Recently, I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings series after a failed attempt in eighth grade to read The Hobbit (what can I say, I hold a grudge!). To my eighth grade mind, The Hobbit was a horribly thick novel with so many plot lines and conflicts twisting in upon each other that I could not discern what on earth was going on. To be fair to the novel, however, I barely read it; I scanned it, like most of the other simple novels that were on the English curriculum and expected that my skim would be enough to pass the reading quiz. The Hobbit stands as the only work that wrecked my 4.0 score on those reading quizzes (which were pointless anyway, but I digress…)
The Lord of the Rings series has made such an impact upon the world, and I want to know why. Why have these novels stood the test of time and be relatable to me, in 2011, and something my mom remembers reading in high school and my dad identifies with the “seventies hippy crap” (like he wasn’t a part of it. I’ve seen the photos, Dad). What is so enchanting about novels about an evil ring and the journey of a poor young hobbit named Frodo?
Completely ignoring the set rules of literary theory, I watched the movies first, then read some of the criticisms. It seems everyone and their brother has an opinion about how it should be interpreted. I was more interested in the religious aspects of it all, as that seems to be an important part of myself I am sorting out at the moment. I noticed that in the movies (which I am told are nearly mirror images of the books) that Gandolf was often portrayed as God, the Savior, and the All-Knowing. Huh. My Christian background kicked in, and all those years of religious studies flashed up in my mind. God, as the Christains/Catholics recognize him, is divided in three parts (forgive my rough explanation: my degree is in literature, not religion or philosophy): the Father (Creator), Son (Savior) and Holy Spirit. So if we apply those definitions to Gandolf, he fits into every role but the Holy Spirit. I suppose we could say the job of the Spirit is to spread faith, and I do believe there are a few times were Gandolf attempts to give the soldiers faith while fighting the orcs. The Christian religion also believes that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one entity. Gandolf is one entity. Is Gandolf supposed to be God?
I realize that is a really rough argument for someone who hasn’t read the books yet (they are in transit to my local library) but I am intrigued. It seems that Tolkien is making an extremely strong point about religion in his novels; in fact, I think he is screaming it at the top of his lungs.
But maybe he is trying to speak about the other religions? There are seven races in the books and seven is a number found quite often in mythology and numerology (gotta dig up my myth lecture notes to double check which ones though).
However, there is definitely a battle between black and white. Tolkien makes a major effort to make sure his audience notices that evil = dark and good = light. I found that fascinating.
Please don’t take this post as an attack on religion. It isn’t. I have a faint background in the Christian religion from my past and I couldn’t help but notice the symbols screaming out at me from the films. I just cracked open Tolkien’s biography (the one by Mr. Humphrey Carpenter) and hopefully I can get a foundation for the venture I am about to embark on. I can’t wait 🙂