TOLKIEN AND THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Republished October 3, 2005 (updated November 20, 2002, first published February 5, 2002) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org) –
The first in the planned trilogy of The Lord of the Rings movies, Fellowship of the Ring, was released in December 19, 2001, and it made more than $260 million in the first few weeks. The second in the series, The Two Towers, is scheduled for release in December of this year, and the third, The Return of the King, is scheduled for release in December of 2003.
In spite of the PG-13 rating and occultic imagery, these movies and their literary counterparts are being praised by some professing Christians. The Lord of the Rings movies are based on the books by J.R. Tolkien. The movie edition of the trilogy was filmed at a cost of $300 million, but as we have seen, that amount was almost fully recovered a mere two months after the release of the first episode; and the second and third parts of the trilogy are yet to appear. The television rights to the trilogy were purchased by WB network for $160 million.
Christianity Today ran a positive review of the books and the movie entitled “Lord of the Megaplex.” Focus on the Family praised Tolkien’s fantasies and promotes the book “Finding God in the Lord of the Rings” by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware (Tyndale House). The glowing advertisement at the Focus on the Family web site calls fantasy a “vehicle for truth” and says: “In Finding God in the Lord of the Rings, Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware examine the ‘story behind’ the stories — the inspirational themes of hope, redemption and faith that Tolkien wove into his classic tales.” World magazine’s review is titled “Powerful Rings” and claims that the “movie version of Tolkien’s book speaks to today’s culture.” There is no warning in these reviews about Tolkien’s occultic imagery.
HARMLESS FANTASY, WHOLESOME ALLEGORY?
Is the Lord of the Rings harmless fantasy or perhaps even a wholesome Christian allegory? We think not. I read The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings in 1971 when I was in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. I was not saved at the time, and, in fact, I was very antagonistic to the Christian faith. Had the books contained even a hint of Bible truth, I can assure you that I would not have read them at that particular point in my life. I had forgotten many of the details of the books, so I refreshed my memory recently by going through them again. They are filled with occultic imagery, such as witches, goblins, warlocks, wizards, fairies, and such things; and though these are strongly and unconditionally condemned in the Bible, they are often portrayed as good and desirable by Tolkien. Many of the heroes of the Lord of the Rings, in fact, are wizards and witches. The books were published in inexpensive paperback editions in the late 1960s, and they became very popular with that generation of drug headed hippies.
THE AUTHOR OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The author of the Lord of the Rings, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was born in South Africa in 1892, but his family moved to Britain when he was about 3 years old. When Tolkien was eight years old, his mother converted to Roman Catholicism, and he remained a Catholic throughout his life. In his last interview, two years before his death, he unhesitatingly testified, “I’m a devout Roman Catholic.” J.R. Tolkien married his childhood sweetheart, Edith, and they had four children. He wrote them letters each year as if from Santa Claus, and a selection of these was published in 1976 as “The Father Christmas Letters.” One of Tolkien’s sons became a Catholic priest. Tolkien was an advisor for the translation of the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
As a professor of literature at Oxford University, Tolkien specialized in Old and Middle English and loved ancient pagan mythology. His first fantasy novel, The Hobbit, appeared in 1937, and The Lord of the Rings, in 1954-55. Several others were published later, some posthumously.
One of Tolkien’s drinking buddies was the famous C.S. Lewis. They and some other Oxford associates formed a group called the “Inklings” and met regularly at an Oxford pub to drink beer and regale about literary and other matters. Tolkien, in fact, is credited with influencing Lewis to become a Christian of sorts. Like Tolkien, though, Lewis did not accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and he picked and chose what he would believe about the New Testament apostolic faith, rejecting such things as the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ. And like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis loved at least some things about Catholicism. He believed in purgatory, confessed his sins to a priest, and had the last rites performed by a Catholic priest (C.S. Lewis: A Biography, pp. 198, 301).
J.R. Tolkien died in 1973 at age 81, two years after his wife, and they are buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Wolvercote cemetery in the suburbs of Oxford.
THE STORY OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The setting for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is in “Middle Earth” and the hero is a little creature (a hobbit) named Frodo Baggins who accidentally becomes possessor of a magical ring that is the lost and greatly desired treasure of the “Dark Lord Sauron.” The story line revolves around Frodo’s action-filled journey to take the ring to the Cracks of Doom where it can be destroyed.
Though the aforementioned reviewers would have us believe that Tolkien’s books contain simple allegories of good vs. evil, Tolkien portrays wizards and witches and wizardry as both good and evil. For example, a wizard named Gandalf is portrayed as a good person who convinces Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit to take a journey to recover stolen treasure. The books depict the calling up of the dead to assist the living, which is plainly condemned in the Scriptures. Though not as overtly and sympathetically occultic as the Harry Potter series, Tolkien’s fantasies are unscriptural and present a very dangerous message.
TOLKIEN SAID THE BOOKS ARE NOT CHRISTIAN ALLEGORIES
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.”
Thus, the author of The Lord of the Rings denied the very thing that some Christians today are claiming, that these fantasies are an allegory of Christ’s victory over the devil.
TOLKIEN SPAWNED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Tolkien’s books created the vast and spiritually dangerous fantasy role-playing games that are so influential today. Dungeons and Dragons, which appeared in the early 1970s, was based on Tolkien’s fantasy novels. One fantasy-game web site makes this interesting observation: “The whole fantasy adventure genre of books came into play when J.R. Tolkien wrote his The Lord of the Rings books. From his vivid imagination and creative thinking he created the fantasy adventure genre. Tolkien probably got his ideas from ancient religions. Peoples of different civilizations were writing epic’s way before Tolkien was even born. They wrote epics about people with superior strength, about gods that punished people and, travels to the underworld. Tolkien is accredited to being the man who started it all but if traced back even further you'll see that he wasn’t the one that created it, just the one that pushed it forth.”
This secular writer better understands what Tolkien’s books are about than the aforementioned Christian publications. Tolkien certainly did get his ideas from pagan religions, and the message promoted in his fantasy books is strictly pagan.
ROCK AND ROLLERS LOVE TOLKIEN
Tolkien has even influenced many rock and rollers. The song “Misty Mountain Hop” by the demonic hard rock group Led Zeppelin was inspired by Tolkien’s writings. Marc Bolan, of the rock group Tyrannasaurus Rex, created a musical and visual style influenced by Tolkien. The heavy metal rock group Iluvatar named themselves after a fictional god from Tolkien’s work The Silmarillion. Others could be mentioned.
The world knows its own; and when the demonic world of fantasy role-playing and the morally filthy world of rock and roll love something, you can be sure it is not godly and it is not the truth.