Tolkien says he dislikes allegory, and his Christian faith is less apparent in The Lord of the Rings than Lewis’ is in The Chronicles of Narnia. Sometimes you hear people say that its basically a “secular” story which just happened to be written by a Christian. But I’m convinced that his Christian worldview is, in various and sometimes subtle ways, on every single page of The Lord of the Rings. You see it in the songs and poems, the philosophy of history, the ways good and evil are presented, the presence of delight, and the sense of Transcendence in back of it all. I was interested also to see this remark by Tolkien himself in the late 1950’s in response to a review by W.H. Auden, in which he claims not only that his story is about God, but also – strikingly – that Middle-earth is “our habitation:”
“In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about freedom, though that is naturally involved. It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour. The Eldar and the Numenoreans believed in The One, the true God, and held worship of any other person an abomination. Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was held to be this by his servants; if he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world…. Mine is not an ‘imaginary’ world, but an imaginary historical moment on ‘Middle-earth’ – which is our habitation.”
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 243-244.
Great post, Gavin! I agree.