- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Independent Publishers Group; 2 edition (4 Dec. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 082454983X
- ISBN-13: 978-0824549831
- Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Paperback – 4 Dec 2012
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"Stratford Caldecott, who has been delighting discerning readers for years with his sparkling writings on religious and spiritual subjects, has produced a masterful guide to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Finally the Christian riches of "The Lord of the Rings", "The Silmarillion", "The Hobbit", and Tolkien's other masterpieces shine forth for all to enjoy. An indispensable guide to the most popular author of modern times." --Philip Zaleski, editor, The Best Spiritual Writing series
"A superb book that blends academic rigor with a clear passion for the subject." --"Christian Marketplace"
"A literally wonderful--wonder-full--book. It will open the eyes of any reader who considers "The Lord of the Rings" just a gripping yarn in a fantasy world. Tolkien's 'vision'--Caldecott makes it clear the word is just right--draws on deep springs of philosophy and mysticism--and, not least, the orthodoxy of the church." --Aidan Nichols OP
"If anyone asks me what one book about Tolkien is the most worth reading, "The Power of the Ring" is my reply." --Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy, Boston College, and author, "Socratic Logic"
"A superb book that blends academic rigor with a clear passion for the subject." "Christian Marketplace ""
"Caldecott's work is a delight to read, with fascinating insights on nearly every page as he discusses the riches of Tolkien's work." "The Sower""
"This book will be welcomed by those interested in the deep theological underpinnings of Tolkien's works, and is recommended to academic libraries supporting upper level coursework on Tolkien or religion and literature." Daniel Boice, "Catholic Library World""
" [...] Caldecott examines and elucidates the underlying Christian aspect of Tolkien s symbolism within his fantastical universe. A thoughtful reader with no religious background will learn much about the complexity of Tolkien s fictitious universe [...] The trilogy is much more than a whimsical fairyland; behind it lies a profound knowledge of ancient mythopoeic tradition, baptized by a Catholic imagination." Francis Phillips, "The Catholic Herald""
About the Author
Stratford Caldecott is the director of theCentre for Faith and Culture in Oxford, England, and the author of "All Things Made New," "Beauty for Truth s Sake," and "Beauty in the Word.""
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Top Customer Reviews
For me, to be really worthwhile, a book has to say something about the human condition, and I hope to find something inspiring, which encourages me to feel that there is a human spirit which will work with others to achieve great ends and overthrow evils. The Lord of the Rings does this of course, and Caldecott does a brilliant job in revealing the roots of this creation. He highlights the moral and spiritual struggles of the protagonists, which we can all relate to to a greater or lesser extent, while drawing analogies with Christian ideas and examples. I think any lover of Tolkien would find this book enlightening - as it draws on ideas and ideals that are part of the common culture of the Western world.
I found his appendix "The Film of the Ring" particularly interesting, it provides an extended review of the film, highlighting the changes that Peter Jackson had to make, but showing how they are often very much in the spirit of the book.
As someone who hasn't read the Lord of the Rings for 25 years the Power of the Ring made me want to re-read it and see it in a new way - which is a tribute to Caldecott's insights.
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Caldecott's account is partly a spiritual biography of Tolkien himself and partly a spiritual analysis of his writings. I am not a Catholic, and while I am very familiar with Tolkien's worlds inevitably some of the religious symbolism and references had passed me by, so I am grateful to Caldecott for enhancing my future enjoyment and understanding. I also appreciated his references to the works of other Tolkien authorities, especially Verlyn Flieger, whose writings are complementary to and expand on much of what is found in this volume. There is very little reference to Tolkien "fandom", though the last of Caldecott's nine Appendices is given over to a fairly critical analysis of the three Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies.
In many ways I found reading The Power of the Ring evoked the same pleasure and mystery I experience when I reread Tolkien, and there can be no higher praise than that.
Caldecott’s reading of Tolkien reveals that The Lord of the Rings is a tale about the mystical Way and that the Way is established, guaranteed, and protected as the very Heart of the world. Why can we say this ?
First of all, Caldecott’s great illumination: the Ring is the symbol of the ego.
The Author proceeds from a general presentation of this decisive reflection [ p.82 : “…the Ring of Power exemplifies the dark magic of the corrupted will, the assertion of self in disobedience to God.”] to a discussion with the Jungian interpreters of the Lord of the Rings [p.154 : “…the Ring is not the Self but the false self…”. Here we need to remember that in the Jungian psychology the “Self”, with a capital S, is the deepest and the most positive and enlightened center of the entire person].
From there, Caldecott moves to the more precise final definition: p.207, “The Ring is the Ego, our idea of the self…”.
It should be obvious to any Reader that such interpretation radically transforms our entire reading of the Lord of the Rings. Caldecott’s reading is a precious key. But I have observed that some Readers greatly underestimate Caldecott’s deep illumination, and they ask “what does that mean ? what is the sense of it ?”. So, let’s think about it for a moment.
If the Ring must be read as the symbol of the ego, of the unending assertion of I, I, I, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine…[ “Mine, my Precious…”], i.e. as the symbol of the self that has lost any connection with the Light, or that wants to lose any connection with the Light, then the adventures through Middle Earth to destroy the Ring represent directly the mystic Way, the Way back to the Light. So, Middle Earth is no world of “fantasy” (unless we take, as perhaps we should, this last term very seriously, as a synonym of “imagination” … and if we know the deep implications of the latter): instead the drama developing through Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings is the most realistic and truthful analysis of our true destiny as human beings…when we obey the Law, when we do our duty. It is the description of how our lives truly are (or … should be, if we would not fall, i.e., if we would not enlist in the armies of the orcs of the “dark fire ”…).
Caldecott discusses the “dark fire ” extensively, starting from the long quotation from the Lord of the Rings at page 136: [Gandalf on the bridge of Moria, trying to stop the balrog]
“<You cannot pass >he said . The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. <I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow ! You cannot pass.>”.
The “dark fire”, the fire of Melkor (ibid. p. 136), i.e. of Satan, burns and consumes, instead of illuminating. Compared to the fire of God, it is shadow (ibid.).
The True Fire and more Wonder: the Secret Fire.
Let’s read Caldecott’s decisive page 135:
“The “Secret Fire” is Tolkien’s term for the distinctive creative power of Eru. It is God’s “secret”…For Tolkien, the fire represents life, love and creativity, the Wisdom and Love of God that burns [SIC] at the heart of the world and sustains [SIC] it in existence … it is the Holy Spirit, the “Giver of Life”.”
A few lines below, Caldecott quotes again Tolkien, who spoke about
“…the mystery of ‘authorship’, by which the author, while remaining ‘outside’, and independent of his work, also ‘indwells’ in it, on its derivative plane, below that of his own being, as the source and guarantee of its being”.
And at page 100 Caldecott quotes directly from the Silmarillion (the early pages, about the Creation):
“ Eä ! Let these things Be ! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be;…”
The Secret Fire is the Presence of the Living Love of God at the Heart of the reality, the true Being of all that exists.
Thus, Caldecott’s symbological reading of the Ring points to the Way, the Way to get rid of the Ring-ego and to reach the Truth. And the Presence of the Truth - of the Living Love of God, at the heart of the reality, at the same time True Way and True Goal - is asserted decisively in the discussion of what the “Secret Fire” is.
As we said above: Caldecott’s reading of Tolkien reveals that The Lord of the Rings is a tale about the mystical Way and that the Way is established, guaranteed, and protected as the very Heart of the world.