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Religion & Philosophy in Tolkien's Works

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Shown Left Top: Finding God in Lord of the Rings
Author: Kurt Bruner & Jim Warl
Tyndale House
Nov. 2001

Shown Left Bottom: The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in "The Lord of the Rings"
Fleming Rutledge
October 2004
Eerdmans Pub Co
Paperback , 380pp
ISBN-13: 9780802824974
ISBN: 0802824978
Rutledge, an Episcopal priest, examines Tolkein's magnum opus and there finds God, unnamed, unseen, but nevertheless ever-present. Rather than working from isolated themes and characters, she analyzes the narrative in its purest form, which Tolkien hinted contained all his logic and also his faith. From this perspective, and from evidence of Tolkien's biblical bent, Rutledge finds The Lord of the Rigns contains a divine plan, executed by creatures with all their blots and blemishes, who struggle with the possibility of power but in the final analysis actually seek and, in some cases, find redemption. Rutledge works almost entirely from the original literature and some of Tolkien's letters and therefore does not need to offer more than a three-book bibliography, but the inclusion of an index would be helpful.


Alchemy in Middle-Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Mahmoud Shelton
Hardcover: 124 pages
Temple of Justice Books; 1st Hardcover edition
May 31, 2003
$20.00 US
ISBN: 0974146803
ISBN-13: 978-0974146805
Never before has the esoteric significance of the "Novel of the Century" been explained. At last its profound symbolism is made clear in light of the Hermetic tradition, establishing The Lord of the Rings to be the work of an illuminated imagination. Alchemy in Middle-earth traces J.R.R. Tolkien's motifs to unexpected connections with Scotland, the Middle East, and legendary Atlantis, and unveils the ancient wisdom in Tolkien's great work not only with the Alchemy of the past, but also with the living spiritual alchemy of Sufism. In the process, the mysterious relationship between the spirituality of Islam and Tolkien's Christianity is revealed, signifying nothing less than the completion of the Grail quest at the end of an age.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
Bradley J. Birzer, Foreword by Joseph Pearce
November 2003
ISI Books
Paperback , 219pp
$15.00 US
ISBN-13: 9781932236200
ISBN: 1932236201
Peter Jackson's Film Version of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy -- and the accompanying Rings-related paraphernalia and publicity -- has played a unique role in the dissemination of Tolkien's imaginative creation to the masses. Yet, for most readers and viewers, the underlying meaning of Middle-earth has remained obscure. Bradley Birzer has remedied that with this fresh study. In J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth, Birzer reveals the surprisingly specific religious symbolism that permeates Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He also explores the social and political views that motivated the Oxford don, ultimately situating Tolkien within the Christian humanist tradition represented by Thomas More and T. S. Eliot, Dante and C. S. Lewis. Birzer argues that through the genre of myth Tolkien created a world that is essentially truer than the one we think we see around us everyday, a world that transcends the colorless disenchantment of our postmodern age.

The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All
Gregory Bassham (Author), Eric Bronson (Author)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Open Court; 1ST edition
August 4, 2003
$18.00 US
ISBN-10: 9780812695458
ISBN-13: 978-0812695458
Can power be wielded for good, or must it always corrupt? Does technology destroy the truly human? Is beer essential to the good life? The Lord of the Rings raises many such searching questions, and this book attempts some answers. Divided into five sections concerned with power and the Ring, the quest for happiness, good and evil in Middle-earth, time and mortality, and the relevance of fairy tales, The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy mines Tolkien’s fantasy worlds for wisdom in areas including the menace of technology, addiction and fetishism, the vitality of tradition, the environmental implications of Tolkien's thought, Middle-earth's relationship to Buddhism and Taoism, and more.

The Philosophy of Tolkien
Peter Kreeft
October 2005
Ignatius Press
Paperback , 237pp
$16.00 US
ISBN-13: 9781586170257
ISBN: 1586170252
"Peter Kreeft takes the reader on a voyage of discovery into the philosophical bones of Middle earth. Like a good concordance, this book organizes the philosophical themes in The Lord of the Rings into 50 categories, accompanied by over 1,000 references to the text." Since many of the great questions of philosophy are included in the 50-theme outline, this book can also be read as an introduction to philosophy. For each of the philosophical topics in The Lord of the Rings, Kreeft presents four tools by which they can be understood: an explanation of a key question; a key quotation showing Tolkien's answer; quotes from other writings of Tolkien that clarify the theme; and quotes from his close friend C. S. Lewis, which state the same philosophical points directly.

The Road Goes Ever On: A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings
A. K. Frailey
February 2011
iUniverse, Incorporated
Paperback , 176pp
ISBN-13: 9781450288101
ISBN: 1450288103
Ann gives us a glimpse into the Christian ethos that was fundamental to Tolkien's life and work. Do yourself and your children a favor. Buy, read and soak in this book. Tolkien's story, The Lord of the Rings, touches the soul in a profound way. Why is that? What makes the heroes so attractive? Can we ever become like them? The power to be strong and valiant is not limited to Middle-earth. We have been given the same tools and gifts that they are offered if we but recognize them. The rings of power in our society tempt us and our children as well. We would be wise if we awakened to that which tries our souls. Take a look at this classic from a Christian perspective, and you might bring Middle-earth a little bit closer to home.

The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the Rings
Stratford Caldecott
Paperback, 160 pages
The Crossroad Publishing Company
March 1, 2005
$17.00 US
ISBN-10: 082452277X
ISBN-13: 978-0824522773
The Power of the Ring is the first book to show how Catholic themes of quest, devotion, and forgiveness are, as Tolkien said, at the very heart of The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth
Ralph C. Wood
September 2003
Presbyterian Pub Corp
Paperback , 224pp
ISBN-13: 9780664226107
ISBN: 0664226108
Edition Description: 1ST
Synopsis Readers have repeatedly called The Lord of the Rings the most important book of our age—absorbing all 1,500 of its pages with an almost fanatical interest and seeing the Peter Jackson movies in unprecedented numbers. Readers from ages 8 to 80 keep turning to Tolkien because here, in this magical kingdom, they are immersed in depth after depth of significance and meaning—perceiving the Hope that can be found amidst despair, the Charity that overcomes vengeance, and the Faith that springs from the strange power of weakness. The Gospel According to Tolkien examines biblical and Christian themes that are found in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Follow Ralph Wood as he takes us through the theological depths of Tolkien's literary legacy.

The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien
Jared C. Lobdell
Paperback, 160 pages
Open Court; Revised edition
June 18, 2004
$23.00 US
ISBN-10: 0812695690
ISBN-13: 978-0812695694
In this detailed look at The Lord of the Rings, author Jared Lobdell examines J. R. R. Tolkien's methods and worldview by following the thread of three influences: the science of philology, Roman Catholic theology, and the Edwardian adventure story. Tolkien's knowledge of Germanic and Celtic languages helps explain his use of period linguistics as well as his skill at coining memorable names. The author explores the Christian/Catholic underpinnings of the Rings series, with emphasis on the question of whether the books are set before the Fall of Man. This fascinating look at Tolkien's creative process is a must-have for all Lord of the Rings and Tolkien fans.

Finding God in the Hobbit
Jim Ware, Kurt Bruner (Foreword by)
September 2006
Hardcover , 208pp
$15.00 US
ISBN-13: 9781414305967
ISBN: 1414305966
Thousands have been captivated by the spiritual themes that underlie Tolkien's imaginative fiction. In Finding God in The Hobbit, Jim Ware, co-author of the popular "Finding God" series, indulges readers with an exploration of the spiritual significance of J. R. R. Tolkien's famous children's classic. As they are acquainted with Tolkien's message of transcendent truth, readers will see how God is mysteriously at work even in everyday moments. A reflection summarizes each chapter's main insight. Bibliography included.

Walking with Frodo
Sarah Arthur
November 2003
Tyndale House Publishers
Paperback , 208pp
$10.00 US
ISBN-13: 9780842385541
ISBN: 0842385541
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings epic tale has long captivated readers with its parallels to biblical truth. And now, a new addition to the thirsty(?) line, Walking with Frodo looks at the biblical themes found in the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. The 18 devotions pair vices and virtues (deception vs. honesty, light vs. darkness, good vs. evil) displayed by characters in The Lord of the Rings and bring to light what the Bible has to say. A must-have for longtime and new series fans

Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter
Greg Wright
Paperback, 224 pages
VMI Publishing
October 25, 2003
$8.00 US
ISBN-10: 0971231168 ISBN-13: 978-0971231160
Wright's book is a compelling alternative to both unbridled praise and dismissive criticism. Readable yet scholarly, it takes into account the full breadth of Tolkien's writings -- everything from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-Earth; from Tolkien's Letters to his published essays. And in the closing chapters, Wright boldly offers compelling alternatives to his own conclusions, which demonstrates his desire for a responsible approach to handling Tolkien's work. He is not overly concerned with being "right."

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion
Author: Richard L. Purtill
Here is an in-depth look at the role myth, morality, and religion play in J.R.R. Tolkien s works such as The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion including Tolkiens private letters and revealing opinions of his own work. Richard L. Purtill brilliantly argues that Tolkien's extraordinary ability to touch his readers lives through his storytelling so unlike much modern literature accounts for his enormous literary success. This book demonstrates a moral depth in Tolkien s work and cuts through current subjectivism and cynicism about morality. A careful reader will find a subtle religious dimension to Tolkien s work more potent because it is below the surface. Purtill reveals that Tolkien s fantasy stories creatively incorporate profound religious and ethical ideas. For example, Purtill shows us how hobbits reflect both pettiness of parochial humanity and unexpected heroism. Purtill, author of 19 books, effectively addresses larger issues of place of myth, relation of religion and morality to literature, relation of Tolkien s work to traditional mythology, and lessons Tolkien's work teaches for our own lives. Richard Purtill is both a clear and commonsensical philosopher and an accomplished fantasy writer. Discovering him is like meeting Strider / Aragorn in the Prancing Pony Inn at Bree: we have found a Ranger, a reliable guide through Middle-earth.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality and Religion
Richard L. Purtill, Joseph Pearce (Foreword by)
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Format: Paperback , 175pp
$16.00 US
ISBN-13: 9780898709483
ISBN: 0898709482
Here is an in-depth look at the role myth, mortality, and religion play in J.R.R. Tolkien's works such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillian - including Tolkien's private letters and revealing opinions of his own work. Richard L. Purtill argues that Tolkien's ability to touch his readers' lives through his storytelling - so unlike much modern literature - accounts for his enormous literary success. The book demonstrates the moral depth in Tolkien's work and cuts through current subjectivism and cynicism about morality. A careful reader will find a subtle religious dimension to Tolkien's work - all the more potent because it is below the surface. Purtill reveals that the author's fantasy stories creatively incorporate profound religious and ethical ideas. For example, Purtill shows us how hobbits reflect both the pettiness of unimaginative parochial humanity and the unexpected heroism of ordinary people in crisis. Purtill effectively addresses larger issues of the place of myth, the relation of religion and morality to literature, the relation of Tolkien's work to traditional mythology, modern fantasy and science fiction, and the lessons Tolkien's work teaches that are applicable to our own lives.

Meditations on Middle-Earth
1st Edition
St. Martins Press
Nov. 2001
When J.R.R. Tolkien created the extraordinary world of Middle-earth and populated it with fantastic, archetypal denizens, reinventing the heroic quest, the world hardly noticed. Sales of The Lord of the Rings languished for the better part of two decades, until the Ballantine editions were published here in America. By late 1950s, however, the books were selling well and beginning to change the face of fantasy. . . . forever. A generation of students and aspiring writers had their hearts and imaginations captured by the rich tapestry of the Middle-earth mythos, the larger-than-life heroic characters, the extraordinary and exquisite nature of Tolkien's prose, and the unending quest to balance evil with good. These young readers grew up to become the successful writers of modern fantasy. They created their own worlds and universes, in some cases their own languages, and their own epic heroic quests. And all of them owe a debt of gratitude to the works and the author who first set them on the path. In Meditations on Middle-earth, sixteen bestselling fantasy authors share details of their personal relationships with Tolkien's mythos, for it inspired them all. Had there been no Lord of the Rings, there would also have been no Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin; no Song of Ice and Fire saga from George R. R. Martin; no Tales of Discworld from Terry Pratchett; no Legends of Alvin Maker from Orson Scott Card. Each of them was influenced by the master mythmaker, and now each reveals the nature of that influence and their personal relationships with the greatest fantasy novels ever written in the English language. If you've never read the Tolkien books, read these essays and discover the depthy and beauty of his work. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the candid comments of these modern mythmakers will give you new insight into the subtlety, power, and majesty of Tolkien's tales and how he told them.

Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings
Author: Mark Eddy Smith
Paperback, 144pp.
ISBN: 0830823123
InterVarsity Press
January 2002
"I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way"; Frodo Baggins, at Council of Elrond in Rivendell. A mere recollection of this declaration, says writer Mark Eddy Smith, "can move me to tears. I have been reading this tale since I was eleven years old, taking it from my shelf every year or so and returning to Middle-earth. . . . As I get older and learn more of what sort of person I am, and continue sojourning to the rich soil of the Shire and high towers of Minas Tirith, I discover that many of my notions of what is good and right and noble in this world have their source in that one." For Smith, like the rest of us, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings yields essential lessons in living. In this eloquent book, Smith approaches Middle-earth as a training ground, "a place where [we] can apprentice to those whose gifts of charity, wisdom, kindness, mercy, love and faithfulness far surpass [our] own." And, Smith says, we may learn more easily at feet of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, Glorfindel, Eowyn, Gimli, Saruman, Galadriel & Celeborn, whose world is so far removed from our real lives and yet so firmly rooted in biblical story, "than [we would] by studying the convoluted facts of our own history." Echoing Tolkien's views on the workings of story, he concludes that "while it can never supplant the Bible, [Lord of the Rings] may do its part to supplement it, so that we see again, from a different perspective, the same essential and eternal truths." Here then, is a book that mines gold from Middle-earth, both for long-time fans and for those just getting acquainted with Tolkien and his universe.

Perilous Realms: Celtic And Norse in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Marjorie Burns
Paperback, 240pp.
University of Toronto Press
August 06, 2005
Edition: Illustrated
ISBN13: 9780802038067
ISBN: 0802038069
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) is increasingly recognized as the most influential writer of the twentieth century. Sales of his books remain exceptionally high, and Middle-earth fan clubs flourish around the world. The film versions made of The Lord of the Rings, released between 2001 and 2003, have only added to his popularity. Throughout his life, Tolkien was acutely aware of the power of myth in shaping society; so much so, that one of this earliest ambitions as a writer was to create a mythology for England. The Middle-earth of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was to serve as a stand-in for Britain and northwestern Europe and is strongly based on a variety of influential literatures and beliefs, particularly the Celtic and Horse. Perilous Realms in the first book to focus consistently on the ways in which Tolkien balances these two ancient cultures and unites them in a single literature. Renowned Tolkien scholar Marjorie Burns also investigates the ways Tolkien reconciled other oppositions, including paganism and Christianity, good and evil, home and wayside, war and peace, embellishment and simplicity, hierarchy and the common man. Even those who do not know Beowulf, the Arthurian tales, or northern European mythology come away from The Lord of the Rings with a feeling for Britain's historical and literary past. Those who recognize the sources behind Tolkien - and the skill with which he combines these sources - gain far more. Perilous Realms gives this advantage to all readers and provides new discoveries, including material from obscure, little-known Celtic texts and a likely new source for the name 'hobbit.' It is truly essential reading for Tolkien fans.

Evolution Of Tolkien's Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth
Elizabeth A. Whittingham
Paperback, 232 pages
Publisher: McFarland
September 24, 2007
$35.00 US
ISBN-10: 0786432810
ISBN-13: 978-0786432813
The History of Middle-earth traces the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary world, stories, and characters from their earliest written forms to the final revisions Tolkien penned shortly before his death in 1973. Published posthumously by Tolkien's son Christopher, the extensively detailed 12-volume work allows readers to follow the development of the texts that eventually became Tolkien's immensely popular The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. This work provides a thorough study of Tolkien's life and influences through an analysis of The History of Middle-earth. The work begins with a brief biography and an analysis of the major influences in Tolkien's life. Following chapters deal with elements common to Tolkien's popular works, including the cosmogony, theogony, cosmology, metaphysics, and eschatology of Middle-earth. The study also reviews some of the myths with which Tolkien was most familiar--Greek, Roman, Finnish, and Norse--and reveals the often overlapping relationship between mythology, biblical stories, and Tolkien's popular works