non Catholic Christians) can produce.

One of the best examples of this is the comparison between Tolkien and Lewis.

J.R.R.Tolkien wove his Catholicism into The Lord of the Rings at the deepest of levels.

Not content to write a quasi-allegory like his friend C.S.Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia, Tolkien eschewed the too easy one-to-one symbolism and created a whole other world that reflected and echoed the reality of this world.

 

Lewis’ books, for all their charm, genuine beauty and insights remain didactic and superficial.

Tolkien’s work–which took much longer to complete–is much richer and the Christianity operates within it at a much more profound and subtle level.

In his Middle Earth the characters work through the same themes of good and evil, death and resurrection, bondage and redemption, pity and blame–but they do so in their own world and in their own way.

The Catholic themes are hidden. There is no Eucharist, but there is lemabas–the wondrous Elven way bread. There is no single Christ figure, but several characters evidence Christ-like features and echo the earthly redemption story.

One of my favorite examples of this is Strider-Aragorn going through the realm of the dead, and bringing the forgotten warriors with him to fight another day and for a better cause.

Aragorn–the long lost king– chooses to go along the Path of the Dead to redeem them by holding them to their broken oath to fight the great evil Sauron.

The dead are imprisoned in the dark lands until the king can come at last, fulfill the prophecy and bring them into the light of day.

Without a knowledge of the traditional Catholic teaching about Holy Saturday the Christian meaning might be lost on us.

However, once you take a look at that tradition everything clicks into place… Continue Reading

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