Letter 14: Jesus Portrayed in “The Lord of the Rings”

My Son,

 

You probably know this already, but my favorite movies of all time are The Lord of the Rings movies. I also love the books, but since I saw the first movie before reading the books, the movies remain my first love. What is great about J.R.R. Tolkien is that there are so many deeply Christian themes throughout the story that he did not necessarily plan when he began to write the books. Tolkien was a strong Catholic, and his faith is evident in his writing, albeit perhaps unintentionally.

There are many Catholic themes in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam are sustained on their journey by the Elvish waybread (lembas bread) which corresponds to the Holy Eucharist that sustains Christians; Galadriel, or the Lady of Light, gives the Fellowship gifts to equip them on their journey and she is a clear portrayal of Our Lady, Mother Mary, who with the Holy Spirit, gives us gifts; the ring represents sin and evil in the world with Sauron, or Satan, being the spirit behind it all. There is a myriad of other themes and lessons from The Lord of the Rings, but I especially want to draw your attention to how Jesus is portrayed in the story.

There are three primary characteristics of Jesus that are vividly portrayed in The Lord of the Rings: Jesus as the Priest and Suffering Servant, represented by Frodo; Jesus as the Prophet, represented by Gandalf; and Jesus as the King, represented by Aragorn. Each of these characters experiences some sort of death and resurrection contributing to the salvation of Middle Earth. Frodo bears the burden of the ring, representing sin, for Middle Earth by carrying it to the fires of Mordor. He experiences a type of death after the ring finally melts in the lava, and a type of resurrection when the eagles rescue him and bring him to be restored in Gondor. Frodo expresses the priestly ministry of Jesus in offering himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world (unlike Jesus, Frodo tries to keep the ring for himself at the end. Frodo also represents our journey through this life and the temptations we face). Gandalf doesn’t just represent the prophetic ministry of Jesus, but comes to signify the Son of God coming in power at the world’s end. Gandalf the Grey dies when he falls into the abyss in Moria and fights the Balrog, but in his resurrection he comes back as Gandalf the White (a more powerful and authoritative class of wizard) and “comes again” just in the knick of time during the battle of Helm’s Deep to defeat Saruman’s army. Aragorn is the humble king who starts out as a mere Ranger from the north, but comes into his own after passing through the realm of the dead (corresponding to Jesus going to the realm of the dead in 1 Peter 3:19). He then rises from the place of the dead to defeat the enemy and claim his rightful place as King of Gondor. Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn are all types of Christ in their own respective roles as Priest, Prophet, and King.

Hopefully next time you read or watch The Lord of the Rings your eyes will be open to seeing Christ in the different characters. Many more things could be said about the Christian themes and lessons found in The Lord of the Rings, but I will leave those for you to discover in time.

 

Love,

Dad

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