A few years back I received a quaint email from someone I hardly knew, though they did know me and the church I served in. The largest part of that email was a rebuke about the fact that I listed “The Lord of The Rings” films as my favorite movies on Facebook. I was matter-of-factly told that a Christian shouldn’t even be watching such wicked things, not to mention promoting them. Sigh, sometimes we Christians really don’t get “fantasy literature.
Background on Tolkien
The Hobbit, which was just rated as the biggest Christmas film of all time, was based on a book by J.R.R Tolkien, a Catholic Christian who died in 1973. The famous author and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, actually became a believer through a friendship with Tolkien, though while Lewis met Jesus through Tolkien, he correctly joined the Protestant church. Both remained good friends. CS Lewis went on to write the Narnia series, a fantasy allegory for the Christian faith. In the writings of Lewis, we can clearly see characters who always represent someone/= or something else. For example, Aslan is always the Christ figure; He is all knowing and powerful, and dies in a sacrifice for others. Tolkien, on the other hand, was not so fond of simple allegory, and preferred deep stories and myths with triumphs that showed “a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium (Gospel) in the real world.” Tolkien said that “In making a myth, in practicing ‘mythopoeia,’ and peopling the world with elves and dragons and goblins, a story-teller .. is actually fulfilling God’s purpose, and reflecting a splintered fragment of the true light.” Therefore, he wrote into existence many such echoes and fragments of the “True Light” instead of making a direct analogy of the “True Light.” And while the Hobbit is not explicitly a Christian movie, if one looks, he can find these echoes of the True Light. While watching the Hobbit film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I saw many such fragments and themes, below are a three that had an impact on me. (WARNING: SOME SPOILERS BELOW)
1. Leaving comfort and safety to help others
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who is called on a quest to help the dwarves. Bilbo is not himself a dwarf, he has nothing in common with them. What he does have is a safe, comfortable, and beautiful place to live, and he doesn’t want to give this up. But by some mysterious motivation, he later chooses to give up everything, to leave his safety, comfort, home, and people to help another people. This echoes the Christian life of selflessness, but even more so, the Christ who left his safe and comfortable home, to help those who were also not his people.
2. Having mercy on those who deserve justice
Bilbo has a run-in with Gollum, a creature disfigured and convoluted by its selfishness and lusts. Gollum attempts to kill and eat Bilbo, but eventually the tables are turned. And we see Bilbo holding a sword to Gollum; he is preparing to swing it, to kill this evil creature. He is fully justified in doing so. Everyone sitting next to me is likely thinking “kill him!” Instead Bilbo looks with pity upon the creature and in tender mercy, he lowers the sword. I was paralyzed at that moment. How well this shows the mercy that I have received. Christ too, had the reason to smite me, a creature just like Gollum, yet he too put down the sword. Christ did even more, he put down his crown, and then his life.
3. Working all things by Providence
About halfway in the movie the merry company makes a detour into a kingdom of elves. Here they’ve come in order to find help at reading a map. This map is pivotal to the success of the quest, but alas, no one has been able to read it. There a king can read the map, but he informs them the map can only be seen under the moon of the same exact shape and season as the day when the map was created. Then in a grand display of Providence, this accidental detour to the king who is able to read the map turns out to be on the one and only day when the map is readable. “All things work together for the good” of this company and quest. In the Christian walk as well, Jesus causes all things to work together perfectly, for his perfect plan.