Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Otto's World
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#1 » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:05 am

You GUYS!!! I found a new Tolkien commentary entirely by accident at the library. It's new-ish, published in 2004, written by an Episcopal priest. The book is The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings by Fleming Rutledge. It looks to be a good one. His thesis is that there is divine action in the LOTR that is hidden but also everpresent which builds to a dramatic climax in the book. I'm excited. I'll tell you about the fun bits as I find them, but overall, let this thread be about evidence of Divine Intervention in the LOTR.

Otto's World
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#2 » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:38 am

Just for example, others have pointed out little hints, like when the ring "finds" Bilbo in the dark. I think Gandalf says it was "chance--if chance you call it." Lots of things happen due to "luck" that really seem like they must be the work of Providence. Though for those living the experience in real time it does not feel as though God is always bailing them out: they feel the stress and worry, and only get the slightest little vital nudge now and then, but they still have to use all of their own available powers to work as hard as they can. In other words, they can't do it alone, but the Help they get is not so great as to take away their need to work and fear. Another example is the scene on the trail when a black rider almost sniffs them out. They come SO CLOSE to being found right then, but the rider gets distracted by some other smell or sound.

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Beren
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#3 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:04 pm

Is he suggesting that the Christian God was in Tolkien's thought, or just that there was a divine presence? Because I agree wholeheartedly with a divine presence (Iluvatar (represented by the Valar) and the Valar (represented by the Istari). But I also vehemently oppose the suggestion of the Christian God in Middle-Earth. I saw a book called "Finding God in The Lord of the Rings" or something like that. All such works that are trying to find some ulterior Christian motive of Tolkien's is repulsive to me. All they are trying to do is find metaphors in LOTR like there are in Narnia. But it can't be done. It's a whole different genre.

(btw, I'm not opposed to the Christian God idea because I oppose Christianity. In fact, you may have found out by now, I am a firm Christian. But I also respect Tolkien and try to find out the intentions in his works without imposing my religion on them.)

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Show
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#4 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:50 pm

I would have to diagree with you Beren. I think very much so there is alot of Christianity to be found the LotR, and throughout all of Middle Earth. The key, to me, is that it must be found.

Those who seek God, may find him lurking in those pages. For those who seek him not, God will instruct you to good without you faith.

Let me explain. I find there are two general types of Christians, the devout bible thumpers, these are the ones who see on TV, hear on street corners, they're always trying to bring the rest of the world around and save them before they go to hell. Then there are the more passive Christians, I happen to be one of them. This group is where I would place Tolkien. And for this reason.

LotR is full to the brim with tales that promote Christian values. The trick is that many other faiths and belief systems use much the same values. Being good to your neighbors, honoring your parents, not killing, not stealing, in general, being a good person and doing right. Sure, some of the finer points like birth control get a little lost with the changes in the make up of the world since most of today's accepted religions were formed.

But I'm getting off track, back to the point, Divine Intervention. Eru knows it all, Created the Auinar from his thought and proposed to them a theme for music. Played by the Auinar this music became the world. So the Valar, Auinar who entered into the world, know much of what will be, for they have heard the music of the world, but some is outside their knowledge, but nothing is outside of Eru's. All that is made to oppose him, like Melkor's themes, are but added into his to build the tapestry that Eru imagined.
Very much the one Christian God figure. This also contains much of the Christian reasoning for why bad things happen. It is all a part of God's/Eru's plan.

Was Tolkien concious of this? Maybe... I'm sure the Christians will say he was and the Agnostic Pagans will say he wasn't. The important thing is, it doesn't matter. I take Tolkien and even other writers all like a Warshak painting. You see only what it is you truly want to see. Christians want to see their faith and their hero's in the forefront of the works they love. Those who could care less wont. Or will see hints and not care. That is where I stand.

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Show
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#5 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:54 pm

Or you could just say this,

The bible is a wonderful story known around the world. Since so many peope know the story of the bible and love it as much as they do, then why wouldn't a writer make a story they is reminicent of a more estabilished work?
How many times have you seen the same plot/story line used in books or movies. We even made a word for it, genre. Good vs Evil

Otto's World
Posts: 138

Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#6 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:32 pm

Beren, you said this:
I...vehemently oppose the suggestion of the Christian God in Middle-Earth.


I THINK I have an idea what you are saying. Tolkien wants to suggest and invite the reader, so open options are better--Oh, what's that thing about allegory vs. applicability that Show has pointed out really well?

I'm not sure now what I think of this new book. I was excited at first, and at the moment I am less impressed, so I'll let you know how it goes.

I have alway been puzzled by Tolkien's comment that the LOTR is "fundamentally a Catholic work."--He says that in one of his lettters. I've always thought, "What? Catholic? Not Lutheran? Not Methodist? Not Episcopalian?" Did he really mean to say "Catholic," in a restrictive sense,and if so, what am I missing here about Catholicism or the LOTR or both? And there are little lines here and there that strike a chord because they sound kind of bibical--like the language is right out of the liturgy or common stories or hymns or SOMETHING because you read it an say, "Oh...I know that line....I've heard something like that before..."

So far the writer is pointing out things that I think most of us kind of already know. Eru or Iluvatar is the creator, and he is not just The Great Watchmaker who made things and then takes a hands-off approach. You would kind of THINK so, given the way that evil gets such a toehold so much of the time, but there are these little moments where you think, "No, some other power is at work here nudging things along: Luck, Happenstance, Fortune, Providence...Karma." And I mean, what are the ethics in his world? What is that whole thing about "pity" that Bilbo shows to Gollum? Why was that important? And why does Gandalf get Bilbo involved in th dwarf adventure in the first place? He likes grooming newbies and giving them broadening experiences? And why does Shelob freak out when she hears the name "Elbereth Gilthoniel"?

But right, I don't see why these ethics or forces of good are particularly "Catholic" or "Christian" yet. I'll keep you posted as I read more.

I think there are intresting questions, though. Like WHY, if forces of Good can intervene, do they wait until the very last minute? Why not help out and give some cushion, some wiggle room, so that people don't have to suffer so much anxiety? You know, like why couldn't the eagles have helped more? They seem so powerful. Why not save the poor little hobbits all of that trouble walking?

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Gandalfs Beard
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#7 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:22 pm

I think Tolkien meant catholic with a small c, in other words, universal. I have mentioned it once on another thread, but it bears repeating: Isitari is another name for Ishtar, Astarte, Isis etc.. Now it is as intriguing that Tolkien would borrow a Pagan Goddess name as it is fascinating that his Creation myth is so Gnostic, and Monistic (versus Monotheistic). That is to say, Illuvatar is the Godhead but there are many "gods'" in the heirarchy. Tolkien and Lewis, both being so enamoured of Medieval Classicism (Neo-Hellenism/Platonism), and the ancient Indo-European Pagan Mythologies drew on these sources for their respective works. I think Show nails it when he talks about the Joseph Campbell like notion that Christianity also drew on these sources when it developed. Thus LotR contains Universal Truths that transcend all individual religions, i.e. truths that these religions all share.

Gandalfs Beard

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Gandalfs Beard
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#8 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:57 pm

Sorry, I had to leave before posting my closing thoughts.

It seems that Tolkien strove far harder than did Lewis to make his world cohesive and distinct from any known points of cultural reference. But he still held to the truths that are the basis for our own cultures. If there is Divine Intervention in human concerns, there is no way to be certain that God or the Gods are really behind it. Likewise, in Tolkien's works sometimes the hand of the Divine is obvious, such as in the Silmarillion, yet in LOTR or the Hobbit he strove to leave the question of Divine Intervention a mystery with no certain answer.

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Beren
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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#9 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:34 am

You hit it on the head, GB. Tolkien didn't mean "Catholic" as in the Roman Catholic Church. He meant catholic as in "COMPREHENSIVE, UNIVERSAL; especially: broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests." (Merriam-Webster)

What I vehemently oppose is the thought that Tolkien purposefully made allegory statements and analogies to the Christian faith in LOTR. In Narnia, Lewis made blatantly obvious nods to Christianity (Aslan dying for Edmund being the most prominent one.) This was not Tolkien's aim. Yes, there are Christian morals and ethics, but he's not drawing parallels between his story and the Bible (or Christian truths.) I guess my sense of indignation comes from the misunderstanding of the author. I absolutely hate it when a person writes something and then the readers try to make out ulterior motives and themes that the author never dreamed of. I want Tolkien to be understood, and not misrepresented. And I think Tolkien would wish this also.

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Divine Intervention in the LOTR

Post#10 » Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:13 pm

I will give you another counter argument Gandalf's Beard to you point about many Gods. This does not really agree with the way Tolkien wrote Sillmarillion. Or at least not with the way I understood it as I read it. And please note, I'm on vacation and just finished rereading the Music of the Aunair part of the book. In the begining there was only Eru. The rest of the "gods" were formed from his thought.
Eru is not the Zeus of the Middle Earth Pantheon. More so he is the monothiestic God of the Univerase. But he created Ea in the void to be governed by the aunair that would go to it. These became the powers of the world, and so were called the Valar. Kind of like if the Catholic God let the angels rule the earth.


For Otto's Worlds comment of why the Powers of Good do not intervene more often. They can't. Or more accuratley, they are wise enough not to. To come to middle-earth in strength to fix things always broke them quite abit. When the Valar first chained Melkor the world was changed. Mountains fell or grew, rivers changed courses, new lakes, drained seas, you get the point. Same thing when the Valar finally stopped Melkor again and ended the war of the Jewels. Power that strong must be used gently.

Imagine, what if a man destined to be twice as persuasive as Hitler and three times as evil was on-board the Titanic when it sank? This leads to my favorite quote of the faithful, God works in mysterious ways.

Otto's World also mentioned by posts about Applicability vs Alegory, I posted those on the Second best Fantasy Fiction thread, I don't know if I can say it they well twice. Perhaps I'll try to just quote some of it here in the next couple days.

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