J.R.R Tolkien and Theology!

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suaso

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#1
Since I didn't want to hijack the CS Lewis thread with my love of Tolkien :p

hm, wouldnt Gandalf be more of the jesus figure in LOTR? or maybe Aragorn. wow, there really could be a whole book on the theology of those stories. im sure there is somewhere. i also think stories like these are our mythology, and they even do as old mythologies have done, incorporated other older mythologies into them.
So that brings me to this, which is a good jumping off platform for fans of Tolkien interested in his intended or unintended Christian allegories: The Theology of Tolkien's work, starting with...

A brief summary of The Creation according to Tolkien's The Simarillion
There is one god, and his name is Eru (known also as Iluvatar). Iluvatar creates the Ainur, who are the offspring of his very thoughts. They are like a high order of angels. He teaches them a musical theme to participate and play in, but one of the Ainur, known as Melkor who is given the greatest knowledge of all the Ainur, strays from the theme to create his own music. His music causes discord in the theme and is not as beautiful as Iluvatar's, and some of the other Ainur join Melkor's theme.

Now, at this point, Melkor and his followers, while a little rebellious, are not completely out of Illuvatar's graces. Illuvatar shows all of the Ainur a vision of a place called Arda: Earth. They are shown it and all of the people who will live there, and he offers the Ainur the chance to inhabit it and govern it. Melkor, of course, wants all of Arda for himself, so when Iluvatar sends the Ainur to Arda, Melkor tries to disrupt their efforts of bringing Arda to order according to Iluvatar's plans. Iluvatar sets in Arda the “secret fire,” which is life-giving and sustaining to the world, which Melkor desires for himself but can not have, and pursues it in vain.

Of the Ainur sent to Arda, they were two main classes: Valar and Maiar. The Valar were the Greater of the Ainur, and were given lordship over important realms of Arda's development. For instance, the Vala Ulmo is Lord of the seas and oceans all over Arda. The Maiar are lesser beings that serve and aid the Valar. One Maiar who served Ulmo was Osse, and he was given particular authority over the waters surrounding Middle-Earth.

The only one of the Valar to turn against Iluvatar is, of course, Melkor, and he convinces some of the Maiar to follow him, particularly Sauron and the Balrogs. These, of course, play a major role in The Lord of the Rings.

Here, as you can surmise, Eru/Illuvatar is like God. The Ainur are like angels. The theme is like God's plan for the universe. Melkor is Lucifer and the Ainur who join his them are like the fallen angels who joined Lucifer against God. This is a little less precise than the Creation story of Christians, but still has important implications. We see that Melkor, wanting everything for himself is like Lucifer wanting to be like God. Melkor isn't happy with sharing governing abilities with the Ainur, he wants all or nothing. So, since he can not have it all, he works to destroy what is being made, just as Satan constantly strives for the ruin of souls. Unlike Christian belief, the world of Arda is maintained by divine beings. The secret fire is, naturally, the Holy Spirit. Recall Gandalf's (who is a Maiar sent to aid Elves and Men against Melkor's destructive influence” battle with the Bolrog in The Fellowship of the Ring: “I am the servant of the Secret Flame...the dark fire will not avail you!.”

Now, let the fun begin!
 
Jul 6, 2009
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#2
Tolkien's world is incredibly rich and detailed. He didn't intend the Lord of the Rings as an allegory specificially for anything, he said. But it's clear that the Creation story for the Silmarillion is chocked full of Christian themes.

I really love the implications of making Illuvatar's powers and intentions expressed through music. It's always seemed to me like a sort of inaudbile soul music when I feel most connected with God, so it's a really powerful metaphor for me.
 
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suaso

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#3
"He who sings well prays twice" - Augustine (perhaps a bit paraphrased).

I really liked what Tolkien did with creation being brought forth through music too. I always have seen music as a true universal language, be it vocal or instrumental, every culture on earth does music, and no music is "foreign" to outsiders in a way that human language is. Music transcends where words fail to convey meaning.
 
Jan 8, 2009
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How do you feel about the masonic symbols and references throughout Tolkiens work?
 
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Leilaii425

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#5
i didnt read any of this.. but i just watched all three lord of the ring movies....
 
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suaso

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#6
How do you feel about the masonic symbols and references throughout Tolkiens work?
Such as? I am pretty sure he didn't put any there. He was a very traditionalist Catholic. When the new mass translations were enacted post-Vatican II, he was reported by a relative to very loudly reply to the English in Latin out of spite. That being said, very traditionalist Catholics tend to be very anti-Masonic, especially since it is forbidden under penalty of de facto excommunication for a Catholic to become a freemason.
 
Jan 8, 2009
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Well an obvious one is the great big brown eye in the sky. The ring in the movie is just like a freemasonry ring. If anything it is an anti-Masonic movie which is good, but the masonic references throughout lend doubt to the movie's real intended purpose.
 
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suaso

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#8
That is supposed to be the eye of Sauron, one of the Maiar. Gandalf is also a Maiar. The thing about the Maiar is that they are eternal spirits that can take human form. Sauron was once under human form like Gandalf. This is seen at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring when we see the first great battle to defeat his evil. He left his body physically, but his spirit lived on, when Isildor cut the ring from his hand, and his spirit lived on. From that point on, he was a disembodied spirit. All his spirit was tied to the existence of the One Ring, so in essence, if the ring is destroyed, then so is his spirit. The lidless-eye that we see in his tower called Barad-dur is just one his will was manifested, though by the time the Lord of the Rings takes place, he has already become manifest bodily again. At any rate. the Eye of Sauron seen in the movies is the work of modern cinema, and might not have really been what Tolkien had in mind.

As for the physical rings, Tolkien was a scholar of ancient European culture and language, and he drew heavily from many Northern European mythologies when writing his books, but the Norse Epics especially influenced the Lord of the Rings, as the Norse had their own myth about a certain powerful ring.

But at any rate, the books are fantastic, and movie adaptations are basically out of Tolkien's hands sense he's been dead for quite a while, so any Masonic symbolism isn't by his request, I am sure.
 
Jan 8, 2009
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#9
You know I just watched the second one last night actually. It's my favorite one out of the three.
 
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Leilaii425

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#10
i just watched the second one today! which is your last night! im watching the third tonight
 
Sep 2, 2009
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um the ring looks nothing like a masonic ring. masonic rings have a big masonic symbol on them. and the big eye has been a symbol of lots of different things throught the centuries, not just masonry. and besides, the mason eye, is an eye, but the eye of sauron is a big fiery thing.
Suaso, i wouldnt have minded if you hijacked the cs lewis thread. its all good literature. ya know, i havent got to the Simarillion yet but it sounds more cool than i thought it was. thats what i love about Tolkien, he doesnt just write a story, he writes the entire history of a world, including religions, mythology, languages, alphabets. its amazing really.
if theres anything that resembles anything antichristian, it might be the lost seeing stones, or those crystal ball things. they at first do seem to be crystal balls, and a lot of ppl would prbly jump to that conclusion. but what they actually were, was a kind of long range communication device? isnt that right Suaso?
 
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suaso

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#13
Yep, you're right about that! They're sort of like the Middle Earth version of a Webcam. Whoever has one can communicate with someone else who has one.
 
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wwjd_kilden

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#14
Yeah, the idea of Illuvatar creating the world by singing is amazing.

The reason why sauron is on the form of an eye, I'd assume, is that he can see almost everything in middle earth. - Frodo sees the eye when he accidentally touched the Palentîr (the stone that Saruman used to communicate with Sauron).

...I'm lossing track of my thoughts here :p I'll be back when I'm able to put toghether sentences...
 

dscherck

Banned [Reason: persistent, ongoing Catholic heres
Aug 3, 2009
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The one thing I like about the creation story in the Silmarillion is how even though Melkor comes up with his own rhythms and song, Illuvatar is able to take it, and weave it into His song. Making the discordant notes of Melkor's song parts of the most solemn pattern of Illuvatar's. The quote, "...And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."

I still think this is a great example of Christian thought. The devil, despite his best efforts fails to destroy God's creation, and indeed, God manages to take what the devil thought as his greatest triumph (think Christ's crucifixion) and turn it into something more wonderful than anyone could imagine (the resurrection).
 
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suaso

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#16
Nice, good point dscherck! I wish I owned a copy of the Simarillion so I could thumb through it again.
 
Sep 2, 2009
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palentir, thats what they were called. i couldnt think of that word.
i was thinking about what a good parallel would be to the orcs. remember that scene where saruman is explaining to that urukai about the origin of the orcs? "Do you know how the Orcs first came into being? They were elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life." could this maybe be a reference to fallen angels or demons? or maybe just ppl who no longer serve god.
 
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suaso

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#18
It could be. I always saw it as a good example of how evil is only destructive. The Elves were Iluvatar's most elegant creatures, they were the firstborn on Arda, and they were the only race to meet and interact with the Valar directly. Eventually Melkor and his minions began to corrupt some of them too, and sooner or later, we have Orcs on our hands. Illuvatar's finest become absolute filth. The Orcs are nasty, pretty dumb, very ugly, and are shrouded in darkness.

When humans choose evil instead of good, what happens to them? Sure, we don't physically appear much different, but our attitudes become horrible. We surround ourselves in darkness. We become ignorant of right and wrong. We become something less than what we were created to be, very much like how Orcs are beings that are inferior in every way to Elves, even though they are of the same stuff.
 
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