There is so much on our Journey that warrants a reflective pause. In the weeks ahead, I plan to share some observations on a few of the simple pleasures that cross my path — books, movies, music, food and, of course, people.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet,
there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Bilbo Baggins (“The Fellowship of the Ring”)
When a man’s faith informs his craft, it’s a beautiful thing.
Recently, I journeyed with Frodo, Samwise Gamge and the Fellowship on their trek through Middle Earth with The Ring to Sauron’s Relm of Mordor. It’s been years since I first watched “The Fellowship of the Ring”, but the story and Peter Jackson’s cinematography still captivate.
The J.R.R. Tolkein movie epic began over a dozen years ago with “Fellowship”, followed by “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”. Our family enjoyed these movies in the theater and at home and our four sons also have read part or all of the books, the first of which (“The Hobbit”) was published by Tolkein 75 years ago. (My husband and I also went to see the new film version of “The Hobbit” this year, but it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the others.)
Tolkein and his contemporary, C.S. Lewis, were among the faculty at England’s Oxford University in the 1930s and 1940s and shared their literary interests in a group called “The Inklings”. As a homeschool mom and co-op teacher, I was delighted to form a young writers’ group some years ago with the goal of learning from the writings of Tolkein and Lewis. “The Inklings” of LaGrange County was an eclectic gathering of middle school students, but every one of them became a better writer by imitating great writers.
Viewing “The Fellowship” brought those days to mind, so I brushed up on my knowledge of Tolkein and Lewis. I was surprised to learn that despite the fact it was Tolkein who drew Lewis back into faith after years away from the church, Tolkein was the less intentional of the two about incorporating his beliefs into his work. Lewis fills his fantasies with much symbolism that reflects the theology of Christianity. Tolkein purposely took a more subtle approach.
A very interesting article found at etwn.com (Eternal World Television Network) includes this quote by an unnamed author:
“(Tolkein) suggests at every turn the kind of pattern in history that speaks to us of God’s Providence. Aragorn and Gandalf need not be called Christ: it is enough that they represent that hope and strength of kingly power, including the miraculous return from the dead which occurs in the “Resurrection” of Gandalf. And Frodo is not specifically Christian, nor does he need to be. It is his action that reveals inner meaning of Christian living.”
I am a great fan of Lewis, particularly his books on apologetics, but for straight-forward fantasy, nothing compares to the world of Middle Earth. Tolkein, in a biography by Humphrey Carpenter, said this about the intersection of faith and literature:
“We have come from God and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth-making, only by becoming a “sub-creator” and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the fall.”
While we’re on the subject of books, I recently finished a couple that I highly recommend:
“Wonderstruck” is a delightful invitation to search for and celebrate the wonder of God’s presence in our everyday lives. Feinberg shares stories from her own life to draw us in to a very personal quest for the “wonder” she had lost. A valuable bonus at the back of her book is a guide to living “30 days of Wonder” with activities leading us to recognize the Holy Spirit in “moments of spiritual awakening that spark our curiosity to know God more.” The activities lead us to consider God’s wonder through Beauty, Hope, Reflection, Forgiveness, Creation and 25 other ways. An added bonus is a “soundtrack”, with special songs suggested to go with each chapter. Feinberg suggests you enjoy “Hello Hurricane” by Switchfoot, “Paradise” by Coldplay, “Hallelujah” as sung by Rufus Wainwright in Shrek. Eclectic and fun.
This entertaining and informative memoir is the first of three by Hickam and became the Hollywood movie “October Sky” (an anagram of “rocket boys”). I grew up in the 1960s, a little more than a decade behind Hickam, and I remember the excitement of the “race to space”. Hickam paints a realistic portrait of both life in the West Virginia coal mines and a nation striving to catch up with the Russians. Hickam and school chums built rockets out of curiosity and wound up inspiring a town that was losing its identity. A great read.