Jump to content
The Marquis de Leech

Tolkien 2.0

Recommended Posts

It has been pointed out to me by people wiser in the ways of Christian theology, that as Middle-earth is supposed to be our world in the distant past, and as Christianity holds that Salvation is only possible through the actions of Jesus, that a strict application of Christian doctrine puts everyone in Tolkien's mythos in the same boat as the figures from the Old Testament. Basically, that without Jesus, something like the bleak pagan view becomes rather the default.

I'll concede that Christian theology would have this view, but I would argue in this case, this feels like an area where Tolkien's mythos is not supposed to conform to the teachings of the Church. There is a *very* different approach to choice and fate between The Children of Hurin and The Lord of the Rings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

It has been pointed out to me by people wiser in the ways of Christian theology, that as Middle-earth is supposed to be our world in the distant past, and as Christianity holds that Salvation is only possible through the actions of Jesus, that a strict application of Christian doctrine puts everyone in Tolkien's mythos in the same boat as the figures from the Old Testament. Basically, that without Jesus, something like the bleak pagan view becomes rather the default.

I'll concede that Christian theology would have this view, but I would argue in this case, this feels like an area where Tolkien's mythos is not supposed to conform to the teachings of the Church. There is a *very* different approach to choice and fate between The Children of Hurin and The Lord of the Rings.

I don't think that that would be the mainstream view among Catholics.  Evangelical Protestants, yes.  Catholics reckon that virtuous non-Christians, who have never been exposed to Christianity, can be saved.

Edited by SeanF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The point is, I think, not whether they could be saved, but whether they could know they could be saved. The bleakness is epistemological, not ontological.

Edited by Nabarg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, SeanF said:

I don't think that that would be the mainstream view among Catholics.  Evangelical Protestants, yes.  Catholics reckon that virtuous non-Christians, who have never been exposed to Christianity, can be saved.

That is also the veiw from Evangelical Protestants. Perhaps the degree of virtuousness is different, but you are not automatically doomed if you never heard of Jesus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/28/2017 at 1:55 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

I'll concede that Christian theology would have this view, but I would argue in this case, this feels like an area where Tolkien's mythos is not supposed to conform to the teachings of the Church. There is a *very* different approach to choice and fate between The Children of Hurin and The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien did respond to some analyses of his writing within his lifetime. It was often interpreted that the "One Ring" represented sin in general. I'll point out that I'm speaking to the whole thread in general here, in response to @Roose Boltons Pet Leech, as I've read his essay on the topic from the last page and I'd be preaching to the choir to him. :P

For the most part, while it's fair to say that he was often inspired by religious texts, he seemed pretty adamant that "Ring=sin" is not what the message of the story was. Religious inspiration, and occasionally parallels, but that wasn't at the heart of that story.

Middle-Earth as a whole has many morality tales, and the clearest one in the The Lord of the Rings being the gradual decay of the beauty of the natural world. That was, by far, his clearest message. It's unsurprising for a man who fought in the Battle of the Somme.

Again, though, he also didn't intend the book to be a direct allegory of World War One (or any event at all) but did point out that it was nonetheless inspired by the events he had seen in his life. Not only the rapid fall of forests in the pursuit of industries of war (like Saruman), but also the neglect of artistic beauty meant to sit naturally within the living world without disturbing it too much (Rivendell, for instance, or Minas Tirith, which was jutting from a mountain as though part of its natural formation). He was hardly a hippy but there's no doubt that having seen fields of No-Man's-Land, he was left appalled at humanity's seeming indifference to persevering nature.

For all of his disgust, though, he also included optimistic undertones of those who he clearly saw as virtuous within the war. Samwise Gamgee is Tolkien's definite true hero of the story. While it is Frodo who must make the journey, it was Sam who carried him, Sam who remained utterly optimistic about returning home and focusing on why he was fighting. He wasn't a glorious conqueror, but rather he was determined to go back to the gentle life connected to nature by farming. He is even the one who restores the Shire at the end. Sam's heroism encapsulates the real heroes of WWI, the ones who were almost invisible to everyone else; supply officers, especially, who had to maintain morale, distribute food and remain steadfast and unwavering in their sanity among the carnage.

Sam is also unusual as he is the only character in the entire storyline shown to give up the Ring voluntarily and without hesitation. In short, he was uncorrupted by power (although he didn't have the Ring for very long) despite having worn the embodiment of absolute power.

I think there's a beautiful message in the portrayal of Samwise, a humble gardener who endured the War of the Ring, carried the "heroes" to literal doom and returned home to a quiet life to make a family. Perhaps the only unrealistic part of it all was the fact that he did not seem to suffer the trauma and after-effects as Frodo clearly did; perhaps Tolkien writing what he wished of the men he admired, rather than what they really faced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Rorshach said:

That is also the veiw from Evangelical Protestants. Perhaps the degree of virtuousness is different, but you are not automatically doomed if you never heard of Jesus.

Thanks.  I've had Evangelical Protestants tell me the opposite, but I'm sure that opinions differ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Yukle said:

 

I think there's a beautiful message in the portrayal of Samwise, a humble gardener who endured the War of the Ring, carried the "heroes" to literal doom and returned home to a quiet life to make a family. Perhaps the only unrealistic part of it all was the fact that he did not seem to suffer the trauma and after-effects as Frodo clearly did; perhaps Tolkien writing what he wished of the men he admired, rather than what they really faced.

I agree.  Samwise is a very ordinary person who performs extraordinary things.  He shows that one does not need to be an elf-lord, or mighty warrior, in order to be a hero.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Thanks.  I've had Evangelical Protestants tell me the opposite, but I'm sure that opinions differ.

Possibly. I think for many that it’s a question of being «under the law», that is the law of Moses, or the ten commandments more broadly - and living a life fulfilling these. If that’s the view people hold, salvation is possible in theory - but in practise not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Thanks.  I've had Evangelical Protestants tell me the opposite, but I'm sure that opinions differ.

It varies from church to church and individual to individual among Protestants.  I still don’t understand why Calvinists don’t just convert to Islam.  Their theology is extremely similar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I agree.  Samwise is a very ordinary person who performs extraordinary things.  He shows that one does not need to be an elf-lord, or mighty warrior, in order to be a hero.

Absolutely. The moment of true heroism for him comes when he admits he probably won't survive. He seems to realise it before Frodo does, that the journey will, in all probability, kill them. He also realises that he'll probably fail, but in the end, provided he tries again, maybe it won't matter.

"One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness... He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest."

It's not insignificant that after he realises he must retrieve a still living Frodo and is forced to wear the ring, slip into invisibility and then sneak into Mordor, that in that moment Sam is the last one standing between Sauron's victory. Everything hinged on him finding Frodo, and he was next to useless when it came to fighting and not really much better at deception.

There are times when Tolkien's near failure to include any women in his stories lets me down, but then I think of Samwise, my favourite of his characters, and I realise that he did, at least, do something so few others have done. He wrote a person who is the precise opposite of a traditional hero, and made his journey and his completely normal, everyday nature the very essence of heroism. If Sam was a powerfully built human, rather than an overweight (even for a hobbit) and mild man, or if he was a master tactician instead of a gardener or if he was a fearless man in the face of danger instead of a man whose first instinct is to remain hidden, he would have died sooner by taking a more direct stand against the forces of evil, and never succeeded.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Yukle said:

Absolutely. The moment of true heroism for him comes when he admits he probably won't survive. He seems to realise it before Frodo does, that the journey will, in all probability, kill them. He also realises that he'll probably fail, but in the end, provided he tries again, maybe it won't matter.

"One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness... He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest."

It's not insignificant that after he realises he must retrieve a still living Frodo and is forced to wear the ring, slip into invisibility and then sneak into Mordor, that in that moment Sam is the last one standing between Sauron's victory. Everything hinged on him finding Frodo, and he was next to useless when it came to fighting and not really much better at deception.

There are times when Tolkien's near failure to include any women in his stories lets me down, but then I think of Samwise, my favourite of his characters, and I realise that he did, at least, do something so few others have done. He wrote a person who is the precise opposite of a traditional hero, and made his journey and his completely normal, everyday nature the very essence of heroism. If Sam was a powerfully built human, rather than an overweight (even for a hobbit) and mild man, or if he was a master tactician instead of a gardener or if he was a fearless man in the face of danger instead of a man whose first instinct is to remain hidden, he would have died sooner by taking a more direct stand against the forces of evil, and never succeeded.

And to continue that theme, some Elf-lords and mighty warriors were responsible for some massive disasters in the fight against evil.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, SeanF said:

And to continue that theme, some Elf-lords and mighty warriors were responsible for some massive disasters in the fight against evil.

I know! They're the worst. :P

I know that elves being one and a part of nature is central to their being. And this means they're meant to be timeless aspects of magic and change over long periods of time, while humans are "blessed" with mortality, and therefore are inspired to create, to build and to explore in a way that the elves aren't.

Still, you can imagine the frustration that humans must feel.

A conversation that must have happened during the Council of Elrond:

Gandalf: It's a shame that we never got that One Ring Sauron had. We could've destroyed it thousands of years ago.

Boromir: Oh well, it'd probably just corrupt us all, anyway.

Elrond: Yes, I've seen that happen, when I was at the battle. Isildur wouldn't chuck the ring away.

Everyone: ...

...

...

...

...

What?!

Elrond: Didn't I tell you? Cirdan and I were all like, "Isildur, it's only a short jog to Mount Doom. Chuck that gold into the fire and we can call it a day." And he was all, "Oh but it's pretty." And we just went, "K, well, you should totes chuck it," and he was like, "Nah, bro," so we were like, "Oh well, what can you do?"

Boromir: Um, how about instead of standing there having a chat, stab Isildur in the face, pick up the ring and chuck it into the fire?

Elrond: ...

...

...

...

...

...

Oh... yeah... That would've made a lot of sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Yukle said:

I know! They're the worst. :P

I know that elves being one and a part of nature is central to their being. And this means they're meant to be timeless aspects of magic and change over long periods of time, while humans are "blessed" with mortality, and therefore are inspired to create, to build and to explore in a way that the elves aren't.

Still, you can imagine the frustration that humans must feel.

A conversation that must have happened during the Council of Elrond:

Gandalf: It's a shame that we never got that One Ring Sauron had. We could've destroyed it thousands of years ago.

Boromir: Oh well, it'd probably just corrupt us all, anyway.

Elrond: Yes, I've seen that happen, when I was at the battle. Isildur wouldn't chuck the ring away.

Everyone: ...

...

...

...

...

What?!

Elrond: Didn't I tell you? Cirdan and I were all like, "Isildur, it's only a short jog to Mount Doom. Chuck that gold into the fire and we can call it a day." And he was all, "Oh but it's pretty." And we just went, "K, well, you should totes chuck it," and he was like, "Nah, bro," so we were like, "Oh well, what can you do?"

Boromir: Um, how about instead of standing there having a chat, stab Isildur in the face, pick up the ring and chuck it into the fire?

Elrond: ...

...

...

...

...

...

Oh... yeah... That would've made a lot of sense.

I imagine taking the Ring in such a manner would have a hugely corrupting influence on the person who took it though. We see another who takes the Ring via murder after all and he ends up incredibly wretched...and he does not have incredible innate power like Elrond and Cirdan.

Not to mention how this would play amongst the remnants of the Last Alliance. They see two Elf Lords murder the man who is now their King? That can’t possibly play well

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

I imagine taking the Ring in such a manner would have a hugely corrupting influence on the person who took it though. We see another who takes the Ring via murder after all and he ends up incredibly wretched...and he does not have incredible innate power like Elrond and Cirdan.

Not to mention how this would play amongst the remnants of the Last Alliance. They see two Elf Lords murder the man who is now their King? That can’t possibly play well

Not to mention that everyone was working with the assumption that Sauron had been destroyed. While they saw the Ring as a Very Bad Thing, I'm not sure anyone figured out that it was allowing Sauron to hide in the shadows. No-one knew the effects the One Ring would have away from its master.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/29/2017 at 6:02 AM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

It varies from church to church and individual to individual among Protestants.  I still don’t understand why Calvinists don’t just convert to Islam.  Their theology is extremely similar.

I don't want to derail this thread but as a Muslim I have to ask how in the world is Calvinism similar to Islam?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, The Grey Wolf said:

I don't want to derail this thread but as a Muslim I have to ask how in the world is Calvinism similar to Islam?

The incredible fatalism.  The strong belief in pre-destination.  The rejection of formal church liturgy. 

Drop the belief in Christ’s divinity and the trinitarian nature of God and Calvinists are right there with Muslims.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@The Gray Wolf: at least orthodox Islam has an interpretation of Gods omnipotence and providence (including predestination to heaven and hell). The Mutazila of the early centuries of Islam had a very different, free will view. Calvin, who was a humanist scholar before he became a religious reformer, based his views of providence as much on ancient stoicism as on the Bible. I am not aware of what made orthodox Islam come to the same conclusions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×