Friday, December 30, 2005

Recommended Reading

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic
work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is
why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything
like "religion," to cult or practices, in the imaginary world. For the
religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.--J.R.R.
TolkienLetters 142

This is a story that tells us things we need to know. It cannot
be taken in all at once. It is one of those that we have to grow into;
stories that deal with the way the world is made, and the way the self is
made. These stories are like dreams, but dreams that can be shared by an
entire culture; wholesome dreams that restore a balance to the psyche by turning
our energies and our thoughts toward truth; dreams that resemble an oasis in the
desert. Reading them can be a meditation.--Stratford Caldecott

The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the

Caldecott's book is an interesting thematic/literary analysis of Tolkien's trilogy. He starts by establishing that Tolkien was a Catholic of deep convictions. In fact, Tolkien was orphaned at twelve and raised to maturity by a priest. More interestingly, Tolkien's mother converted to Catholicism before her death and was effectively disinherited by her family. Tolkien himself believed that she had died of poverty.

Not surprisingly, death is one of the common themes in the trilogy and Caldecott goes to great lengths to explore death and Tolkien's spiritual relationship to it. He also investigates the many ways in which Tolkien's theology shines through his work both consciously and unconsciously. In particular, there is a fascinating passage which compares Galadriel to the Madonna.

If you have the time and inclination, this is a book worth reading. The points are a bit strained at times, but the ideas underlying the book are fascinating.