Lord of the Rings: A Religious and Catholic Work

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the Holy Myrrh-bearer and Equal to the Apostles

Frodo_Square.jpgTOLKIEN described The Lord of the Rings as “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Is it possible to summarize this dimension of Tolkien’s magnum opus in fewer than six hundred words? You better believe it!

The connections between The Lord of the Rings and the Catholic faith are numerous. There is a connection symbolically between the One Ring and original sin and, therefore, between Mount Doom and Golgotha. The elvish word for waybread, lembas, means life-bread, or bread of life, connecting it to the Eucharist. Like the Eucharist, lembas feeds the will. The date on which the Ring is destroyed is March 25, the date of both the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, connecting the destruction of the Ring (sin) with the Incarnation, and with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

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Although Tolkien did not write a formal allegory in which characters simply represent historical figures, it is true nonetheless that several members of the fellowship represent, albeit with subtlety, significant Christian typological figures. Frodo, as the Ring-bearer, can be seen as the cross-bearer, and therefore as both a Christ figure and a figure of the Christian who takes up his cross. Sam is, in consequence, a figure of the loyal disciple. Boromir, as the only man in the fellowship, is the representative of humanity and is therefore an everyman figure. Aragorn, insofar as he is the true king who descends into the kingdom of the dead, having the power to release the dead themselves from their curse, and insofar as he has, in his capacity as the true king, great and miraculous powers of healing, is clearly a Christ figure. Gandalf, in his death, resurrection, and transfiguration is also a Christ figure.

Joseph Pearce is writer in residence at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, and Director of the Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture. He is a world-recognized biographer of modern Christian literary figures, and has authored over twenty books. Pearce will also be the keynote speaker for our third annual Inklings Festival in July of 2017.

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