The Gospel According to Tolkien by Ralph C. Wood

Tolkien has always asserted that there was never a 1:1 corollary with between the real world and Middle-Earth, but rather that the themes presented in his books were allegories for both the events of the real world in his lifetime as well as for the religious ideas that he held dear. A staunch Catholic and medievalist who relished his studies of the pagan world, Tolkien often combined the two in such a way as to present his higher ideals without beating his readers over the head with it as his friend C.S. Lewis might have done in his Narnia books. As a result, he spent a lot of years fighting off the critics who denied his Christianity and his contributions to the faith.

This book is quite possibly one of the best defenses I’ve ever seen compiled in the name of Tolkien’s faith. Unlike Tolkien, I am not myself a Christian, however, I’ve come to learn that to study anything medieval or anything Tolkien requires a more than passing familiarity with Christianity and its evolution. Even then, knowing such things doesn’t allow you to connect the dots because Tolkien is often subtle, hiding his intent behind older meanings and linguistic veils. This book demystifies a good chunk of it. For those who have only read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, this book will go a long way towards creating a new appreciation and understanding. For those like myself who are constantly trying to decode The Silmarillion, this book is of immense value. The only negative I could point to in this book is that there are a handful of moments where the Christian reinterpretation of Old Testament texts are a bit overboard, but at the same time, this is likely how Tolkien himself would have interpreted such things. It’s all perception.

Nadia May continues to be one of the best of the best when it comes to narration, regardless of what name she chooses to use. Her pronunciations are at times a bit different than what Tolkien fans might expect (especially those who got used to the films), but on the whole, she delivers with enthusiasm and authority.

5 stars

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