Lord of the Rings: Judeo Christian Ethics and Mythos
by L.A. Solinas
Page 1 of 1
Any fanatic of J.R.R. Tolkien knows that he was a Roman Catholic, but the
question has been raised about how this was portrayed, if ever, in his
An initial glance at "Fellowship of the Rings" indicates that the world of
Middle-Earth is polytheistic if not atheistic. The Elves sing praises to
Elbereth Gilthoniel (also called "Varda"), an Ainur partially responsible for
the overseeing of Middle Earth. The Ainur appear to be modelled in part after
the Norse deities, though they have no innate form and probably no "real"
However, though at first glance the mythos of Middle-Earth is polytheistic,
the Ainur are not gods. The Silmarillion best described as a "Bible" for
Tolkien's works describes them as being the product of the thought of Iluvatar,
distant and rather quiet supreme deity. In a word, God.
Initially, Tolkien was intending to create a pantheon of deities similar to
that of the Norse gods, but eventually became uncomfortable with a created
belief system that was so opposite his own. Thus, he created a Judeo-Christian
deity in the Silmarillion and associated works, to oversee the angelic,
creatures that sang the world into being and the creatures that they
Ethics and morality are also attuned to the Judeo-Christian belief system,
a manner sufficiently subtle that the reader does not often notice what is
shown to them. Among these themes are temptation, sin, potential repentence and
resulting punishment for and often because of the fall involved. Among the
causes of such things are pride in oneself, actions without intelligent
and the determination to keep the pressures of evil to oneself without sharing
it with others.
Tolkien also appears to have been a staunch believer in the words of Christ:
"You must be like a little child..." Relatively immune to the malevolent powers
of the Ring are the Hobbits, with their simple pleasures, short-term life plans
and relatively humble ambitions. Compare to the Men of Middle-Earth, who often
desire political power more strongly tempted and thus succumb depending on
individual personas. Gandalf, an angelic Istar, is both immensely tempted by
Ring's power and intelligent enough to know what the consequences would be even
used it for good. With the exception of the Elves, who are half out
Middle-Earth already, the Ring's influence appears to be stronger with
heightened ambition and the pride that comes from it.
Perhaps the strongest example is also in the Silmarillion, in which more
Judeo-Christian themes arise. In a similar manner to Lucifer and similar
beings, such angelic beings as Morgoth and Sauron were corrupted into demonic
figures. It illustrates the theme: "Pride goes before a fall."
A more clear example is Boromir. His pride and intentions lead him to
a theft of the Ring. The ripple affects of his action Frodo's subsequent
flight and the searching of the hobbits result in Boromir's death, though
Tolkien also used the event to illustrate true penitance and reparation.
Tolkien was not of the warm-and-fuzzy school of redemption. As in real life,
many people corrupted by the Ring succumb, and are sufficiently in thrall to it
to a degree that they are unable to break free. Though the hideous Gollum
shows signs of rebellion, when able to communicate naturally with others,
he ultimately is too weak to rebel completely. His choice to regain the
Ring ultimately results in his death.
Though the presence of Judeo-Christian ethics and worldview are not
immediately clear, and are often debated, careful study and comparison
show the strong, possibly unconscious influence in Tolkien's fantasy
You can email L.A. Solinas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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