Thursday, July 4, 2013

Catholic Courses: The Hidden Meaning of "The Lord of the Rings"

The world is once again buzzing with thoughts of Tolkien and hobbits thanks to Peter Jackson's "trilogy" on "The Hobbit." I am conflicted with the movies. I am glad that they exist as they will hopefully encourage people to actually read the books associated with Middle Earth. However, I am disappointed with the gross inaccuracies in the films. Also, don't get me started on the money-grab attempt of turning "The Hobbit" into three movies.

What a lot of people don't realize is that Tolkien's works are distinctly Catholic. Joseph Pearce, a Tolkien expert (though I imagine my aunt could give him a run for his money), has two Catholic Courses on Tolkien. The one I am reviewing today is called The Hidden Meaning of the Lord of the Rings - The Theological Vision in Tolkien's Fiction. I will review The Hobbit - Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventure in August.

The first two lectures (Disc One) don't immediately dive into "The Lord of the Rings," but instead discuss the who, what, when, where, and why of Tolkien. I was slightly disappointed at first, because I knew there was a limited number of lectures, and I wanted to dive right into the book discussion. Looking back on it though, it makes sense to discuss the author first. It's hard to completely understand an author's works if you don't understand both the author's point of view and the context within which he was writing. It was also interesting to learn about his involvement in C.S. Lewis' conversion to Christianity; unfortunately, Mr .Lewis didn't choose Catholicism.

Lecture Three was by far my favorite lecture, as Mr. Pearce discusses the meaning of the One Ring. Spoiler Alert: The One Ring symbolizes sin. He also talks about how the One Ring was destroyed on March 25th. This is significant, because this is the Feast of the Annunciation. The day Jesus became human was not the day He was born, but it was the day He was conceived. March 25th is also traditionally given for the day that Jesus died, and that is why Mr. Tolkien chose this date to have the ring destroyed.

Another topic addressed was the Everyman figures of the Hobbits, Gollum, Boromir, and Faramir. In this lecture he shows ways we can see ourselves in these characters. He also criticizes Peter Jackson for completely getting the character of Faramir wrong in the movies. Lecture Six discusses who the Christ-figure is in The Lord of the Rings. My wife and I disagree. She says Gandalf. I say Aragorn. However, we can both be right, because The Lord of the Rings isn't a strict allegory like The Chronicles of Narnia, which only has Aslan as the Christ-figure. I would disagree with Mr. Pearce that Frodo is a type of Christ-figure, though, as he is too flawed. I am especially pleased that Mr. Pearce took the time to address some of the overlooked characters, i.e., Tom Bombadil. He got excluded from the movies, and that was a shame!

This was a well thought out course, and I can't wait to begin The Hobbit - Discovering Grace and Providence in Bilbo's Adventure. Mr. Pearce did a fantastic job of showing just how Catholic The Lord of the Rings actually is. Whether you're a homeschooling parent looking for a way to help your kids understand Tolkien better or a nerd like me who just loves Tolkien and his many works, this is a study for you!