Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tolkien And Purgatory

Someone asked me about yesterday's post - that the Lord of the Rings could be used as an evangelical tool. They asked me how. Well, there are many great Christian virtues displayed, and the central theme of the little one being at the heart of it all is Christ's teaching on the least being the greatest (I also see St Therese's Little Way in the adventure of the hobbits).

But there are excellent examples of how Tolkien's work can be used to reveal Catholic teaching and one concerns purgatory. It is the third volume, The Return of the King, Aragorn needs assistance and he turns to the souls of treacherous soldiers who now haunt what is called the "Paths of the Dead". These soldiers had sworn allegiance to the King of Gondor to come to assist it in war, however when the need was greatest these men fled and took refuge in the mountains, safe (or so they thought). They died, but their souls could not rest - they had sinned, they had a debt to repay for their cowardice and treachery and they could not enter into their rest until the debt was paid and atoned for.

And so Aragorn arrives, he is the true King of Gondor and holds them to their oath, they now go to the aid of Gondor and when the city is saved, they are finally released from their oath, they have repaid the debt, atoned for their treachery and they can now enter their rest. That, as you can see, is a wonderful exposition of purgatory, it is the place where we repay the debt our "treachery" (sin) to the King (God) has caused. And so the discussion can begin!


  1. You know for the most part I actually am at peace and comfortable with the reality of purgatory. For the development of charity towards others in the soul which we just didnt do (spiritual laziness) or where someone or something cut us off before we got a chance (illness, and accident or being murdered) it actually makes perfect sense and even sounds quite merciful on GOD'S part. However the part of purgatory which in not stressed much nowadays that I just cant work out in logic is where one is to make good punishment due to forgiven sin. Perhaps someone reading this might throw me some explanatory logic on this. ie. is it both or just one. I mean is purgatory both the development of charity and the fulfillment of punishment for sins forgiven or just one of these? As to the development of charity that could have and should have been done here on earth there is a marvellous piece done by a Fr Robert Barron on purgatory. He however remains silent on the punishment part.

  2. I could never read Tolkien and an consequently biased against him. I have seen the films and enjoyed them. Never for an instant have I seen the remotest sign of Xtian symbolism in any of them.
    The films I assume reflect the book and all I see is gothic horror of the sort served up well by Shelley and the Frankenstein gang.
    Purgatory is a place of mercy .
    It is also a place of final purification before entering paradise.

    I see nothing spiritual in Tolkien merely unrelieved Victorian gloom. [makes good movies]
    Purgatory is a place of happiness not gloom.

  3. A good read of Tolkien's works will reveal the spiritual and doctrinal in Tolkien, as he said himself in his first draft of the LOTR it was not overtly Christian, but in the redrafts he worked Christian elements into it, suggested, hinted, beneath the surface. The films do not necessarily reflect this, hence Thirsty Gargoyle's argument.

  4. I dont know as I havnt been to purgatory yet. But Ive read a few recent books on the subject. Without a doubt there is agreement that purgatory is packed to the rafters with hope as everybody there just know for certain they are heaven bound. But tons and tons of suffering. I suspect that the happiness there is on a gradual growing scale kind of happiness that only reaches its fullfillment after ones time there is over!. Some really non intuitive facts I discovered about purtatory are that the people there can merit nothing I mean they cannot even pray for themselves. Apparently we can pray for them and direct our prayers and fastings to them in such a way that we lessen their sufferings there. We can apparently through indulgences even release a person from their purgatory. Even though they can do nothing for themselves apparently they can pray for us which is a curious and lovely fact about the communion of the saints. As for tolkeins works accorging to a Tolkein Commentor called Joseph Pearce it is just jam packed with catholic christian meaning. As I mentioned in a previous comment a Fr Robert Barron has done a very small but rich utube on the hobbit and is christian significance.

  5. Tolkien, s writing will never be for me.
    One bitten twice shy.
    Tried it and ran from boredom.
    If he is in heaven and i am fortunate myself to get there I shall avoid him.

  6. I offer Anonymous as a sharing the below link. If you have internet and know how to look up u-tube. Its lasts about 55 minutes. One would have to watch it to the very end as some of the viewer questions are very good. Its the best appreciation of Tolkein at a beginners level I can find. Its an interview between the Tolkein expert Joseph Pearce and the interviewer a Fr Mitch Pacwa of EWTN. the u-tubel link you type into your browser is:--

    1. I am trying to watch this link you suggested.
      The first 6 minutes are hopeless.
      Tolkien was a first class chancer and his claim that Lord of the rings is a fundamentally religious and catholic work is completely bogus.
      To dress up good and evil in Manichean polar opposites is what most novelists do anyway but only arrogent ones lay a claim that their protagonists represent Christ and the Devil.
      The more I see of this grossly overrated author the more I run away.
      To give these works of Tolkien the name of fundamentally catholic is absurd.