I thought some of you might enjoy this (or, maybe, enjoy taking me to
task for it). I am trying to check the list 2-3 times a week, so
please be patient if anyone follows up and I don't reply immediately.
This is the teaser...
An armchair investigation of tongue-in-cheek or pen-in-hand Biblical
passages which might have, could have, would have, never did, and may
still be influencing Tolkien preternaturally, posthumorously, or
sincerely. In plain English, "As Coroner I must aver I've thoroughly
examined her. And she's not only merely dead, she's truly most
sincerely dead." Your mileage may vary. Tax, tags, and title are not
included. Real Hobbits don't eat cram. This cliched space for rent.
The essay begins here...
In Letter 165, written for the Houghton Mifflin Company (J.R.R.
Tolkien's American publisher) on 5 June 1955, Tolkien explained
himself for the sake of future "enquirers" who would need reference
to material about Tolkien's background and to elaborate on some
points he had made in a letter written to Harvey Breit of the New
York Times, because Breit's article had left Tolkien feeling
defensive and misrepresented. Breit had quoted Tolkien at one point
as saying, "I am a philologist, and all my work is philological. I
avoid hobbies because I am a very serious person and cannot
distinguish between private amusement and duty." Concerning this
point, Tolkien wrote in Letter 165:
If I might elucidate what H. Breit has made
of my letter: the remark about 'philology'
was intended to allude to what is I think a
primary 'fact' about my work [The Lord of the
Rings], that it is all of a piece, and
fundamentally linguistic in inspiration. The
authorities of the university might well
consider it an aberration of an elderly professor
of philology to write and publish fairy stories
and romances, and call it a 'hobby', pardonable
because it has been (suprisingly to me as much
as to anyone) successful. But it is not a
'hobby', in the sense of something quite
different from one's work, taken up as a
relief-outlet. The invention of languages is
the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather
to provide a world for the language than the
reverse. To me a name comes first and the
story follows. I should have preferred to write
in 'Elvish'. But, of course, such a work as The
Lord of the Rings has been edited and only as
much 'language' has been left in as I thought
would be stomached by readers. (I now find
that many would have liked more.) But there
is a great deal of linguistic matter (other
than actually 'elvish' names and words) included
or mythologically expressed in the book. It is
to me, anyway, largely an essay in 'linguistic
aesthetic', as I sometimes say to people who
ask me 'what is it all about?'
It is not 'about' anything but itself. Certainly
it has no allegorical intentions, general,
particular, topical, moral, religious, or
political. The only criticism that annoyed me
was one that it 'contained no religion' (and 'no
Women', but that does not matter and is not true
anyway). It is a monotheistic world of 'natural
theology'. The odd fact that there are no
churches, temples, or religious rites and
ceremonies, is simply part of the historical
climate depicted. It will be sufficiently
explained, if (as now seems likely) the
Silmarillion and other legends of the First and
Second Ages are published. I am in any case
myself a Christian: but the 'Third Age' was
not a Christian world.
While Tolkien's stress on the lack of allegorical intentions in his
story has merited much hemming and hawing among commentators, his
allegory-like elements are usually held to be applicable to
allegorical interpretation by reverent scholars and as conspicuous
examples of Tolkien's double-dealing by less respectful writers.
Nonetheless, even the most deferential observers cannot help but
notice parallels between Tolkien's stories and numerous sources such
as The Bible. For though the world of Third Age Middle-earth is
clearly not Christian in detail, it is nonetheless proto-Judaic and
pre-Christian in design. The "good guys" know there is a God and they
generally abide by the guidance of his emissaries, the Valar (and
their representatives, including the Istari).
Read the full essay here:
Author of Understanding Middle-earth, Parma Endorion, and Visualizing