Is Tolkien’s Fantasy Gnostic?

I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

—J.R.R Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote the above in a letter to a lady in which he discussed Frodo’s attitude towards the weapons and war.  He was expressing his own skepticism about how much was possible to accomplish for the good of man through the force of arms.  In so doing he quoted a remark of Galadriel about Gandalf and how for many ages they had together “fought the long defeat.”

History often appears to be a long defeat and under its burden we may break, or we may just live for the day and damn the consequences, or we may fight like hell in spite of it all.  In any case, the “long defeat” itself may contain “the glimpse of victory” in spite of the fact that no such victory seems to be written into the historical circumstances we experience. Continue reading

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Saints, Martyrs and More

I have been back from my London trip for about five days now. The workshop for the “A Day With Mary” was pretty intense. The day the workshop finished, Friars Roderic, Didacus and I had the opportunity of being driven to Oxford by Claudio Lo Sterzo, the very kind founder of “A Day with Mary.” I had a list of addresses associated with Blessed Henry Newman, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. We did not have much time and I did not know how much we would be able to see, but it turned out very well.

We arrived a the college in Littlemore where Blessed Newman resided for a time shortly before he left the Church of England and where Blessed Dominic Barbari received him into the Catholic Church. The college was closed but Brother Sean, a member of The Work, opened it for us and was kind enough to show us the room in which Blessed Newman lived and the chapel in which he confessed to Blessed Dominic and became a Catholic.

We then sped off to Wolvercote Cemetery and managed to drive through the gate just as it was closing, the caretaker was kind enough to show us the grave of J.R.R Tolkien. It is quite noteworthy how simple the marker is. There is a rose bush with several sets of rosary beads dangling from its branches. Tolkien’s wife Edith is buried there also. She died only shortly before him, and he marked the tomb below her Christian name with the fictional name Luthien. He also arranged to have “Beren” appended to the inscription of his name after he was buried. For those who are not aware of the significance of the names Luthien and Beren, see here.

We ended the day at the Oxford Oratory, where we arrived just before Vespers and were very kindly invited by the Oratorians to attend in choir, which we did. On our way out of Oxford, we passed The Eagle and the Child, known by the Inklings and “The Bird and the Baby,” the pub in which Lewis, Tolkien and the others met weekly to discuss literature and their own writing.

The next day, Claudio drove us to the Carmelite Monastery in Aylesford where St. Simon Stock was given the Brown Scapular. Aylesford is perhaps the oldest Carmelite foundation in Europe, the greater part of the current monastery was built after 1949, when the property was purchased back by the Carmelite Order, after having been lost to the Reformation in 1538.

On our final full day in England Fr Didacus and I went to the Tower of London and spent our time venerating the places were many of the great martyrs of England suffered and died for the Catholic faith.