Thursday, February 10, 2011


Continuing the current trend of what's turning out to be a string of posts about some newly arrived or just-announced Tolkien books and their contents, here's the Table of Contents for what I think will be a really interesting collection, THE RING AND THE CROSS: CHRISTIANITY AND THE WRITINGS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, ed. Paul E. Kerry; the first book (so far as I know) on JRRT from Fairleigh-Dickinson Press.

Introduction: A Historiography of Christian Approaches to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings by Paul E. Kerry

Part I: The Ring
The Pagan Tolkien by Ronald Hutton
The Christian Tolkien: A Response to Ronald Hutton by Nils Ivar Agoy
Can We Still Have a Pagan Tolkien? A Reply to Nils Ivar Agoy by Ronald Hutton
The Entwives: Investigating the Spiritual Core of The Lord of the Rings by Stephen Morillo
'Like Heathen Kings': Religion as Palimpsest in Tolkien's Fiction by John R. Holmes
Confronting the World's Weirdness: J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Hurin by Ralph C. Wood
Eru Erased: The Minimalist Cosmology of The Lord of the Rings by Catherine Madsen
The Ring and the Cross: How J. R. R. Tolkien Became a Christian Writer by Chris Mooney

Part II: The Cross
Redeeming Sub-Creation by Carson L. Holloway
Catholic Scholar, Catholic Sub-Creator by Jason Boffetti
'An Age Comes On': J. R. R. Tolkien and the English Catholic Sense of History by Michael Tomko
The Lord of the Rings and the Catholic Understanding of Community by Joseph Pearce
Tracking Catholic Influence in The Lord of the Rings by Paul E. Kerry
Saintly and Distant Mothers by Marjorie Burns
The 'Last Battle' as a Johannine Ragnarok: Tolkien and the Universal by Bradley J. Birzer

When faced with the vexing question of whether Tolkien was a Catholic (or Xian) Writer or a writer who happened to be Catholic (or Xian), most books on Tolkien & religion simply assert the former; the essays here actually delve into the question from several different points of view. Based on my skimming so far I think the highlights for me may turn out to be the exchange between Hutton and Agoy and the Madsen essay.

Hutton points out that, for an author who was supposed to be strictly doctrinaire, Tolkien showed an awful lot of interest in pagan myth and incorporated a lot of it into his work. Agoy does his best to refute this, but Hutton remains unconvinced. As for the Madsen, she wrote what's probably one of the ten best essays on Tolkien years ago,* and this one looks to be a worthy follow-up: she essentially asks how, if Tolkien is so self-evidently Xian, do so many readers fail to notice that fact? Kerry's introduction is also impressive, attempting to survey all the previous studies of Tolkien from a religious perspective.

So, my feeling is that this book will be a major collection. I'm looking forward to reading through and thinking about all the essays.

--John R.

*though I preferred the original version, which she delivered at the 1987 Marquette Tolkien Conference, to the published one.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I preferred the original version of my Marquette paper too, but the editorial process for the second version was rushed and not overly subtle. The same is not true of the present volume - I can't say enough good things about Paul Kerry's sensitivity, generosity and persistence against considerable odds. (The copy editor did introduce some errors - erratic capitalization of "hobbits," "adventures" for JRRT's "aventures" - but mercifully we caught the real howlers...)