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Tolkien's Heathen Feminist, Part One

By Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

In a 1953 letter to Father Robert Murray, a Catholic theologian, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world.

Although Tolkien had a deep personal commitment to Catholicism, he also had an abiding love for what he called “that noble northern spirit” – the historical, literary and philosophical heritage of pre-Christian northern Europe. He lamented that the coming of Christianity had obliterated any detailed record of the ancient mythology of his own country, as opposed to Iceland’s preservation of its literary heritage in the Eddas. His decades-long creation of the Middle-earth corpus was, in part, an effort to create a “mythology for England.” This mythology is not a Christian one; Tolkien referred to Gandalf as an “Odinic wanderer,” not a Christ figure (despite what today’s movie reviewers may tell you).

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