Tolkien’s “baptized imagination”

Tolkien’s “baptized imagination”

World magazine did an interview with the cast and crew of Lord of the Rings and found some interesting things. For one thing, not all of them agreed outright with Tolkien’s Catholic worldview, not even Peter Jackson or the writers, but when phrased in more general language they did accept the ideas of original sin, of the value of fealty and honor, of the questions of absolute good and absolute evil. Yet, despite their lack of acceptance or understanding of Tolkien’s worldview, they managed to make a film in which that worldview comes through strongly. I think that’s a combination of the power of the source material as well as the fidelity to the material by Jackson.

Some of them, obviously, took Tolkien’s love for the land as the primary message, turning it into an environmentalist paean, which I’m not surprised Hollywood actors would do, but it was John Rhy-Davies who most surprised me by getting it:

On the other hand, John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli the dwarf, seemed to reveal a deeper understanding of at least some of Tolkien’s themes. He related the Middle Earth myth to the rise of Islam in the modern world: “I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged and if they do not rise to meet that challenge they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me…. What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is…. The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True Democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.

“And if it just means replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, I don’t think that matters too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with different cultural values then it’s something we really ought to discuss because … I am for dead white male culture! If Tolkien’s got a message, it’s that sometimes you’ve got to stand up and fight for what you believe in.”

Right on, John! I knew I liked the gentleman for a reason. That’s one guy who understands.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli