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Sammath Naur & Tolkien's Intentions

Is this firm evidence that JRRT intended to convey a Christian message in LotR?

  • Yes

    Votes: 4 23.5%
  • No

    Votes: 13 76.5%

  • Total voters
    17

Goro Shimura

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In Letter # 191 to Miss J Burn, Tolkien writes...
If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back. He was honoured because he accepted the burden voluntarily, and he had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved-- by Mercy: by the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury.

Corinthians I x. 12-13 may not at first sight seem to fit-- unless 'bearing temptation is taken to mean resisting it while still a free agent in normal command of the will. I will think rather of the mysterious last petitions of the Lord's Prayer: Lead us not into tempation, but deliver us from evil. A petition against something that cannot happen is unmeaning. There exists the possibility of being placed in positions beyond one's power. In which case (as I believe) salvation from ruin will depend upon something apparantly unconnected: the general sanctity (and humility and mercy) of the sacrificial person.
In a letter to David I Masson written on 12 December 1955, Tolkien writes:
Surely how often "quarter" is given is off the point in a book that breathes Mercy from start to finish: in which the central hero is at last divested of all arms, except his will? "Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive them that tresspass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil", are words that occur to me, and of the scene in the Sammath Naur was meant to be a "fairy story" exemplum...."
 

Grond

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A simple answer is no. Had Tolkien done so it would have made the work allegorical which he himself stated in numerous letters that it was not.

Was it a story which reflected his faith in a Higher Being? Yes, without doubt.
 

Goro Shimura

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Come on, Mr. Grond...

"Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive them that tresspass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil", are words that occur to me, and of the scene in the Sammath Naur was meant to be a "fairy story" exemplum...."

Isn't Tolkien just saying here that his goal was to write a "fairy story" that exemplifies these principles from the Sermon on the Mount???

I mean... even fairy tales that aren't allegories have morals....

It seems that your saying that the only way to convey a Christian message in a story is through an obvious allegory. But you know that allegory is but one of many literary devices!
 

Grond

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Goro, the inner meaning of the Lord's Prayer is prevalent in most religions... as is the quote I often use on the forum of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." One may base a literary work on the premise of good winning out over evil without the work being Christian. I fail to see the connection and you have cited the only two references of that ilk in all of JRRT's letters. I can cite you many more where JRRT speaks against allegory and "reading anything other than a fine story" into his works. Of course, you as the reader may read whatever you like into the story... just don't expect all of us to buy it.
 

Bucky

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Grond's on the $$.

And, I am a Christian, one of those crazy 'born-agains'.....

As Watergate cover-upper Chuck Colson once said when asked by a reporter after he got out of jail & became a preacher with a prison ministry: 'Are YOU one of those BIBLE BELIEVING Christians?'

"I didn't know there was any other kind".....

But, I digress.
Tolkien plainly states that he avoided 'religion' as much as possible in terms of writing a story to make a parable ala CS Lewis, but that he was of course influenced by it in his writing.

Sam, denying himself & pouring out his life for another (Frodo).

Morgoth falls just like satan.

Frodo taking on a task to right a wrong he was not personally responsible for.

Etc......
 
H

Harad

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Sam, denying himself & pouring out his life for another (Frodo).

Morgoth falls just like satan.

Frodo taking on a task to right a wrong he was not personally responsible for.
Of course all such events occur in many myths and religions. e.g. the sacrifices of Persephone in Greek mythology, the fall of Loki in Norse.
 

Aldanil

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If I might insert a literary/technical observation at this point, (and who's gonna stop me?) "exemplum" and "allegory" are not synonymous terms. Tolkien can have quite carefully constructed the climactic scene at the Sammath Naur, when Frodo succumbs to temptation and yet the world is delivered from evil, by Gollum who owes his continued existence entirely to kindness and mercy shown many times over, in order to illustrate and exemplify (which is what an "exemplum" does) the principles expressed in the Lord's Prayer without in any way requiring a particular reader of LOTR, whether casual, Christian, Hindu, or otherwise, to recognize and accept this specific interpretive meaning in order for the narrative to make complete sense (which is what "allegory" does). The fact that he "cordially" detested the latter by no means contradicts the idea that he deliberately intended the former, which the letters cited by Goro would strongly suggest that he did.
 
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Grond

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Okay, I'll get off of my lazy butt and go find the letters that contradict your statements. I think what Tolkien is saying in the letters already cited that the 'Lord's Prayer' happens to fit the story of Sammath Naur but not that it was crafted from the Prayer. Of course, that is merely my opinion and I will research the assumption to find the proof.
 

Bucky

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I believe Grond is correct on this one, as I just finished reading 'The Letters Of JRR Tolkien'.

I'd have to search, but I seem to recall several letters (at least) in which he stated he not only intentionally avoided bringing 'religion' into TLOR or ME proper, but he thought it completely necessary to do so.

On the other hand, the originally posted letter is the only one I recall that supports it.

I have to admit that Harad is correct in assuming that I, as one who has been re-united with God through Christ (i.e. 'born again), can see things pointing to Jesus/God that others might interrperet from a totally different spiritual & mental foundation, & therefore not seeing them point to Jesus/God.

Many 'born again' people (it's a state of the spirit, not a denomination or 'religion') see things ONLY in terms of God/Jesus.
That's not a bad thing, it's good.

I think that's what Goro's doing here: Simply bringing up the Truth in his own way.....
 

Grond

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Originally posted by Bucky
...Many 'born again' people (it's a state of the spirit, not a denomination or 'religion') see things ONLY in terms of God/Jesus.
That's not a bad thing, it's good.

I think that's what Goro's doing here: Simply bringing up the Truth in his own way.....
I agree wholeheartedly with the point...but Goro bringing up the Truth in his own way does not necessarily make it the Author's truth, although the intent to reflect goodness is there.
 

Camille

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This remains me another thread: "Finding God in LOTR" in which this issue (or similar) was debated, I think that you can find God or elements of Christian religion in everything if you believe so.
I do not have the JRR Tolkien letters but as a foreword in my Silmarillion copy, there is a letter from him, and there this topic was discussed, I do not remember the exact words but I have the impression that in that letter he states that he dislikes allegories, as someone here had pointed, I also believe that, being professor Tolkien a moral person (I am saying moral before saying christian) his work, reflects some how his belief, his moral convictions: good vrs evil, someone risking his life for someone else (Sam, Frodo) The Fall (morgoth) etc etc. it seams to me very logical but those are elements that you can also find in many religions.
 

Goro Shimura

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It looks like the weight of public opinion is against me here....

Hmmmm....

Maybe I'm crazy... but I just think that a large scale exemplem that showcases and illustrates fundamental Christian principles will necessarily convey a Christian message whether or not the reader is aware of it-- or in agreement with it.

Tolkien did write his stories in part for his family-- and he certainly would not write something that he thought might convey ideas to his children that would impede their faith....

But... that's been said before.

Hmm....

I am struck by this 10 to 2 bit here....

That's a lot worse that I thought it would be.
 

Grond

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Tolkien conveyed Christian morals and Christian teachings in his work; but, only because those teachings and morals are evident in all works of good versus evil and a sacrificial character giving his life up for the common good. The parrallels can be made for any number of religions. Tolkien happens to be Christian (as am I) and his values are the Christian ones. Only his intent was not to convey a Christian morale through the works.

I have just spent 2 hours in the letters on another subject and have come across two different letters where he discusses this at length (and they are not the ones cited). He makes it clear that the works are not religious. I will look them up and post them, so look for them tomorrow. (I'm all posted/quoted out for the night). :)
 

Ciryaher

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I have an important (well, to me anyway) question.

If you are convinced that Tolkien's works are or are not relating to religious themes...DOES IT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE? I mean, will you be completely disgusted/enlightened by the simple fact that LotR is or isn't somewhat allegorical to Christian beliefs?
 

Greenwood

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Goroshimura

I would suggest that since Tolkien was a devout Christian (specifically Catholic) it would be just about unthinkable that he would write a story about good and evil in which evil is rewarded/triumphs while good is punished/loses. This, however, is not the same as saying that he was intentionally writing a religious book or that he meant his book to promote religious belief.
 

Aldanil

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aspiring to bridge the difference

If I may attempt to reassert my baby-splitting Solomonic compromise, there really isn't (or at least needn't be, IMHO) any inherent contradiction in the notion that Tolkien was a devout Catholic who carefully and consciously included in his Tale many echoes and "exempla" of his most deeply held and specifically Christian beliefs, while at the same time taking great pains as a myth-making artist to insure that the Arda of his heart-felt "sub-creation" excluded any direct expression of theological dogma or established religious practice, explicitly rejecting allegory as a method to convey the story's inner meaning. As I've posted elsewhere, this exclusion is essential to the "truth" of the Tale, if for no other reason than because its narrative presents in the Ainulindale an alternate account of the Creation of the World and tells the troubled history of ancient Ages, long and long before the Bible ever came into being.

Equally committed Christians, like Grond and Bucky on one side and Goroshimura on the other, can shirley disagree in this erudite debate, as may of course any others of whatever persuasion; as a lapsed Episcopalian and Taoist manquemyself, I have no particular interest to uphold in the matter. I would only suggest (and thrice now have done so, I'm thinking) that there's less cause for debate than might seem on the surface.
 
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Legolas_The Elf

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I think that the answer is yes...for in the thread;Finding god in Lotr it is very well explained that Tolkien meant a Christian message on the story...as it might be said Frodo is a very normal and hones hobbit :)eek: ) (might also be said person:D /) Well Jesus said that He will give the greatest missions to people (or hobbits) like Frodo...So I say the answer must be yes; Goroshimura...:D :D :D
 

Bucky

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>>>I'm thinking) that there's
less cause for debate than might seem on the surface.

Really. Let's go back to arguing over whether Gandalf should have gone through Moria.......

No, please, Harad! I was only kidding......

Finding God in TLOR is one thing. As I said before, one who has had his spirit-man brought to life by being reunited with God through Jesus will see things that they (or those who aren't reunited) never used to see.

Finding God THROUGH TLOR, well, I don't know anyone who's gotten 'saved', or even was 'prompted' to search for God by reading TLOR.

So to me, this is the whole point of this discussion:

'It is true that some preach Christ out of envy & rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love....The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition... But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.'
- The Apostle Paul

I'm with him.......
 

lilhobo

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Originally posted by Bucky



'It is true that some preach Christ out of envy & rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love....The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition... But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.'
- The Apostle Paul

I'm with him.......
does the end justify the means??? is the spanish inquisition justified..are the christain crusades justified
 

Greenwood

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In these seemingly endless back and forth debates about whether Tolkien meant LOTR to be a religious book I see many quotes from his letters tossed around by both sides to justify their position. It seems to me that the prime source to look for evidence should be the four volumes of the History of the Lord of the Rings in the HoME series. Afterall, these are Tolkien notes and drafts for the book and we can see how the book developed and evolved in his mind over the years he wrote it. In particular I would expect to find evidence of Tolkien's intent in the chapters in those books that outline Tolkien's view of where the story was going, i.e. The Story Foreseen from Moria, The Story Foreseen from Fangorn, etc. Now, I must confess that I have not read read all four volumes, but I have read a fair amount and skimmed even more. I can find no evidence that he was plotting the story with any religious subtext or message in mind. What comes across is Tolkien planning an exciting story and at times being forced in certain directions by the logic of the choices he had made as the story progressed. At times as he made a decision about a certain event he had to go back and rewrite earlier events to get everything in line with what he now saw should be happening. But no where do I see any mention of religious themes or making certain characters or events happen to fit in with a planned religious message.
 

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