- Paperback: 219 pages
- Publisher: ISI Books (15 July 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932236201
- ISBN-13: 978-1932236200
- Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14 x 2 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 306,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
First off, his review seems to focus mainly on a vilification of Tolkien's faith as a Catholic. Here, I think it is only right to clarify the influences on Tolkien's Catholicism. Tolkien never got to know his father who died shortly after his birth. It was his mother who brought him up and was both a teacher and a guardian to him. It was little wonder that he soon grew attached to his mother. When his mother reverted to the Catholic faith, her Protestant relatives were horrified and severed all ties with her, even refusing to help out financially when it was necessary to save her life during her last illness, Tolkien's mother being a sufferer from diabetes. And since his mother was Catholic, he was sent off to a monastery where a Catholic priest took care of him, and played an important role as a foster father to the young Tolkien, he being only 12 years of age at that time. Vowing to keep the memory of his mother in his heart, it was little wonder then that he developed a Catholic faith instead of Protestantism. And yet, there are some who attack him for that very faith that help to give him hope.
Concerning Tolkien's position as a writer, far from being a lousy one, he was a very influential one. A clear testimony would be the sale of his book right up to this very day, and its position in the list of important books of the century. Indeed, it has several times remained in the upper echelon of those lists. The very reason his book had been embraced by so many different types of people is that it brings to the heart many universal messages such as the message of Friendship, of Courage, etc.. without being all preachy, and thus limiting the book to a select few. Why, even great men like C.S. Lewis were known to respect Tolkien as a writer and admired "The Lord of the Rings". Tolkien was also an Oxford professor, a position that not everyone could claim to achieve easily. I would have thought that as a mere undergraduate, he would have some respect for Tolkien for this, if for nothing else. Whether a movie will be brilliant or not depends solely on the quality of the work it is based on. If the source material was lousy, no amount of energy will help the movies to achieve the quality it has now.
Now, this is what I think. I think it's true that "The Lord of the Rings" does contain pagan elements. How can this be denied when Tolkien himself admitted that he used several pagan myths as influences in his work, the legend of Beowulf and of Siegfried, for example? But Tolkien never claimed that his work was ever meant to be an allegory. In fact, he was very adamant against the work being used as an allegory and in fact did not like Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" for this very reason, Lewis' work being to all appearance more of an allegorical work. What Tolkien did claim was that "The Lord of the Rings" was a distinctly Christian work, this meaning that it portrayed Christian values such as hope, redemption through faith and repentance, self-sacrifice, determination and endurance to do what is right no matter the cost, loyalty and friendship, mercy, the refusal of worldly power, etc.. So, in short, Gandalf and co. was never meant to be an allegorical representation of Christ. What Gandalf, for example, did portray was certain Christlike attributes such as Jesus' ever steadfast guidance, kindness, wisdom and what is most clear, the victory of Jesus over death and evil. This was what Tolkien meant when he said that the work was a fundamentally religious one, not as a Christian allegory in the same way as the "Pilgrim's Progress", but rather one that guide Christians to handle issues in a Christian manner. Indeed his work and testimony has brought numerous people into Christ's flock of believers, and in the process salvation for them, C.S. Lewis included.
I for one, would like to believe as Chuck Colson does that there is hope of bringing the Catholic and Protestants as one to worship the Lord. People such as Dave Hunt and his band of so-called 'Protestant Crusaders' however, have unfortunately rendered this very difficult. What they are doing, far from bringing people to Christ is rather making me, a Christian, disillusioned with Christianity for the hatred and utter chaos within it. This is not something new, and has been a problem for quite some time now. Read Gandhi's biography to get a picture of what I mean. I am a Protestant at the moment, and still believe that Martin Luther did what he did for a very real purpose. However, I am growing to respect the present-day Catholics more and more everyday for their faith under such extreme religious prejudice.
I appreciate what Mr. Birzer and Mr.Pearce are doing. I, of course, learnt a lot about Tolkien through their work. By all means, get their book for a clearer and more scholarly view of Tolkien's life and work. Another good book would be Tolkien: Man and Myth by Mr. Pearce.
- Due to limitations, I couldn't provide the counter-arguments against the points advanced by the undergraduate. I will try to advance those counter-arguments at a later date, if possible. If not, for anyone who wishes for a clearer understanding concerning those specific points, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A good site would be Christianitytoday.com featuring further articles by Mr.Birzer. Other good sites would be decentfilms.com/commentary/faithandfantasy.html, and [...]
Thanks to Bradley Birzer and Joseph Pearce, readers of all ages and faiths can begin to understand Middle-Earth. In Pearce's biography, we learn that Tolkien's Faith is significant in discovering the themes put before us in "The Lord of the Rings". Inferred in both Birzer and Pearce's books, the reader must have clear vision-a vision that is one with the "True Church", then and only then will your perception of Tolkien and his legendarium be clear and complete.
Dr. Birzer incorporates Pearce's thesis, but fulfills the truth about Tolkien and his writings. Birzer goes beyond "The Lord of the Rings" and offers a study of Tolkien's writings as a whole.
Viewers and readers of "The Lord of the Rings" are able to catch a glimpse of religious themes, but the vision presented is incomplete. Tolkien explicitly stated that the story was not an allegory, but part of an entire mythology. Dr. Birzer examines Tolkien's corpus and shows us how Tolkien is not just a fiction writer, a philologist, a Christian, but a Roman Catholic.
By the end of "Sanctifying Myth", we want to go back and study (yes...STUDY!), not just the trilogy, but all of Tolkien's writings. Dr. Birzer suggests that Tolkien, when properly read and studied, should be placed with other Christian Humanists of the 20th Century, such as T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis. This is true. But I suggest as the world continues in its understanding of Tolkien, he will be placed with the elite group of 20th Century Catholic Writers: G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Christopher Dawson, Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, Fulton J. Sheen and today's, Ralph McInerny. These writers present the "Catholic World View", not in the sense of a religious denomination, but as its primary definition, that which is Universal.
Over the last century, the world has been bombarded by atheism and war, bringing upon mankind the death of the soul and the body. Tolkien reminds us of our Creator-Creature relationship. As we are surrounded by communism, existentialism, feminism, nihilism, relativism, all which have brought darkness and death to our imagination, Tolkien has taken on the humble task of an apostle and has carried us to the light...to the Truth.
I highly recommend "J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth". Readers will not only discover the truth about Tolkien, but about the world.
I especially liked the depiction of Sam Gangee as the true hero of "The Lord of the Rings." Frodo is important, of course, but he remains somewhat in the abstract as "The Ringbearer" or "The Hero on a Great Quest." I instinctively liked Sam and admired the qualities of loyalty, honesty, common sense, and affectionate humor which Sam displayed throughout all three parts of LOTR.
Gandalf is also explained very well as the saintly emissary of Eru/Iluvatar/God-a Christlike figure "dying" and coming back to life to serve Middle Earth with new powers.
I think Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth is profound and very relevant to our time of secularism, Islamic Jihad, moral distintegration, and crumbling traditional morals.
I hope everyone gets a chance to read this book.