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 Tolkien’s Middle Earth to the Catholicity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with many, many stops in between. Much attention is paid to Tolkien’s 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 Tolkien’s 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. Tolkien’s faith permeates his fiction, which he himself hoped would be a “far-off gleam or echo of evangelium.” Perhaps an understanding of Tolkien’s life and works is best captured through his own words, as found in this enjoyable collection: “I’m 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.

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