“God is the Lord of angels, and of men — and of elves.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien in “The Tolkien Reader” (1966), p. 88
“The Lord of the Rings is not, as some have suggested, a covert allegory of the gospel. Tolkien clearly denied that idea. Tolkien was telling a story, not proclaiming a message. His Christian worldview pushed itself up of its own accord.”
— Kurt Bruner in “Finding God in The Lord of the Rings” (2001), pp. xiii-xiv.
CALGARY, Alberta, Canada (BP)–To explore the span from Middle Earth to God’s creation, here’s a quiz:
1. Just as the Bible is monotheistic, so there is one God of Middle Earth. Who?
2. Gandalf says: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” (1.60). To whom did the Apostle Paul write: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” — the Corinthians, Ephesians or Thessalonians?
3. Frodo Baggins’ loyal companion is Sam Gamgee, who has known Frodo since childhood. Who wrote: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” — Amos, Job or Solomon?
4. “All that glitters is not gold,” the old saying goes. The verse Gandalf quotes in his letter turns the proverb on its head: “All that is gold does not glitter,” anticipating Frodo’s initial encounter with Strider (Aragorn). To what prophet did God say: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” — Jeremiah, Micah or Samuel?
5. Gandalf describes Gollum: “He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more; he hated everything, and the Ring most of all…. He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself” (1:64). In the New Testament, who wrote: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” — James, Matthew or Paul?
6. Wheaton College professor Clyde S. Kilby writes in his 1970 paper, “Mythic and Christian Elements in Tolkien,” that after this wizard’s resurrection, “the Fellowship gazed on him with something of the same astonished joy that Mary Magdalene and others found at the tomb of Christ.” Who is the wizard?
7. In the darkness of the Tower of Cirith Ungol, Sam begins to sing. In the Book of Acts, who were singing hymns to God around midnight in the darkness of prison?
8. Gollum and The Ring are both destroyed, consumed in the flames of the Cracks of Doom. In Revelation 20:10, who will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur?
9. Upon Frodo’s return to Hobbiton, he says of him: “Do not believe him! He has lost all power, save his voice that can still daunt you and deceive you, if you let it.” To whom is Frodo referring?
10 In a letter written near the end of his life, what did Tolkien say was the chief purpose of life?
1. Iluvatar, whose story is told in the opening pages of Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” (1977). Ralph C. Wood writes in “The Gospel According to Tolkien” (2003): “Iluvatar employs his valar as ancillaries in the act of creation. Nothing even polytheistic is suggested here. The valar are not divinities but subordinate beings who Iluvatar has created with the Flame Imperishable of his own Spirit” (Wood’s July 14, 2003, lecture [“J.R.R. Tolkien: Christian Author for Our Time of Terror”] at Vancouver’s Regent College is available on CD from www.regentbookstore.com.)
2. The Ephesians, in Ephesians 5:15-16.
3. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10.
4. Samuel, in 1 Samuel 16:7. When God instructs Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king, God rejects Eliab, whose height and build were impressive, in favor of David, the smallest and youngest son.
5. Paul, in Romans 7:15. He continues: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7: 24-25).
6. Gandalf. Kilby continues: “Gandalf’s hair, we are told, was ‘white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand’ (II, 98). Gimli the dwarf sank to his knees and shaded his eyes from Gandalf’s brightness. Later we learn that Gandalf is ‘filled with light,’ his head is ‘now sacred’ (II, 107), he is a healer, does not require armor in battle, etc.”
“His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:16).
7. Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25). “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26).
In the same way, a song came to Sam when he needed it most: “Though here at journey’s end I lie/in darkness buried deep,/beyond all towers strong and high,/beyond all mountains steep,/above all shadows rides the Sun/and Stars for ever dwell:/I will not say the Day is done,/nor bid the Stars farewell.”
An old Quaker hymn echoes the same thought in different words:
“What though the tempest round me roars?/I know the Truth, it liveth;/What though the darkness round me blows?/Songs in the night it giveth./No storm can shake my inmost calm/While to that Rock I’m clinging./Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,/How can I keep from singing?”
8. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
9. Sharkey/Saruman, who is like the devil: “The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9).
The names of both Saruman (the renegade wizard) and Sauron (The Dark Lord) suggest “saurian” or “reptilian” — reminiscent of the biblical “dragon”.
10 “… So 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.”
For further reference: www.leaderu.com/focus/tolkien.html, www.dare-connexions.org/lotr.html, www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings.html and www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/110/54.0.html.
10 As wise as Solomon.
Copyright 2003 by David Buckna. David Buckna is the author of “The Pop Gospel,” a regular quiz feature in the Observer/Faith & Reason section of the Calgary Herald.