Nov 20, 2008

Just Another Path

So I'm a Lord of the Rings junkie. I mean, I didn't dress up to see the movies or anything, but when the final movie came out, I did go to an all-day marathon screening of FotR, TTT, and concluding with the midnight screening of RotK. And I have taken it so far as to read The Silmarillion. Especially in the fall-to-winter seasons, I always have to re-watch and/or re-read at least some of it.

In case someone doesn't know - Tolkien's a devout, but subtle, Catholic in his story-telling. I'm not going to deny that Tolkien being Catholic doesn't make me feel cooler about becoming Catholic, but it's probably no more-so than I feel cooler about being Christian because both Tolkien AND C.S. Lewis are (though Lewis was Anglican, and they had an interesting mini-schism re: Lewis's Narnia).

In any case, Deacon John Donnely led this week's RCIA class, and he was very charming - I hope he wouldn't mind me describing him as grandfatherly. He articulated the Catholic/Christian/post-Hellenistic-Judaic belief in death, and what we experience beyond - the concluding beliefs of the Apostles' Creed - the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

In my opinion, Tolkien's expressions of these unspeakable mysteries surrounding death are the best to be had, and the movies have done them much justice:

Death is anguish, despair, sorrow, remorse, perseverance, courage, repentance, redemption, honor, reconciliation, peace, hope, love - in a single word, Life. It's no wonder then, in Tolkien's mythology, that death is called the Gift of Men. "The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back ... " There are times, though rare, I feel, just barely, how much this world is keeping from me - it's a bittersweet thought. My hope and prayer is that, as I pass thru this world and beyond, I will continue ever closer to God and His Love.

P.S. For a great non-subtle expression on the subject, check out Lewis's The Great Divorce.


Matt said...

I apologize for not really staying on topic, but after reading the linked article from and many of the responses, I think the author tried a little too hard to make the 'battle' between Narnia and Middle-Earth about Protestant vs. Catholic. Of course, there are obvious differences, but as several commentors pointed out, I think those difference primarily exist as a result of intended audiences and distinct purpose.

Both are works of literary masterpiece for different reasons. There is no reason to minimize one at the hands of the other. They are different works, utilizing vastly different literary techniques, telling different stories for different readers.

Oh, and I like what you had to say, as well, Luke. ;) I think that is a fundamental truth for any believer. Death is not something to be feared. However, I also don't think it's wrong to not exactly look forward to it all the time.

luke said...

Yeah, I love both of the stories, and I'd agree there's less "battle" between the Narnia and Middle-Earth stories than the author implies; less than even Romans and Anglicans have today, which is to say not much. But some of the differences are important.

Really though on the subject of life-after-death I think Lewis and Tolkien are very very similar. The whole reason I wrote this post is because I think Tolkien's mythology and Lewis's The Great Divorce have influenced my understandings of death more than anything else.

Matt said...

Of course, it's easy for Gandalf to make comments like he did about life after death. After he died, he just got to come back as an even cooler, more powerful wizard!

luke said...

Well yeah, but that's the point, right? Gandalf was purusing something that transcends life and death, so death did not affect him the way it affected others. That's what I love about Tolkien's mytheology - no character is a direct analog of a theological belief. Rather, every characters expresses the different beliefs in different ways at different times.