Friday, January 14, 2011

An Example Of Christian Imagination

Tolkien is an ideal example of the Catholic imagination. People mistake Catholic or even Christian art with directly representing Christian content. It can do that, as in the paintings of Michelangelo, but as we’ve seen in the work of Waugh or O’Connor or Shakespeare, it can infuse the work like herbs infuse hot water. A woman taking a baby down to a river doesn’t have to have the word Moses or Jesus, or the words baptism or renewal, attached to them. It’s all in there. Locked in, like the secrets of Tolkien’s Middle English words.

Tolkien explains the Catholic infusion in his work for us: “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.”
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2 comments:

Brian Edward Miles said...

The genius of Tolkien is that his stories make visible and physical the otherwise abstract realities of sin and grace.

Sin:

-Orcs are actually twisted Elves.

-The shard from the Morgal blade left in Frodo's shoulder will actually bore its way through his body until it pieces his heart transforming him forever into a wraith.

Grace:

-The pity of Bilbo saves the world.

-Frodo's prayer in Shelob's lair--Aiya Earedil Elenion Encalima! (Hail Earendil, brightest of Stars!)--calls forth the power of the phial, a relic which contains the light of a blessed being who has been set in the sky as Star to watch over Middle Earth.

And on and on it goes...

If you've never ready Tolkien's poem Mythopoeia, please do:

http://mercury.ccil.org/~cowan/mythopoeia.html

He first wrote it for C.S. Lewis while Lewis was yet a hardened atheist--a gift which Lewis acknowledged did much to soften his heart. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful things I've ever read.

elena maria vidal said...

Magnificent! Thank you for the recommendation!