Why Tolkien’s world endures

Apr 29, 2018 by

by  Ffion Shiner, TCW:

In the past month two major pieces of J R R Tolkien news have come out. First, Amazon’s buying of the rights to produce a multi-series show based on Tolkien’s Middle-earth, likely to cost $1billion. Second, a new Tolkien book, The Fall of Gondolin, set hundreds of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is to be published in August.

HarperCollins would not be publishing a book if they didn’t think it would sell, nor would Amazon spend $1billion on something no one was going to watch. Clearly, Tolkien’s tales continue to be popular – absurdly so considering that The Hobbit was published in 1937 – but the question is why? What is it about these stories, other than the impeccable, velvety prose, that keeps pulling people back in? Tolkien’s influence can also be felt on two other major fantasy series, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic and his faith seeps into every word of his writing. The stories from Middle-earth are of good, evil and human frailty that echo the stories of the Bible, and the everyday battle that we encounter with ourselves, others, and the world around us. The author himself said that The Lord of the Rings is ‘a fundamentally religious and Catholic work’.

In contrast to his good friend C S Lewis, Tolkien’s faith was not overtly displayed in his writing, but fundamental Catholic teaching is hidden throughout the epic. The true heroes of the story are the hobbits, the little, humble people who are pure in heart and stout in their bravery. At the end of The Return of the King all the high and mighty of Middle-earth, including the newly crowned king, bow down to the hobbits, perhaps an allegory of Jesus’s washing of the disciples’ feet and His constant exhortations to serve the poor.

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