Thursday, October 15, 2009

JRR Tolkien: Myth, Morality & Religion by Richard Purtill

Very few people, I guess, run around this world confessing that they are just trying to hold on to their stuff as many years as possible. This motive is twofold, the first referring to possession, and the second to duration. Both are matters of personal control and not of humble gratitude. These are the topics of JRR Tolkien’s works. Archenemies Melkor and Sauron are driven by these corrupt desires. Smaller characters may seek smaller dominions, even to the petty Sackville-Bagginses and the miller near Hobbiton and Bywater. Elves and men war with the double temptation to gain and to keep – place, power, people, and property. Each race presents his different side to the question, Elves must endure but cannot truly own any part of the fading world. The changeless cannot keep the things they love from changing. But Men think the answer is in gaining immortality. If you listen for wisdom in The Lord of the Rings, hear it in the voice of Faramir. To the topic of immortality he relates the history of his people: "Death was ever present, because the Numenoreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging.”

As an antithesis to the vices above Tolkien hints at a simple life of love and sacrifice, daily gratitude for the blessings that point to a giver. Such open-handed bliss is the eternal joy of his worldview. It is the fate of every overcomer, to borrow the words of Revelation.

Exploring these points and more is Richard Purtill’s JRR Tolkien: Myth, Morality, & Religion. The book was interesting, but also a bit disappointing. As a fan of Tolkien, I desired more attention to his words and motives and less a case for the definitions and distinctions of science fiction and fantasy held by the author.

To God be all glory.

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