Friday, March 1, 2013

Tolkien: A Celebration

Tolkien: A Celebration : Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy edited by Joseph Pearce. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999. ISBN: 0898708664

We have been waiting expectantly for The Hobbit movie to come out. To prepare for the movie I read the book to my family. I think it is the third time I have read the book to my family. It is interesting that both Bilbo and Frodo go on adventures once they turn fifty. That is interesting since I will be turning fifty soon.

I was afraid I would be disappointing in the movie since  it is divided into three parts. I enjoyed the movie, however and would see it again. Since that time I have read The Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers to my kids. It is the first time I am reading the Lord of Rings to the kids believing it to be above them. There is something to be said for reading great literature together as a family.

I have noticed a book on the shelves of our library on Tolkien: Tolkien: A Celebration. It is edited by Joseph Pearce who has written extensively on Catholic authors. He has even written a book on Tolkien. In his research he came upon some essays on Tolkien that needed to be published. This book is the result of this desire. Tolkien: A Celebration presents a good collection of essays on the literary legacy of Tolkien. It would be an excellent introduction to those beginning to look at the person behind the Lord of the Rings. The essays do a good job in showing how the Lord of Rings is a Christian work. Peter Kreeft has also written an excellent book on Tolkien called the philosophy of Tolkien.

"Recollections of J. R. R. Tolkien" by George Sayer tells how Sayer first met Tolkien and about other meetings they had over the years. George Sayer was a student of C. S. Lewis and has written an excellent biography on Lewis. Stratford Caldecott's essay describes Christian themes in The Similarian and the Lord of the Rings. Robert Murray argues about the parabolic nature of the Lord of the Rings. Stephen R. Lawhead talks about his personal experiences in writing fantasy and how it is connected to the work of Tolkien. Sean McGrath talks about how the Lord of Rings teaches that we must be willing to die if we want to die. This is related to Jesus' teaching that those who want to save their life will lose it; but those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel will attain it.

Anyone interested in exploring the Christian background to The Lord of the Rings would be wise to start with this collection. The essays would be understandable for the general reader and do not require knowledge of the secondary literature on Tolkien. The essays are enjoyable to read and provide much insight into the life and thought of J.R. R. Tolkien.

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