Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

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Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by narya »

I'm about to take a class on line that is free, and available to all, called Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings. I hope some of you will join me in taking it. You can find out more here: https://www.sfarch.org/tolkien . I'm not much of a believer these days, but still have a strongly Catholic moral compass. I look forward to hearing how Catholicism underpins Tolkien's writings in ways that perhaps I had overlooked. It is taught by Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.

Clipped from that page:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS was voted "the greatest book of the (20th) century" by four popular polls. It is uniquely, but anonymously, Catholic, by Tolkien's own description of it. We will share Frodo's dramatic journey (which is symbolically OUR journey too) at a leisurely pace, one book out of the six for each class, and discover many hidden treasures of wisdom along the way.

From my experience in teaching a course on Tolkien every two or three years at Boston College, I think it works best by simply following the plot of THE LORD OF THE RINGS through its six books in six weeks, one week for each book. Rereading THE LORD OF THE RINGS is something nearly everyone who reads it once wants to do anyway. My book THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOLKIEN is recommended as a guide, especially since it uses Tolkien's own letters to interpret his book; but it is not required or presupposed.

TAUGHT ONLINE USING ZOOM ON JUNE 22, JUNE 29, JULY 6, JULY 13, JULY 20, JULY 27 AT 7 PM PDT
I wasn't going to start a thread here, but then Inanna said (elsewhere):
Inanna wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 7:34 pm Narya, that class looks fascinating. I would love to hear your thoughts while you are taking it.
So please join in. Post your pre-class reflections if you want to. I've already done my homework and read the first book, and part of the second. You still have time to sign up and read the first book (about 200 pages, hardbound) before the first class on June 22.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Here is a review of Professor Kreeft's book, The Philosophy of Tolkien from an early (Volume 4) issue of Tolkien Studies back in 2007.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/215126/pdf ... AZzs2gy4gQ
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by narya »

And here's another faint praise: http://inklings-studies.org/files/2015/ ... llips1.pdf

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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

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Go (now) in peace.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

As a renown Tolkien scholar once said to me, "There is a school of thought that thinks because Tolkien and Lewis were friends and Lewis was a Christian apologist, Tolkien must therefore be one too. A popular fallacy, but mistaken."
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by Túrin Turambar »

Tolkien himself described LotR both as fundamentally and explicitly Catholic, but I've never found a Catholic commentator who's been able to explain exactly what he meant. The ones I have read tend to fall into the trap of allegory (I've never read any of Kreeft's commentary, so I don't know what his particular interpretation is).
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by Frelga »

It is generally true that Tolkien is a more subtle and complex thinker than his critics and imitators assume.
His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by elengil »

I'm not Catholic so I can't comment with any confidence, but I could easily see Catholic ideas as I understand them to be plainly exhibited in the story. Not as allegory but as simple truths of existence. The idea of destiny - of things happening because they are meant to happen rather than by chance, speaking of the hand of god in every part of creation; that ties into the ideas of hope vs despair, whether one acts to the extent of their ability in pursuit of the right path, or abandons everything to hopelessness which could be seen as abandoning god himself; the concept of redemption, both earned and scorned; the guidance of the wizards, not to rule but to offer wisdom; and possibly most in the deep and abiding love of characters for one another even to death. And of course mercy, mercy is virtue repeated in many instances throughout the stories. These ideas don't exist exclusively in Catholicism, certainly, but I could see them being ideas that perhaps Tolkien felt were inseparable from both his beliefs and his writings.

There is sometimes a fine line, but a line nonetheless, between making a story a religious allegory, and making the story simply religious.

Again, not being Catholic I might also be misinterpreting something. But if I was posed this question, that would be my view of it. I might follow along in Narya's class just to see what comes of it.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by TolkienJRR »

narya wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 10:43 pm I'm about to take a class on line that is free, and available to all, called Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings. I hope some of you will join me in taking it. You can find out more here: https://www.sfarch.org/tolkien . I'm not much of a believer these days, but still have a strongly Catholic moral compass. I look forward to hearing how Catholicism underpins Tolkien's writings in ways that perhaps I had overlooked. It is taught by Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.

Clipped from that page:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS was voted "the greatest book of the (20th) century" by four popular polls. It is uniquely, but anonymously, Catholic, by Tolkien's own description of it. We will share Frodo's dramatic journey (which is symbolically OUR journey too) at a leisurely pace, one book out of the six for each class, and discover many hidden treasures of wisdom along the way.

From my experience in teaching a course on Tolkien every two or three years at Boston College, I think it works best by simply following the plot of THE LORD OF THE RINGS through its six books in six weeks, one week for each book. Rereading THE LORD OF THE RINGS is something nearly everyone who reads it once wants to do anyway. My book THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOLKIEN is recommended as a guide, especially since it uses Tolkien's own letters to interpret his book; but it is not required or presupposed.

TAUGHT ONLINE USING ZOOM ON JUNE 22, JUNE 29, JULY 6, JULY 13, JULY 20, JULY 27 AT 7 PM PDT
I wasn't going to start a thread here, but then Inanna said (elsewhere):
Inanna wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 7:34 pm Narya, that class looks fascinating. I would love to hear your thoughts while you are taking it.
So please join in. Post your pre-class reflections if you want to. I've already done my homework and read the first book, and part of the second. You still have time to sign up and read the first book (about 200 pages, hardbound) before the first class on June 22.

Thanks for the heads up.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by narya »

I just finished my second class. It's like listening to an elderly uncle wander about in his memories. There were tidbits, though, including these:
- He highly recommended anything by Shipley.
- He recommended "the Flame Imperishable" by McIntosh.
- He failed several times to answer the question "Who is Tom Bombadil?" with any kind of satisfactory conclusion, perhaps because there is none.
- He posed the question - "Who is older, the Ents or Tom Bombadil?" They both claim to be the eldest.

I went on to peruse McIntosh's blog site, and found lots of gems, like "Tom Bombadil: Franciscan, Pacifist, Botanist" (but wait, I'm a Franciscan, pacifist and botanist, and I don't feel at all Bombadillion) and “Lord of the Rings as Narya, the Ring of Fire" :D , and "Gimli’s Silmaril, Gimli the Silmaril" :sunny: . This set of blogs might be a good set of discussion prompts in its own thread, by someone with far more knowledge of Tolkien and philosophy than I. It's here: https://jonathansmcintosh.wordpress.com/
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by N.E. Brigand »

N.E. Brigand wrote: Mon Jun 14, 2021 6:15 am Go (now) in peace.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

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Are you telling me to go away??
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by elengil »

narya wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 5:50 am Are you telling me to go away??
PARISH the thought!!! :rofl:
The dumbest thing I've ever bought
was a 2020 planner.

"Does anyone ever think about Denethor, the guy driven to madness by staying up late into the night alone in the dark staring at a flickering device he believed revealed unvarnished truth about the outside word, but which in fact showed mostly manipulated media created by a hostile power committed to portraying nothing but bad news framed in the worst possible way in order to sap hope, courage, and the will to go on? Seems like he's someone we should think about." - Dave_LF
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by N.E. Brigand »

narya wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 5:50 am Are you telling me to go away??
Oh gosh no! Sorry for any misunderstanding.

That's a still from the 1985 Italian film The Mass Is Ended (La messa è finita), directed by and starring Nanni Moretti (perhaps best known for his wonderful 2001 film The Son's Room (La stanza del figlio), which I think was that year's top movie and probably the best of the 2000s) as a troubled priest. My posts in this thread have just been joking ways of noting that the last words of Gandalf to Frodo and the last words of Alf to Smith include variations on "​Procedamus cum pace."
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by narya »

Ah. Not to mention the last words of the Mass.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by N.E. Brigand »

narya wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:15 am Ah. Not to mention the last words of the Mass.
Yes! But not for most of Tolkien's life -- and he didn't approve of the changes.
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Re: Catholicism in the Lord of the Rings

Post by lazycat »

N.E. Brigand wrote: Sun Jul 04, 2021 4:45 am
narya wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 1:15 am Ah. Not to mention the last words of the Mass.
Yes! But not for most of Tolkien's life -- and he didn't approve of the changes.
Vatican II was all about taking the mystique out of the religion. Which is surrendering to reductionist materialism. I'm a thorogoing heathen but I appreciate TradCath and Orthodox types who are rode out the atheist wave.
LotR is full of Catholic-friendly allusions but it's not allegory at all (as JRR himself stated flatly) And, as Catholicism is full of Greco-Roman and Celto-Germanic belief, it's got all that and more baked into the cake.
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