Laying Our Knights to Rest

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after” (J.R.R. Tolkien).

As unspeakably sad as the last week has been, I cannot remember one that was more filled with grace and peace. I have been privileged to witness heroism, steadfastness and mercy.

Thom and Marc, their family and friends have been searching earnestly for the ideals of chivalry; however, none of us would have considered the plate we have been served “quite the something” we “were after.” We must always praise God for His goodness.

Last Monday, when through one of the friars I received a distressed call from Carol in which she asked one of us to meet her at Bachus Hospital, I was swept up into a series of events so inconceivable to me that the mind still balks at its consideration. I knew the situation was dour when I heard the words “drowning” and “Life Star” though in reality, I had no idea of the real dimensions of the tragedy.

My mind still short circuits when I think of the hole left in so many lives by the absence of Thom and Marc, but at the same time, the past week has etched into my mind some of the most precious memories of my life. Like many who were privileged to know Thom and Marc and to participate in their sending off, I have been overwhelmed by the presence of God during this difficult time. Continue reading

Adam Tolkien on Peter Jackson’s Movies

Very CGI

Very CGI.

Q: What did you think of films?

Adam Tolkien: My point of view is completely personal: I am not a big fan of these Hollywood adaptations. I very much like Peter Jackson’s early movies, but, considering the immense size of his Lord of the Rings project, I think that he lost the breath and the poetry of Tolkien. The decorations are very beautiful, because they are real, but the special effects were not there yet. You could really see them…

Me, I would have liked to see another thing, an environment like that of The Seventh Seal, of Bergman. It would have been interesting to make a series, which would have made it possible to develop a movie adaptation, without losing the breath.

[This interview is a translation from the French. I think the translator meant to use the "breadth" not "breath" in both paragraphs.]

I am not surprised by this response of J.R.R.T.’s grandson. Someone being so close to the book and the author would, I think, want to see the depth, breadth and pace of the book reproduced in the films. I felt the same way, although I know that anyone who would want to tackle the story was going to need a lot of money and would have to convince a studio that the films were going to be blockbusters. I think this factor more than anything else necessitated the transformation of the story into a kind of adventure/thriller.

His suggestion that the environment should be more like The Seventh Seal, I find intriguing. I admit that I got tired of the ubiquitous cgi camera that flew through the orc tunnels under Orthanc like a video game, and the fighter pilot view of the Nazgul on their fell beasts over Gondor. Adam is right that the cgi was a bit too transparent, but for me, even were the cgi better, I think it was still too much. For example, the momentary glimpses of the Nazgul in the sky from the point of view of Frodo and Smeagol would have been much more effective, frightening and realistic. . . and cheaper . . . and more like the book.

In general, I would have liked to see much more subtlety, but of course, the series would have to have been much longer, perhaps like a cable series, instead of big screen films.

Here is an example of The Seventh Seal.

Did Tolkien Object to Narnia on Doctrinal Grounds?


Steve found this article some time ago and asked me to comment. It’s an extremely interesting topic to me, so I’ll give it a go.

If you are really interested in this topic you can also follow this thread on Mark Shea’s blog from last month. (I have a terrible time getting a link to Shea’s blog to work permanently . Follow the link provided above and then scroll down the page to An Interesting (and Pretty Persuasive) Essay on the Anti-Catholicism of C.S. Lewis and Why It Bugged Tolkien. There are about thirty comments.)

The article, by Eric Seddon, is entitled Letters to Malcolm and the Trouble with Narnia: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Their 1949 Crisis. Anyone who is familiar at all with the friendship of these two literary giants knows that while they both shared an appreciation for mythic literature and for much of each other’s literary work, Tolkien had no use whatsoever for The Chronicles of Narnia, and he made Lewis acutely aware of his distaste for it. In fact, Tolkien’s frankness on the matter seems to have put somewhat of a damper on their relationship, or at least was a contributing factor to its cooling. Continue reading

Sold to the Knights of Lepanto!


The last known photograph taken of Tolkien is being auctioned off with a first impression of The Hobbit. Now while the book may be out of our league the photo is only valued at £400-600.

Now all one of you has to do is get a ticket for London. You have plenty of time. The auction isn’t until March 18. Make sure you bring a attache case of sterling with you, and presto.

I will gratefully accept the donation on behalf of the Knights of Lepanto, and of course the photo will be displayed in the Tower of Lepanto for all the professed knights to see. Thank you very much.

That was Tolkien’s favorite tree, by the way. Any tree chopping orc would have had to deal with that cane, I am sure.

Tolkien on the BBC

I don’t know whether to hyperventilate or just stop breathing altogether.

Here is an explanation and transcript of the video from the Tolkien Library.

Here is another video down below on the Tolkien Library page:

An eccentric genius if ever there was one. I am taken back by his accent, diction and mannerisms.

Adam Tolkien, the authors grandson talks about the recent publication of The Children of Hurin, which is one my personal favorites of all JRRT’s tales. He puts his assessment plainly in a way I found humorous for some reason:

And it may or may not strike a chord. People may think it doesn’t have enough Hobbits in it, because there aren’t any.

Well there it is. I need to lie down.

Pullman: Trivializing Tolkien


I am not particularly eager to attend to Philip Pullman or his atheistic propaganda piece, His Dark Materials, but a few days ago I read something he said that makes my blood boil. In an interview, recently published in Intelligent Life Magazine, Pullman called Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings “trivial”:

Several times Pullman reminds me that a work of fiction is not an argument. Perhaps it’s safest to say that in “His Dark Materials” he has constructed his own imaginative world so as not to submit to anyone else’s. He likes to quote William Blake’s line: “I must create a system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.” His story is a rival to the narratives put forward by two earlier Oxford writers, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Pullman loathes the way the children in Narnia are killed in a car-crash. “I dislike his Narnia books because of the solution he offers to the great questions of human life: is there a God, what is the purpose, all that stuff, which he really does engage with pretty deeply, unlike Tolkien who doesn’t touch it at all. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is essentially trivial. Narnia is essentially serious, though I don’t like the answer Lewis comes up with. If I was doing it at all, I was arguing with Narnia. Tolkien is not worth arguing with” [emphasis mine].

Continue reading

Kings in Disguise


With all the work I am doing with the friars here in Australia, and with the men’s retreat I gave over the weekend, I have not been able to do much blogging, but I thought I would begin again with some reflections that I made during the retreat. The theme was “The Return of the Church Militant,” which of course is a play on Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

Fourteen men attended the retreat over the weekend. Unfortunately, we Yanks were not aware that there were national elections across Australia on Saturday, for which voting is mandatory by law, so the men had to work around their voting obligation to attend the retreat. All in all, it was very successful.

During the retreat, I mentioned something Chesterton had once written about, namely, that all of us are “kings in disguise.” The idea is that all of us have a kingly destiny through Baptism; however, we are fallen from that dignity and are fighting to recover it. I would seem that Tolkien may have been influenced by this notion in his development of Aragorn’s character. On Saturday night I gave a little talk on Tolkien and developed the following ideas. We then sat down and watched the extended version of Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King.

Strider’s Secret

In The Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth finds itself in a time of great need. The shadow of Mordor lengthens. The elves are leaving Middle Earth for the Western Shores, and men have become weak and leaderless. Aragorn is one of the Dúnedain, a man of the West from the Northern Kingdom and the lost heir to the throne of Gondor. Few know his true identity, though. He is a ragged and grim wanderer, more a vagabond than a king, as far as the eye could discern. Continue reading

Night Watch Chronicles III


When I read Marc’s description of the Encampment Night Watch, I couldn’t help but think of the encounter of the hobbits and Strider on Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Ring. I am not sure whether there is more a comparison or contrast to be found. You decide.

Having experienced the encampment Night Watch, it is easy to understand how a “watchfire” is a mixed blessing for those who are near it. The light of the fire illuminates a large area around the fire itself, but the brightness of that near light makes it more difficult, not easier, to see into the darker distance. What is more, the watchmen’s long and deep shadows, cast by the fire, create large areas of vulnerability. In fact, Father Ignatius successfully “captured” the Night Watchmen by sneaking up on them right in their own shadows!

The situation seems to be different in The Lord of the Rings. When on Weathertop the danger of the approaching Black Riders was first perceived, Strider had the hobbits surround the fire and face outwards. With the approach of the Nazgûl, not much else was to be done. Fortunately for Strider and the Hobbits, they had two advantages over our Night Watchmen. First, they were able to sense the presence of the Riders by the sheer terror and dread that the nearness of the wraiths caused. Frodo felt a “cold dread [creep] over his heart,” before anyone of them had yet definitely spotted one of the enemy. Secondly, what they were looking for could not be illuminated by the light, but was perceived by its absence of any reflected light. The hobbits “saw” the approaching wraiths as black shapes in the form of men. “So black were they that they seemed like black holes in the deep shade behind them.” Continue reading