Speaking to Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit, Gandalf asks, “You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck” do you? And near the end of The Horse and His Boy, Aslan, after listening to Shasta’s many complaints, says, “I do not call you unfortunate,” to which Shasta replies “Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” From this point, Aslan explains why Shasta’s entire life has not been an unlucky one, and at the end of the novel, Shasta learns that he has taken part in the fulfillment of prophecy. Should we then read as coincidence that Tolkien and Lewis each survived combat in the first World War, ended up teaching at Oxford University, became friends over their love of Norse myth, and wrote some of the most influential books of the 20th century? Is it a coincidence that Tolkien’s theory of myth impacted Lewis so strongly that after coming to understand it he soon converted to Christianity? Is it a coincidence that, for most of Tolkien’s life, Lewis was his only audience for the stories in the Silmarillion and the writing of The Lord of the Rings—that, without Lewis, Tolkien would have never finished what many consider to be the most important novel of the 20th century? We might call it luck, but in looking at how important their lives were to each other, we might find that the friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien with C. S. Lewis was managed by something more than mere luck.
Saruman’s Sophistry and Gandalf’s Wisdom: Augustinian Rhetoric in Tolkien’s The Lord of Rings Craig A. Boyd
Craig A. Boyd, Professor of Philosophy & Humanities Saint Louis University A number of scholars have documented Tolkien’s Catholicism ranging from his metaphysics to his sacramentalism to the influences on his thinking. Alison Milbank, Peter Kreeft, and Ralph Wood have all documented various narrative themes indebted to Christianity, the virtues Tolkien employs, and his understanding of good and evil. Others like Stratford Caldecott have developed more sacramental elements in the work. My earlier work has analyzed various elements of Tolkien’s moral commitments with reference to Thomistic themes and the traditional virtues and vices as they appear in his characters . However, an interesting feature—not addressed in any of the Tolkien literature—concerns the Augustinian elements in the rhetoric employed by Saruman and Gandalf. That is, these two wizards represent—respectively—the evil and good orators in Augustine’s de Doctrina Christiana. In this project, I argue that an appeal to Augustine (and augmented by Cicero) may offer an approach that demonstrates Tolkien’s appreciation of the classical rhetorical tradition and its Christian commitment to the integrity of the speaker and his spoken word.
Responsive sacrifices and affective responses from Hobbits and Other Middle Earth Residents Dr Sarah Waters
In a brief aside in ‘The World’s Last Night’ CS Lewis notes the sacrificial actions of such a minor character in King Lear that he is not even given a name, a character who acts in the ‘present scene’ rather than relying on faulty ‘long-term plans’ and one whom, in his selfless response, literalises in many ways Paul’s words that today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). The shock of the servant’s actions is partly lodged in his status, as Regan’s words indicate – ‘a peasant stand up thus!’ Using Lewis’ exploration of Shakespeare’s brief depiction of Christlike sacrifice in King Lear as a launch pad, this paper will investigate Tolkien’s exploration of those characters who ‘stand up thus’ despite or perhaps because of their class. It will suggest that those characters who might in other works be minimised to bit parts are so integral to Tolkien’s world that not only is it hard to imagine it without them, but our attention is directly drawn to those bit characters whose sacrifices make up the whole. It will draw on Tolkien’s interest in communities over the individual and explore how he melds together eucatastrophe, free will, redemption, fellowship and sacrifice, rendering the sacrifices more affectively charged. This paper will focus its attention on the Hobbits Samwise Gangee, Merry, and Pippin, with nods to the many examples of responsive sacrifices Tolkien threads through the narrative, as it explores how Tolkien’s characters show us that very prescient message in the wake of all 2020 brought, better to be saved in the moment than to think we ‘know how the story is going to end’.
Navigating Technology with Tolkien Matt Green
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien provided a clear description of evil in Sauron, a beautiful model of a friend in Frodo and Samwise, an idealistic society in Rivendale, and an enviable home in Bagsend. While acknowledging the appeal of being a homebody, he challenges us to embrace a journey or cause. Throughout Tolkien’s writing, good and evil are not ambiguous. In fact, they are fairly clearly identified. This strongly includes things that are made by hand. At first glance, it can appear that Tolkien views some of what is made by hand as art, which is good, and technology, which is bad. But with some exploration a more complex and highly useful view of technology is described in Tolkien’s writings. This paper will explore Tolkien’s views on technology and how we may use them to assist us develop our views and navigate our decisions on how we should incorporate technology in our lives. We will explore Tolkien’s thoughts that are relevant to making decisions regarding our embracing and use of Technology in our lives.
“The Doom That We Must Deem”: Medieval Literary Models for Tolkien’s Dialogue on Fate and Providence in The Lord of the Rings
Joe Martyn Ricke
Tolkien scholarship is rather fixated on discovering “Tolkien’s view on fate and providence,” as if he were a philosopher setting forth a formal argument on such things. This interpretive bent is perhaps reinforced by Tolkien’s own notes on fate and free will in an unpublished (in his lifetime) essay, edited and published by Carl Hostetter in Tolkien Studies 2009. Tolkien positions that conversation, however, within a larger Silmarillion-based discussion of Elvish phonology. If this typical Tolkien linguistic analysis makes sense, or tries to, of The Silmarillion, it is not, I argue in this essay, adequate to explain his complex dialogical treatment of fate, free will, and providence in his epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. For that, Tolkien draws on a number of medieval literary sources, especially Beowulf and Chaucer. I show that he not only mined those literary works for philosophical/theological “ideas” (drawing upon them as philosophical sources) but he used them as literary models to create his own profoundly complex dialogical work of literary art. Unlike The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings voices various competing perspectives by the variety of characters and cultures (and cultural anxieties) represented in his typically medieval work – both tragic and hopeful, depending upon whose “fate” is being considered and when. Ultimately, in LOTR, Gimli’s view and Boromir’s view and Treebeard’s view and Gandalf’s view are more important than Tolkien’s. And none closes off the discussion or the mystery of what the Beowulf author knew as Wyrd.