Item description for The Gospel According to Tolkien:Â Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Gospel According To) by Ralph C. Wood...
Overview In this accessible and engaging book, Ralph Wood shows us that J. R. R. Tolkien's masterpiece is a deeply Christian work because it does not blink back the horrors of our terrible times but confronts them with startling honesty. Readers keep turning to this work because here they are immersed in significance and meaning - perceiving the Hope that can be found amidst despair; the Charity that overcomes vengeance; and the Faith that springs from the strange power of weakness. The Gospel According to Tolkien will be loved by both long-time Tolkien fans and those recently drawn to his books through the popular feature films. Readers have repeatedly called The Lord of the Rings the most important book of our age--absorbing all 1,500 of its pages with an almost fanatical interest and seeing the Peter Jackson movies in unprecedented numbers. Readers from ages 8 to 80 keep turning to Tolkien because here, in this magical kingdom, they are immersed in depth after depth of significance and meaning--perceiving the Hope that can be found amidst despair, the Charity that overcomes vengeance, and the Faith that springs from the strange power of weakness. The Gospel According to Tolkien examines biblical and Christian themes that are found in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Follow Ralph Wood as he takes us through the theological depths of Tolkien's literary legacy.
Readers have repeatedly called "The Lord of the Rings" the most important book of our age--absorbing all 1,500 of its pages with an almost fanatical interest and seeing the Peter Jackson movies in unprecedented numbers. Readers from ages 8 to 80 keep turning to Tolkien because here, in this magical kingdom, they are immersed in depth after depth of significance and meaning--perceiving the Hope that can be found amidst despair, the Charity that overcomes vengeance, and the Faith that springs from the strange power of weakness. "The Gospel According to Tolkien" examines biblical and Christian themes that are found in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Follow Ralph Wood as he takes us through the theological depths of Tolkien's literary legacy.
From Publishers Weekly Readers and fans of J.R.R. Tolkien have long been aware of the Christian
underpinnings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, Tolkien has not been
without his religious critics, including those who have read a fascination
with paganism into the pre-Christian world of Tolkien's creation. Wood, a
professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, responds to those
critics with an academically sound retort of "Nonsense!" Acknowledging
straight off that Rings is devoid of any traces of "formal religion," Wood
offers countless pieces of evidence that support his analysis of the
full-fledged, deeply Christian theology of the mythological culture of
Middle-earth. And he does so convincingly. Even longtime fans of Rings who
have never questioned the books' Christian elements will undoubtedly discover
new insights, so rich is Wood's analysis of Tolkien's gospel. But be
forewarned: This is not a book for the casual reader. Rather, it is a somewhat
scholarly endeavor for those who want a more thorough understanding of the
underlying themes that have made The Lord of the Rings novels, as well as
Tolkien's other writings, such enduring treasures. Wood teases out those
themes-life and death, good and evil, courage and cowardice, mercy and justice
and of course, faith, hope, and love-to reveal the faith-filled nature of
Tolkien's theocentric and sacramental, albeit fictional, world. (Oct.)
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Gospel According To) by Ralph C. Wood has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 12/01/2003 page 118
Publishers Weekly - 08/25/2003 page 59
Christianity Today - 11/01/2003 page 83
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Oct 31, 2003
Publisher PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING #86
Series Gospel According To
ISBN 0664226108 ISBN13 9780664226107
Availability 0 units.
More About Ralph C. Wood
Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. He is the author of Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South and Literature and Theology.
Ralph C. Wood currently resides in Waco, in the state of Texas.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Gospel According to Tolkien:Â Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth?
A FIRST-RATE LOOK AT TOLKIEN'S IDEAS AND INSPIRATION! Mar 1, 2006
I enjoyed this book as a huge fan of Tolkien's works. What a neat human being he was, and his imagination was exhaustive! Wow! This book was extremely readable and very insightful.
"A fundamentally religious and Catholic work." Jan 19, 2006
There are many books out there that are trying to Christianize works of literature and popular media these days. I am sure you have seen them. Books that claim you can find Christ in Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Star Wars. I think we can agree that in most cases these books are really IMPOSING Christianity on these works. But J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is different. In "Letters", page 243, Tolkien himself states that the "Lord of the Rings" is a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work." These are Tolkien's very own words. He confirms the Christianity of his epic yet again on page 172 of "Letters" when he states that "The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism." So, right of the bat "The Gospel according to Tolkien" is set apart from other books of the genre. Ralph Wood is not imposing Christianity on "The Lord of the Rings", he is exploring the Christianity that Tolkien himself integrated into his great work of literature.
Ralph Wood's book is a very good introduction to the Christianity of the "Lord of the Rings." He makes it clear that reading the "Lord of the Rings" with the eyes of faith will greatly enhance ones understanding of what Tolkien was doing in writing his great epic. The only problem for me is that Ralph Wood decided to write his book from an ecumenical perspective. The themes he explores in his book are those that are shared by all Christians. Now I realize that one can view this as a very good thing. But Tolkien was a Catholic, and the "Lord of the Rings" was deeply affected by his Catholic faith. So if one explores the Christianity of the "Lord of the Rings" without exploring the Catholicism of it, I feel we are left with a somewhat incomplete study. Ralph Woods touches on the Catholic aspect only briefly now and then. He does state that the Elven "Lembas" bread is highly reminiscent of the Eucharist. Ralph Wood also mentions that the Vala Elbereth parallels the Catholic view of the Virgin Mary. But, to my recollection that is the limit of Wood's exploration of the specifically Catholic elements of the "Lord of the Rings." This is why I stated that Ralph Wood's book is a good INTRODUCTION to the Christianity of Tolkien's books. There are many books out there that explore the full religiosity of the "Lord of the Rings" in a complete manner. Still, I would recommend you read "The Gospel According to Tolkien" first before going deeper into the Theology of Middle-Earth.
A good companion. Mar 24, 2005
The plethora of books with a variant of the title "The Gospel According To ..." continues to fill bookshelves and entice the unwary buyer into reading some attempt to shoehorn popular culture into the biblical message. The earliest of this genre that I can recall was The Gospel According to Peanuts (still in print since 1965), after the popular cartoon strip by the late Charles Schultz. Being a confessing Christian, Mr. Schultz did on occasion openly present a Christian message through his syndicated strip-the most famous and endearing being the rendition by the blanket-hugging Linus of Luke's birth narrative in Schultz' animated Christmas television feature. Today we have our choice of The Gospel According to Dr. Seuz, The Gospel According to The Simpsons, The Gospel According to Harry Potter, The Gospel According to Disney, and The Gospel According to The Sopranos (I'm not making that last one up, really).
Ralph C. Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, has now added to that collection The Gospel According to Tolkien. It is arguably the only volume that can legitimately make a claim to that title, for as Wood ably demonstrates, Tolkien's corpus is implicitly, but authentically, Christian. Tolkien's Middle Earth trilogy has experienced a rediscovery, if not a revival, among a wider audience due to Peter Jackson's brilliant movie interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, so the timing of this publication could not have been more strategic.
Wood presents an accessible theological interpretation to The Lord of the Rings material, though he draws from Tolkien's entire corpus of writings, from works like The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, as well as letters and essays, in which Tolkien provides the background and history of the mythic Middle Earth as well as commentary on the nature and purpose of the literary genre in which he worked. This background material is in evidence especially in the first two chapters of the book in Wood's treatment of the themes of creation, the Fall (both of the mythic world of Tolkien and of the real world), the nature of sin ("iniquity") and evil. Subsequent chapters stay closer to the more familiar Middle Earth material of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These later chapters deal with the themes of good and evil, and Tolkien's vision of the Kingdom. The most valuable contribution of this book, I believe, is Wood's treatment of the redeeming virtues in the panoramic drama of Tolkien's world and ours. Specifically, his treatment of the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage, and temperance-as well as his treatment on Tolkien's concepts of eucatostrophes, community, and the nature of stories-serve in an authentic way to connect the dots between Tolkien's dense cosmology and the Christian faith.
For those wishing to delve into the informing Christian theology that plays out behind the curtain of Tolkien's dramatic trilogy, or for those who want an overtly Christian introduction to the epic story of The Lord of the Rings, there is unlikely a better resource to be found. Wood's book will not only help introduce the reader to the theological world of Tolkien's Middle Earth, but will provide insight into the importance of stories-of good stories-to our ability to understand the Gospel message.
A must read! Dec 13, 2004
I highly recommend this book to any Christian interested in Tolkien. The book is easy to read and contains many references that will surely crack those Tolkien editions open again.
Another reviewer criticized Wood's work as overreaching, but i believe the criticism to be misplaced. The history of Tolkien is one of presenting the Gospel at every turn, from drawing C.S. Lewis to Christianity to producing an overtly Christian literature. It's true that he was fascinated by paganism, but so was Chesterton, who was an influence upon Tolkien as well as a Christian apologist. It should not come as a surprise that Tolkien's work begins with a creation myth story and contain fallen angels, good angels, and a battle for the redemption of humanity that can only compare with Milton's Paradise series (in fact, i'd argue, rising above it). It is far more difficult to claim the epic to be thoroughly pagan than to claim it thoroughly Christian. The critic is the one overreaching.
Dr. Wood's examination is revealing, and i believe one could probe even deeper to uncover even more Christian themes that this volume could not cover. Why does Frodo, a normal powerless hobbit, shine and regain such strength when he bravely confronts Smeagol as he is about to arrive at Mt. Doom if there is no underlining spiritual message? Why does mere bread revitalize when it is thin and tasteless? Lord of the Rings is incredibly and obviously buried in Christian doctrine, though one has to be familiar with the themes to recognize them.
Thought-provoking and intelligent Jul 13, 2004
This is a very good study of the Christian underpinning of Tolkien's work. His great mythology is set in pre-Christian times, so cannot be overtly Christian, but celebrates and points to the loveliness and necessity of the great Christian values. Further, it has a Christian eschatology reminiscent of the Four Last Things - Heaven. Hell, Death and Judgement. Even an Orcv and the Lord of the Nazgul, it may be noted, refer to some sort of life after death.
There is no real Christ-figure in The Lord of the Rings - Tolkien himself said Frodo was not an equivalent of Christ but simply a good soldier who sacrificed himself to the utmost in a good cause. Gandalf is a supernatural being - a Maia - equivalent to an angel.
It is interesting to note in the movie of "The Two Towers" how much Galadrial, who blesses and intercedes for the members of the Fellowship, resembles many depictions of the Madoona.
Note too, how the elvish hymn to Elbereth resembles the Catholic hymn "Hail Queen of Heaven"
Tolkien's work is congruent with Christianity, and its message is a celebration of Christian values. Plainly it could not have been set in Christian times - the theological problems would have been too great (the Christian Arthur stories are full of theological difficulties).
I would recommend this book be read in conjunction with the two other best books on the subject - Shippey's "JRR Tolkien, Author of the Century," and Hal GP Colebatch's "Return of the Heroes" both available from this site.com. Together they give a comprehensive and balanced account of the religious elements in Tolkien's work ("Return of the Heroes" brings in "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" as well.