Catholicism, LOTR, and mythology
- Alana's point in quoting "On Fairy Stories" is something that has been in
the back of my mind, as the discussion has progressed.
But I will go further, in referencing Tolkien's own outlook in the
correlation of Christianity and mythology and the effect on storytelling.
It is evident in the poem "Mythopoesis" and his discussion with Lewis on
the night of Lewis' final conversion to Christianity. Lewis was wrestling
with the multiplicity of similar myths and the claimed truthfulness of the
What Tolkien put forward, and I think it informs ALL of his thinking on
the matter of parallels, is that the story of Christ (man and god) is the
ONE TRUE MYTH, and that all others are not *lies* but instead, are partial
and incomplete reflections of the one reality. What other religions may
make of those partial reflections *might* take them further away from God,
but that does not invalidate the part of the Truth that they do indeed
I believe that from that starting point of thought, the similarities
between Odin on the World Tree and Christ on the Cross did not distrub
Tolkien. Whether or not the Odin story predated the appearance of
Christianity in the Northern cultures became irrelevent (to him at least).
Precedence in appearance in time did not mean it was "the original" --
"the original myth" has its existence *outside time*. Everything within
time (excluding the historical life of Jesus, which is part of the
original eternal) is a reflection of the eternal myth. From there, I
think Tolkien considered his own secondary creation yet another of the
reflections of the eternal, one he hoped stayed as close as possible to
the original form. There are certainly more letters that reflect that
level of thinking, when he talks about his secondary creation, besides the
oft-cited one that was early cited in this discussion.
> A lot of what John is seeing as parallels do make a certain amount ofSarah Beach
> when taking "On Fairy Stories" into account. Borrowing tropes from Norse
> mythology particularly seems a natural thing for Tolkien to do in a
> pre-Christian (yet prepared for Christianity) world. The ideas and tropes
> myths repeat themselves over and over again:
> "Speaking of the history of stories and especially of fairy-stories we may
> say that the Pot of Soup, the Cauldron of Story, has always been boiling,
> and to it have continually been added new bits, dainty and undainty. For
> this reason, to take a casual example, the fact that a story resembling
> one known as *The Goosegirl* ... is told in the thirteenth century of
> Broadfoot, mother of Charlemagne, really proves nothing either way:
> that the story was (in the thirteenth century) descending from Olympus or
> Asgard by way of an already legendary king of old, on its way to become a
> Hausmarchen*; nor that it was on its way up. The story is found to be
> widespread, unattached to the mother of Charlemagne or to any historical
> character. From this fact itself we certainly cannot deduce that it is not
> true of Charlemagne's mother, though that is the kind of deduction that is
> most frequently made from that kind of evidence."
> He goes on, of course, but I think the key point here is that by Tolkien's
> own logic, the resonance that his story may have -- quite unintentionally!
> -- with other traditions exists, even if he neither planned it nor even
> of it. Those mythological ideas all exist in the Cauldron of Story, as it
> were, and because the relation is unintended or unknown does not mean that
> it doesn't *exist* in the correlations John has made. It just meas that
> wasn't a part of the Pot that Tolkien used purposefully. That the Ainur
> a resonance with the Hindu Song of Creation as well as Catholic theology
> undermines neither. Nor does it mean that LotR is not a fundamentally
> Catholic work -- Tolkien intended it as such, and so it is, while also
> another part of what now exists in the Cauldron of Story. There are
> resonances with mythologies and tales from every era, so it shouldn't
> surprise us that many of those corresponding stories can be found inside a
> work so steeped in the Pot of Soup!
> Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (
> Author of "Nomi's Wish" (
> http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in
> Coyote Wild Magazine
> Contributor to Serenity Adventures: http://tinyurl.com/serenity-adventures
> Contributor to Ransom: The Anthology: http://tinyurl.com/ransombook
> For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Luthien: Alas! My beloved has perished! I must go to the Halls of Mandos to beg --
Beren: I'm not dead yet.
Luthien: Shh! To beg Mandos to bring him back --
Beren: I don't want to go on the cart.
Luthien: Shut up! I'm having a dramatic moment here.
Beren: I feel happy...
Luthien: (Nods to nearest elf with big club)
Big Club: Thud.
Luthien: Okay, I'm off to the Halls of Mandos. See ya. (Falls down)
>From: John Davis <john@...>________________________________________
>Sent: Jun 15, 2009 3:48 AM
>Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
>Perhaps he was just mostly dead.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: scribbler@...
> To: email@example.com
> Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 4:40 PM
> Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
> > I've always wondered -- was Beren really dead? Or was he merely so close
> > to death that no one around could tell the difference? Was he really
> > resurrected, or simply revived?
> > If the Gift of Men is beyond even the Valar's understanding, it doesn't
> > make sense that Mandos would have the power to give Beren back his life,
> > no matter how persuasively Luthien sang.
> > emerdavid
> Well, it would seem incongruous that Mandos himself would not be able to
> distinguish between a "nearly dead" mortal soul and a "dead" one. Mandos
> is made anxious about the situation because Beren WILL NOT GO ON the way
> he is supposed to.
> It seems to me, that Beren's soul held onto the world to an unexpected
> degree, instead of passing out of the world. If he had passed out of the
> world, then I agree, Luthien's singing would have been tragic in that it
> would be to no point -- Beren would not be *there* to be returned. But
> that's not what Tolkien sets as the situation. He has Beren "hanging
> around" unexpectedly.
> I say - Beren was dead, but not "departed". A unique situation that the
> Valar could actually address.
A better way to Internet