Tuesday, May 01, 2007

All Things Tolkien

Well, I always have been a methodical reader. Having read Alan Jacobs' fine biography of C. S. Lewis a short time ago, I decided I had better read something about his friend Tolkien (or "Tollers" to those who knew him well). So I've started in on Humphrey Carpenter's 1977 biography of the man. First lines:
It is mid-morning on a spring day in 1967. I have driven from the city of Oxford, over Magdalen Bridge, along the London road, and up a hill into the respectable but dull suburb of Headington.
By the way, speaking of things Tolkienish, Josh over a eucatastrophe101, who happens to live just down the road from me (I recently discovered), has come into possession of Tolkien's recently published book, Children of Hurin.We expect a thorough review (with footnotes), Josh. Oh, and btw, that's quite a little Bosox fan you've got there!

[Update: Justin Taylor quotes an interesting review of Tolkein's Children of Hurin]


Shane Trammel said...


In his last interview in 1971, Tolkien stated that he did not intend The Lord of the Rings as a Christian allegory and that Christ is not depicted in his fantasy novels. When asked about the efforts of the trilogy's hero, Frodo, to struggle on and destroy the ring, Tolkien said, "But that seems I suppose more like an allegory of the human race. I've always been impressed that we're here surviving because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds: jungles, volcanoes, wild beasts... they struggle on, almost blindly in a way" (Interview by Dennis Gerrolt; it was first broadcast in January 1971 on BBC Radio 4 program "Now Read On"). That doesn't sound like the gospel to me. When Gerrolt asked Tolkien, "Is the book to be considered as an allegory?" the author replied, "No. I dislike allegory whenever I smell it."

Bob said...

Shane, it sounds like you're addressing an argument that others have made, who may have considered Tolkein's Ring trilogy an allegory of the Gospel or something. I've never thought long or deeply about this matter myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed the books. I do think that one can make an argument, theoretically speaking, about a work's Christian worldview or other "Christian" qualities, without that work needing to be a simple allegory of the Gospel. Unlike his friend Lewis, Tolkein was most definitely not writing allegory, and as you note, detested the form.