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An Apology, as well as a Smackdown in the Cagefight

January 25, 2008
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So, (if that introduction is good enough for the first word of the Epic Beowulf, then it’s good enough for my re-emergence on this site)

I suppose an apology (in both senses of the word) is in order, as any reader will probably have forgotten the king of half-baked thoughts who wrote back in July and fell off the face of the blog. I am now in my senior year in high school, which has been far more busy than any year I have ever undertaken. I am taking early college classes, Latin IV (in which we are reading the Aeneid) and Ancient Greek I, as well as a class called Modern Novel and Poetry. Also, in September, I began working part-time. And I had to find a college, and apply, and get accepted (which, all by God’s grace, each of those events occurred, and I will be attending The Robert E. Cook Honors College at IUP next fall!).

However, that’s enough about me. I was roused out of my blogging slumber when I heard my brother make the audacious claim that he enjoys the Narnia series more than he enjoys Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology! Imagine, my own brother thinking he knows his own mind better than I know it!

All joking aside, I can see where my brother is coming from, and I can’t attack his personal view. I can, however, point out why I not only think that Middle Earth is a far more intriguing and complete world (which Brando agrees with), but that Middle Earth also contains much more theological content than many think at first glance.

First of all, Middle Earth is a mythology, with a web of stories and accounts bridging far more than the sweeping Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien considered that saga to be one myth, one tale in a world full of them. Throughout his life, Tolkien crafted a mythology that mirrored the Greek mythology in complexity, although it lacked the confusion of a true mythology, which often has conflicting tales. C.S. Lewis penned seven stories, where Tolkien had an untold number of them. I could elaborate on the contrast of scope, but I won’t, because I think that most people agree with me here.

Now, on to my more controversial claim. Brandon pointed out that Tolkien’s story is merely a good versus evil morality tale, which he said is fine. He is wrong about this assertion. That is like saying that this world is about eating, working, and sleeping, because on the surface that’s what our day consists of. Sure, Tolkien’s theology does not come out and hit the reader in the face, but that is one of the primary differences between Tolkien’s mythology and Lewis’ Chronicles. Lewis, in the Chronicles (possibly because they are books directed at children) tells the reader theological points, or the narrative makes them obvious. Tolkien, however, shows the reader theological points.

For example, in Tolkien’s creation tale, there is Illuvitar (I probably misspell his name), who creates the Music, and the Valar, and all the heavenly beings. It is a beautiful section of the Silmarillion that accents the beauty of creation, as well as the eternity of the creator and what that might feel like. In Earandil, an elf who travels to Valinor to plead with the Valar (heavenly beings) we see an interceder who desires the well-being of his comrades, and boldly asks Heaven for mercy.

Now, I will give Brandon this: Lewis’ theology is extremely blatant and the reader would be a moron not to see it, whereas Tolkien’s mythology is primarily about humanity, and tales that revolve around mortality and morality of mankind. While there are truths to be mined from Tolkien’s works, because he has created a mythology with a benevolent creator who planned out all things from the beginning (though this creator takes more of an unseen, book of Job like approach to actually revealing himself to mortal races). So I concede the point that Lewis has more obvious theological truth within his Chronicles, but I disagree that there is not as much (or close of as much) theological content in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Let me say this at the end: I respect both men a great deal, although I must say that my life has been impacted far more greatly by C.S. Lewis and his nonfiction works than any of his fiction (although it also has affected me). My Christian walk would be different without this giant of the faith standing beside me, walking me through many issues (not that I give him a free pass–he has his pet theological wrong ideas just like the next guy).

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began, and only the Lord knows when the road will lead me back to writing on this blog!

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