16645RE: [TolkienDiscussions] The LotR Tarot
- Sep 2, 2006<<I also don't understand 'secondary world'. Does this mean if JRRT had
written pornography, it would have been OK with his Roman Catholic self, as
long as the setting was Middle Earth?>>
I don't understand why the concept is so difficult to grasp, but I also like
how you've pointed out the kind of Catch-22 of Tolkien's stance.
I also assume you (Pippin) were not raised as a Catholic or Christian
In an effort to clarify the position that Tolkien, as a Catholic, would not
be kosher with an LotR tarot deck I will say that to C.S. Lewis tolkien
justified writing about a mythology that, though reminiscent of and
influenced greatly by his Roman Catholic background, was clearly also very
reminiscent of pagan pantheons by saying that all mythologies in literature
and world religions were echoes of the true mythology
(Catholicism/Christianity). So yes, in a way Tolkien is setting up a double
standard by making it all right to write about a non-Christian mythology in
an adventure story, but he is also divorcing the realm of fiction from the
realm of day-to-day "real life."
If I wanted to I could, if I were really interested in "true crime" type
stories, write tales with a serial killer as my protagonist. That does not
mean I think serial killers are heroes or that I want people in real life
becoming serial killers or emulating their lifestyle. That is a broader
example of what we're talking about, but the principle is the same. Tolkien
was okay with writing about a non-Christian mythology (though I, and many,
many others would argue that the entire cosmology of Tolkien's is in fact
Christian behind its face) in the fictional realm. But he would not be okay
with someone using his works to promote a non-Christian philosophy in real
life. If someone were to "fall away from God" because of reading the LOTR I
think Tolkien would struggle with that, personally. It is for this reason
that I doubt Tolkien would have okayed the idea of a tarot deck using his
Obviously the executors of the estate felt differently or just didn't give
the matter much thought or the thing just slipped past them at the time.
Certainly if Christopher Tolkien were here and arguing that his dad would
have been fine with a tarot deck I'd have to accept his judgement on the
matter. But I really do have to wonder if he was ever even aware of the
thing to begin with.
If you aren't getting the dichotomy yet, I don't know that I can make it any
plainer. However, if you do read Tolkien's letters, you will find letters
bearing directly on these kinds of matters, especially the ones where he
talks to his sons about religion and the nature of reality, etc. You really
get to know the man's mind a lot by reading his letters.
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