The Tolkien Road – Ep99 – Christianity & LOTR: An Interview with Joseph Pearce

Concerning Christianity’s influence on and illumination of The Lord of the Rings…

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5 Marian Figures of Middle-earth

Today (December 8th) is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic teaching that, in preparing her to be the mother of Jesus, God gave Mary a singular grace that preserved her from Original Sin. As a Catholic, Tolkien was highly influenced by Mary. In fact, he once referred to Mary as the one “upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded” (Letters 172).

Since the feast of the Immaculate Conception is, in effect, the feast of the creation of Mary, I thought it would be cool to consider the Marian aspects of five of Tolkien’s Middle-earth characters. A disclaimer: I am not claiming that these characters are supposed to be representations or allegorical depictions of Mary, but simply highlighting certain resemblances.

Nienna by rysowAnia ©2010-2016
Nienna by rysowAnia ©2010-2016

Varda, Queen of the Stars

Varda (aka Elbereth) is the Valar known to the Elves as Queen of the Stars. When Sam is under assault by Shelob, he recalls the words of one such Elvish hymn (“Gilthoniel A Elbereth!”), and singing out to Varda, causes the phial of Galadriel to suddenly take light and blind the giant spider. With this, he gains victory against all odds. Sam’s invocation of Varda recalls the invocation of Mary by countless Christians over the centuries in the face of grave danger, and Varda’s title “Queen of the Stars” resembles the image in Revelation of the woman crowned with 12 stars, as well as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Nienna, Valier of Mercy

Like Varda, Nienna is one of the Valar, and she is known for her tears. Whenever some great tragedy occurs, Nienna often arrives to wash things with her weeping, and her tears bear powerful witness to the sufferings of others and plead their cause. It is interesting to note that Gandalf was a disciple of hers, and it is said that of her he learned pity and patience, which would serve him well on his mission to defeat Sauron. Like Nienna, one of Mary’s titles is “Queen of Sorrows” because of the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart, and for her helpless presence at the death of her only son.

Lúthien

Also known as Tinúviel, she is the elf-maiden who falls in love with Beren and accompanies him on his great quest to retrieve one of the sacred Silmarils from the clutches of the evil Lord Morgoth. Although the quest belongs to Beren, it is interesting how Lúthien is repeatedly the one saving Beren from danger and captivity. Lúthien recalls Mary in that, though she is not all powerful or even divine, she nevertheless seems to have some divine favor bestowed upon her that she uses for the protection of those she loves. In this, Lúthien recalls devotion to Mary through the Rosary, which some saints have called “the weapon.” (For more on Lúthien, see my book Tolkien’s Requiem.)

Galadriel

Galadriel is one of Tolkien’s most complex figures, and he himself admitted that there was a certain resemblance between her and Mary. However, as a good Catholic, he drew the line in noting that while Mary was sinless, Galadriel was not. In bestowing useful gifts (such as the aforementioned phial) on the members of the Fellowship as they were heading out of Lothlórien, she resembles Mary under the title “Mother of Graces” as she bestows heavenly gifts upon those in great need. For a lot more on Galadriel, listen to the episode “Concerning Galadriel” on The Tolkien Road Podcast.

Frodo

A Marian figure need not be a female. In fact, Frodo is perhaps the most Marian of all of Tolkien’s characters because of his simple “Yes” at the moment it most mattered. Like Mary at the Annunciation, when faced with the prospect of a task seemingly beyond his stature and capability, Frodo proved himself to have a greater heart than any of the great ones gathered around him. By humbly abandoning himself to providence, regardless of the pain and suffering that lay ahead, it is Frodo that crushes the head of Sauron, much like Mary, as the New Eve, crushed the head of the Serpent.

Have you noticed any other Marian allusions in Tolkien’s works? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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The Tolkien Road – Ep73 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C10 – The Breaking of the Fellowship

Concerning “The Breaking of the Fellowship”, Book 2, Chapter 10 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 10, “The Breaking of the Fellowship.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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Topics of discussion…

  • A Brief Note on Lembas and Melian – 3:30
  • A Note on Tolkien’s Requiem – 7:00
  • Frodo’s Decision – 9:30
  • The Temptation of Boromir – 15:30
  • Frodo in the Ring World – 32:00
  • Meanwhile by the Riverside… – 40:30
  • Boromir’s Confession – 46:00
  • Sam & Frodo – 48:00
  • Haiku Time – 54:30

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The Tolkien Road – Ep72 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C9 – The Great River

Concerning “The Great River”, Book 2, Chapter 9 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 9, “The Great River.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • A Forgotten Haiku – 4:00
  • Fëanor, Gimli, and Galadriel’s Hair – 8:00
  • A Journey Down River – 13:00
  • A Log With Eyes – 18:00
  • A Hunting Eagle – 22:00
  • Orc Attack! – 25:00
  • How Long in Lórien? – 29:00
  • Boromir’s Argument – 32:00
  • Pillars of Kings – 36:00
  • Haiku – 41:00

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The Tolkien Road – Ep71 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C8 – Farewell to Lórien

Concerning “Farewell to Lórien”, Book 2, Chapter 8 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 8, “Farewell to Lórien.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • Where we left off – 2:45
  • How to proceed? – 10:00
  • Boromir Eyes the Ring – 17:00
  • Lembas – 23:00
  • Rope! – 30:00
  • Galadriel’s Song – 33:00
  • Concerning Fangorn and Rohan – 42:00
  • Gifts for the Fellowship – 44:45
  • Galadriel’s Second Song – 53:45
  • Gimli Wept – 55:45
  • Haiku – 1:01:00

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Other Minds and Hands: “All shall love me and despair!”

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’

LOTR Book 2, Chapter 7

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Image: “Mirror of Galadriel” by zdrava ©2014-2016

The Tolkien Road – Ep. 69 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C7 – The Mirror of Galadriel

Concerning “The Mirror of Galadriel”, Book 2, Chapter 7 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • Caras Galadhon – 2:00
  • What happened to Gandalf? – 6:30
  • Celeborn, Galadriel, and Gimli – 12:00
  • The Long Defeat – 16:00
  • Galadriel’s offers – 22:00
  • A Lament for Gandalf – 26:00
  • Galadriel’s Mirror – 30:00
  • Frodo’s Vision – 35:00
  • Galadriel Tempted – 45:00
  • Haiku – 51:00

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The Tolkien Road – Ep. 67 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C6 – Lothlórien

Concerning “Lothlórien”, Book 2, Chapter 6 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 6, “Lothlórien.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • Gandalf is gone – What to do now… – 2:00
  • The Mirrormere – 6:30
  • Mithril revealed – 12:00
  • Gollum trailing – 19:30
  • Speaking evil of Lothlórien – 21:30
  • Nimrodel’s song – 33:00
  • Haldir – 39:30
  • Yrchs! – 44:00
  • Blindfolds & the Power of the Dark Lord – 48:00
  • How Lothlórien felt… – 58:00
  • Haiku – 1:05:00

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The Tolkien Road – Ep. 66 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C5 – The Bridge of Khaza-dûm

Concerning “The Bridge of Khaza-dûm”, Book 2, Chapter 5 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 5, “The Bridge of Khaza-dûm.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • The Chamber of Records – 1:30
  • Trapped! – 10:00
  • Hobbit Warriors (“The Shire!”) – 14:30
  • Gandalf Meets His Match – 21:30
  • The Great Hall – 30:00
  • The Balrog – 34:30
  • The Secret Fire – 41:30
  • Haiku – 47:20

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The Tolkien Road – Ep. 65 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C4 – A Journey in the Dark

Concerning “A Journey in the Dark”, Book 2, Chapter 4 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 4, “A Journey in the Dark.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • Shout-Outs (Kira, Greg UK, James L, Chris M-S) – 5:00
  • Which Path? – 14:30
  • The Wolves – 20:00
  • Bill – 24:30
  • The Door – 28:00
  • The Watcher in the Water – 36:30
  • A Long Walk in the Dark – 41:30
  • The Drums – 45:30
  • Gimli’s song – 55:45
  • Mithril – 59:00
  • The Follower – 1:02:30
  • Balin’s tomb – 1:05:15
  • Haiku Time – 1:08:20

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