Skip to comments.Glimpses of Truth in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Posted on 12/20/2002 10:20:51 AM PST by NYer
The good news is that the connection between Tolkien's faith and Lord of the Rings wasn't lost on director Peter Jackson and his co-writerPhilippa Boyens.
It's well known that Tolkien rejected allegorical interpretations of Lord of the Rings-the notion, for example, that the ring represented the atom bomb. But Tolkien's Christian faith was a different matter. And it's no surprise that his faith found its way into the story.
Tolkien wrote to a friend that Lord of the Rings is a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." When, in both the book and the film, Gandalf calls himself a "servant of the Secret Fire," that fire, Tolkien told a friend, is the Holy Spirit.
The good news is that the connection between Tolkien's faith and Lord of the Rings wasn't lost on director Peter Jackson and his co-writerPhilippa Boyens. They told columnist Terry Mattingly that while they didn't set out to make a religious film, they understood the role that Tolkien's beliefs played in his life and work.
And knowing what he believed, they decided to honor the things "that were important to Tolkien." Thus, they said, "some of the messages and some of the themes" in the films "are based on his beliefs." Principal among these beliefs is the Christian idea that, as Solzhenitsyn once put it, "the line between good and evil runs through every human heart," and it oscillates back and forth.
The cinematic version of Lord of the Rings is more than a story about good versus evil. It's a story that, as Mattingly puts it, offers modern audiences "another chance to understand the timeless roots of sin." Characters wrestle with the evil within them. Even when they seek to do good they must guard against the possibility of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way.
Director Peter Jackson told Mattingly that "Tolkien's themes really resonate today." That's right, and they're going to keep on resonating. As he put it, "I don't think humans are capable of actually pulling themselves out of these basic ruts."
Exactly-that's why two thousand years ago the Son of God, whom Tolkien worshipped, became one of us. He knew that only by living and dying as one of us could the problem of human evil, the "rut" Jackson spoke of, be overcome.
In some ways, Lord of the Rings, both the film and the book, is what the Church fathers called preparatio evangelica, preparation for the Gospel. It's a story where the characters, while not possessing the fullness of Christian revelation, can nonetheless glimpse this truth. Understanding their world and their thoughts prepares us to understand the fullness of Christian revelation.
So, three cheers to Boyens and Jackson for honoring what was important to Tolkien.
Go ahead and invite a friend to the movies and then out for coffee and conversation. Let's be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the interest in Tolkien's world, a world that helps us-and our neighbors-better understand why the Word became flesh.
This film seems most timely for our place in history. The understanding that there is evil in the world that threatens to overwhelm what is good...The recognition that good will not overcome evil simply by being good. The forces of good need to be marshalled for an all-out fight if victory is to be assured...The idea that the culture of freedom is superior to the culture of death and oppression -- there is no "moral equivalency" in this movie. While there is "diversity" in the sense that there are many different peoples and cultures (elves, dwarfs, men, hobbits), their strength is in what unites them, what they have in common -- a love of freedom, and a willingness to fight for it...The notion that devotion to values and principles higher than oneself can motivate people to lay everything on the line. This is simply affirmation that there are some things worth fighting for, and their is honor and glory in the fight, even if the outcome of the fight isn't sure, and defeat is most likely.
The most poignant scene was the desparate declaration by Frodo after they have been taken to Osgiliath by Faramir, when he says to Sam, "I cannot do this!" The feeling of desparation and resignation was palpable. This feeling of despair, inability, and defeat is a common human experience. Which one of us hasn't faced, at some point in our lives, a battle or a situation where we felt completely outmatched and overwhelmed, and the temptation to give in? Sam's response, that the fight and effort are worth it because they fight for what is good, was as inspiring a statement ever presented on film.
Finally, the character Gollum/Smeagol was tremendous. Gollum's debate with himself about whether to serve "the Master" or to "kills it" -- the battle within himself -- and the victory (momentary as it would turn out to be) when "Smeagol" wills "Gollum" to "go away and never come back," was heart-wrenching. He is a characterization of ruined humanity -- ruined by sin, selfishness, and uncontrolled desire. There is still a spark of goodness in Gollum, the hope of redemption, but it's all the more sad and tragic because (if you've read the books) you know that spark never overcomes the darkness.
Perhaps it's just me, but I saw this film, more than the first, as a story of spiritual warfare. Particularly, it was a presentation of the truth of how strength, honor, courage, hope, sacrifice, goodness, heroism, and ultimately victory can overcome our own frailties if we are committed to a goodness that transcends us. And from a Christian perspective, we draw upon the higher power that transcends us.
It's rings, not ring. There are nineteen subsidiary rings, just as in Islam, there are nineteen angels who oversee hell.
That is so wonderful to hear. Tolkien's works are timeless treasures.
Not only was Tolkien a friend of C.S. Lewis, but he also lead Lewis to Christ. Even if Tolkien had never written LOTR, he still would have my undying gratitude for that witness...
LOL! I had not heard that one. It's also well known that there's a sucker born every minute. The ring isn't likely to represent the Bomb, as the ring first appears in The Hobbit and that was written about 1917. I'm sure Tolkien was much too polite to heap scorn on these people as they deserve.
BTW, Mordor is often mentioned as where the shadow dwells. One of the legends about Mohammad is that he never cast a shadow. About the only thing we run across in our lives on earth, that does not cast a shadow, is a shadow, itself.
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