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The Hobbit as a Religious parable

Y

yes

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Alright, this may seem kind of strange, but me and my friend were arguing about the Hobbit and I need some help proving my point.
You see, I think that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings was essentially a parable about the typical idea of religion(most notably the Christian story). But he doesn't believe me. So if anyone can please help me I would very grateful. All I need is something like a quote from Tolkien about how the story was in fact religious or some evidence to help support my claim. Or ever just your own opinion would be helpful.

Please Help! Anything you can say would be great!!!!!
 
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ReadWryt

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Firstly let me inform you that a thread need only be posted once.


In the letter to Milton Waldman which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in 1951, which later was published as the preface to the Silmarillon, the author stated...

"..I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of it's own (bound up with it's tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingrediant) in legends of other lands. There were the Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic Scandinavian and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerfull as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with the English; and it does not replace what I felt missing. For one thing it's `faerie` is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherant and repetitive. For another and more important thing it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion.
...he later goes on in the same letter to state...

I disslike Allegory - the conscious and intentional allegory - yet any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language.
therefore one can pretty well assume that the Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings were NOT allegorical retellings of Christian stories at all...in fact I would look to the Finnish and Scandinavian Mythologies were I looking to find ties to Tolkien's works, as there are many more simiarities there...
 
E

Eowyn

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I've been looking for a book ( can't find it, but I will!!)
about scandinavian legends, and curiously I found there all the
names of the dwarves, well maybe not bombur, but nearly all
the others,so I think that Tolkien actually inspired himself
in Scandinavian legends.When I find the book I'll tell you
the title if you're interested.
 

Talierin

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All of Tolkien's works are not allegory, except Leaf by Niggle, which is an allegory about Tolkien and death. But because they are not allegory doesn't mean that they are completly non-religious. They have a lot of Christian overtones to them, while still retaining the old myths. Tolkien was a deeply spiritual and strong Catholic Christian, and that is the basis for the religious side of his works.
A really good book on this subject is Tolkien Man and Myth, by Joseph Pearce.
 
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ReadWryt

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My first assumption would be that, Tolkien's relationship with CS Lewis being as it was, were the Middle-earth stories at all religious or even inspired by religion, they would not have leaned so heavily upon the strength of the individual. Nowhere in the stories is there mention of Faith in something external being needed for success. Frodo has faith in his friends, yes, but ultimately it is his faith in himself which is the foundation for his journey comming so close to success. His failure had nothing to do with any Lack of Faith, so were these tales Religious in nature at all, they fail miserably...
 

Talierin

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I don't think they fail. But then again, they are not religious in the way I think you're thinking of. There is hardly any mention of any specific religion, yet they are still deeply Christian in nature, not overly, but it's there all the same, if you look for it. I will say they are more good vs. evil than religious, but Tolkien's viewpoint of good and evil is a Christian one.
Kind of like Brian Jacques' Redwall series. There is no mention of any religion in them, they are all about good vs. evil
 
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ReadWryt

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..and for every "religious" element one might point out to me, I can point to an equal in mythologies that predate Christianity, but for true christian parable as the person who started this thread seeks confirmation of FAITH of a sort would be needed. None is seen in any of the Middle-earth tales. In his Narnia series, C.S. Lewis' Aslan is the one all have faith in...the "Jesus" figure, and these I think more closely fit the mold our fellow member si looking for.

Anakin Skywalker was born by Imaculate Conception, Obi Wan died and in a sense rose again...Luke succeeds through a "faith" in a greater power then himself...yet George Lucas would be the first to say that there is no conscious Christian allegory in the Star Wars stories.

If anything, Frodo is a good example of what would have happened had Christ shirked his destiny with the cross. Instead of throwing the ring into the smouldering hell of the Mountain, he took it for himself...gave in to it's dark draw and nearly undid in one moment all that the Fellowship had worked so hard for. In fact, were it not for the more powerfull greed of Smeagol, and his clumseyness, the ring would indeed have fallen into the hands of the dark one and all would have been darkness and death in Middle-earth. Frodo failed, having only faith in himself, as Christ would have failed had he decided to sneak out of the garden while the apostles slept under the olive trees...
 

Kementari

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I don't think Frodo failed, I just think that proves that it took more than one person to destroy the Ring (though Frodo had the biggest part), and at the end they were all hobbits. Frodo wouldn't have made it out of Emyn Muil without Sam! (acually he wouldn't have made it into Moria), and the Ring wouldnt have been destoryed without Gollum... It is amazing that Frodo made it as far as he did without breaking...

There are more examples than just Frodo in the books: Gandalf was reserected; and also when Shelob was about to kill Sam he called on a higher Power (Elbereth) to save him...
Since Tolkien was Christian it is only natural that his characters would seem Christian.
I don't think there is any hidden religous message in the story...
 
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Telchar

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Originally posted by Arwen
I've been looking for a book ( can't find it, but I will!!)
about scandinavian legends, and curiously I found there all the
names of the dwarves, well maybe not bombur, but nearly all
the others,so I think that Tolkien actually inspired himself
in Scandinavian legends.When I find the book I'll tell you
the title if you're interested.
This might be what your looking for;
http://www.thetolkienforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=93
 

Thorondor

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My heart will always be in the land of sky blue wa
In my opinion there is very little in the way of religion in these books. And what there is of is not very christian because of the mixture of Mono and Polytheistic gods. Like there is "God"=Iluvatar, and there is "Satan"=Melko, who fell; but there is also the Valar and Maiar, who are(this is really a bad word to describe them) Pagan Gods themselves. Such as Manwe, Varda, Yavanna, Orome, Ulmo, Osse, Aule, etc. They in themselves are more worshiped in ME(than Eru) like at the Council of Elrond praising Elbereth, and the Men of Numenor who gave a monment of silence to the Lords of the West, and feared Osse and his rage at sea. But even they, on a whole are not widely worshipped either.
JMO :)
 

Iluvatar

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Frodo most definitely failed. His heroism comes in getting so far. On another thread it asks whether we find some bits of the tome a bit dragging. The part I found the most painful to read was all the bits where Frodo is whining about the weight of the Ring. However, I at that time missed the point. The writing is as it is precisely so as to show us how much of a burden and a struggle it was for Frodo, and how much it took out of him to get as far as he did. However, his heroism in getting as far as he did aside, he ultimately failed. If Gollum doesn't misstep, then all is lost.

On my last reading of LoTR I concentrated a bit on the role of the Valar. I had been fairly contemptuous of the Valar in the past (especially Manwe), but after reading LoTR this last time I begin to become convinced that they played an active (though distant) role in the War of the Ring. Perhaps they played some small part in pushing Gollum over the edge? I think not, but it bears thinking.
 

Thorondor

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They(the Valar) where definitly there. Who turned back the dark skies over Gondor? Manwe. Who gave Sam and Frodo that last drink of water from the tiny stream in Mordor? Ulmo. Who gave them hope throught the stars and light? Elbereth.
And also one of my favorite parts of the book when Saruman is killed and his apperition forms over Bag End looking to the last Light of the West for a sign and a stiff west wind from Manwe sending off into east.
 
Y

yes

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still not convinced

Alright, all of these arguements are well founded, but I still can't get past my original feeling that due to Tolkiens love of religion these tales must be in there own right religious. And not only must they be religious, but they must also reflect the religion of Tolkien. I'm not sure if the intention was Christianity, but many of the elements of the story do seem Christian. Iluvator as God, Melko as satan, Higher powers such as Elerbeth, Frodo as a mixed up Christ figure, and Gandalfs resurection all point to the underlying idea of Christianity.

Also, the quote by Tolkien which was provided, doesn't seem to provide an answer either. Perhaps I just didn't quite understand it, but wasn't Tolkien still somewhat hinting at a religious influence(perhaps not allegorical)? I would definately say yes. If only there were any more straight forward quotes by the man himself, then maybe we could get a better idea for what he was really trying to say.
 
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ReadWryt

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Well unless you can quote me when Christ walked the soil of England, then you can assume that there was no Conscious allegory elluding to Christianity. Somehow though I had a feeling that no amount of evidence would convince you of that belief to which you desire to cling so tenaciously...
 
B

Beorn

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Gandalf

I think that Gandalf hold the most christian overtone in all the books how he says to Frodo that you cant kill gollum and how we have no power to say who dies and live and not to deal out death.
So it is a christian overtone but it doesnt preach n e religon in general just more morals than n e thing
To be the man, You have to beat the man
 

Ancalagon

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If anything, I beleive it is anti-religion and offers more in the way of promoting druidism and associated pagan beliefs.
 

Talierin

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You are most certainly wrong, Ancalagon. If you had read anything about Tolkien himself, you would know that Christianity permiates just about everything he ever wrote. Not in an allegorical sense though, as some people on here are trying to say. It is impossible to write anything without your worldview showing in it, and Tolkien's Christian one is definately in LOTR and the others. To understand what the place of religion and myth is in LOTR and the others, you must understand Tolkien's philosophy. Some quotes from Tolkien: Man and Myth,(TMM) by Joseph Pearce (I suggest you read it):

Anne Atkins--
....And his Christianity shines through every page (of LOTR). He understands evil, for instance, and the way it seduces us, as it seduced Gollum, with its promise of goodness. How eventually, if we give in to it, it corrodes our freedom and will and individuality.... Tolkien was truly a Christian novelist, who wrote a great Christian myth.
....Tolkien's Christian faith informed all his writing, and his heroes were based on a greater hero still. One who wasn't flawed, and didn't give way to evil. One who didn't have A-levels either, but who is the perfect role model.
When he witnessed to C.S. Lewis, and Lewis accepted Christianity, Tolkien laid bare the heart of all his writings, the core of his beliefs and theology. This is out of TMM, and is a quote from Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien:

...After dinner the three men (Tolkien, Lewis, and Hugo Dyson) went for a walk beside the river and discussed the nature and purpose of myth. Lewis explained that he felt the power of myths but that they were ultimately untrue. As he expressed it to Tolkien, myths are 'lies and thereforth worthless, even though breathed through silver'.
'No,' said Tolkien, 'They are not lies.'
At that moment, Lewis later recalled, there was 'a rush of wind which came so suddenly on the still, warm evening and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We held our breath.'
Tolkien resumed, arguing that myths, far from being lies, were the best way of conveying truths which would otherwise be inexpressible. We have come from god, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, whereas materialistic 'progress' leads only to the abyss and to the power of evil.;
'In expounding this belief in the inherant truth of mythology,' wrote Humphrey Carpenter, 'Tolkien had laid bare the center of his philosophy as a writer, the creed that is at the heart of The Silmarillion (and other works).
Lewis listened as Dyson reiterated in his own way what Tolkien had said.
Building on this philosophy of myth, Tolkien and Dyson went on to express their belief that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened. This revelation changed Lewis's whole conception of Christianity.
Joseph Pearce--
Now, five years later, it seemed that Tolkien was making sense of it all. He had shown that pagan myths were, in fact, God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using the images of their 'mythpoeia' to reveal fragments of His eternal truth. yet, most astonishing of all, Tolkien maintained that Christianity wa exactly the same except for the enormous difference that the poet who invented it was God Himself, and the images He used were real men and actual history. The death and ressurection of Christ was the real Dying God, with a precise and verifiable location in history and definate historical consequences. The old myth had become a fact while still retaining the character of a myth.
A letter from Lewis to Arthur Greeves:

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremedous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God's myth where the others are men's myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through what we call 'real things'. Therefore it is true, not in the sense of being a 'description' of God (that no finite mind could take in) but in the sense of being the way in which God chooses to (or can) appear to our faculities. The 'doctrines' we get out of the true myth are of course less true: they are translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in a language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and ressurection.
Stratford Caldecott, in 'Tolkien, Lewis, and Christian Myth'--
Tolkien once wrote that 'legends and myths are largely made of "truth", and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode' (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. H. Carpenter, London, 1981, no. 131). In one popular meaning of the word, as we all know, a 'myth' is simply a story that is not true. Like Tolkien, however, I will be using the word in almost an opposite sense, to designate the kind of sumbolic story that is intended to express truth. The truth that myths are designed to express concerns not only in the world around us, but the world within us; not so much its surface appearance, but its inner form. For a myth is a way of describing the rules by which the world is made -- 'deep magic from before the dawn of time'.
Sister Mary Anthony Weinig, in the University of Portland Review--
Bedrock reality of human values and spiritual truth comes to light under the probing of rays beyond the ordinary spectrum of the naturalistic novel, and a vision emerges whose depth and wholeness stagger an imagination fed on fragments [in] the symbolic situation of Charles Williams, the allegorical narritive of C.S. Lewis, and the mythic rendering of J.R.R. Tolkien.
You know, I could probably write the entire book down here, but that would take me forever, so I suggest you read it yourself. It can be found at www.ignatiuspress.com , I believe, and it explains a lot about Tolkien and what he believed in.

But the point of all this is that Tolkien wrote a myth that expresses the truths of the true myth, the myth of Christ, which is true, as I believe. He uses some of the Pagan myths, true, but he uses them in a way as to express Christianity’s truth. Stephen R. Lawhead says it about the best in this quote:
...the lessons I learned from Lewis and Tolkien penetrated deep into my psyche -- deeper than emulation, deeper than imatation. In short, it was not Tolkien’s style or subject matter that influenced me; it was the integrity of the work itself.
I found this same integrity in Lewis’s space tales. Taken together, these books possesed an inner worth that far exceeded the naritive skills of their authors. Perelandra and The Lord of the Rings seemed to me more in total than the simple sum of their parts. These books, I concluded, derived their value chiefly from this inner worth, this integrity that lay behind the stories themselves. But what was it?
It was, of course, the Christian faith of the authors shining through the fabric of their work. I saw that faith informed the story, and infused it with value and meaning, lifting the tale above the ordinary expressions of the genre. Even though the stories of Lewis and Tolkien, or the other Inklings like Charles Williams, were not explicitly promoting Christianity, nevertheless the books were ripe with it.
What an extraordinary thing, I thought; though Tolkien makes never so much as a glancing reference to Jesus Christ in a single paragraph of all The Lord of the Rings’ thick volumes, His face is glimpsed on virtually every page. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the furthest thing from a religious tract, yet it proclaims a clear and winning gospel. In my narrow experience, I had never before encountered such a thing.
If you do not understand what I am trying to say here, then tell me what you do not understand please, and I will elaborate.
 

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