Thursday, January 9, 2014

About an Old "College Friend"

I came across the above quote and picture of J.R.R. Tolkien. It seems a good conclusion to the Christmas Season, since Christmas for me is marked by "food and cheer and song.".
"John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of the world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth. This was peopled by Men (and women), Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Orcs (or Goblins) and of course Hobbits."  (
I was first introduced to Tolkien in my University years. Today his popularity has grown again through the movies of his writings. I first read his epic high fantasy work, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in those days (and in those days of the late 70's/early '80's there was a wine and cheese café called "Bilbo and Gandalf’s." I had a number of pleasant evenings there with friends). I lived with Catholic College students at the time and my social life was surrounded by committed Catholic peers. In the house I lived in a few blocks from St. Augustine Church and the University, there was no TV. Thank God! I had fun with my roommates and the Catholic circle, and I got to read works like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
From the first page of the Trilogy I was hooked. One of my professors, Dr. Corbin Carnell taught a course that dealt with media and imagination. He advised us that we needed to regularly rejuvenate our lives with good resources for the imagination. The Trilogy was that for me and its themes of good versus evil and the triumph of good after much struggle inspired my "religious imagination." (For more on the role of imagination in faith see entries for July 5, 2012 HERE and July 12, 2012 HERE)
Tolkien was Catholic and was a friend of C.S. Lewis and was partially responsible for Lewis’s conversion from atheism to Christianity (Lewis didn’t become Catholic but joined the Church of England). Tolkien was influenced by his Catholicism in the writing of the Trilogy.
"Tolkien acknowledged this himself:
‘The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.’
Here is another quote from Tolkien that fits the end of a Season of feasts:
"Well, you can go on looking forward," said Gandalf. "There may be many unexpected feasts ahead of you." (The Fellowship of the Ring)