September 2002By Thomas Ellis
Tolkien: A Celebration. Edited by Joseph Pearce. Ignatius. 198 pages. $12.95.
Anyone interested in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien has something to learn from this collection of essays about his life and works. The contributors include scholars, close friends, and even Fr. Robert Murray, whom Tolkien had preview The Lord of the Rings in manuscript form.
The subjects are wide-ranging, from the sense of time in Tolkiens Middle Earth to the Catholicity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with many, many stops in between. Much attention is paid to Tolkiens literary scholarship and how his scholarly writings either shed light on, or sometimes darken, our understanding of his fiction. We see this clearly when Fr. Murray, whom Tolkien was instrumental in converting, treats us to Tolkiens somewhat stringent views on the use of allegory in his contribution, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Art of the Parable.
Through this collection we also receive a glimpse into the faith of a deeply spiritual man. Tolkiens faith permeates his fiction, which he himself hoped would be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium. Perhaps an understanding of Tolkiens life and works is best captured through his own words, as found in this enjoyable collection: Im a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect history to be anything but a long defeat though it contains some samples or glimpses of final victory. Tolkien truly was a man awaiting the return of the King.