Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: A Catholic Worldview (2011) - full transcript

Host Joseph Pearce explores the many Catholic themes and elements that comprise the landscape of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Joseph: 'The hoofs drew


"They had no time to find any"

hiding place better than the

general darkness under the


"Sam and Pippin crouched"

behind a large tree-bole,

while Frodo crept back a

few yards towards the lane.

"It showed grey and pale,"

a line of fading light

through the woods.

"Above it, the stars were"

thick in the dim sky,

but there was no moon.

"The sound of hoofs"


"As Frodo watched, he saw"

something dark pass across

the lighter space between

2 trees, and then halt.

"It looked like the black"

shade of a horse led by

a smaller black shadow.

"The black shadow stood close"

to the point where they had

left the path, and it swayed

from side to side.

"Frodo thought he heard the"

sound of snuffling.

The shadow bent to the

ground, and then began

"to crawl towards him."

These words are from the

first book in "The Lord"

of the Rings“trilogy,

the most popular book

of the 20th century.

But did you know these

books are Catholic?

Hello, I'm Joseph Pearce and

I'll be your guide as we

explore "The Catholicism of."

'The Lord of the Rings“.

Joseph: "The Lord of the."

"Rings," the most popular

book of the 20th century and

one of the greatest books

ever written is a Catholic

work, full to the brim with

the truths of the Gospel,

and there's no need to

take my word for it.

Here are the words of the

author himself.

Tolkien: "The Lord of the."

"Rings" is, of course, a

fundamentally religious and.

Catholic work-unconsciously

so at first, but consciously

in the revision.

Joseph: So there we

have it, from the lips of.

J.R.R.Tolkien, the author

himself, in words written

to his Jesuit friend.

Fr. Robert Murray in 1953.

But how is it fundamentally

religious and Catholic?

There's no mention of Christ

or His Church anywhere in

the book, not least because

the story takes place

thousands of years before

Christ revealed Himself

in the Person of Jesus.

How can it be Catholic

if there's no mention of

Christ or Catholicism?

This is the question that

will be answered over the

next hour as we explore the.

Catholicism of "The Lord of"

the Rings...

First, however, let's learn

a little more about Tolkien


He was born in Bloemfontein,

in South Africa, on

3 January, 1892, and was

baptized 4 weeks later

in the local Anglican


Both his parents were

English, and the family

were living in South Africa

because of his father's

position as manager of the

Bloemfontein branch of the.

Bank of Africa.

Shortly after Tolkien's

3rd birthday his mother

returned to England, taking.

Tolkien and his younger

brother Hilary with her.

His father, unable to vacate

his post at the bank, was

forced to remain behind,

intending to follow his wife

and children to England as

soon as the opportunity


But tragedy struck the.

Young family.

Arthur Tolkien contracted

rheumatic fever and died

in Africa.

The death of her husband

plunged Mabel Tolkien into


With 2 young sons, she

relied on financial

assistance from her family.

Then in 1900, when Tolkien

was 8 years old, Mabel.

Tolkien was received into

the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, she began to

instruct her sons in the.

Catholic religion and they

were duly received into the.

Church also.

Her family reacted with

fury to her conversion,

withdrawing their financial

assistance and plunging her

and her sons from poverty

to penury.

The strain affected her

health adversely and Tolkien

was convinced that his

mother's early death, in

1904 when he was only 12

years old, was due to the

persecution she experienced

following her conversion to.


Tolkien: My own dear mother

was a martyr indeed, and it

was not to everybody that.

God grants so easy a way to.

His great gifts as He did

to Hilary and myself,

giving us a mother who

killed herself with labor

and trouble to ensure us

keeping the faith.

Joseph: On another occasion,

when confronted with the

prospect of some of his own

children's neglect of their

faith, Tolkien remembered

his mother's sanctity and

loyalty to the faith.

Tolkien: When I think of my

mother's death... worn out

with persecution, poverty,

and largely consequent

disease, in the effort to

hand on to us small boys the

faith, and remember the tiny

bedroom she shared with us

in rented rooms in a

postman's cottage in Rednal,

where she died alone,

too ill for Viaticum,

I find it very hard and

bitter, when my children

turn away.

Joseph: After their mother's

death, Fr. Francis Morgan

of the Birmingham Oratory

became the legal guardian

of Tolkien and his brother.

Tolkien would describe.

Fr. Morgan as, "A guardian"

who had been a father to me,

"more than most real fathers."

Tolkien went on to study.

Classics at Oxford,

receiving his degree in

1915, before enlisting

in the army.

In the following year he

married his childhood

sweetheart; Edith Bra“,

and 2 months afterwards,

he sailed to France to take

part in what he described

as the animal horror and

carnage of the Battle

of the Somme,

one of the most horrific

battles in human history.

It was also around this time

that he began to invent

the first of his Elvish

languages, a hobby that

would become the creative

passion of his life,

leading eventually to

the publication of his


John, the first of the 4.

Tolkien children, who would

later become a Jesuit

priest, was born in 1917.

Their 2nd son, Michael,

followed in 1920;

Christopher in 1924; And

Priscilla, their only

daughter and final child,

was born in 1929.

It was during this period

that Tolkien, who was now

teaching at Oxford.

University, first met.

C. S. Lewis.

The 2 men were destined to

form the most important

literary friendship of the

20th century, in spite of

their differences when

they first met.

Tolkien was a devout.

Catholic, whereas Lewis,

born in the sectarian

atmosphere of Protestant

Belfast, in Northern

Ireland, had been taught

from childhood not to trust

"papists," to employ the

derogatory term with which.

Ulster Protestants expressed

their contempt for their.

Catholic neighbors.

Lewis: On my first coming

into the world I had been

implicitly warned never to

trust a papist, and at my

first coming into the

English Faculty explicitly

never to trust a


Tolkien was both.

Joseph: It would seem,

therefore, that a friendship

between Tolkien and Lewis

was not very likely.

What brought them together

was a shared love for

mythology, and particularly

a love for Norse mythology.

They became good friends

after Lewis joined an

informal club that had been

founded by Tolkien with the

single purpose of reading

the Norse myths in their

original language.

Lewis had long since

lapsed from his childhood.

Protestantism and had

become an atheist.

And yet in September 1931,

a long conversation between.

Tolkien and Lewis on the

subject of myth would be

instrumental in Lewis'

conversion to Christianity.

It all began when Lewis

provoked Tolkien by

indicating that myths

were lies.

Tolkien: Including in fairy

stories, which I think is

rather ridiculous.

After all, the magic of

myths or fairy stories is

not an end in itself.

It exists to serve virtue

and satisfies certain

primordial human desires.

Lewis: But myths are


The stories they tell

aren't true.

They're lies, and therefore

worthless, even though

breathed through silver.

They're just beautiful lies.

You can't seriously believe

in fairy stories.

Tolkien: Why not?

I can.

In fact, I do.

Lewis: But this is


How can you seriously

believe a lie?

Tolkien: Oh Jack, myths are

not lies.

In fact they're the opposite

of a lie.

Myths convey the essential

truth, the primal reality of

life itself.

Lewis: Go on.

Tolkien: Well, you see, we

have been duped into using

the word myth as being

synonymous with a lie

because we have been duped

into accepting the first

real lie of materialism.

Lewis: And what is that?

Tolkien: That is the hideous

claim that there is no

supernatural order to

the universe.

The materialists have

imprisoned us in a world of

mere matter, of physical

facts divorced from and

devoid of metaphysical


Well, I say that they're

lying... I say that they are

the ones who have come up

with a false myth.

Their world doesn't exist.

It's merely a figment of

their imagination.

We're fine.

However, there's a problem.

The problem is, they have

convinced us that it

is true.

They have made us believe

that this is all there is...

3 dimensions, 5 senses,

4 walls.

Lewis: Isn't it?

Tolkien: Most emphatically


Jack, the 4 walls of

materialism are the 4 walls

of a prison, and the

materialists are our


Don't you see, they've put

us in a prison, a prison of

4 walls?

They don't want us to see

what's beyond those walls.

They don't want us to

discover what lies outside

their narrow philosophy.

Worse than that, they think

that any attempt to escape

from the prison is an act

of treason.

Lewis: Why, wouldn't it be

an act of treason against

rationality to believe


Tolkien: Now Jack, think

for a moment, how can it be

wrong for a prisoner to

think of things that exist

other than walls or jailers?

Doesn't the fact that the

prisoner is able to think of

things outside the walls,

suggest that perhaps things

do exist outside the walls?

After all, if the prison

really all there is, how are

we able to picture things

that exist beyond the.


And this is where myths come

in, you see.

Myths exist outside the


Myths allow us to escape

from the prison, or if we're

not able to escape, at the

very least, they allow us to

catch a fleeting but oh-so-

powerful glimpse of the

beauty that lies beyond

the walls.

Lewis: But what is it that

we're meant to be glimpsing?

Tolkien: Well, don't you


The truth, Jack.

Myths show us a fleeting

glimpse of the truth itself.

Lewis: Truth? Truth!

What on earth is this truth

that you're talking about?

Tolkien: Ah!

"Quid est veritas;

What is truth?"

I'm glad to see that

you've entered into the

spirit of the myth, Jack!

You've just cast yourself

into the role of Pilate.

Lewis: Pilate?

Oh, I see!

You're able to believe in

the lesser myths because

you've already accepted

the big 1.

Once you believe the big

myth, the lie of Christ,

it's easier to accept the

smaller ones.

All right, Toilers...

I'll play the role of Pilate.

I'll wash my hands

of the whole nonsense!

Tolkien: Well, Jack, you may

be able to wash your hands,

but your mind is still


You're not thinking clearly

at all, old chap.

You're acting as if myths

are mere arbitrary

inventions of fiction,

as if we pulled them

out of thin air.

But what you don't

understand is that we make

things by the law in which

we are made.

We create because

we are created.

Creativity, imagination

is God's imageness in us.

We tell stories because.

God is a Story Teller.

In fact, He's THE Story.


We tell our stories with


He tells His story with


The facts of history are.

His words, and providence

is His storyline.

Lewis: Are you suggesting

that all of history, that

everything around us is all

part of some divine myth?

Tolkien: We're all part of.

His story.

This very conversation is

part of His story.

Lewis: But perhaps it isn't.

His story.

Perhaps it's only your


How can you know that your

story, the story that you

believe, the Christian

story, is any more real

than any other stories?

Tolkien: But don't you see,

it isn't my story, it's.

His story.

You're acting as if.

Christianity is one myth

among many.

It's not.

It's the true myth.

Christianity really

happened, Jesus really

existed, so did Pilate.

And yet, it is this true

story that makes sense of

all the other stories.

It is the archetype, it is

the story in which all the

other stories have their

source, and the story to

which all the other stories


It has everything.

It has catastrophe and its

opposite, what we might

call eu-catastrophe.

It has the joy of the happy

ending, the sudden joyous

turn and the story that is

essential to all myths.

It has to a sublime degree

this joy of deliverance,

this Evangelium, this

fleeting glimpse of the real.

Joy to which all other joys

are but a distant echo.

Lewis: Toilers, what did you

mean by catastrophe and


Tolkien: Well, for example,

it has the catastrophe

of the fall and the

eu-catastrophe of the

redemption; It has the

catastrophe of the.

Crucifixion and the

eu-catastrophe of the.


It has everything that man's

heart desires because it is

being told by the One Who is

the Fulfillment of desire


It is a story that begins

and ends in joy.

Lewis: But just because a

story brings joy, it doesn't

necessarily follow that

it's true.

There are many joyful myths.

They all seem rather flimsy

to me and ring rather false.

Tolkien: And yet this story

has the inner consistency

of reality.

There is no tale ever told

that men would rather find

was true, and none which

so many skeptical men have

accepted as true on its

own merits.

Lewis: Perhaps it's just a

very well-written artifice.

Tolkien: This story has the

supremely convincing tone of

primary art, not fiction,

but of creation, and to

reject this leads either to

darkness or to wrath, and in

my own life it has led me

from darkness to light.

Lewis: Astonishing!

Toilers, you astonish me.

You absolutely astonish me.

Joseph: This conversation

made such an impact on.

C. S. Lewis that within a

few weeks he was declaring

to his friends that he had

become a Christian.

Tolkien: You may not believe

this, but I've definitely

started to believe in

Christ, in Christianity, and

the long night talk with.

Tolkien had a great deal

to do with it last week.

Let me try to explain.

The story of Christ is a

true myth, a myth working on

us in the same way as the

others, but with this

tremendous difference that

it really happened, and one

must be content to accept it

in the same way, remembering

that this is God's myth,

where the other myths are

men's myths, which is to say

that the Pagan stories are.

God expressing Himself

through the minds of poets,

using such images as He

found there, while.

Christianity is God

expressing Himself through

what we call real things.

It is therefore true,

not in the sense of being a

description of God, which no

finite mind could take in,

but in the sense of being

the way in which God chooses

to appear to our faculties.

Joseph: And so we see how.

Tolkien was instrumental

in the conversion of.

C. S. Lewis.

Isn't it astonishing to

think that we don't only

have Tolkien to thank for

the brilliance of "The Lord"

"of the Rings," but that we

also have him to thank,

indirectly, for "The."

Chronicles of Narnia"

and all of Lewis' other

wonderful works of Christian


And speaking personally,

I still remember my own

first reading of"The Lord

"of the Rings" and what a

profoundly healthy effect

it had upon me.

At the time, I was a long

way from any belief in.


I could not even envisage

my own future conversion

to Catholicism.

Looking back, my journeying

with Frodo into Middle-earth

helped me to understand the

true nature of heroism and

to see that it is really

the same thing as sanctity.

Tolkien was one of the first

people to show me the

reality of holiness and to

enkindle within me a desire

for holiness myself.

Like C. S. Lewis, I owe a

great debt of gratitude to.


It is now time that we

turned our attention to the.

Catholicism of "The Lord of"

"the Rings" itself.

We will remember that.

Tolkien stated emphatically

"that 'The Lord of the Rings"

is a fundamentally religious

and Catholic work, and on

another occasion he spoke of

a scale of significance with

regard to his relationship

as the author, with.

"The Lord of the Rings,"

as his work.

At the bottom of the scale

were what he called

insignificant facts,

which were irrelevant.

Then there were more

significant facts, such as

his academic vocation as

a philologist at Oxford.

University, which had

affected his taste in

languages and which was,

therefore, obviously a large

ingredient in "The Lord of"

the Rings...

Yet even this was

subservient to the most

important factors.

Tolkien: And there are a few

basic facts, which however

drily expressed, are really


For instance, I was born in

1892 and lived for my early

years in the shire, in a

pre-mechanical age, or more

important, I am a Christian,

which can be deduced from

my stories, and in fact,

a Roman Catholic.

Joseph: According to Tolkien

himself, the fact that he is

a Christian, which can be

deduced form his stories,

and in fact, a Roman.

Catholic, was the more

important of the really

significant factors at the

very top of the scale of

significance relating to his

relationship as author to.

"The Lord of the Rings."

Since this is so, we should

not be surprised to discover

"that 'The Lord of the Rings"

is exactly what Tolkien

tells us it is... a

fundamentally religious

and Catholic work.

So how exactly is it

fundamentally religious

and Catholic?

Let's begin our exploration

of the deepest Catholic

significance of the book

by starting at the very

beginning of the story,

with the Creation of.

Middle-earth itself.

Tolkien: There was Eru, the

one, who in Arda is called

lluvatar, and he made first

the Ainur, the Holy Ones,

that were the offspring of

his thought, and they were

with him before aught else

was made.

Joseph: In the beginning

there was the one God,

lluvatar, the All-Father,

or Father of all, and He

first made the Ainur,

the Holy Ones, or Angels.

It can be seen that Tolkien

is at great pains from the

beginning to make his

sub-created world conform

with the real created world,

conforming his creation

story to that in Genesis.

Middle-earth has only one.


It is a monotheistic cosmos,

not a polytheistic cosmos

like that of the Pagans.

Still less is it an

atheistic cosmos like

that of the modern-day


It is also a fallen cosmos,

due to the rebellion of

satan, whom the elves

call Melkor or Morgoth.

The parallels with.

Christianity are


Melkor is described by.

Tolkien as the greatest of

the Ainur, as Lucifer was

the greatest of the angels.

Like Lucifer, Melkor is

the embodiment and the

ultimate source of the

sin of pride, intent on

corrupting mankind for

his own purposes.

When God proclaims a great

music, Melkor refuses to

play in harmony with the

rest of the angelic beings

and disharmony enters the


God's response is replete

with the deepest mystical

theology as He declares to.

Melkor, or satan, that his

evil is not only ultimately

doomed to failure but that.

God will bring great

goodness out of the very

evil itself, beyond satan's

wildest imaginings.

These are God's words to

satan-Melkor after satan had

introduced his discordant

themes into the harmony of

the great Music of Creation.

Lluvatar: No theme may be

played that hath not its

uttermost source in me.

He that attempteth this

shall prove but mine

instrument in the devising

of things more wonderful,

which he himself hath not


Joseph: The parallels with

Genesis become even more

obvious when Tolkien

describes the war between.

Melkor and Manwe, the latter

of whom is clearly cast in

the role of the Archangel


Narrator: When therefore.

Earth was yet young and full

of flame Melkor coveted it,

and he said to the other.

Valar, "This shall be my own"

kingdom, and I name it unto


But Manwe was the brother

of Melkor in the mind of

lluvatar, and he was the

chief instrument of the 2nd

theme that lluvatar raised

up against the discord of.

Melkor, and Manwe said unto.

Melkor, "This kingdom thou"

shalt not take for thine

own, wrongfully, for many

others have labored here

no less than thou.

And there was strife

between Melkor and the

other Valar.

Joseph: The fact that

Tolkien's Melkor is merely

another name for satan is

made even more manifest

when Tolkien connects

them linguistically.

Tolkien explains that

the name Melkor means.

"He who arises in Might."

Narrator: But that name

he has forfeited and the

Noldor, who among the Elves

suffered most from his

malice, will not utter it,

and they name him Morgoth,

the Dark Enemy of the World.

Joseph: Similarly, Lucifer,

brightest of the angels,

means “fight bearer, “

whereas satan, like.

Morgoth, means enemy.

Morgoth means enemy, satan

means enemy; Therefore.

Morgoth means satan.

They are simply different

words for the same thing.

Morgoth is satan.

Tolkien's intention, both

as a Christian and as a

philologist, in identifying.

Melkor with Lucifer is

beyond question.

Even the way that Tolkien

describes the fall of Melkor

or satan in the Silmarillion

is similar to the way that

satan's fall is described

in the Book of Isaiah.

First, the Book of Isaiah.

Woman: Thy pomp is brought

down to the grave, and

the noise of thy viols,

the worm is spread under

thee, and the worms

cover thee.

How art thou fallen

from Heaven, O Lucifer,

son of the morning?

Joseph: And this is how.

Tolkien describes the

same fall.

Tolkien: From splendor he

fell through arrogance to

contempt for all things save

himself, a spirit wasteful

and pitiless.

Understanding, he turned to

subtlety in perverting to

his own will all that he

could use, until he became

a liar without shame.

He began with the desire of

light, but when he could not

possess it for himself

alone, he descended through

fire and wrath into great

burning, down into darkness,

and darkness he used most

in his evil works upon Arda,

and filled it with fear

for all living things.

Joseph: As well as the

scriptural influence,

the other over-riding

influence is a profoundly

orthodox understanding of.

Augustinian theology.

Evil, as symbolized by

darkness, has no value

of its own but is only a

negation of that which is

good, as symbolized by


This understanding of the

parasitic nature of evil

permeates Tolkien's work

and is especially true of

the depiction of evil in.

"The Lord of the Rings."

Shortly after Tolkien

describes the fall of

satan, or Melkor, in "The".

"Silmarillion" he introduces

Sauron, the Dark Lord in.

"The Lord of the Rings."

He is described as the

greatest of Melkor's


In other words, Sauron, the

evil power in "The Lord of"

"the Rings" is revealed to us

as the greatest of satan's


Tolkien: But in after years

he rose like a shadow of.

Morgoth and a ghost of his

malice, and walked behind

him on the same ruinous path

down into the Void.

Joseph: It is abundantly

clear, therefore, that the

evil powers in 'The Lord of

"the Rings" are specified as

servants of satan, rendering

impossible, or at least

implausible, anything but a

theistic interpretation of

the book.

And the symbolic connection

of the evil characters with

satan is made even more

apparent in the way that.

Tolkien uses linguistic

connections to suggest

the satanic dimension.

Tolkien, remember, was a

linguist, a professor of

philology at Oxford.

University, and he often

employs linguistic clues

to his deepest meaning.

Take, for instance, the name

of Sauron, the Dark Lord of.

"The Lord of the Rings.

The letters "saur" come

from the Greek word sauros

meaning lizard or dragon,

and we know, of course, that

in mediaeval typology, and

in Christian iconography

down the ages, the lizard

or dragon or serpent is a

symbol of satan.

Clearly Tolkien wants us

to see Sauron as satanic.

Similarly, one does not have

to be an expert in anagrams

to see that Saruman includes

the same 4 letters, s-a-u-r,

in a slightly rearranged


Saruman, like Sauron,

is satanic.

And what about Wormtongue?

Well, the Old English word

for dragon or serpent was

wyrm, spelled w-y-r-m,

or worm.

Wormtongue means

serpent-tongue or

dragon-tongue, or, by

extension, devil-tongue.

As if this isn't obvious

enough, Tolkien makes the

satanic connection even

more clear in the way that

Gandalf calls Wormtongue a

snake, commanding him to get

down on his belly in words

that echo Gods punishment

of satan.

Gandalf: Down snake!

Down on your belly!

See, Theoden, here is

a snake!

Joseph: As if to emphasize.

Wormtongues serpentine

character, Tolkien describes.

Wormtongue's reaction.

Narrator: He bared his

teeth, and then with a

hissing breath he spat

before the king's feet.

Joseph: So much for the role

of satanic evil in 'The Lord

"of the Rings," but now it's

time to reveal the secret

that unlocks the

fundamentally and religious

dimension of the whole work.

The fact is that Tolkien

hides a key within the

story, a key that, once

discovered, allows us

to unlock the deepest

Christian theology at the

heart of the drama.

What is the key?

It's to be found in the date

on which Tolkien tells us

that the ring is destroyed,

or unmade.

That date is March 25th... a

date that every Catholic

knows is perhaps the most

significant and important

date on the whole Christian


March 25th is the Feast of

the Annunciation, the date

on which the Archangel

Gabriel appears to the.

Blessed Virgin, and more

important, it is the date on

which Jesus is conceived in.

His Mother's womb, it is the

date on which the Word is

made Flesh, the date on

which God becomes Man.

It is a more important date

than Christmas because life

begins at conception,

not at birth.

God did not become Man

at Christmas, but at

the Annunciation.

The Incarnation happens

at the Annunciation.

It happens on March 25th,

the date on which the Ring

is destroyed!

And that's not all.

Many medievals believed that

the Crucifixion also

happened on March 25th.

Of course, we celebrate Good

Friday as a moveable feast.

It is celebrated on a

different date each year.

But the Crucifixion, as an

historical event, happened

once on a particular day in


That day, so the medievals

believed, was March 25th,

thus connecting Christ's.

Death to His Incarnation.

And what do these 2 events

signify, taken together

with the Resurrection?

They signify man's

redemption from Original.

Sin, and what is.

Original Sin?

It is the one sin to rule

them all and in the darkness

bind them, just as the one

ring is the one ring to rule

them all and in the darkness

bind them.

The one ring is the same as

the one sin and they're both

destroyed or unmade on the

same day... March 25th!

This is no coincidence,

but is the very key that

unlocks the deep theology

and deepest meaning of.

"The Lord of the Rings."

The one ring is nothing

less than a symbol of.

Original Sin itself, and

by extension, a symbol of

actual, individual sin also.

So how does this sin

manifest itself in the


Well, what happens when

you put the ring on?

It's a good question,

and a crucial one.

Many of you might be

thinking that the wearer of

the ring becomes invisible

when he puts the ring on.

But does he?

Think about it a bit more


What actually happens is

that the wearer of the ring

becomes invisible in the.

Good World that God made,

but becomes more visible to

the eye of Sauron, to the

eye of satan.

Tolkien: And suddenly, he was

aware of the eye.

There was an eye in the dark

tower that did not sleep.

He knew that it had become

aware of his gaze.

A fierce eager will

was there.

It leaped towards him.

Almost like a finger, he felt

it searching for him.

Very soon it would nail him

down, know just exactly

where he was.

Amen Lhaw it touched.

It glanced upon Tol Brandir.

He threw himself from the

seat, crouching, covering

his head with this grey


He heard himself crying out,

"Never, never!"

Or was it, "Verily",

I come to you!"

He could not tell.

Then as a flash from some

other point of power there

came to his mind another

thought, "Take it off, fool!"

"Take it off!"

Take off the Ring.

The 2 powers strove in him.

For a moment, perfectly

balanced between the

piercing points, he writhed,


Suddenly he was aware of

himself again, Frodo,

neither the voice nor the

eye, and free to choose,

and with one instant

remaining in which to do so.

He took the ring from off

his finger.

Joseph: In other words, when

we put the ring on, when we

put sin on, we excommunicate

ourselves from Gods world,

the world of goodness, and

enter into satan's world.

Will we listen to the voice

or will we succumb to the

eye of Sauron?

Will we heed the voice of

conscience or will we

choose the evil?

It is a crucial question,

a matter of eternal life

and death.

If we choose the evil and

allow the sin to become

habit-forming, we become

addicted to it.

It becomes our precious.

Eventually we become less

and less like the good

person, or good hobbit, that

we were meant to be, and

become more and more like a

hideous and pathetic parody

of who we were meant to be.

We cease to be a man or a

hobbit and we turn more and

more into a Gollum, and here

is one of the key morals of.

"The Lord of the Rings"-

that the thing possessed

possesses the possessor,

or as Christ told us in the.

Gospel, that, "Where our"

treasure is, there our

"heart will be also."

But what is the


What must we do to avoid

becoming addicted to our

sin, or addicted to the


Gollum: It came to me.

My oglie, my love.


Joseph: As Christians-and

remember always that Tolkien

was a lifelong practicing.

Catholic-we know that we

must take up our cross and

follow in the footsteps of


What does Frodo do?

He takes up his cross and

follows in the footsteps

of Christ.

But how?

There's no cross in "The."

Lord of the Rings, “ nor is

there any mention of Christ.

Remember that we must think

typologically if we are to

understand the deepest

elements in Tolkien's myth.

Remember his words to.

C. S. Lewis that all the

great stories reflect the

true story of Christianity.

How then does Tolkien's

story reflect the true


Specifically, how does the

carrying of the ring

resemble the carrying

of the cross?

What is the Cross of Christ?

It is a symbol of sin.

It is the sin of the world

that Christ carries on His

back on the Via Dolorosa,

the Way of Sorrows, to.

Golgotha, the mountain on

which He will be crucified.

We have already seen that

the ring is a symbol of sin

so it easy to see that the

carrying of the ring is

symbolically synonymous with

the carrying of the cross.

Frodo carries his cross

through Mordor, which

is clearly rooted

linguistically in the Latin

word mors or mortis, meaning

death, to Mount Doom, the

mountain of doom, clearly

an echo of Golgotha itself.

So Frodo and his loyal

companion, Samwise Gamgee,

walk through the valley of

death to Mount Doom,

carrying the cross

in mythological imitation

of Christ Himself.

And as we have seen, the

climax on Mount Doom is

united with Christ's.

Crucifixion on Golgotha

through the key date of.

March 25th.

And there is another

tantalizing parallel between.

Frodo's journey and the

journey of every Catholic

in imitation of Christ.

During their trek through

the sinful valley of Mordor,

Frodo and Sam have nothing

to eat, nothing to sustain

them, except "lembas", the

elvish waybread.

It seems to have magical or

even miraculous nutritional


But what exactly is it?

Literally, it is simply

special bread made by elves

to help those on a journey,

but symbolically its deeper

significance is revealed by

what lembas actually means

in elvish.

Lembas means life-bread or

the bread of life, a clear

symbolic connection with the.

Blessed Sacrament Itself.

On their journey through the

vale of tears, the valley of

death, carrying their cross

in imitation of Christ,

Frodo and Sam are sustained

on their journey by the.

Bread of Life.

Once again we see the

journey of the hobbits

as images of the true.

Christian's pilgrimage

through life.

But what about the climax

on Mount Doom itself?

Why is it that Frodo fails

at the very last moment

in his quest to destroy

the Ring?

Frodo: I have come,

but I do not choose now

to do what I came to do.

I will not do this deed.

The Ring is mine!

Joseph: Why does Frodo fail?

Isn't there something

anti-climactic about his


I know that when I first

read 'The Lord of the.

"Rings," I was annoyed

at this unexpected twist

in the plot.

Frodo had come so far.

He had sacrificed so much,

and then, when all he had

to do was throw the ring

into the abyss,

he couldn't do it!

He had done the hard part.

He had faced many deadly

perils, many temptations,

the strain of sheer


And now, at the last, he

fails miserably, snatching

defeat from the very jaws

of victory.

I was angry with Tolkien!

How dare he take away.

Frodo's moment of glory!

We don't want our heroes

to fail.

We want them to succeed.

I felt cheated!

But on subsequent readings

of the book it became clear

that this particular scene

was Tolkien's masterstroke.

It is perhaps the most

important twist in the

whole plot.

The fact is that we cannot

overthrow sin by our own

efforts alone.

We cannot carry our cross

on our own.

We need help.

To be precise, we need

the help of God Himself.

We need His grace

if we are to overcome sin.

We can't do it ourselves.

As such, Gollum becomes a

paradoxical symbol of grace

itself, God's miraculous

intervention to bring good

out of evil.

Frodo: Do you remember.

Gandalf's words, "Even."

Gollum may have something.

Vet to do?“

But for him, Sam, I could

not have destroyed the ring.

The quest would have been

in vain, even at the

bitter end.

So let us forgive him!

For the quest is achieved,

and now all is over.

I am glad you are here

with me, here at the end

of all things, Sam.

Joseph: But for Gollum, the

quest would have failed, and.

Gollum is only there at the

end because Bilbo, Frodo,

and Sam had each, on

separate occasions, spared

him his life when they were

themselves tempted to kill


If any of them had succumbed

to the temptation to slay

their enemy, the quest would

have failed.

The ring, or sin, would have

defeated them.

The 3 hobbits had learned

the hardest lesson of all...

That it was not enough to

love our neighbors.

We had to love our enemies


If the hobbits had failed in

obeying this toughest of.

Christ's Commandments, the

ring would have triumphed.

Sin would have triumphed,

but because they were

faithful in keeping this.

Commandment, Gollum was

still around as the agent of

grace that brought about the

destruction of the ring.

As if this were not enough

to prove Tolkien's words

"that 'The Lord of the Rings"

is a fundamentally religious

and Catholic work, there is

so much more in the story

that indicates its

profoundly Christian


We have no time in such a

short discussion to study

the death, resurrection, and

transfiguration of Gandalf,

or the Christological

significance of the Kingship

of Aragorn; Or the way in

which the elves illustrate a

Christian understanding of

death and a Christian

understanding of the

difference between time and

eternity; Or the way in

which Boromir, Faramir and.

Gollum, each in different

ways, illustrate the

consequences of human

choices; Or the way in which.

Treebeard and the Ents offer

a profound insight into the

nature of tradition in both

an ecclesiological and

etymological sense.

There is so much more that

we could say but so little

time in which to say it.

Perhaps we will return with

further programs on this

most fundamentally.

Catholic of works.

For now, I'd like to return

to Tolkien himself and his

own exposition of the

meaning of life.

In 1969,when Tolkien was

77 years old and living

in sedate retirement in

Bournemouth on England's

south coast, he received a

letter from a young girl

who was working on a school

project, asking him, "What is"

the purpose of life?"

Tolkien's reply exhibits

his own profoundly mystical.

Catholic faith.

Tolkien: It may be said that

the chief purpose of life,

for any one of us, is to

increase according to our

capacity, our knowledge of.

God by all the means we

have, and to be moved by

it to praise and thanks.

To do as we say in the.

"Gloria in Excel sis;."

Laudamus te, benedicamus te,

adoramus te, glorificamus te,

gratias agimus tibi propter

magnam gloriam tuam.

"We praise You, we call."

You Holy, we worship You,

we proclaim Your glory, we

thank You for the greatness

of Your splendor.

And in moments of

exaltation we may call on

all created things to join

us in our chorus, speaking

on their behalf, as is done

in Psalm 148,and in the.

Song of the Three Children

in Daniel 2, "Praise the."

Lord, all mountains and

hills, all orchards and

forests, all things that

creep, and birds on the


Joseph: It is almost time to

end our brief exploration

of 'The Catholicism of 'The.

("Lord of the Rings)" but

we still have time for a

practical and cautionary

lesson that the book

teaches us.

In the story, the palantiri,

the seeing stones, are used

by Sauron to feed propaganda

to the free peoples of


In particular, Denethor,

the steward of Minas Tirith,

becomes addicted to looking

into the palantir to

discover what the enemy

is up to.

What he doesn't realize is

that the seeing stone is

actually controlled by the

enemy, by Sauron, and that

he only sees in the stone

what Sauron wants him.


It is not that the palantir

is showing complete lies,

but it is only showing

one side of the story.

Denethor sees in the

palantir how invincible is

the enemy's might and he

becomes convinced that

Sauron, or satan, is bound

to win the coming war and

will overthrow Denethor's

own people and all the

peoples of Middle-earth.

In despair, believing that

resistance to satan OI'

Sauron is pointless and

futile, he commits suicide

and, in so doing, almost

brings ruin upon his own.


Bearing this in mind, it is

interesting that palantir

in elvish means "fa r-seer,"

which, in German, "Fernsehen",

means television, and

indeed the English word,

television, also means

far-seer or far-seeing,

being a combination of tele,

which is Greek for far,

and vision, from the Latin,

video, to see.

It seems that Tolkien is

warning us that if we watch

too much television,

we will commit suicide!

Dear viewer, heed Tolkien's

words of warning and avoid

the temptation to spend more

time with your TV, PC,

i-pod, X-box or any other

form of virtual reality.

Keep your feet on the

ground, your heart in.

Heaven, and your mind

on reality!

Having ended on a somewhat

whimsical, if nonetheless

serious note, I'd like to

leave the last word to.

Tolkien himself.

Thanks for joining us on our

journey in the quest for.

"The Catholicism of 'The.

Lord of the Rings!"

Here's Tolkien on the

beauty of the Blessed.


Tolkien: Out of the darkness

of my life so much

frustrated, I put before you

the one great thing to love

on earth... the Blessed.


In It you will find romance,

glory, honor, fidelity, and

the true path of all your

loves on earth, and more

than that, death.

By the Divine Paradox, that

which ends life, and demands

the surrender of all, and by

the taste or foretaste of

which alone can all that

you desire in your earthly

relationships; Love,

faithfulness, joy, be

maintained, or take on the

complexion of reality, of

eternal endurance, which the

heart of every man desires.