On May 10, Tolkien, a biopic about writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s early years, is set to be released in theaters. Tolkien is the world-renowned author of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. Directed by Dome Karukoski, starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, the film touches upon the author’s Catholic faith and how it influenced him.
For some, it might come as a surprise that J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic all throughout his life, thanks to his mother Mabel. And while the blockbuster movie versions of his books managed to somehow stay true to Tolkien’s narrative of Middle-earth, some fans never learned about how the fantasy realms of hobbits, wizards, dwarves, and elves stemmed from the author’s strong faith and echoed Catholic themes.
In Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, a compilation of 354 of the famous author’s letters, the literary legend wrote: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However, that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, who clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it.”
Here are some of the Catholic parallels present in The Lord of the Rings:
Lembas: Holy Eucharist
The Lembas or the elven bread, which is said to feed the will and gives the strength to endure is compared to the Holy Eucharist. Throughout the journey, the Fellowship was able to draw strength from the Lembas that Galadriel the Elf gave the group—especially as Frodo, the protagonist, and Sam, his sidekick, drew nearer to the gates of Mordor. Moreover, the corrupted (Smeagol) was repulsed by it. In fact, Tolkien himself commented on the similarities between Lembas and the Host, which he called “The Bread of Life.”
Galadriel, Eowyn: Virgin Mary
Galadriel the Elf, the Lady of Lorien, is considered the greatest among the elven women. Tolkien, a devotee of Our Lady, used Galadriel to be a figure of the Virgin Mary, even referring to her as “unstained”—a reference to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Galadriel represents Mary as queen, mother, an ethereal being who is ever present to those who need her help. Fans also refer to Eowyn, the maiden from Rohan as another representation of the Virgin Mary—gentle and young, yet full of courage to fulfill her destined role.
Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn: Priest, prophet, king
Frodo Baggins, the ring bearer; Gandalf, the wizard; and Aragorn, the crownless king embody Jesus Christ’s ministry as priest, prophet, and king. Frodo, as the priest, bears the burden of carrying the ring, much like Jesus carrying the cross and the sins of the world. Gandalf, as the prophet, reveals hidden and valuable knowledge, works wonders, and sacrifices himself for Frodo’s task. As for Aragorn, he is the king in the prophecy. Each of them also had a “sacrificial” death and rebirth.
Watch the trailer for ‘Tolkien’ below: