Concerning Mythopoeia – Part 1

To one who said that myths were lies . . . though ‘breathed through silver.’ (85)

This is part of a series on Tolkien’s “Mythopoeia.” You can find the rest of the posts in this series here under Concerning Tolkien’s Works.

Having finished my series covering Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories, I am going to turn next to his poem “Mythopoeia.” Like On Fairy-Stories, “Mythopoeia” is foundational to understanding Tolkien’s creative vision. It is in fact something of a response to his close friend C.S. Lewis, who, when still an atheist, contended that myths are “lies breathed through silver.” Tolkien sought to develop the idea that the ancient myths are NOT lies, but are instead hints of a greater reality to which human beings are called.
Bartolomeo di Giovanni [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In this first part, I will be unpacking the ideas behind the first three verse paragraphsContinue reading “Concerning Mythopoeia – Part 1”


Tolkien Spiritual Wisdom 3: “…saved, but not for me.”

“I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

– The Return of the King 1006

  • Tolkien contends that one of the chief ends of fantasy is the “consolation of the happy ending.”
  • Sam recognizes an injustice – Frodo sacrificed so much for the Shire. Why won’t he be able to enjoy the benefits that his actions have reaped?
  • In the end, Frodo’s consolation remains a mystery. So do our sufferings. So does the ultimate consolation and justice for those who die in wars, or for parents who lose children, or for any number of other evils. Nothing of this world can leave us able to cope with such great tragedies when we really think about it.
  • Ultimately, that’s why Tolkien pointed to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only reliable consolation.
  • He of course called the Resurrection of Jesus Christ “the Great Fairy-Story,” the fantasy that really happened and from which our ultimate hope and consolation stems.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and questions on this post in the comments below.

The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 5 (Of Aulë and Yavanna)

Since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, Aulë made the dwarves strong to endure. (44)

This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walkthrough of The Silmarillion. This time, I will take a look at the second chapter of The Silmarillion proper, “Of Aulë and Yavanna.” You can see a list of all of the posts in this series by clicking here.

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Continue reading “The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 5 (Of Aulë and Yavanna)”

Tolkien Creative Wisdom 3: On Communist Orcs

“To ask if the Orcs ‘are’ Communists is to me as sensible as asking if Communists are Orcs.”

Letters 262

  • As trite as it may sound, this quote gets to the heart of Tolkien’s disdain for allegory and thus his creative vision.
  • In Tolkien’s works, a thing is what it is, not what it may seem to be related to in our world.
  • Tolkien frequently dealt with critics and readers who wanted to assume allegory on his part. “The Ring is really atomic power, isn’t it?” Tolkien’s view: though it may share similarities with atomic power, that’s not by any means what it is. It’s the One Ring.
  • An Orc may behave like a communist, but an Orc may behave like a capitalist as well. Communists and capitalists might behave like orcs too.
  • The Orc is meant to be a real thing in Tolkien’s secondary world, to have its own qualities and traits.
  • Tolkien was anything but reductionist in his views. He chided reductionist criticism, that which wants to look at a movie like O Brother Where Are Thou? and say, “Oh, it’s just a retelling of The Odyssey.” It may be based on The Odyssey, but it is a film with its own unique qualities and traits and we need to allow it to stand on its own, as its own thing.
  • Every story reflects the gospel and the story of salvation history. But it’s not that it is the gospel story. It is its own story. It is made more significant by the light of the gospel, but that’s not the end of it, it can’t be reduced to that. To do so is to do injustice to the gospel story and to the lesser story.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions on this post in the comments below.



Concerning Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories – Pt 3

All tales may come true… (73)

You can find the rest of the posts in the series here under the category “Concerning Tolkien’s Work.” 

This is the third and last part in my series on Tolkien’s essay On FairyStories. Previously, I dealt with three questions posed by Tolkien: “What are fairy-stories?”,  “What is their origin?”, and “What is the use of them?” In this post, I’ll continue to look at the question “What is the use of them?”

©2011-2015 AlasseaEarello

Continue reading “Concerning Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories – Pt 3”

Tolkien Spiritual Wisdom 2: Is everything sad going to come untrue?

“Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The Return of the King 930

  • This is one of my all-time favorite Tolkien lines.
  • It is uttered by Sam Gamgee upon seeing Gandalf alive (after understanding him to be dead at the hands of the Balrog in Moria).
  • To me, this is ultimately the effect that Tolkien was going for. This is “the consolation of the happy ending” following the eucatastrophic events of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Sam’s utterance is non-sensical. How can something become “untrue?”  It belies his low-class, ignoble origins. Yet it is the language of overwhelming joy. And further, it is the language of paradox, the language of longing and hope that goes beyond the (seeming) possibilities of reality. It is the language of escape.
  • Anyone who has read the book of Revelation knows that it uses very similar imagery:

    Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

  • This is perhaps the moment that all of Tolkien’s works builds to, this one moment, “poignant as grief,” when Sam the humble gardner, Sam the great Ring-bearer, unwittingly utters this prophecy.
  • Tolkien’s Catholicism really comes shining through here. At the heart of the Catholic faith is the idea that the sorrows of this world don’t have to end in sorrow but can lead to an even greater joy. As I said last week, “God doesn’t write straight with crooked lines; He makes masterpieces.”

Please feel free to share your questions or thoughts on this bit of Tolkien’s wisdom in the comments below.

The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 4 (Of the Beginning of Days)

It is told among the wise that the First War began before Arda was full-shaped, and ere yet there was anything that grew or walked upon earth; and for long Melkor had the upper hand. (35)

This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walkthrough of The Silmarillion. This time, we will take a look at the first chapter of The Silmarillion proper, “Of the Beginning of Days.” You can see a list of all of the posts in this series by clicking here.

©2013-2015 Miruna-Lavinia

Continue reading “The Silmarillion – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 4 (Of the Beginning of Days)”

Tolkien and the Evangelical Power of Beauty

These days, there’s a lot of emphasis in Catholic circles on the importance of beauty in evangelism. I’m a big fan of this notion. Beauty has played a massive role in my faith from the time I was only a child. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe basically led me to make my first profession of faith in Christ.

However, I’m concerned that with it being repeated so often, the notion of the beautiful and its role in evangelization is in danger of becoming a cliché, a trite little saying that makes us all feel a little better but doesn’t really do anything for us. That would be tragic, because nothing else can fulfill the human desire for beauty like the Catholic Church. The bottom-line is, Catholics, wherever they are, can and should lead the charge of cultural renaissance and aim to effect every human being.


Continue reading “Tolkien and the Evangelical Power of Beauty”

Tolkien Creative Wisdom 2: All Tales May Come True…

“All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.”

Tree and Leaf 73

  • This is where Tolkien’s creativity and spirituality meet – in his eschatological vision.
  • For those unfamiliar with eschatology, it’s basically the study of the end, final purpose, and fulfillment of all things.
  • Tolkien’s most blatantly eschatological work is the short-story “Leaf By Niggle.” I’ll be covering it here soon enough, but if you’ve never read it, you need to. It can be found in Tree and Leaf or The Tolkien Reader.
  • A lot of overlap with Romans 8 here, especially the latter half of that chapter.
  • I’m not sure if this was part of Tolkien’s original speech in 1939, but I have to imagine that if it was, it left a lot of folks feeling like Tolkien was nuts. “Wait – you think stories are actually going to come TRUE?” I don’t think Tolkien really cared though. He just kept at it, and wrote the best-selling book of the 20th century.
  • The key is of course “as like and unlike the forms that we give them.” No one can really say how, any more than one can say how that thing that looks like bread is really the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Perhaps that was one reason Tolkien was such a passionate devotee of the Eucharist.
  • One can see why Tolkien was so passionate about creating – he believed in its eternal value.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and questions on this post in the comments below.