GOD IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS
| "Just as a word is an invention
about an object or an idea, so a story can be an invention about Truth..." (J.R.R.
I have given much thought to the block buster movie The Lord of The Rings. A story full of allegories, symbolisms, and fiction. Or as some would call it; PARABLES. Jesus was one of the greatest story tellers that ever lived. He used references such as, "wolves", "sheep", and even "serpents". Jesus Himself is associated with as a Lion, an Eagle, and a dove. All symbolic characters to express a greater truth.
This is what you see in stories like Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, or Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Or even The Final Quest by Rick Joyner. Allegoric pictures painted on the canvas of our imagination to convey eternal truth. John the Revelator in his divine discourse in the book of Revelations is by far the most graphic author of our time. His symbolisms and images that grasp at deeper spiritual things puts even Stephen Spielberg to shame.
Throughout history people like J.R.R. Tolkien have been misunderstood and judged. Before you can judge the work of a man you must know something about the man. I am sending some interesting articles I have read in reference to The Lord of the Ring so that you may come to own conclusions. My first impression from the Holy Spirit at its release, was that the Lord of the Rings was really, the contradiction or opposing force to Harry Potter. Read a quote from the article in mention below:
'Myths, C.S. Lewis told Tolkien, were "lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver."
"No," Tolkien replied. "They are not lies." Far from being lies they were the best way - sometimes the only way - of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.
Such a revelation changed C.S. Lewis' whole conception of Christianity, precipitating his conversion...' (end of quote).
God is speaking profoundly to a world grasping for spiritual truth and experience. I pray that the church does not miss again this awesome responsibility and opportunity. Prophets in each generation have the power to derail or incubate harvest by their perceptions and opinions. God was using a culture and its music to reach a generation in the 60's and 70's. Modern day prophetic voices ultimately aborted this by their judgments and words. I pray in this great hour that the prophetic voices of our day do not repeat this fatal error.
Below is an insightful article by Jim Ware which was first published in Breakaway Magazine a young adult periodical produced by Focus on the Family. You will discover interesting insights into the story and even more importantly the man, J.R.R. Tolkien. You can find the book "Finding God in the Lord of the Rings" by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware at http://www.family.org/resources/itempg.cfm?itemid=2604 . Now enjoy the article below. Chad Taylor
Finding God in The Lord of the Rings
by Jim Ware
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, windy, at any rate. On the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, two tweed-jacketed, pipe-puffing professors go crunching down the gravel path known as Addison's Walk, under the deeper shadows of a grove of trees. "Look!" says one of them, a tall, long-faced fellow with the furrowed brow and twinkling eyes of a sage . . . or wizard. He points to a large oak. "There it stands," he says, "its feet in the earth, its head among the stars. A majestic miracle of creation! And what do we call it? A tree." He laughs. "The word falls absurdly short of expressing the thing itself."
"Exactly," says the first man. "And here's my point: Just as a word is an invention about an object or an idea, so a story can be an invention about Truth." The other rubs his chin. "I've loved stories since I was a boy," he muses. "You know that, Tollers! Especially stories about heroism and sacrifice, death and resurrection-like the Norse myth of Balder. But when it comes to Christianity . . . well, that's another matter. I simply don't understand how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever He was) 2,000 years ago can help me here and now."
"But don't you see, Jack?" persists his friend. "The Christian story is the greatest story of them all. Because it's the Real Story. The historical event that fulfills the tales and shows us what they mean. The tree itself-not just a verbal invention." Jack stops and turns. "Are you trying to tell me that in the story of Christ . . . all the other stories have somehow come true?"
A week and a half later, Jack-better known to most of us as C.S. Lewis, teacher, author, defender of the Christian faith, and creator of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia-writes to his friend Arthur Greeves: "I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ-in Christianity. My long night talk with Tolkien had a great deal to do with it."
A muggy, dusty afternoon at the local Renaissance Festival. I'm taking a break in the shade with my fellow festival musicians. Around us swirls a crowd of armored knights, brown-robed friars, gauzy-winged fairies, and white-whiskered wizards. It's the closest thing to the Middle Ages-or Middle-earth-that you're likely to find here at the beginning of the 21st century.
Tom, a fiddler in a feathered cap, asks what I've been up to. I tell him about the writing project I've taken on with my friend and collaborator, Kurt Bruner: a book of Christian reflections on The Lord of the Rings. "The Lord of the Rings!" laughs Tom (who does not consider himself a believer). "Isn't that a pretty pagan book?"
New Line Cinema's big-screen version of The Fellowship of the Ring-part one of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and one of the most anticipated film events of the past several decades-hits the theaters after more than a year of hobbit-hype. Since January, fans have been visiting movie-related Web sites and waiting in line overnight just to see the trailer. So forget about Star Wars and Space Odyssey. In 2001, the place to be is Middle-earth.
And yet, hype or no hype, there are a few filmgoers who are still wondering what it's all about. Especially serious-minded Christians. Elves, dwarves, wizards, goblins, magic rings-haven't we been through this kind of thing before-recently? Isn't The Lord of the Rings just another romp through the occultic world of Harry Potter? For answers, let's go back to Jack and "Tollers."
"Tollers" (a nickname used by some of his closest friends) was, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien himself: creator of Middle-earth and author of The Lord of the Rings, the fantasy trilogy hailed by some as "the book of the 20th century." And yes: It was Tolkien who helped Lewis take that final decisive step toward faith in Christ.
Their long night talk about symbols and verbal inventions was just the beginning. Through the years, Lewis and Tolkien were to spend long hours refining their ideas and incorporating them into their literary art. In part, they did this with the help of a group of like-minded Christian friends: The Inklings.
Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child (an Oxford pub); Thursday evenings in Lewis' rooms at Magdalen; year in and year out, the Inklings met, talked, sipped tea, and critiqued one another's manuscripts-in-progress: books like Lewis' That Hideous Strength, Williams' The Place of the Lion, and, of course, The Lord of the Rings. Their goal? To find ways of pouring the steaming, bubbling, heady stuff of the Real Story into the molds of their own invented stories.
Just how serious were these writers about the Christian purpose of their "verbal inventions"? Let's ask them. Lewis made no secret of his intentions. "Supposing," he once asked himself, reflecting on the nature of God, the sufferings of Christ, and other fundamental Christian truths, "that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency. . . ." This, he said, is exactly what he was trying to do in The Chronicles of Narnia.
As for Tolkien, he would have been shocked and angered to hear Tom refer to his work as pagan. "The Lord of the Rings," he wrote in a letter to a friend, "is of course a fundamentally religious and Christian work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."
Humphrey Carpenter, author of Tolkien's authorized biography, takes this claim seriously. Tolkien's writings, he says, are "the work of a profoundly religious man." According to Carpenter, God is essential to everything that happens in The Lord of the Rings. Without Him, Middle-earth couldn't exist.
But be forewarned: Evidences of God's presence are not as obvious in Tolkien's work as in Lewis' more allegorical style of writing. They are there, however-firmly embedded in the tales he insisted on calling "inventions about Truth." In fact, if you know what to look for, you may find them popping up everywhere. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you set out on the quest.
First, stay alert to the importance of story. The Lord of the Rings is actually a story of stories-a vast web of histories, legends, tales, and songs in which every character has a crucial role to play. "What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven't we?" reflects Sam after a harrowing encounter with their enemies. As a Christian, Tolkien understood that we've been in a tale, too. Like the adventure of his hobbits, he saw the adventure of our lives as part of a story that begins "once upon a time" and moves toward its eventual "ever after"-a tale full of meaning and purpose, composed by the grandest Author of all.
The Power of Sin
You'll also want to keep an eye on Gollum, the pitiful, wretched creature who discovered the great Ring-his "Precious"-and kept it for many years in dark places under the earth. So long did he possess and cherish the sinister talisman that he has become the possessed. That's because Tolkien's Ring is an image of the unwholesome, perverting power of evil and self-serving sin-a progressive, growing, encroaching power that starts small and ends big. The apostle James described it like this: "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15).
Good out of Evil
Notice, too, that Middle-earth is full of battles and conflicts-images of the spiritual war in which we are engaged as Christians: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world" (Ephesians 6:12). We're not talking generic good vs. evil here. The evil in Tolkien's universe is personal. It takes shape as an Enemy who relentlessly hounds and pursues his prey with ill intent: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
That's not the end of the story, of course. Because at its deepest level, The Lord of the Rings is also a tale about the sovereignty of God. The God whose love and power are so great that He is able to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). The God who uses even the Enemy's wicked designs to bring about the ultimate fulfillment of His perfect plan. Within that plan, even Gollum has an indispensable part to play in the saving of Middle-earth. As Tolkien wrote in The Silmarillion, "Evil may yet be good to have been . . . and yet remain evil."2 This is a great mystery and a profound Christian truth.
Small Hands Can Do Great Things...
Finally, take a close look at the members of the Fellowship of the Ring as they go trekking across the movie screen. Ask yourself which one looks the most like an epic hero. Is it the handsome, mysterious, swashbuckling Aragorn? Keen-sighted, swift-footed Legolas? Hard-fisted Gimli? Strong, dauntless Boromir? Wise and aged Gandalf? Each is a hero in his own way, of course. And yet not one of them is chosen to carry the perilous Ring into the heart of Mordor. Instead, it's a hobbit-a boyish-looking halfling-who bears the burden of the world to its final destination.
This idea-that God uses small hands to accomplish great deeds-could almost be called the heart and soul of The Lord of the Rings. It's Moses and Pharaoh, David and Goliath, Gideon and the Midianites all over again. But the mission of Frodo and Sam isn't just your typical underdog story. It's something much more. In a way, it's a desperately needed reminder that God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8)-that when the power of evil confronts us with overwhelming odds on its side, the answer is not to fight fire with fire, but to look for deliverance in unexpected places. Hope and salvation, Tolkien seems to say, often arise in small, unnoticed corners. Like a hobbit-hole in the Shire.
Or a manger in a Palestinian stable...