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Re: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien

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  • scribbler@scribblerworks.us
    If the discussion is launched from Lin Carter s observations, it sort of loses all force from the beginning. When his book came out, there was virtually
    Message 1 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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      If the discussion is launched from Lin Carter's observations, it sort of
      loses all force from the beginning. When his book came out, there was
      virtually nothing at all on Tolkien that most people knew of. I in fact
      read it in high school. From where I am now, I'd say that Carter's
      observations are excessively simplistic. If the only definition of
      "religion/faith" in a secondary world is something represented by massive
      temples and objects, hierarchies of priests and followers, complicated
      rituals - then no, you won't find it in LotR.

      But if you look closer: ceremonies of commemoration (such at the Rangers
      of Ithilien at sunset - remembering Numenor), the hymn to Elbereth, the
      references to the Secret Flame on the bridge of Khazadum, and then the
      discussions between Gandalf and Frodo about how Frodo was "meant" to have
      the Ring, meant by someone (implied) other than Sauron. These are all
      reflections of some issues of faith as opposed to "structural religion".




      > I've been reading these book suggestions with interest, because I'm
      > scheduled to be on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of
      > the month with the following topic. Note that I did not have any part
      > in coming up with this topic or its wording:
      > ---
      > Why is There No Religion in Middle Earth? Lin Carter used to argue about
      > this. Why are there no priests and temples in Tolkien's world? Is it
      > because Tolkien was squeamish about paganism (made up gods) or is there
      > a more profound explanation?
      > ---
      > For starters, I don't think the question really works as framed. I
      > don't think one can claim that there is no religion in Middle Earth, so
      > this is one of the first things I'd address. What I would assume is
      > meant is something more like, "why did the characters in LotR not
      > participate in organized worship?" I have not read Lin Carter's work
      > but have requested it from my local library. However, from what I've
      > read I'm not sure how worthwhile it is as a source, since he wrote it
      > well before the publication of The Silmarillion or Tolkien's letters.
      > Can anyone who has read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of
      > the RIngs" comment on this?
      >
      > My sources I am prepared to discuss are Tolkien's letters, particularly
      > the draft of a letter to Peter Hastings from September 1954 (p. 152 in
      > my edition), the biography by Humphrey Carpenter, and of course LotR and
      > The Silmarillion. I'm also taking another look at "Morgoth's Ring"
      > because if I recall correctly, there is some relevant information in the
      > section on the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. It's been a while since I
      > read HoME.
      >
      > Are there other sources I should check out before the panel? Of the
      > books suggested on the subject in this thread, is there one in
      > particular that might be useful? Keep in mind that this is a panel
      > discussion and I'm sure the other panelists will bring some interesting
      > things to the discussion, and I don't have much time between now and then.
      >
      > Thanks,
      >
      > Ellen Denham
      >
      > On 10/14/10 2:06 PM, Margaret L. Carter wrote:
      >>
      >> Doubtless most of you have read Gracia Fay Ellwood's 1970 book GOOD
      >> NEWS FROM TOLKIEN'S MIDDLE EARTH? Amazon has a handful of used copies.
      >>
      >> Margaret Carter
      >>
      >>
      >
    • Cristina
      For those interested in religious themes in LOTR, the letters are a good source. Another source, already mentioned by someone else in this list, is Peter
      Message 2 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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        For those interested in religious themes in LOTR, the letters are a good source.

        Another source, already mentioned by someone else in this list, is Peter Kreeft's "Philosophy of Tolkien". The weakness of that book is that some details cited from LOTR are inaccurate, but Peter Kreeft's insights are superb. I also recommend "Tolkien: Man and Myth" by Joseph Pearce.

        There's this other book, "Sanctifying Myth" by Bradley Birzer but reviews of that book are mixed. But I mention it because you might want to read it and decide for yourself whether it helps.

        Another book that touches on religious themes in JRRT's writings is "Lord of the Elves and the Eldils" by Richard Purtill. I haven't read that book, though, so I can't comment on it.

        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Ellen <carnimiriel@...> wrote:
        >
        > I've been reading these book suggestions with interest, because I'm
        > scheduled to be on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of
        > the month with the following topic. Note that I did not have any part
        > in coming up with this topic or its wording:
        > ---
        > Why is There No Religion in Middle Earth? Lin Carter used to argue about
        > this. Why are there no priests and temples in Tolkien's world? Is it
        > because Tolkien was squeamish about paganism (made up gods) or is there
        > a more profound explanation?
        > ---
        > For starters, I don't think the question really works as framed. I
        > don't think one can claim that there is no religion in Middle Earth, so
        > this is one of the first things I'd address. What I would assume is
        > meant is something more like, "why did the characters in LotR not
        > participate in organized worship?" I have not read Lin Carter's work
        > but have requested it from my local library. However, from what I've
        > read I'm not sure how worthwhile it is as a source, since he wrote it
        > well before the publication of The Silmarillion or Tolkien's letters.
        > Can anyone who has read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of
        > the RIngs" comment on this?
        >
        > My sources I am prepared to discuss are Tolkien's letters, particularly
        > the draft of a letter to Peter Hastings from September 1954 (p. 152 in
        > my edition), the biography by Humphrey Carpenter, and of course LotR and
        > The Silmarillion. I'm also taking another look at "Morgoth's Ring"
        > because if I recall correctly, there is some relevant information in the
        > section on the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. It's been a while since I
        > read HoME.
        >
        > Are there other sources I should check out before the panel? Of the
        > books suggested on the subject in this thread, is there one in
        > particular that might be useful? Keep in mind that this is a panel
        > discussion and I'm sure the other panelists will bring some interesting
        > things to the discussion, and I don't have much time between now and then.
        >
        > Thanks,
        >
        > Ellen Denham
        >
        > On 10/14/10 2:06 PM, Margaret L. Carter wrote:
        > >
        > > Doubtless most of you have read Gracia Fay Ellwood's 1970 book GOOD
        > > NEWS FROM TOLKIEN'S MIDDLE EARTH? Amazon has a handful of used copies.
        > >
        > > Margaret Carter
        > >
        > >
        >
      • David Bratman
        If we re going to respond to Lin Carter - which I am about to do at considerable length - we need to have at hand what he actually said. Carter s contentious
        Message 3 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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          If we're going to respond to Lin Carter - which I am about to do at
          considerable length - we need to have at hand what he actually said.

          Carter's contentious comments on religion in Tolkien appeared only briefly
          in his 1969 book on Tolkien, which was focused on placing LOTR in the
          context of the history of fantasy literature, rather than on evaluating
          Tolkien's work. But his 1973 book _Imaginary Worlds_ was a history of
          fantasy, and its view of Tolkien was focused on evaluating his achievement
          in that context. LOTR had been so widely praised that Carter felt there was
          room to emphasize what he saw as the book's flaws, and one of the things he
          said was this: When he writes that "Tolkien's world has no religion in it,"
          Iluvatar and the Valar don't count.

          "That is not what I am talking about," he writes. "A religion is much more
          than just the presence of an actual god, or gods; it is also an established
          canon of inspired writings and an organized priesthood, a system of temples
          and shrines, and so on." Medieval societies of the kind Tolkien used as
          models had such an organized religion, he says, and other fantasies inspired
          by them have had them to. Then he gives a long list of examples, from Conan
          the Barbarian on up. "But there is no religion at all in _The Lord of the
          Rings_ - no temples, shrines, priests, prayers, amulets, scriptures, ikons,
          idols - _nothing!_ None of the many characters, not even the heroic
          warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no
          gods. Which is simply incredible in a primitive world of wizards and
          warriors and walled stone cities." (Imaginary Worlds, p. 122-24)

          The first thing that occurs to me to say in response to this is, "By
          Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
          which is what Frodo says to the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen. Luthien, or
          even Elbereth, may not technically be gods, but from a Catholic author they
          are definitely serving the function of angels or saints in this context.
          Anyway, so much for characters not swearing by them. There are other
          examples; this one is particularly memorable.

          Secondly, Carter has a rather limited idea of what an organized religion
          requires. The medieval Norse, for instance, did not have any canon of
          inspired writings that we know of. Their legends and poems about the gods
          and heroes were neither canonized nor considered sacred texts the way we
          consider the Bible. The Jews, after the fall of the Temple, simply
          abandoned the heriditary priesthood that had served them before that; even
          today, rabbis are not really "clergy" in the sense that Christians use that
          word; a rabbi is a learned man, not a priest. Some Asian religions, I
          believe, do without temples and shrines, and the diaspora Jews also rank low
          on that scale.

          The peoples of Middle-earth, however, do have some of the "and so on" which
          Carter doesn't enumerate. If they don't have a canonized scripture, they do
          have the kind of stories of the gods and heroes of the past that customarily
          appear in scriptures, even a creation myth (though Carter didn't have access
          to this one, as it first appeared in _The Silmarillion_ which hadn't been
          published when he wrote). They have some rituals, notably the moment of
          silence before eating that Faramir and his men perform at Henneth Annun.
          This, Faramir explains, is a gesture of respect towards Eldamar and Valinor,
          so they also have a holy place. They have funerary customs and respect the
          dead, a common religious practice. And, as Carter would say, so on.

          What they have more than any of this, however, are aspects of religion that
          are not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. These are the moral and spiritual
          content of religious belief, which underlie every action the admirable
          characters take, and indeed drive the whole plot, because it is a spiritual
          concern to rid the world of an evil menace, and not a practical
          consideration to defeat the bad guy in the black hat, that inspires the
          decision to destroy the Ring, rather than - as practical men like Boromir
          would prefer - use it. I hardly need to go into this here, as so many
          authors have done so brilliantly. The best source for this purpose is
          Richard Purtill's _Lord of the Elves and Eldils_, because like Carter he was
          writing before _The Silmarillion_ and proves his case, rather dazzlingly,
          from LOTR alone. (Ellwood's _Good News from Middle-earth_, the other
          pre-Silmarillion religious study of Tolkien, is a hunt for Christ figures
          and new-age woo-woo, and even if you want such things, would not be suitable
          for countering Carter.) Of more recent books on Tolkien's religious
          dimension that consider the posthumous writings, I'd say the best ones which
          still focus mostly on LOTR are _The Battle for Middle-earth_ by Fleming
          Rutledge and _Following Gandalf_ by Matthew Dickerson. (The Birzer and
          Caldecott books mentioned by others are OK, but these are much better.)

          So the answer to Carter is that he's framed his question wrongly - what
          Tolkien lacks is not religion, it's colorful religious trappings - and even
          taken as Carter frames it, his charge is not entirely true. But
          nevertheless, his observations are not entirely hallucinatory, so we can
          also raise the questions of whether what he sees is, as he claims, "simply
          incredible," and of why Tolkien writes it this way. But these are further
          observations on the topic, not directly answers to Carter, because they
          attempt only to explain the case; they don't answer it.

          From an external, author-based perspective, we can say that Tolkien couldn't
          have his pre-Christian characters be Christians, for obvious chronological
          reasons, but he didn't want to have them worshipping false gods, so he made
          them the virtuous pagans of (mostly hypothetical) Christian theology. Some
          of the authors on religion in Tolkien go into this point.

          From an internal, character-based perspective, though, there's an answer so
          breath-taking that, again, it is not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. The
          reason his pagan warriors don't worship false gods is that, through the
          Elves, and they through the Valar, have unfiltered access to the truth about
          the spiritual universe. (The truth as Tolkien sees it, of course, but as an
          author he has the right to make his Catholic theology the unfettered truth
          within his own fiction.) They don't need false gods; they have the real
          God. They don't need priests and rituals and so on; they have a closeness
          to the divine that few today are fortunate enough to experience. That
          palpable sense is part of what makes LOTR such an inspiring book.

          That's what I would say if I were on Ellen's panel, and I hope it helps.

          David Bratman
        • John Rateliff
          Hi Ellen If you can, listen to Tolkien s thirty-minute radio interview with Denis Gueroult, where G. asks him this very question and gets a pretty good answer,
          Message 4 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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            Hi Ellen
               If you can, listen to Tolkien's thirty-minute radio interview with Denis Gueroult, where G. asks him this very question and gets a pretty good answer, direct from the horse's mouth.
               --JDR


            On Oct 14, 2010, at 3:08 PM, Ellen wrote:
            I've been reading these book suggestions with interest, because I'm scheduled to be on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of the month with the following topic.  Note that I did not have any part in coming up with this topic or its wording:
            ---
            Why is There No Religion in Middle Earth? Lin Carter used to argue about this. Why are there no priests and temples in Tolkien's world? Is it because Tolkien was squeamish about paganism (made up gods) or is there a more profound explanation?
            ---
            For starters, I don't think the question really works as framed.  I don't think one can claim that there is no religion in Middle Earth, so this is one of the first things I'd address.  What I would assume is meant is something more like, "why did the characters in LotR not participate in organized worship?"  I have not read Lin Carter's work but have requested it from my local library.  However, from what I've read I'm not sure how worthwhile it is as a source, since he wrote it well before the publication of The Silmarillion or Tolkien's letters.  Can anyone who has read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the RIngs" comment on this?

            My sources I am prepared to discuss are Tolkien's letters, particularly the draft of a letter to Peter Hastings from September 1954 (p. 152 in my edition), the biography by Humphrey Carpenter, and of course LotR and The Silmarillion.  I'm also taking another look at "Morgoth's Ring" because if I recall correctly, there is some relevant information in the section on the Laws and Customs of the Eldar.  It's been a while since I read HoME.

            Are there other sources I should check out before the panel?  Of the books suggested on the subject in this thread, is there one in particular that might be useful?  Keep in mind that this is a panel discussion and I'm sure the other panelists will bring some interesting things to the discussion, and I don't have much time between now and then.

            Thanks,

            Ellen Denham
          • John Rateliff
            Thanks all who responded. I ve got a good list to start with now. Dale: I ve read one of Caldecott s books but don t remember if it was this one; I ll check
            Message 5 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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              Thanks all who responded. I've got a good list to start with now.
              Dale: I've read one of Caldecott's books but don't remember if it was this one; I'll check when I get back to Kent
              Mike: I'll have to pick up the Milbanks, which I didn't get under the mistaken impression it was mostly about GKC, rather than about them both. Thanks for the review.
              Jef & Christina: I've read the Kreeft, and while he's a good writer with a forceful point of view it bothered me that he seemed to think anything Lewis said could be taken as evidence Tolkien felt exactly the same way on any given issue.
              Margaret: I've read the Ellwood, but that's so many years ago now (thirty?) that the only detail I remember from it is that it's where I learned the word "scry". Time to re-read it.
              Christina: I've read the Pearce, and enjoyed his book -- it was high time someone approached Tolkien from that angle -- but like the Kreeft I thought him too doctrinaire. I've just finished the Birzer, and it was disappointment with it that sparked my initial query (his extensive research does not prevent too-frequent errors of fact, and his occasional insights don't keep him from egregious misinterpretations). The Purtill was one of the few early books I never got around to reading, so I'll see about remedying that.

              No one mentioned the Bruner and Ware: any good? I just started reading Dickerson, who gave a good lecture at the Wade tonight on Tolkien & Lewis & Xian ecology.

              --Thanks again for all the suggestions.

              --John R.




              On Oct 14, 2010, at 8:33 PM, Cristina wrote:

              > For those interested in religious themes in LOTR, the letters are a good source.
              >
              > Another source, already mentioned by someone else in this list, is Peter Kreeft's "Philosophy of Tolkien". The weakness of that book is that some details cited from LOTR are inaccurate, but Peter Kreeft's insights are superb. I also recommend "Tolkien: Man and Myth" by Joseph Pearce.
              >
              > There's this other book, "Sanctifying Myth" by Bradley Birzer but reviews of that book are mixed. But I mention it because you might want to read it and decide for yourself whether it helps.
              >
              > Another book that touches on religious themes in JRRT's writings is "Lord of the Elves and the Eldils" by Richard Purtill. I haven't read that book, though, so I can't comment on it.
              >
              > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Ellen <carnimiriel@...> wrote:
              >>
              >> I've been reading these book suggestions with interest, because I'm
              >> scheduled to be on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of
              >> the month with the following topic. Note that I did not have any part
              >> in coming up with this topic or its wording:
              >> ---
              >> Why is There No Religion in Middle Earth? Lin Carter used to argue about
              >> this. Why are there no priests and temples in Tolkien's world? Is it
              >> because Tolkien was squeamish about paganism (made up gods) or is there
              >> a more profound explanation?
              >> ---
              >> For starters, I don't think the question really works as framed. I
              >> don't think one can claim that there is no religion in Middle Earth, so
              >> this is one of the first things I'd address. What I would assume is
              >> meant is something more like, "why did the characters in LotR not
              >> participate in organized worship?" I have not read Lin Carter's work
              >> but have requested it from my local library. However, from what I've
              >> read I'm not sure how worthwhile it is as a source, since he wrote it
              >> well before the publication of The Silmarillion or Tolkien's letters.
              >> Can anyone who has read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of
              >> the RIngs" comment on this?
              >>
              >> My sources I am prepared to discuss are Tolkien's letters, particularly
              >> the draft of a letter to Peter Hastings from September 1954 (p. 152 in
              >> my edition), the biography by Humphrey Carpenter, and of course LotR and
              >> The Silmarillion. I'm also taking another look at "Morgoth's Ring"
              >> because if I recall correctly, there is some relevant information in the
              >> section on the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. It's been a while since I
              >> read HoME.
              >>
              >> Are there other sources I should check out before the panel? Of the
              >> books suggested on the subject in this thread, is there one in
              >> particular that might be useful? Keep in mind that this is a panel
              >> discussion and I'm sure the other panelists will bring some interesting
              >> things to the discussion, and I don't have much time between now and then.
              >>
              >> Thanks,
              >>
              >> Ellen Denham
              >>
              >> On 10/14/10 2:06 PM, Margaret L. Carter wrote:
              >>>
              >>> Doubtless most of you have read Gracia Fay Ellwood's 1970 book GOOD
              >>> NEWS FROM TOLKIEN'S MIDDLE EARTH? Amazon has a handful of used copies.
              >>>
              >>> Margaret Carter
              >>>
              >>>
              >>
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > ------------------------------------
              >
              > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
            • David Bratman
              John - See also the end of the 7th paragraph of my latest long post, where I give my recommendations, somewhat different from others : Dickerson, Fleming
              Message 6 of 22 , Oct 14, 2010
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                John -

                See also the end of the 7th paragraph of my latest long post, where I give
                my recommendations, somewhat different from others': Dickerson, Fleming
                Rutledge's _The Battle for Middle-earth_ (overlong, clumsily organized,
                repetitive, impatient with Tolkien's discursions, but despite all that very
                good), and the intrepid pioneer Purtill.

                Bruner and Ware isn't really a religious study of Tolkien, but a set of
                sermons inspired on Tolkienian texts (and thus, like most sermons, not
                feeling required to stick to the text). Not bad, because the moral virtues
                they find in his work are really there, but not significant as a Tolkien
                study. Mark Eddy Smith and Sarah Arthur stick closer to Tolkien but are
                otherwise in the same category.


                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "John Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 10:30 PM
                Subject: [mythsoc] re. religion in Tolkien


                > Thanks all who responded. I've got a good list to start with now.
                > Dale: I've read one of Caldecott's books but don't remember if it was this
                > one; I'll check when I get back to Kent
                > Mike: I'll have to pick up the Milbanks, which I didn't get under the
                > mistaken impression it was mostly about GKC, rather than about them both.
                > Thanks for the review.
                > Jef & Christina: I've read the Kreeft, and while he's a good writer with a
                > forceful point of view it bothered me that he seemed to think anything
                > Lewis said could be taken as evidence Tolkien felt exactly the same way on
                > any given issue.
                > Margaret: I've read the Ellwood, but that's so many years ago now
                > (thirty?) that the only detail I remember from it is that it's where I
                > learned the word "scry". Time to re-read it.
                > Christina: I've read the Pearce, and enjoyed his book -- it was high time
                > someone approached Tolkien from that angle -- but like the Kreeft I
                > thought him too doctrinaire. I've just finished the Birzer, and it was
                > disappointment with it that sparked my initial query (his extensive
                > research does not prevent too-frequent errors of fact, and his occasional
                > insights don't keep him from egregious misinterpretations). The Purtill
                > was one of the few early books I never got around to reading, so I'll see
                > about remedying that.
                >
                > No one mentioned the Bruner and Ware: any good? I just started reading
                > Dickerson, who gave a good lecture at the Wade tonight on Tolkien & Lewis
                > & Xian ecology.
                >
                > --Thanks again for all the suggestions.
                >
                > --John R.
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > On Oct 14, 2010, at 8:33 PM, Cristina wrote:
                >
                >> For those interested in religious themes in LOTR, the letters are a good
                >> source.
                >>
                >> Another source, already mentioned by someone else in this list, is Peter
                >> Kreeft's "Philosophy of Tolkien". The weakness of that book is that some
                >> details cited from LOTR are inaccurate, but Peter Kreeft's insights are
                >> superb. I also recommend "Tolkien: Man and Myth" by Joseph Pearce.
                >>
                >> There's this other book, "Sanctifying Myth" by Bradley Birzer but reviews
                >> of that book are mixed. But I mention it because you might want to read
                >> it and decide for yourself whether it helps.
                >>
                >> Another book that touches on religious themes in JRRT's writings is "Lord
                >> of the Elves and the Eldils" by Richard Purtill. I haven't read that
                >> book, though, so I can't comment on it.
                >>
                >> --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Ellen <carnimiriel@...> wrote:
                >>>
                >>> I've been reading these book suggestions with interest, because I'm
                >>> scheduled to be on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of
                >>> the month with the following topic. Note that I did not have any part
                >>> in coming up with this topic or its wording:
                >>> ---
                >>> Why is There No Religion in Middle Earth? Lin Carter used to argue about
                >>> this. Why are there no priests and temples in Tolkien's world? Is it
                >>> because Tolkien was squeamish about paganism (made up gods) or is there
                >>> a more profound explanation?
                >>> ---
                >>> For starters, I don't think the question really works as framed. I
                >>> don't think one can claim that there is no religion in Middle Earth, so
                >>> this is one of the first things I'd address. What I would assume is
                >>> meant is something more like, "why did the characters in LotR not
                >>> participate in organized worship?" I have not read Lin Carter's work
                >>> but have requested it from my local library. However, from what I've
                >>> read I'm not sure how worthwhile it is as a source, since he wrote it
                >>> well before the publication of The Silmarillion or Tolkien's letters.
                >>> Can anyone who has read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of
                >>> the RIngs" comment on this?
                >>>
                >>> My sources I am prepared to discuss are Tolkien's letters, particularly
                >>> the draft of a letter to Peter Hastings from September 1954 (p. 152 in
                >>> my edition), the biography by Humphrey Carpenter, and of course LotR and
                >>> The Silmarillion. I'm also taking another look at "Morgoth's Ring"
                >>> because if I recall correctly, there is some relevant information in the
                >>> section on the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. It's been a while since I
                >>> read HoME.
                >>>
                >>> Are there other sources I should check out before the panel? Of the
                >>> books suggested on the subject in this thread, is there one in
                >>> particular that might be useful? Keep in mind that this is a panel
                >>> discussion and I'm sure the other panelists will bring some interesting
                >>> things to the discussion, and I don't have much time between now and
                >>> then.
                >>>
                >>> Thanks,
                >>>
                >>> Ellen Denham
                >>>
                >>> On 10/14/10 2:06 PM, Margaret L. Carter wrote:
                >>>>
                >>>> Doubtless most of you have read Gracia Fay Ellwood's 1970 book GOOD
                >>>> NEWS FROM TOLKIEN'S MIDDLE EARTH? Amazon has a handful of used copies.
                >>>>
                >>>> Margaret Carter
                >>>>
                >>>>
                >>>
                >>
                >>
                >>
                >>
                >> ------------------------------------
                >>
                >> The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                >>
                >>
                >>
                >
                >
                >
                > ------------------------------------
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • dale nelson
                This is very helpful, David. To your second point ( and so on ) I can add only that the faithful of Middle-earth have literal angels, messengers of God, in
                Message 7 of 22 , Oct 15, 2010
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                  This is very helpful, David.  To your second point ("and so on") I can add only that the faithful of Middle-earth have literal angels, messengers of God, in their midst, since "Gandalf is an angel," as Tolkien said somewhere in an interview.  Someone can remind me of the source; but I'm sure it had appeared by the time Imaginary Worlds was written, although I'm not sure that Lin Carter saw it.  Granted, Gandalf has idiosyncrasies that we don't usually associate with angels, even after his return from combat (cf. the war in heaven) with the Balrog.  But he appears among the faithful peoples to bring counsel, encouragement, correction, etc.  I actually think Tolkien took the angelic aspect about as far as he could without raising distracting questions among readers.  Similarly, I'm glad that it is not a commonplace of commentary on Tolkien to regard Gandalf as a Melchizedek/Melchisedec figure (the priest-king who appears to Abraham after his victory, etc.).... and so on.  (I don't think it entered Tolkien's mind to see Gandalf as an angel at first, back when he was writing The Hobbit, and I wouldn't care to speculate on when it was that Tolkien "realized" this.) 

                  Dale


                  From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Thu, October 14, 2010 10:24:20 PM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien

                   

                  If we're going to respond to Lin Carter - which I am about to do at
                  considerable length - we need to have at hand what he actually said.

                  Carter's contentious comments on religion in Tolkien appeared only briefly
                  in his 1969 book on Tolkien, which was focused on placing LOTR in the
                  context of the history of fantasy literature, rather than on evaluating
                  Tolkien's work. But his 1973 book _Imaginary Worlds_ was a history of
                  fantasy, and its view of Tolkien was focused on evaluating his achievement
                  in that context. LOTR had been so widely praised that Carter felt there was
                  room to emphasize what he saw as the book's flaws, and one of the things he
                  said was this: When he writes that "Tolkien's world has no religion in it,"
                  Iluvatar and the Valar don't count.

                  "That is not what I am talking about," he writes. "A religion is much more
                  than just the presence of an actual god, or gods; it is also an established
                  canon of inspired writings and an organized priesthood, a system of temples
                  and shrines, and so on." Medieval societies of the kind Tolkien used as
                  models had such an organized religion, he says, and other fantasies inspired
                  by them have had them to. Then he gives a long list of examples, from Conan
                  the Barbarian on up. "But there is no religion at all in _The Lord of the
                  Rings_ - no temples, shrines, priests, prayers, amulets, scriptures, ikons,
                  idols - _nothing!_ None of the many characters, not even the heroic
                  warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no
                  gods. Which is simply incredible in a primitive world of wizards and
                  warriors and walled stone cities." (Imaginary Worlds, p. 122-24)

                  The first thing that occurs to me to say in response to this is, "By
                  Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
                  which is what Frodo says to the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen. Luthien, or
                  even Elbereth, may not technically be gods, but from a Catholic author they
                  are definitely serving the function of angels or saints in this context.
                  Anyway, so much for characters not swearing by them. There are other
                  examples; this one is particularly memorable.

                  Secondly, Carter has a rather limited idea of what an organized religion
                  requires. The medieval Norse, for instance, did not have any canon of
                  inspired writings that we know of. Their legends and poems about the gods
                  and heroes were neither canonized nor considered sacred texts the way we
                  consider the Bible. The Jews, after the fall of the Temple, simply
                  abandoned the heriditary priesthood that had served them before that; even
                  today, rabbis are not really "clergy" in the sense that Christians use that
                  word; a rabbi is a learned man, not a priest. Some Asian religions, I
                  believe, do without temples and shrines, and the diaspora Jews also rank low
                  on that scale.

                  The peoples of Middle-earth, however, do have some of the "and so on" which
                  Carter doesn't enumerate. If they don't have a canonized scripture, they do
                  have the kind of stories of the gods and heroes of the past that customarily
                  appear in scriptures, even a creation myth (though Carter didn't have access
                  to this one, as it first appeared in _The Silmarillion_ which hadn't been
                  published when he wrote). They have some rituals, notably the moment of
                  silence before eating that Faramir and his men perform at Henneth Annun.
                  This, Faramir explains, is a gesture of respect towards Eldamar and Valinor,
                  so they also have a holy place. They have funerary customs and respect the
                  dead, a common religious practice. And, as Carter would say, so on.

                  What they have more than any of this, however, are aspects of religion that
                  are not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. These are the moral and spiritual
                  content of religious belief, which underlie every action the admirable
                  characters take, and indeed drive the whole plot, because it is a spiritual
                  concern to rid the world of an evil menace, and not a practical
                  consideration to defeat the bad guy in the black hat, that inspires the
                  decision to destroy the Ring, rather than - as practical men like Boromir
                  would prefer - use it. I hardly need to go into this here, as so many
                  authors have done so brilliantly. The best source for this purpose is
                  Richard Purtill's _Lord of the Elves and Eldils_, because like Carter he was
                  writing before _The Silmarillion_ and proves his case, rather dazzlingly,
                  from LOTR alone. (Ellwood's _Good News from Middle-earth_, the other
                  pre-Silmarillion religious study of Tolkien, is a hunt for Christ figures
                  and new-age woo-woo, and even if you want such things, would not be suitable
                  for countering Carter.) Of more recent books on Tolkien's religious
                  dimension that consider the posthumous writings, I'd say the best ones which
                  still focus mostly on LOTR are _The Battle for Middle-earth_ by Fleming
                  Rutledge and _Following Gandalf_ by Matthew Dickerson. (The Birzer and
                  Caldecott books mentioned by others are OK, but these are much better.)

                  So the answer to Carter is that he's framed his question wrongly - what
                  Tolkien lacks is not religion, it's colorful religious trappings - and even
                  taken as Carter frames it, his charge is not entirely true. But
                  nevertheless, his observations are not entirely hallucinatory, so we can
                  also raise the questions of whether what he sees is, as he claims, "simply
                  incredible," and of why Tolkien writes it this way. But these are further
                  observations on the topic, not directly answers to Carter, because they
                  attempt only to explain the case; they don't answer it.

                  From an external, author-based perspective, we can say that Tolkien couldn't
                  have his pre-Christian characters be Christians, for obvious chronological
                  reasons, but he didn't want to have them worshipping false gods, so he made
                  them the virtuous pagans of (mostly hypothetical) Christian theology. Some
                  of the authors on religion in Tolkien go into this point.

                  From an internal, character-based perspective, though, there's an answer so
                  breath-taking that, again, it is not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. The
                  reason his pagan warriors don't worship false gods is that, through the
                  Elves, and they through the Valar, have unfiltered access to the truth about
                  the spiritual universe. (The truth as Tolkien sees it, of course, but as an
                  author he has the right to make his Catholic theology the unfettered truth
                  within his own fiction.) They don't need false gods; they have the real
                  God. They don't need priests and rituals and so on; they have a closeness
                  to the divine that few today are fortunate enough to experience. That
                  palpable sense is part of what makes LOTR such an inspiring book.

                  That's what I would say if I were on Ellen's panel, and I hope it helps.

                  David Bratman


                • David Bratman
                  ... Edmund Fuller, in 1962, published in the revision of his Tolkien article in Isaacs & Zimbardo s _Tolkien and the Critics_ in 1968. Too late for Carter to
                  Message 8 of 22 , Oct 15, 2010
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                    dale nelson wrote:

                    >"Gandalf is an angel," as Tolkien said
                    >somewhere in an interview. Someone can
                    >remind me of the source; but I'm sure it
                    >had appeared by the time Imaginary Worlds
                    >was written, although I'm not sure that
                    >Lin Carter saw it.

                    Edmund Fuller, in 1962, published in the revision of his Tolkien article in Isaacs & Zimbardo's _Tolkien and the Critics_ in 1968. Too late for Carter to have seen it for his 1969 book (which omits mention of some 1968 post-Tolkien fantasies he would surely have referenced had he seen them, as he cites them enthusiastically in 1973). The Isaacs/Zimbardo collection is in his 1973 bibliography, but he had perhaps not read it closely. The quote was seized gratefully by enthusiastic Tolkienists, but Carter was not a Tolkienist. The only reason for citing this quote in this context today, rather than the further explanations in the Silmarillion and elsewhere, would be on the supposition that Carter _had_ seen it.
                  • dale nelson
                    Of course; although there hovers around Gandalf (in LOTR) the sense that he is a person of power who yet serves some greater power. It is he who can tell
                    Message 9 of 22 , Oct 15, 2010
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                      Of course; although there hovers around Gandalf (in LOTR) the sense that he is a person of power who yet serves some greater power.  It is he who can tell Frodo that Bilbo was "meant" to find the Ring, and so on.  The "angel" remark merely confirms and makes explicit something that is already evident -- if one is prepared to see it.  I think your earlier message is right on target in saying that Lin Carter had an unduly restrictive, even on historical-cultural grounds, sense of what a "religion" looks like.

                      Dale


                      From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
                      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Fri, October 15, 2010 9:45:05 AM
                      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien

                       

                      dale nelson wrote:

                      >"Gandalf is an angel," as Tolkien said
                      >somewhere in an interview. Someone can
                      >remind me of the source; but I'm sure it
                      >had appeared by the time Imaginary Worlds
                      >was written, although I'm not sure that
                      >Lin Carter saw it.

                      Edmund Fuller, in 1962, published in the revision of his Tolkien article in Isaacs & Zimbardo's _Tolkien and the Critics_ in 1968. Too late for Carter to have seen it for his 1969 book (which omits mention of some 1968 post-Tolkien fantasies he would surely have referenced had he seen them, as he cites them enthusiastically in 1973). The Isaacs/Zimbardo collection is in his 1973 bibliography, but he had perhaps not read it closely. The quote was seized gratefully by enthusiastic Tolkienists, but Carter was not a Tolkienist. The only reason for citing this quote in this context today, rather than the further explanations in the Silmarillion and elsewhere, would be on the supposition that Carter _had_ seen it.


                    • icelofangeln
                      Just to add a couple of points to John s post- not that I m saying anything that others haven t said before, just reminding folks of them - Carter apparently
                      Message 10 of 22 , Oct 16, 2010
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                        Just to add a couple of points to John's post- not that I'm saying anything that others haven't said before, just reminding folks of them - Carter apparently didn't read very carefully.

                        "None of the many characters, not even the heroic warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no gods."

                        Clearly Carter missed "Mumak! May the Valar turn him aside!" In fact, backing up what John says, there are numerous examples in LR of a 'noble paganism' founded (in the fictional context) in actual knowledge of divine truth. "It is indeed a fundamentally Christian and even Catholic work, unconsciously in the writing, consciously so in the revision." A Elbereth Gilthoniel surely shouldn't have escaped Carter's notice, a hymn of praise to a divine being with unmistakable echoes of Mary Queen of Heaven. Nor should he have missed the rather obvious implications of the dell on Mindolluin.

                        And although Carter couldn't have known this in 1973, Tolkien certainly does include organized temple worship- evil, naturally. At least twice (the Akallabeth and the Tale of Adanel) we see Melkor-cults with fanes and human sacrifice; and Sauron is a God-King to his slaves, or at least a hierophant, Vicar of Melkor on Earth. In the Akallabeth in particular this is in intentional contrast to the non--organized non-temple worship, but worship all the same, associated with the summit of the Meneltarma.
                      • David Bratman
                        I don t think that is John s post you are replying to. I think it was mine. John was the one asking for recommendations of books on Tolkien and religion.
                        Message 11 of 22 , Oct 16, 2010
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                          I don't think that is John's post you are replying to. I think it was mine. John was the one asking for recommendations of books on Tolkien and religion.

                          Carter's inability to notice Tolkien's characters' invocations of the divine probably is a result of his having read, and written, too much hulking barbarian fiction in which the "by Crom!"-type oaths swarm in the air like bees. It isn't even the most imperceptive thing he says; a few pages earlier, he complains of Tolkien's "essential shallowness ... lack of real philosophical or psychological depth ... failure to explore the nature of evil." This has to rank among the top three or four most imperceptive remarks about LOTR ever made.

                          Thanks for mentioning the worship of Melkor imposed on Numenor in its decay. From an internal, character-based perspective, that experience should adequately explain _why_ the later Numenoreans in Gondor do not worship any false gods. They've seen what happens when you do that, and they're not making that mistake again.

                          DB


                          -----Original Message-----
                          >From: icelofangeln <solicitr@...>
                          >Sent: Oct 16, 2010 9:42 AM
                          >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                          >Subject: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >Just to add a couple of points to John's post- not that I'm saying anything that others haven't said before, just reminding folks of them - Carter apparently didn't read very carefully.
                          >
                          > "None of the many characters, not even the heroic warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no gods."
                          >
                          >Clearly Carter missed "Mumak! May the Valar turn him aside!" In fact, backing up what John says, there are numerous examples in LR of a 'noble paganism' founded (in the fictional context) in actual knowledge of divine truth. "It is indeed a fundamentally Christian and even Catholic work, unconsciously in the writing, consciously so in the revision." A Elbereth Gilthoniel surely shouldn't have escaped Carter's notice, a hymn of praise to a divine being with unmistakable echoes of Mary Queen of Heaven. Nor should he have missed the rather obvious implications of the dell on Mindolluin.
                          >
                          >And although Carter couldn't have known this in 1973, Tolkien certainly does include organized temple worship- evil, naturally. At least twice (the Akallabeth and the Tale of Adanel) we see Melkor-cults with fanes and human sacrifice; and Sauron is a God-King to his slaves, or at least a hierophant, Vicar of Melkor on Earth. In the Akallabeth in particular this is in intentional contrast to the non--organized non-temple worship, but worship all the same, associated with the summit of the Meneltarma.
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >------------------------------------
                          >
                          >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                          >
                          >
                          >
                        • scribbler@scribblerworks.us
                          There s so much wrong with Carter s real understanding of world-building, that it deserves separate discussion. Heh. Maybe even a Mythcon paper. Still, as
                          Message 12 of 22 , Oct 16, 2010
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                            There's so much wrong with Carter's real understanding of world-building,
                            that it deserves separate discussion. Heh. Maybe even a Mythcon paper.

                            Still, as much as I now, with the benefit of my education, can take apart
                            Carter's observations on Tolkien and fantasy world-building, I still have
                            to admit that but for him, I would not have encountered a whole flock of
                            fantasy novels. And seriously, I think his oversight of Ballantine's
                            fantasy line helped establish the sub-genre as viable in the marketplace.

                            But yes, he missed a lot in Tolkien - and was rather limited in his views
                            of what "religion" would look like.


                            > I don't think that is John's post you are replying to. I think it was
                            > mine. John was the one asking for recommendations of books on Tolkien and
                            > religion.
                            >
                            > Carter's inability to notice Tolkien's characters' invocations of the
                            > divine probably is a result of his having read, and written, too much
                            > hulking barbarian fiction in which the "by Crom!"-type oaths swarm in the
                            > air like bees. It isn't even the most imperceptive thing he says; a few
                            > pages earlier, he complains of Tolkien's "essential shallowness ... lack
                            > of real philosophical or psychological depth ... failure to explore the
                            > nature of evil." This has to rank among the top three or four most
                            > imperceptive remarks about LOTR ever made.
                            >
                            > Thanks for mentioning the worship of Melkor imposed on Numenor in its
                            > decay. From an internal, character-based perspective, that experience
                            > should adequately explain _why_ the later Numenoreans in Gondor do not
                            > worship any false gods. They've seen what happens when you do that, and
                            > they're not making that mistake again.
                            >
                            > DB
                            >
                            >
                            > -----Original Message-----
                            >>From: icelofangeln <solicitr@...>
                            >>Sent: Oct 16, 2010 9:42 AM
                            >>To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                            >>Subject: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>Just to add a couple of points to John's post- not that I'm saying
                            >> anything that others haven't said before, just reminding folks of them -
                            >> Carter apparently didn't read very carefully.
                            >>
                            >> "None of the many characters, not even the heroic warriors, so much as
                            >> swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no gods."
                            >>
                            >>Clearly Carter missed "Mumak! May the Valar turn him aside!" In fact,
                            >> backing up what John says, there are numerous examples in LR of a 'noble
                            >> paganism' founded (in the fictional context) in actual knowledge of
                            >> divine truth. "It is indeed a fundamentally Christian and even Catholic
                            >> work, unconsciously in the writing, consciously so in the revision." A
                            >> Elbereth Gilthoniel surely shouldn't have escaped Carter's notice, a hymn
                            >> of praise to a divine being with unmistakable echoes of Mary Queen of
                            >> Heaven. Nor should he have missed the rather obvious implications of the
                            >> dell on Mindolluin.
                            >>
                            >>And although Carter couldn't have known this in 1973, Tolkien certainly
                            >> does include organized temple worship- evil, naturally. At least twice
                            >> (the Akallabeth and the Tale of Adanel) we see Melkor-cults with fanes
                            >> and human sacrifice; and Sauron is a God-King to his slaves, or at least
                            >> a hierophant, Vicar of Melkor on Earth. In the Akallabeth in particular
                            >> this is in intentional contrast to the non--organized non-temple worship,
                            >> but worship all the same, associated with the summit of the Meneltarma.
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>------------------------------------
                            >>
                            >>The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                            >>
                            >>
                            >>
                            >
                            >
                          • John Rateliff
                            Hi David Thanks for the additional info. I ve been looking forward to eventually reading the Rutledge (having initially been put off by her boast in the first
                            Message 13 of 22 , Oct 16, 2010
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                              Hi David
                                 Thanks for the additional info. I've been looking forward to eventually reading the Rutledge (having initially been put off by her boast in the first few pages that she's not a Tolkien scholar). I have the Mark Eddy Smith as an audiobook (why that one was released in that format, out of all the secondary works on Tolkien, is a bit of a mystery). I also have the Sarah Arthur as a Kindle e-book. So I'll have plenty to keep me busy.
                                 --John R.


                              On Oct 15, 2010, at 1:22 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                              John -

                              See also the end of the 7th paragraph of my latest long post, where I give
                              my recommendations, somewhat different from others': Dickerson, Fleming
                              Rutledge's _The Battle for Middle-earth_ (overlong, clumsily organized,
                              repetitive, impatient with Tolkien's discursions, but despite all that very
                              good), and the intrepid pioneer Purtill.

                              Bruner and Ware isn't really a religious study of Tolkien, but a set of
                              sermons inspired on Tolkienian texts (and thus, like most sermons, not
                              feeling required to stick to the text).  Not bad, because the moral virtues
                              they find in his work are really there, but not significant as a Tolkien
                              study.  Mark Eddy Smith and Sarah Arthur stick closer to Tolkien but are
                              otherwise in the same category.


                              ----- Original Message -----
                              From: "John Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
                              To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 10:30 PM
                              Subject: [mythsoc] re. religion in Tolkien


                              Thanks all who responded. I've got a good list to start with now.
                              Dale: I've read one of Caldecott's books but don't remember if it was this
                              one; I'll check when I get back to Kent
                              Mike: I'll have to pick up the Milbanks, which I didn't get under the
                              mistaken impression it was mostly about GKC, rather than about them both.
                              Thanks for the review.
                              Jef & Christina: I've read the Kreeft, and while he's a good writer with a
                              forceful point of view it bothered me that he seemed to think anything
                              Lewis said could be taken as evidence Tolkien felt exactly the same way on
                              any given issue.
                              Margaret: I've read the Ellwood, but that's so many years ago now
                              (thirty?) that the only detail I remember from it is that it's where I
                              learned the word "scry". Time to re-read it.
                              Christina: I've read the Pearce, and enjoyed his book -- it was high time
                              someone approached Tolkien from that angle -- but like the Kreeft I
                              thought him too doctrinaire. I've just finished the Birzer, and it was
                              disappointment with it that sparked my initial query (his extensive
                              research does not prevent too-frequent errors of fact, and his occasional
                              insights don't keep him from egregious misinterpretations). The Purtill
                              was one of the few early books I never got around to reading, so I'll see
                              about remedying that.

                              No one mentioned the Bruner and Ware: any good? I just started reading
                              Dickerson, who gave a good lecture at the Wade tonight on Tolkien & Lewis
                              & Xian ecology.

                              --Thanks again for all the suggestions.

                              --John R.
                            • David Bratman
                              John - Rutledge s opening did not disturb me. The kind that annoy me are the likes of Matthew Lyons, who are so eager to assure you that they re not grubby
                              Message 14 of 22 , Oct 18, 2010
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                                John -

                                Rutledge's opening did not disturb me. The kind that annoy me are the likes
                                of Matthew Lyons, who are so eager to assure you that they're not grubby
                                Tolkien FANS even as they're about to launch into obsessive book-length
                                discussions of him. Rutledge is merely saying that she's taking LOTR as
                                tabula rasa, rather than responding to previous scholars. People who start
                                this way often turn out to be entirely flaky, but the proof is in the
                                pudding, and this pudding I found good, with the caveats I mentioned before.
                                She has grasped the book by the right end of the stick.

                                If you do find anything attesting to Lewis's authorship of the Tolkien obit
                                in the Times, please let us know. (And let Walter Hooper know.) My
                                argument, when we discussed this before, was that in our current state of
                                knowledge it is no longer justifiable to say, without note or caution of
                                uncertainty, that Lewis wrote it. But anything that can advance our state
                                of knowledge, either way, would be highly desirable to have.

                                DB

                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: "John Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
                                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Saturday, October 16, 2010 10:17 PM
                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] re. religion in Tolkien


                                Hi David
                                Thanks for the additional info. I've been looking forward to eventually
                                reading the Rutledge (having initially been put off by her boast in the
                                first few pages that she's not a Tolkien scholar). I have the Mark Eddy
                                Smith as an audiobook (why that one was released in that format, out of all
                                the secondary works on Tolkien, is a bit of a mystery). I also have the
                                Sarah Arthur as a Kindle e-book. So I'll have plenty to keep me busy.
                                --John R.


                                On Oct 15, 2010, at 1:22 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                                > John -
                                >
                                > See also the end of the 7th paragraph of my latest long post, where I give
                                > my recommendations, somewhat different from others': Dickerson, Fleming
                                > Rutledge's _The Battle for Middle-earth_ (overlong, clumsily organized,
                                > repetitive, impatient with Tolkien's discursions, but despite all that
                                > very
                                > good), and the intrepid pioneer Purtill.
                                >
                                > Bruner and Ware isn't really a religious study of Tolkien, but a set of
                                > sermons inspired on Tolkienian texts (and thus, like most sermons, not
                                > feeling required to stick to the text). Not bad, because the moral
                                > virtues
                                > they find in his work are really there, but not significant as a Tolkien
                                > study. Mark Eddy Smith and Sarah Arthur stick closer to Tolkien but are
                                > otherwise in the same category.
                                >
                                >
                                > ----- Original Message -----
                                > From: "John Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
                                > To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                > Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 10:30 PM
                                > Subject: [mythsoc] re. religion in Tolkien
                                >
                                >
                                >> Thanks all who responded. I've got a good list to start with now.
                                >> Dale: I've read one of Caldecott's books but don't remember if it was
                                >> this
                                >> one; I'll check when I get back to Kent
                                >> Mike: I'll have to pick up the Milbanks, which I didn't get under the
                                >> mistaken impression it was mostly about GKC, rather than about them both.
                                >> Thanks for the review.
                                >> Jef & Christina: I've read the Kreeft, and while he's a good writer with
                                >> a
                                >> forceful point of view it bothered me that he seemed to think anything
                                >> Lewis said could be taken as evidence Tolkien felt exactly the same way
                                >> on
                                >> any given issue.
                                >> Margaret: I've read the Ellwood, but that's so many years ago now
                                >> (thirty?) that the only detail I remember from it is that it's where I
                                >> learned the word "scry". Time to re-read it.
                                >> Christina: I've read the Pearce, and enjoyed his book -- it was high time
                                >> someone approached Tolkien from that angle -- but like the Kreeft I
                                >> thought him too doctrinaire. I've just finished the Birzer, and it was
                                >> disappointment with it that sparked my initial query (his extensive
                                >> research does not prevent too-frequent errors of fact, and his occasional
                                >> insights don't keep him from egregious misinterpretations). The Purtill
                                >> was one of the few early books I never got around to reading, so I'll see
                                >> about remedying that.
                                >>
                                >> No one mentioned the Bruner and Ware: any good? I just started reading
                                >> Dickerson, who gave a good lecture at the Wade tonight on Tolkien & Lewis
                                >> & Xian ecology.
                                >>
                                >> --Thanks again for all the suggestions.
                                >>
                                >> --John R.
                              • John Rateliff
                                Hi David Good to hear about the Rutledge. I actually had the opposite reaction to the Lyons, in that I felt that he really got something important about
                                Message 15 of 22 , Oct 19, 2010
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                                  Hi David
                                     Good to hear about the Rutledge. I actually had the opposite reaction to the Lyons, in that I felt that he really got something important about Tolkien, and he got it right, and gave it the emphasis it deserved, more than anyone else before him. So I was willing to let slide his shortcomings more than wd have been the case with a run-of-the-mill effort. 

                                      I'll certainly let you know re. the obit if and when there's ever a definitive answer.* At present there's good evidence that Lewis wrote such a piece; the question is whether what was published in 1973 accurately represents what Lewis wrote. Basically there are three main possibilities:

                                  (1) the published piece is Lewis's work, aside from the opening paragraphs (giving Tolkien's age at the time he died, &c) added to the file obit by a Times staffer.

                                  (2) the published piece contains some genuine Lewis material, but it has been reworked to the extent that there's no way to say if a given line is Lewis's or not.

                                  (3) the Lewis piece on file was at some point replaced by a wholly new piece, which is what got published.

                                  Carpenter seems to have held position #1 without having the evidence to prove it

                                  Hooper initially held position #1 but later shifted to somewhere between #2 and #3, whereupon he removed it from his bibliography.

                                  I hold to position #1 as the most plausible option but do not yet have the evidence to prove it beyond all doubt. 

                                  --JDR

                                  *I summed up my current thinking on it in my guest editorial to the most recent issue of MALLORN.



                                  On Oct 18, 2010, at 9:55 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                                  John -

                                  Rutledge's opening did not disturb me.  The kind that annoy me are the likes
                                  of Matthew Lyons, who are so eager to assure you that they're not grubby
                                  Tolkien FANS even as they're about to launch into obsessive book-length
                                  discussions of him.  Rutledge is merely saying that she's taking LOTR as
                                  tabula rasa, rather than responding to previous scholars.  People who start
                                  this way often turn out to be entirely flaky, but the proof is in the
                                  pudding, and this pudding I found good, with the caveats I mentioned before.
                                  She has grasped the book by the right end of the stick.

                                  If you do find anything attesting to Lewis's authorship of the Tolkien obit
                                  in the Times, please let us know.  (And let Walter Hooper know.)  My
                                  argument, when we discussed this before, was that in our current state of
                                  knowledge it is no longer justifiable to say, without note or caution of
                                  uncertainty, that Lewis wrote it.  But anything that can advance our state
                                  of knowledge, either way, would be highly desirable to have.

                                  DB
                                • Leslie A. Donovan
                                  As someone who fights the Orcs and Sarumans of academia nearly daily now in my new position as Acting Director (for one semester only, thanks be to all higher
                                  Message 16 of 22 , Oct 20, 2010
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                                    As someone who fights the Orcs and Sarumans of academia nearly daily now in
                                    my new position as Acting Director (for one semester only, thanks be to all
                                    higher powers!), this analogy gave me a much needed laugh today! Thanks to
                                    Jason for passing it along and to Mike for expanding on it. I loved it!

                                    Leslie


                                    Leslie A. Donovan
                                    Acting Director and Associate Professor
                                    University Honors Program
                                    MSC06 3890
                                    1 University of New Mexico
                                    Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
                                    (505) 277-4313
                                    ldonovan@...
                                    http://www.unm.edu/~ldonovan
                                  • Mike Foster
                                    Note found in adjunct hobbit s faculty mailbox: MR. TOOK: SEVERAL OF YOUR ORCISH STUDENTS IN THE 9 A.M. CLASS HAVE ASSERTED THAT YOUR REQUIREMENTS ARE TOO
                                    Message 17 of 22 , Oct 20, 2010
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                                      Note found in adjunct hobbit's faculty mailbox:

                                       

                                      "MR. TOOK:

                                      SEVERAL OF YOUR ORCISH STUDENTS IN THE 9 A.M. CLASS HAVE ASSERTED THAT YOUR REQUIREMENTS ARE TOO STRINGENT FOR ENGL 001 AND HAVE COMPLAINED THAT AN AUTOMATIC "C" FOR THREE SENTENCE ERRORS IS "ABUSIVE." 

                                       PLEASE MEET WITH ME AND DEAN WORMTONGUE AT 10:20 SHARP TODAY IN ORDER TO CONVINCE US THAT YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE SENT TO THE LOCKHOLES TO TUTOR STONE TROLLS.

                                      SINCERELY, DR. MOUTHOFSAURON"

                                       



                                      __________ Information from ESET NOD32 Antivirus, version of virus signature database 5549 (20101020) __________

                                      The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.

                                      http://www.eset.com
                                    • Mike Foster
                                      MR. BRANDYBUCK: IN LIGHT OF MR. TOOK S DISMISSAL, WE MUST OBLIGE YOU TO TAKE OVER ALL HIS CLASSES AND GRADING RESPONSIBILITIES. PLEASE GRADE THE ATTACHED 27
                                      Message 18 of 22 , Oct 20, 2010
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                                        MR. BRANDYBUCK:
                                            IN LIGHT OF MR. TOOK'S DISMISSAL, WE MUST OBLIGE YOU TO TAKE OVER ALL HIS CLASSES AND GRADING RESPONSIBILITIES. 
                                         
                                            PLEASE GRADE THE ATTACHED 27 ESSAYS "WHY I LOVE VICE-PRESIDENT SARUMAN" ESSAYS AND RETURN THEM  TO MR. TOOK'S CLASS BY YESTERDAY. 
                                         
                                            WE REGRET THAT CURRENT FUNDING RESTRICTIONS MEAN WE CAN NOT PAY YOU FOR THIS EXTRA WORK AT THIS TIME.
                                        DR. MOUTHOFSAURON


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                                        The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.

                                        http://www.eset.com
                                      • lynnmaudlin
                                        Granted, Gandalf has idiosyncrasies that we don t usually associate with angels... We have such limited (and yet varied!) sources on angels, I suspect that
                                        Message 19 of 22 , Oct 20, 2010
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                                          "Granted, Gandalf has idiosyncrasies that we don't usually associate with angels..."

                                          We have such limited (and yet varied!) sources on angels, I suspect that our 'associations' are fairly far-ranging! But you're right, we don't think of angels as staying in this dimension with the consistency which Gandalf does; we tend to think of them as miracle-workers (and I suppose the powers Gandalf exercises could be viewed in miraculous terms although I don't think that's really the way Tolkien presents it) who come and go, staying for much less time than Gandalf does. I mean, Gandalf eats, drinks, sleeps, etc. w/the company - we're not used to angels being *present* in that way (although Bertie MacAvoy had a very present angel...).

                                          Also, I think Carter ignored Celtic and Druidic history, too - stone circles but not a lot of structure or documentation left over for us to examine; he seems to have been stuck in the European Christian model of the middle ages.

                                          -- Lynn --




                                          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, dale nelson <extollager2006@...> wrote:
                                          >
                                          > This is very helpful, David. To your second point ("and so on") I can add only
                                          > that the faithful of Middle-earth have literal angels, messengers of God, in
                                          > their midst, since "Gandalf is an angel," as Tolkien said somewhere in an
                                          > interview. Someone can remind me of the source; but I'm sure it had appeared by
                                          > the time Imaginary Worlds was written, although I'm not sure that Lin Carter saw
                                          > it. Granted, Gandalf has idiosyncrasies that we don't usually associate with
                                          > angels, even after his return from combat (cf. the war in heaven) with the
                                          > Balrog. But he appears among the faithful peoples to bring counsel,
                                          > encouragement, correction, etc. I actually think Tolkien took the angelic
                                          > aspect about as far as he could without raising distracting questions among
                                          > readers. Similarly, I'm glad that it is not a commonplace of commentary on
                                          > Tolkien to regard Gandalf as a Melchizedek/Melchisedec figure (the priest-king
                                          > who appears to Abraham after his victory, etc.).... and so on. (I don't think
                                          > it entered Tolkien's mind to see Gandalf as an angel at first, back when he was
                                          > writing The Hobbit, and I wouldn't care to speculate on when it was that Tolkien
                                          > "realized" this.)
                                          >
                                          >
                                          > Dale
                                          >
                                          >
                                          >
                                          >
                                          > ________________________________
                                          > From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
                                          > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                                          > Sent: Thu, October 14, 2010 10:24:20 PM
                                          > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: religion in Tolkien
                                          >
                                          >
                                          > If we're going to respond to Lin Carter - which I am about to do at
                                          > considerable length - we need to have at hand what he actually said.
                                          >
                                          > Carter's contentious comments on religion in Tolkien appeared only briefly
                                          > in his 1969 book on Tolkien, which was focused on placing LOTR in the
                                          > context of the history of fantasy literature, rather than on evaluating
                                          > Tolkien's work. But his 1973 book _Imaginary Worlds_ was a history of
                                          > fantasy, and its view of Tolkien was focused on evaluating his achievement
                                          > in that context. LOTR had been so widely praised that Carter felt there was
                                          > room to emphasize what he saw as the book's flaws, and one of the things he
                                          > said was this: When he writes that "Tolkien's world has no religion in it,"
                                          > Iluvatar and the Valar don't count.
                                          >
                                          > "That is not what I am talking about," he writes. "A religion is much more
                                          > than just the presence of an actual god, or gods; it is also an established
                                          > canon of inspired writings and an organized priesthood, a system of temples
                                          > and shrines, and so on." Medieval societies of the kind Tolkien used as
                                          > models had such an organized religion, he says, and other fantasies inspired
                                          > by them have had them to. Then he gives a long list of examples, from Conan
                                          > the Barbarian on up. "But there is no religion at all in _The Lord of the
                                          > Rings_ - no temples, shrines, priests, prayers, amulets, scriptures, ikons,
                                          > idols - _nothing!_ None of the many characters, not even the heroic
                                          > warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no
                                          > gods. Which is simply incredible in a primitive world of wizards and
                                          > warriors and walled stone cities." (Imaginary Worlds, p. 122-24)
                                          >
                                          > The first thing that occurs to me to say in response to this is, "By
                                          > Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
                                          > which is what Frodo says to the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen. Luthien, or
                                          > even Elbereth, may not technically be gods, but from a Catholic author they
                                          > are definitely serving the function of angels or saints in this context.
                                          > Anyway, so much for characters not swearing by them. There are other
                                          > examples; this one is particularly memorable.
                                          >
                                          > Secondly, Carter has a rather limited idea of what an organized religion
                                          > requires. The medieval Norse, for instance, did not have any canon of
                                          > inspired writings that we know of. Their legends and poems about the gods
                                          > and heroes were neither canonized nor considered sacred texts the way we
                                          > consider the Bible. The Jews, after the fall of the Temple, simply
                                          > abandoned the heriditary priesthood that had served them before that; even
                                          > today, rabbis are not really "clergy" in the sense that Christians use that
                                          > word; a rabbi is a learned man, not a priest. Some Asian religions, I
                                          > believe, do without temples and shrines, and the diaspora Jews also rank low
                                          > on that scale.
                                          >
                                          > The peoples of Middle-earth, however, do have some of the "and so on" which
                                          > Carter doesn't enumerate. If they don't have a canonized scripture, they do
                                          > have the kind of stories of the gods and heroes of the past that customarily
                                          > appear in scriptures, even a creation myth (though Carter didn't have access
                                          > to this one, as it first appeared in _The Silmarillion_ which hadn't been
                                          > published when he wrote). They have some rituals, notably the moment of
                                          > silence before eating that Faramir and his men perform at Henneth Annun.
                                          > This, Faramir explains, is a gesture of respect towards Eldamar and Valinor,
                                          > so they also have a holy place. They have funerary customs and respect the
                                          > dead, a common religious practice. And, as Carter would say, so on.
                                          >
                                          > What they have more than any of this, however, are aspects of religion that
                                          > are not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. These are the moral and spiritual
                                          > content of religious belief, which underlie every action the admirable
                                          > characters take, and indeed drive the whole plot, because it is a spiritual
                                          > concern to rid the world of an evil menace, and not a practical
                                          > consideration to defeat the bad guy in the black hat, that inspires the
                                          > decision to destroy the Ring, rather than - as practical men like Boromir
                                          > would prefer - use it. I hardly need to go into this here, as so many
                                          > authors have done so brilliantly. The best source for this purpose is
                                          > Richard Purtill's _Lord of the Elves and Eldils_, because like Carter he was
                                          > writing before _The Silmarillion_ and proves his case, rather dazzlingly,
                                          > from LOTR alone. (Ellwood's _Good News from Middle-earth_, the other
                                          > pre-Silmarillion religious study of Tolkien, is a hunt for Christ figures
                                          > and new-age woo-woo, and even if you want such things, would not be suitable
                                          > for countering Carter.) Of more recent books on Tolkien's religious
                                          > dimension that consider the posthumous writings, I'd say the best ones which
                                          > still focus mostly on LOTR are _The Battle for Middle-earth_ by Fleming
                                          > Rutledge and _Following Gandalf_ by Matthew Dickerson. (The Birzer and
                                          > Caldecott books mentioned by others are OK, but these are much better.)
                                          >
                                          > So the answer to Carter is that he's framed his question wrongly - what
                                          > Tolkien lacks is not religion, it's colorful religious trappings - and even
                                          > taken as Carter frames it, his charge is not entirely true. But
                                          > nevertheless, his observations are not entirely hallucinatory, so we can
                                          > also raise the questions of whether what he sees is, as he claims, "simply
                                          > incredible," and of why Tolkien writes it this way. But these are further
                                          > observations on the topic, not directly answers to Carter, because they
                                          > attempt only to explain the case; they don't answer it.
                                          >
                                          > From an external, author-based perspective, we can say that Tolkien couldn't
                                          > have his pre-Christian characters be Christians, for obvious chronological
                                          > reasons, but he didn't want to have them worshipping false gods, so he made
                                          > them the virtuous pagans of (mostly hypothetical) Christian theology. Some
                                          > of the authors on religion in Tolkien go into this point.
                                          >
                                          > From an internal, character-based perspective, though, there's an answer so
                                          > breath-taking that, again, it is not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. The
                                          > reason his pagan warriors don't worship false gods is that, through the
                                          > Elves, and they through the Valar, have unfiltered access to the truth about
                                          > the spiritual universe. (The truth as Tolkien sees it, of course, but as an
                                          > author he has the right to make his Catholic theology the unfettered truth
                                          > within his own fiction.) They don't need false gods; they have the real
                                          > God. They don't need priests and rituals and so on; they have a closeness
                                          > to the divine that few today are fortunate enough to experience. That
                                          > palpable sense is part of what makes LOTR such an inspiring book.
                                          >
                                          > That's what I would say if I were on Ellen's panel, and I hope it helps.
                                          >
                                          > David Bratman
                                          >
                                        • Ellen
                                          Belated thanks to David, Sarah, William, John, and anyone else I ve missed who helped put my question in perspective for my upcoming panel on Tolkien at World
                                          Message 20 of 22 , Oct 26, 2010
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                                            Belated thanks to David, Sarah, William, John, and anyone else I've missed who helped put my question in perspective for my upcoming panel on Tolkien at World Fantasy.  Between your suggestions and what I've read in Tolkien's letters I feel like I'm (hopefully) armed to say some relevant things.

                                            Ellen Denham


                                            On 10/14/10 11:24 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                                             

                                            If we're going to respond to Lin Carter - which I am about to do at
                                            considerable length - we need to have at hand what he actually said.

                                            Carter's contentious comments on religion in Tolkien appeared only briefly
                                            in his 1969 book on Tolkien, which was focused on placing LOTR in the
                                            context of the history of fantasy literature, rather than on evaluating
                                            Tolkien's work. But his 1973 book _Imaginary Worlds_ was a history of
                                            fantasy, and its view of Tolkien was focused on evaluating his achievement
                                            in that context. LOTR had been so widely praised that Carter felt there was
                                            room to emphasize what he saw as the book's flaws, and one of the things he
                                            said was this: When he writes that "Tolkien's world has no religion in it,"
                                            Iluvatar and the Valar don't count.

                                            "That is not what I am talking about," he writes. "A religion is much more
                                            than just the presence of an actual god, or gods; it is also an established
                                            canon of inspired writings and an organized priesthood, a system of temples
                                            and shrines, and so on." Medieval societies of the kind Tolkien used as
                                            models had such an organized religion, he says, and other fantasies inspired
                                            by them have had them to. Then he gives a long list of examples, from Conan
                                            the Barbarian on up. "But there is no religion at all in _The Lord of the
                                            Rings_ - no temples, shrines, priests, prayers, amulets, scriptures, ikons,
                                            idols - _nothing!_ None of the many characters, not even the heroic
                                            warriors, so much as swears by his gods. Obviously because they _have_ no
                                            gods. Which is simply incredible in a primitive world of wizards and
                                            warriors and walled stone cities." (Imaginary Worlds, p. 122-24)

                                            The first thing that occurs to me to say in response to this is, "By
                                            Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
                                            which is what Frodo says to the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen. Luthien, or
                                            even Elbereth, may not technically be gods, but from a Catholic author they
                                            are definitely serving the function of angels or saints in this context.
                                            Anyway, so much for characters not swearing by them. There are other
                                            examples; this one is particularly memorable.

                                            Secondly, Carter has a rather limited idea of what an organized religion
                                            requires. The medieval Norse, for instance, did not have any canon of
                                            inspired writings that we know of. Their legends and poems about the gods
                                            and heroes were neither canonized nor considered sacred texts the way we
                                            consider the Bible. The Jews, after the fall of the Temple, simply
                                            abandoned the heriditary priesthood that had served them before that; even
                                            today, rabbis are not really "clergy" in the sense that Christians use that
                                            word; a rabbi is a learned man, not a priest. Some Asian religions, I
                                            believe, do without temples and shrines, and the diaspora Jews also rank low
                                            on that scale.

                                            The peoples of Middle-earth, however, do have some of the "and so on" which
                                            Carter doesn't enumerate. If they don't have a canonized scripture, they do
                                            have the kind of stories of the gods and heroes of the past that customarily
                                            appear in scriptures, even a creation myth (though Carter didn't have access
                                            to this one, as it first appeared in _The Silmarillion_ which hadn't been
                                            published when he wrote). They have some rituals, notably the moment of
                                            silence before eating that Faramir and his men perform at Henneth Annun.
                                            This, Faramir explains, is a gesture of respect towards Eldamar and Valinor,
                                            so they also have a holy place. They have funerary customs and respect the
                                            dead, a common religious practice. And, as Carter would say, so on.

                                            What they have more than any of this, however, are aspects of religion that
                                            are not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. These are the moral and spiritual
                                            content of religious belief, which underlie every action the admirable
                                            characters take, and indeed drive the whole plot, because it is a spiritual
                                            concern to rid the world of an evil menace, and not a practical
                                            consideration to defeat the bad guy in the black hat, that inspires the
                                            decision to destroy the Ring, rather than - as practical men like Boromir
                                            would prefer - use it. I hardly need to go into this here, as so many
                                            authors have done so brilliantly. The best source for this purpose is
                                            Richard Purtill's _Lord of the Elves and Eldils_, because like Carter he was
                                            writing before _The Silmarillion_ and proves his case, rather dazzlingly,
                                            from LOTR alone. (Ellwood's _Good News from Middle-earth_, the other
                                            pre-Silmarillion religious study of Tolkien, is a hunt for Christ figures
                                            and new-age woo-woo, and even if you want such things, would not be suitable
                                            for countering Carter.) Of more recent books on Tolkien's religious
                                            dimension that consider the posthumous writings, I'd say the best ones which
                                            still focus mostly on LOTR are _The Battle for Middle-earth_ by Fleming
                                            Rutledge and _Following Gandalf_ by Matthew Dickerson. (The Birzer and
                                            Caldecott books mentioned by others are OK, but these are much better.)

                                            So the answer to Carter is that he's framed his question wrongly - what
                                            Tolkien lacks is not religion, it's colorful religious trappings - and even
                                            taken as Carter frames it, his charge is not entirely true. But
                                            nevertheless, his observations are not entirely hallucinatory, so we can
                                            also raise the questions of whether what he sees is, as he claims, "simply
                                            incredible," and of why Tolkien writes it this way. But these are further
                                            observations on the topic, not directly answers to Carter, because they
                                            attempt only to explain the case; they don't answer it.

                                            >From an external, author-based perspective, we can say that Tolkien couldn't
                                            have his pre-Christian characters be Christians, for obvious chronological
                                            reasons, but he didn't want to have them worshipping false gods, so he made
                                            them the virtuous pagans of (mostly hypothetical) Christian theology. Some
                                            of the authors on religion in Tolkien go into this point.

                                            >From an internal, character-based perspective, though, there's an answer so
                                            breath-taking that, again, it is not dreamt of in Carter's philosophy. The
                                            reason his pagan warriors don't worship false gods is that, through the
                                            Elves, and they through the Valar, have unfiltered access to the truth about
                                            the spiritual universe. (The truth as Tolkien sees it, of course, but as an
                                            author he has the right to make his Catholic theology the unfettered truth
                                            within his own fiction.) They don't need false gods; they have the real
                                            God. They don't need priests and rituals and so on; they have a closeness
                                            to the divine that few today are fortunate enough to experience. That
                                            palpable sense is part of what makes LOTR such an inspiring book.

                                            That's what I would say if I were on Ellen's panel, and I hope it helps.

                                            David Bratman

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