The Tolkien Road – Ep. 41 – Tolkien’s Letters – Letter 250 – Concerning Tolkien’s Faith

Concerning Tolkien’s faith, as depicted in letter 250

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 begin a discussion of Tolkien’s letters by considering a 1963 letter he wrote to his son Michael. In this letter, Tolkien seeks to help Michael work through a period where he felt depressed. In doing so, Tolkien opens up about his own faith, and how he keeps his head afloat in the world. 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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“The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson (An early Tolkien influence)

“Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practise my religion . . . Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger.”

– Tolkien to his son Michael in Letter 250

Recently I had the pleasure of watching this video as part of a presentation at Aquinas College’s Center for Faith and Culture. It is extremely well done, and it has me thinking that I’d love to see more works like this, adaptations of old poetic and literary works that don’t exactly fit a TV or film format yet nevertheless have something incredibly powerful to say in a modern context.

I share it here because Francis Thompson was apparently influenced by Tolkien in his early twenties, and was still referencing this particular work in 1963, in his early seventies. At one time, Francis Thompson was a household name in England, considered one of the great poets of the Victorian age, but apparently he is largely forgotten today outside of academic circles.

I hope you’ll watch the video, not only as an introduction to a work that apparently had some early influence on Tolkien, but also because it is extremely well done and quite edifying. It has a very comic noir-ish sort of feel, almost like a live narrative graphic novel.

Also, Emblem Media, the video’s producer, has published the poem along with the script of the modern adaptation and the story of Thompson and the composition of this great poem. You can get that here.