Christian Elements and Symbols in Tolkien
- Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tolkien's good magic does not show the invidious disregard for God and man which earthly magic must. When we turn to black magic, we see that those who use the machinery of magic (such as the palantirs and rings), are injured or destroyed by that machinery. Never once--and this is to Tolkien's credit--are we allowed to see black magic close up, its rites and sorcery. Angmar is called a sorcerer; his sorcery is never shown, but like all sorcerers fell under the power of the Black Lord.
Those who peer into powers not meant for them, especially shadow powers, are snared by the shadow. Tolkien clearly illustrates this in Saruman's case. Elrond pounds the message home, saying, "It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the enemy, for good or for ill."
All the same, the resurgence of interest in myths, the occult, and fantasy which Tolkien and C. S. Lewis (among others) engendered in the evangelical community is to be deplored. There seems to be a serious erosion of the uniqueness of Christian teaching.
This caveat aside, Tolkien's work is a monument of genius against which all other fantasies can aptly be compared. In general, The Lord of the Rings has an enduring quality lacking to much other fantasy, because it is built on permanent principles. Right and wrong do not change; Tolkien's absolutes are built on Christianity. the moral principles of tolkien justify his work. Despite casteism, sexism, sterotypes, and (sometimes) bad poetry, it remains a clear, beautiful, and moving appeal to our noblest impulses.
Could Tolkien have bettered the moral tone of the work? Probably not. More Christ would have endangered the work with sacrilege. More platitudes would have made it a bore. No, J. R. R. Tolkien has blended his multifarious elements with unparalleled wit, scholarship, and charm. The Lord of the Rings stands as a unique testimony to the power of a Christian pen.
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