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Introduction to The Hobbit 
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
Tolkien was a devout Catholic and his novels, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit abound with Catholic and Christian symbolism and meaning. That being said, The Hobbit is not an allegory. But The Hobbit can be a religious work without being an allegory. Remember that Tolkien is on record as saying that the Lord of the Rings was “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work." So, we must still believe that the work is religious in nature without strict allegory.

"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."
Carpenter, Humphrey (1995). The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-05699-8, Letter no. 142, page 172.

Checkout the appendices for TLOTR: The fellowship of the ring begin their mission on December 25 (Christmas), and their story climaxes exactly three months later, on March 25 (in the traditional English calendar, the date of the Fall of Man, the Annunciation, and the Crucifixion).

While The Hobbit is not exactly a prequel to TLOTR, it fulfills that role and the images and story elements which form the foundation for TLOTR are present. Tolkien was a devout Catholic all his life and to excise religion from the fabric of The Hobbit and TLOTR does a disservice to him, and to those studying the works since you cannot understand the books with one eye closed.


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Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:50 am
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
Interesting. I had no idea that Tolkien purposely and consciously connected this amazing series to his religion. Thanks for sharing this.



Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:01 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
If you're interested in finding out more about the context the Hobbit was written in, Humphrey Carpenter has a book called The Inklings, which is the group of writers that Tolkein interacted with, and which included fellow fantasy writers C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. It's interesting to read the books they produced and see how they're dealing with religious themes in very different ways.



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
I'm primarily interested in reading and enjoying the story. To me the thrill is in being immersed in the fantasy world of Middle-earth. The symbolism and religious undertones are trivial to me and I certainly am not interested in studying them. I think it is wonderful that there are people that do enjoy this sort of research (and summarize and share their findings with me) but for me the fantasy world is what intrigues me.



Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:02 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
I'm with Chris on this issue; I personally just read the story as a fantasy, and enjoy it.


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Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:53 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
One can read the Alice In Wonderland books as mere fantasy and enjoy them too, but when one looks more deeply a whole new experience presents itself. The difference is like reading about a roller coaster ride v. actually riding one. The same can be said for Tolkien's work.


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Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:46 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
I wonder if Tolkien ever elaborated on the Catholicism of the books. Writers such as Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy are said by critics to be Catholic in their outlook. I don't know exactly what the critics mean, but I don't think it has to do with any Christian symbolism so much as an attitude toward existence. The fact that Tolkien says 'Catholic' and not 'Christian' might be a tip-off that he is using the label in this certain way. A not so far-fetched guess is that Tolkien's world in LOTR is Catholic in the sense that good and evil are quite distinct, with evil always going for the upper hand, and that we're called upon to be heroes to the point of self-sacrifice if we expect the good to prevail.



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
That's actually pretty interesting. It's always fun to go back to something you thought you knew and looking at it in a whole new light. I wonder what catholic symbolism can be found in this book? In the entire series?

I'm the kind of reader that likes to wonder what the person writing was like, what his motivation, what was he actually trying to say. I often catch myself wondering how much of the meaning I've found in a book has been imprinted by me, and how much by the author.

Thank you stahrwe.
I'll also be checking out The Inklings catrambo, as soon as I finish The Simpsons and Philosophy xD.



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
I agree that reading straight through for enjoyment is awesome - that delicious immersion, losing yourself in a book is a feeling that is one of the best in the world. I read for pleasure, but with the books that really moved me, I often go back and try to figure out how the writer did what they did. I've read The Hobbit and the LotR enough times that it's a little embarrassing, but they've had such a big influence on fantasy literature that I find it fun to track the chains of influence.

I recently read a parody, The Soddit, or, Let's Cash in Again, by Adam Roberts (writing as A.R.R. Roberts), which I don't think I would have enjoyed a fraction as much unless I knew the Hobbit well. It was pretty silly (the trolls were cross-dressers, for one, which I found a little problematic), but it had some fun moments.



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
I have less interest in things Simpson than for a Christmas Hallmark Channel Romance. They owe Tracey Ullman big-time.

I believe that I have already posted Tolkien's quote that The Lord of the Rings was, "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," and, while the current book under discussion is The Hobbit, it seems reasonable to look for the same, or at least similar glimpses of Christianity and Catholicism in its pages.

If you are looking for a helpful guide to accomplish that I suggest:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/161890 ... PDKIKX0DER

http://www.decentfilms.com/articles/faithandfantasy


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Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:32 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
If you want a concise summary of what Tolkien may have meant in his statement, this source doesn't seem bad. It talks about the trilogy as a Christian myth with a Catholic "core."

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articl ... l0160.html



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis, and Leo Tolstoy were each very deliberate in using Christian themes in their work. Flannery O'Connor pretty much assumed anyone who wasn't a Catholic was damned to hell and her stories were meant to be shocking as she wanted to shock her readers into accepting Christianity.

C.S Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is, of course, a Christian parable Aslan the lion is a Christ figure who is sacrificed to save others and is eventually resurrected.

One of my favorite books is Walter Wangerin's The Book of the Duncow which is also a Christian parable.

There was a time when it bothered me that these writers were using their fiction to proselytize. And I'm sure it's true that these writers were deeply connected to their religious beliefs and felt it their obligation to convince others of the truth of such beliefs. But in the end, how is that different from Orwell who arguably was motivated by political concerns? Or someone like Ursula Le Guin who is concerned with social equity? I don't think it matters at all. These writers all wrote great fiction that has stood the test of time.

Tolkien's themes of epic adventure and of sacrifice for the good of others have been used in many oral and written traditions dating thousands of years. These aren't strictly Christian themes and The Lord of the Rings doesn't read to me like a Christian work even if though I can easily accept that Tolkien found personal meaning in his religion. The Lord of the Rings was very much a reaction to the dark events surrounding World War I. Indeed, this article discusses Tolkien's many influences which include mythology, literary, Anglo-Saxon poetry, Wagnerian, as well as personal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._R._T ... influences


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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
stahrwe wrote:
I have less interest in things Simpson than for a Christmas Hallmark Channel Romance.


DOH! :lol:

Ned is that you ? :D

geo wrote:
Flannery O'Connor pretty much assumed anyone who wasn't a Catholic was damned to hell and her stories were meant to be shocking as she wanted to shock her readers into accepting Christianity.


:lol: classic.

thanks for all the great posts and links everyone.



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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
i was watching the movies the other day with my daughter and was drawn to the Smeagol/Gollum character.

i read this at wiki

Quote:
Frodo stood on the edge of the Crack of Doom, but was unwilling to destroy the Ring, claiming it for himself and putting it on. Gollum struck again, and struggled with the invisible Frodo. Finally, Gollum bit off Frodo's finger and seized the Ring. He gloated over his "prize", dancing madly, but stepped over the edge and fell into the lava, taking the Ring with him with a last cry of "Precious!" Thus, the Ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated. Sam cursed Gollum after his death, but Frodo urged his friend to forgive him, as without him the quest would have failed and the war would have been lost.


ooops, i seem to have skipped a bit too far ahead :)

i was interested in how it ended for Gollum.



Last edited by youkrst on Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:16 pm
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Post Re: Introduction to The Hobbit
Geo's comment is well done and I learned something from it.

DWILL with his myth comment has ventured into seriously dangerous territory.


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Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:19 pm
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