Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as a Catholic Epic

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Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as a Catholic Epic It will be the contention of this paper that much of Tolkien's unique vision was directly shaped by recurring images in the Catholic culture which shaped JRRT, and which are not shared by non-Catholics generally. The expression of these images in Lord of the Rings will then concern us. To begin with, it must be remembered that Catholic culture and Catholic faith, while mutually supportive and symbiotic, are not the same thing. Mr. Walker Percy, in his Lost in the Cosmos, explored the difference, and pointed out that, culturally, Catholics in Cleveland are much more Protestant than Presbyterians in say, Taos, New Orleans, or the South of France. Erik, Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, points out that the effects of this dichotomy upon politics, attributing the multi-party system in Catholic countries to the Catholic adherence to absolutes; he further ascribes the two-party system to the Protestant willingness to compromise. However this may be, it does point up a constant element in Catholic thought---the pursuit of the absolute. Here we must make an aside in regard to the U.S. Catholic culture in America is practically non-existent, except in attenuated form among such peoples as the Hispanos and Indians of Northern New Mexico, the Cajuns and Creoles of Louisiana and the other Gulf States, and the old English Catholic settlements of Maryland and Kentucky. Elsewhere the Faith was brought by immigrants, and its attendant culture has, like all imported ones in the States, veered between preservation and assimilation. This was exacerbated by the fact that Catholic leadership in the United States was early committed to a programme of cultural melding. In addition, this leadership was primarily Irish, a nationality which had been deprived of much of its native culture by centuries of Protestant Ascendancy. Hence it has been extremely difficult for Americans, even American Catholics, to understand or appreciate the Catholic thing (as Chesterton described it) in a cultural context. I am reminded of the astonishment of a classmateof mine (from a typical American Catholic High School) at seeing an anthology of Catholic poetry. This situation has been greatly accentuated in the past twenty years by the changes occurring after Vatican II. This being so, it will be necessary to describe a little of the uniquely Catholic world view. In fine, it is a sacramental one. At the heart of all Catholic life is a miracle, a mystery, the Blessed Sacrament.

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