FAITH ON FILM (mar1fof.htm)

March 1, 2004
vol 15, no. 61

A Catholic 'Ring'er to the Core of Middle Earth!
'Lord of the Rings' is Deserving of all the Plaudits!

By Father Angelo Van Der Putten

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Father Angelo Van Der Putten sent this shortly after we had run our second editorial on Lord of the Rings. His marvelous insight we wanted to bring to you and have saved it for today in the aftermath of the victory last night at the Academy Awards where the excellence of a truly Roman Catholic film was rewarded. For other perceptions as to the analogies, imageries, metaphors and symbolism seen in this great trilogy translated so brilliantly from print to celluloid by Peter Jackson, see Tolkien the Prophet! and Return to the Rings

    First of all, we must understand that the author of “The Lord of the Rings”, J.R.R. Tolkein, was profoundly Catholic. So much so, that when his best friend for many years, C.S. Lewis, knowingly refused to accept the Church as that which Christ founded, then J.R. broke his friendship with him and never corresponded with him again. A bit tough? Catholic! We also know that J.R. wrote his trilogy to be understood in a Catholic sense. This is proven by his conferences in California to a university of admiring fans. When he told them that the world he portrayed and envisioned was a Catholic World, they booed him off the stage. He returned to England and never gave another public speech for the rest of his life. We know also from his letters that this incident hurt him greatly. He was truly upset that so many were misunderstanding his work.

    J.R. taught at Oxford and his specialty was ancient languages and neumenology. We are informed that he wrote the L.O.T.R. (Lord of the Rings) for his son who was serving in the 2nd World War, that during free time he might have something to while away the hours. Even in the army the “book” was a great hit. We are informed that presently it is the most read book in the world, 2nd only to the Bible! This shows that it is in every sense a Classic. It speaks to all peoples, races and cultures at all times.

    In this very brief essay, we would like to present some of the analogies which seem to be appropriate to the text and even at times to flow from it. Obviously, the main thrust of the entire work is good versus evil. All the good forces pitted against evil at overwhelming odds and the final victory of good. Surely this is its greatest appeal.

    Frodo Baggins is each one of us, the smallest of creatures with an impossible mission (sanctity) against impossible odds (World, Flesh, Devil).

    Gandalf is not only the symbol of the wise man but also of our Guardian Angel. He comes and goes as he pleases yet is always there when we need him most.

    Samwise Gamgee is a true friend. Scripture calls him better than a brother and one of a million. He will rebuke us when necessary (e.g. ring wraithe) but will carry us as well (e.g.maintain).

    Galadriel is the symbol of Mary. She gives to us The Light (Jesus Christ), (The Faith); it shines when all other lights fail. She physically picks Frodo up (in his unconsciousness) and gives him strength to carry on. Through her, from the elves, is given Lambas (Holy Eucharist) – the elven bread, which the more it is relied on, the better it will sustain. Have there not been several saints who lived off only the Holy Eucharist?!

    The Elves symbolize the priesthood – above the race of man, eternal and endowed with great powers. Their folly makes them the worst of all creatures – Orks!

    Arwen, the virgin of royal blood, is the only one able to slay the wraith. Not even her father Elrond, the King, was able to do this. “Thou shall lie in wait for Her heel and she shall crush thy head”.

    Aragorn is The Perfect Man, 85 years old and still looking in his early 30’s. As Our Lord, he was reluctant to take up his real role until persuaded to do so by others. He goes into the evil mountain (Hades, Sheoul) and calls the dead to fight for him and thus releases them from their curse and gives them rest. At the time of Our Lord’s death, the souls of the dead openly roamed the streets of Jerusalem. And Christ freed the souls in Limbo at His Ascension. He is The King, “For this was I born…”

    Arwen, as Mary, accepts death to be more like Christ. Though Mary had no sin and was thus not subject to death, the theologians hold that she did die in order that she would be more like to her son. Arwen at the end, becomes Queen, as Mary is proclaimed Queen of Heaven and earth. Arwen is again likened to Our Lady when she helps to cure Frodo and brings him to her father, king of the elves, who alone is able to save him. Arwen prolongs his life by giving to him her own strength, as Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces and not only saves us from Satan (Dark Riders) but brings us to Her Father (God) who alone is able to save us from sin.

    Baromir is a great man but falls through pride, thinking that he is great enough to save the world, if only he had the ring. He realized his mistake and, like every great man, makes amends even to the giving of his life.

    The power of evil is so strong that Frodo gives into it at the end and places the ring on his finger not wanting to destroy it but rather he is overcome by its force and power, and is only saved at the last moment by Gollum, whose life he has saved more than once. Gollum bites his finger off, the punishment for his sin, and then falls into the pit to finally bring an end to his miserable life and simultaneously bringing peace to the world by the destruction of the ring.

    Gollum is the classic example of those who sin and let sin take over their lives. Gollum’s first sin is envy. He then kills his friend, steals the ring and the rest of his life is spent in the darkness (sin). He hates the light (Christ). He “accidentally” (providentially) “loses” the ring to Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins, who guards it in silence and secrecy until God calls the right person at the right time.

    The Guardian of Gondor is like the Jews, when Aragorn (Christ) is revealed, he refuses to let him reign but rather would see his own son die and his people enslaved. Gandalf saves the day by defying the Guardian, encouraging the people and exposing the madness of the Guardian. God uses the Roman Empire to destroy Jerusalem, and brings salvation to souls through the Catholic Church.

    Throughout the entire work, the supernatural virtue of hope predominates. Naturally speaking, there is no possibility of success. It is important to notice that at no time does Frodo want to do this task. He does it only as a duty. He has been chosen (John 15:16).

    Sting is the sharp-edged sword of The Faith warning us when danger to our salvation is near, and giving us ability to fight back.

    The spider Shelob is the world which does not kill immediately but poisons, at first, only to drag us into complete darkness, and there, slowly to suck our blood (grace) entirely out of us. Frodo thought he had “conquered” the spider but it followed, and finally got him.

    We must never stop fighting “the world” nor ever think that we have entirely conquered it.

    Saruman is Lucifer, the highest of the angels who falls and pits all his resources and might against the good, that he might rule the world and that through fear. The Ents show us how it would most likely have been in Paradise. All creatures obeyed Adam. Many saints have shown this to be true. The close friends of God have power over all creation. The examples are too numerous to list.

    The Ents rebel against Saruman as creation rebels against man, for he has rebelled against God.

    Peace will come to the world only when all men unite to destroy evil, crown The King [ed. note: can you say "The Sovereign Kingship of Christ"?] and honor the humble.

    So “The Lord of the Rings” teaches us many virtues; always obey Providence, fight the good fight, persevere, the power and majesty of true friendship, the corrosive influence of sin and its effects, the necessity of unity, forgiveness, we must fight to preserve goodness, the danger of pride, we will all be tempted and must pass in order to be free, God will ultimately prevail. Gollum “destroys” Frodo and Sam’s friendship by placing seeds of doubt in Frodo’s mind. How easy it is to destroy a friendship!

Father Angelo Van Der Putten

March 1, 2004
Vol. 15, no. 61