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J.R.R. Tolkien considered fantasy a human right; people must create because God created and people are created in God’s image (Sammons 1). Every author creates a “secondary world” and the primary world is reflected in this “secondary world.” What the author creates is corrupt because of his sinful nature; but the longing for restoration is evident in his stories (Williams ). In addition, the reader is more willing to accept theologically unsound ideas in the secondary world (Sammons 14). The author’s beliefs are always evident in fantasy. Tolkien, as a result of his Christianity, mirrors the Bible; he shows the same truths from a different perspective (Smith 14). As he said, “I am a Christian and of course what I write will be from that essential viewpoint”. Tolkien did not feel the need to fit his story with formal Christianity; instead he made his story consistent with Christian thought and belief. Though his work mirrors the Bible, he did not consider his work an allegory, fearing that allegory could be turned into propaganda; instead he preferred applicability (Sammons 71). Regarding the two, Tolkien said, “The one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author” (Smith 1-14). While most readers and critics focus on the Biblical symbolism, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature compares The Lord of the Rings to World War II. The Shire represents England and Sauron represents Hitler. Sauron’s defeat at the hands of Frodo symbolizes England’s defeat of Germany (447). J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of Biblical symbolism is evident in his characterization of Aragorn, Frodo Baggins, and Gandalf the Grey.

Aragorn is the rough looking scoundrel the reader, and Frodo, meet at the Prancing Pony in the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring. He is also known as Strider the Ranger who, unknown to Frodo, has been protecting the Shire. Aragorn symbolizes Christ (Bruner 8) in two major ways. First, Aragorn is rough an unkempt with dirty, well-worn clothes. He looks suspicious and nothing like a king; in fact, Frodo does not trust him in the beginning s. However, as Gandalf tells Frodo, “All that is gold does not glitter” and a repulsive appearance can mask good just as evil can be masked by a pleasing appearance. Aragorn, as it turns out, is a warrior and a friend of Gandalf’s sent to protect Frodo and his friends (Bruner 7, 8). In addition, Aragorn is the long awaited king (Bloom 7) that had been prophesied since the beginning of the age (Shippey 85). Other ways in which he symbolizes Christ are that he heals the sick (Shippey 17), resists temptation, and is revealed as the true king (Bloom , 58).

Frodo Baggins symbolizes Christ as well. He is called to bear a burden that no one else can endure. He is called to sacrifice his entire being and give his life in order to defeat Sauron. After defeating Sauron and returning to the Shire, Frodo remarks to Sam, “I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” Frodo’s role was to lose so that others might gain (Bruner 105). Frodo also symbolizes a Christian. His journey from Bag End in the Shire to the Crack of Doom in Mordor symbolizes a Christian’s journey. He grew during the journey and learned along the way that he had to rely on others, including the One, to accomplish his objective. His journey is comparable to a new Christian just beginning his journey and the growth that takes place as a result (Bruner ). His call to bear the Ring is comparable to the disciples call to be fishers of men. Jesus chose the most ordinary people, people that did not appear to have the ability to do what He wanted them to, yet in the end they changed the world. Frodo started out in the same situation, he was an ordinary hobbit who had never been outside the Shire yet he saves the world (Bruner 1).

Gandalf the Grey, along with four other wizards, was sent to Middle-earth by the One, Middle-earth’s equivalent of God. Their purpose was to guide the inhabitants of Middle-earth in their battle against Sauron, but they were forbidden to match Sauron’s power with their own or to dominate the people of Middle-earth. The five wizards were sent strictly as messengers and guides to help the people of Middle-earth. Gandalf’s purpose symbolizes that of the angels, sent to do God’s work without using their power to dominate. Gandalf also symbolizes Christ in that he dies in the battle with the Balrog, sacrificing himself to save his friends, and is resurrected. He is transformed from Gandalf the Grey into Gandalf the White and is better equipped to deal with the threat of Sauron. He comes back better and stronger. Gandalf also resists temptation when Frodo offers him the Ring, which would make Gandalf invincible against Sauron (Bloom 1, 16, 1, ).

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The Lord of the Rings was never meant to be an allegory. The symbolism in it came through unintentionally as a result of Tolkien’s Christian beliefs. Tolkien mirrored the Bible and many people, including Tolkien, considered The Lord of the Rings a supplement to the Bible. Many consider fantasy strictly a genre for children, but that is not so. Children enjoy the book for the adventures, while adults appreciate it as a return to their childhood days. In addition, adults read The Lord of the Rings and come away with a new perspective and appreciation for the world in which they live. As a result of having grown older, they look at the book differently. Tolkien believed that if a fairy story is worth reading, it is worthy to be written for and written by adults. The Lord of the Rings gets better with each reading and will be just as good fifty years from now.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views J.R.R. Tolkien. Philadelphia Chelsea House

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Bruner, Kurt and Jim Ware. Finding God in The Lord of the Rings. Wheaton Tyndale House

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Rogers, Pat, ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature. Oxford Oxford UP, 187.

Sammon, Martha C. A Better Country The Worlds of Religious Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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Shippey, T.A. The Road to Middle-earth. Boston Houghton Mifflin Company, 18.

Smith, Mark Eddy. Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues. Downers Grove InterVarsity Press, 00.

Williams, Donald T. J.R.R. Tolkien Humanity and Faerie. Mythopoeic Society. 1 March 00 http//www.christians.org/manmyth/nan04.html

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