J.R.R. Tolkien, author of many books, is best known for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. What of the man himself? Briefly: he was born during the last years of the reign of Queen Victoria and lived into the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a devout Catholic he was born under the Pontificate of Pope Leo xiii and died during the Pontificate of St. Paul vi. He and his wife, they had four children, were married for 65 years. He served at the front in WWI, was married during that war, and he and his wife raised their family through the Great Depression and the Second World War, and along the way Tolkien influenced his friend C.S. Lewis to abandon atheism, which Lewis did, becoming a devout Anglican. All to say when reading any of the many writings of either author it is good to know what was happening in the world around them, helps give a whole perspective on Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series and Lewis’ Narnia series.
In a letter, Tolkien wrote to a friend he stated: “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 cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” ~from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Letter_142
There is the key to how the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series touch people of faith and no faith so deeply.
The treasury of cultures has in books, plays, operas, movies, which in the darkness and stress of this new normal have gems of hope, such as this wisdom from Frodo’s persistently faithful friend Sam: “Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
Quoted in https://english104winter2012.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/sams-speech-from-the-two-towers/
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph