The Silmarillion

I got a copy of The Silmarillion for Christmas, which I started reading a little bit (though now that we’re into the quarter it will have to wait until summer to be finished). The Silmarillion tells of the creation of Ea (the universe in which Middle-earth exists) and the first three “Ages” (leading up to the events in The Hobbit). I’ve reflected before about how Tolkien didn’t merely write a story; he created a world, complete with its own languages, history, and even metaphysics. My thought after diving into this story a bit is that the essentially Christian structure of…

Courage

I read The Hobbit as a kid (hoping to re-read it before the movie), but even now I still remember this passage where Bilbo is in the tunnel going down to meet Smaug. This would make an awesome sermon illustration about courage: It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.

Lord of the Rings (3): Favorite Scenes, Characters, Quotes

My favorite scenes are the Council of Elrond (239-271); Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-Dum (330-331); Frodo looking into the mirror of Galadriel (363-366); Sam and Frodo’s battle with Shelob (720-730); Eowyn’s slaying of the Witch-King of Angmar (841); the dialogue with the Mouth of Sauron before the final battle (888-891); and Frodo’s extreme desperation just before destroying the Ring (937-938).  I also love – and this may seem strange – how Frodo never fully recovers from the Ring.  He says after all is done, “there is no real going back.  Though I may come to the Shire, it will…

Lord of the Rings (2): Good and Evil

If I had to condense what I learned from The Lord of the Rings into one sentence, I would say this: good does not need to destroy evil; good needs only to resist evil, and when it does that, evil destroys itself.  Looking at evil, good, and good’s triumph over evil, each in turn, will bear this out. Evil in The Lord of the Rings The greatest theme of this book, for me at least, is the seductive, enslaving, oppressive power of evil. I understand fallenness and evil much better from reading this book. 1) Evil is seductive. Its very…

Lord of the Rings (1): 10 Differences with the Movies

Two summers ago I started reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and a few days ago, on a plane ride from Tulsa to Las Vegas, I finished it, right as the plane was setting down on the ground.  Wow.  What a book!  Tolkien didn’t merely write a story – he created a world, complete with its own languages, histories, genealogies, myths, and even metaphysics.  Its a book that doesn’t fit on a spectrum, but it creates new spectrums of its own.  It doesn’t fall into the orbit of some already existent genre or category, but it creates its own…

Shelob

I’ve finisehd The Two Towers. I’m 2/3 done in my slow trek through The Lord of the Rings. The last three chapters were terrifically exciting, and terrifying in their presentation of Sam and Frodo journeying into Shelob’s lair. I found Shelob to be a fascinating character. Tolkien tells you a lot more about her than is revealed in the movies. In the book, Gollum worships her (724). Also, she is revealed to be older even than Sauron (723), and known to Sauron, who sends her prisoners for her to make prey of (724). Here is a sample from this section,…

Encouragement

Given Tolkien’s current fame, and the obvious quality of his work, I find this statement amazing, and very telling about the power of encouragement: “I have never had much confidence in my own work, and even now when I am assured (still much to my grateful surprise) that it has value for other people, I feel diffident, reluctant as it were to expose my world of imagination to possibly contemptuous eyes and ears.  But for the encouragement of C.S.L. I do not think that I should ever have completed or offered for publication The Lord of the Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien…

The Lord of the Rings is about God

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…

A Fierce Eager Will

I finished The Fellowship of the Ring at Starbucks today. One of my favorite things about Tolkien’s trilogy so far is the vividness with which he portrays evil. He makes you feel how terrifying, how black, how hideous it really is. For example, when Frodo puts on the ring to escape Boromir: Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dur, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him. And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the…

The Danger of Light and Joy

Gimli to Legolas while they are sailing away from Lothlorien: “Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the darkness was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord.”