Fantasy Friday: Seeking the Lord of Middle Earth by Jeffrey L. Morrow
Welcome back to Fantasy Friday! Today we swerve a bit into a non-fiction book about one of the grandmasters of fantasy.
J. R. R. Tolkien, the beloved author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, brings to his work a great treasure–his Christian faith. Tolkien’s literary works are so popular in part because, in some sense, they pertain to the real world. This present volume is an attempt to understand better the deep Christian influences on his work but also to explore the relevance of Tolkien’s work for theology today. After examining Tolkien’s fiction in order better to appreciate Christian influences, this volume takes a closer look at Tolkien’s theology of fantasy, his response to the more skeptical origins of religion research, and applies his work to contemporary questions about method in biblical studies. Tolkien’s Christianity informed all he wrote. Moreover, his own theology of fantasy holds great promise for contemporary theology.
Why I recommend this book: This is a series of revamped essays originally given as talks at various conferences. If you have read as extensively as I have (and wrote two books!) on the spirituality of Middle-earth (which the author mistakenly calls Middle Earth and who does not realize Ilúvatar is God, not just a God-figure), then this will repeat a lot. But if you have not, this serves as a good, basic intro to the subject, including a chapter on Marian figures in the tale, some of whom I had not considered before. It also has a chapter on the depiction of evil in The Fellowship of the Ring film. There is a little treatment of C. S. Lewis too. What is most interesting to me, it covers Tolkien’s ‘theology of fantasy’ and why fantasy literature is important and not to be dismissed as merely escapist, as detailed in the Professor’s delightful essay “On Fairy-Stories.” There is also a chapter on Tolkien’s approach to Beowulf. A good mix of the wide-ranging interests of this immortal scribe!
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Have you read this book? What did you think?