‘The Hobbit’ at 80: Joseph Pearce and Bishop Barron on the Catholicism of ‘Lord of the Rings’

In Sept. 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was published. leading to three more novels between 1937 and 1949 that became known as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In recent years, director Peter Jackson has helmed film versions of all the books, turning “The Lord of the Rings” into three movies, and the slender “Hobbit” into three movies of its own.

Underneath all of the fantasy trappings of the mythical Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien intended “The Lord of the Rings,” etc., to be Catholic allegories, although that may not be obvious to casual readers or casual viewers of the movies. Because they’re set in another reality, the stories don’t explicitly deal with Christ — or actual human history at all. Instead, Tolkien took such themes as sacrificial love, sin and redemption, and plays them out across an imaginative landscape.

But better than me explaining this to you — because, to be honest, I didn’t pick up on the implicit Catholicism of the books until it was pointed out to me — let me hand the stage over to two of the modern Church’s most talented media critics and Tolkien ‘splainers, English writer and biographer Joseph Pearce and Los Angeles’ own Bishop Robert Barron.

First, Pearce focuses on “The Hobbit” on EWTN:

Here, Pearce “unlocks” the Catholicism of “The Lord of the Rings” in a 2015 lecture at Christendom College:

And lastly, in a documentary, he looks at Tolkien’s Catholic worldview, with Kevin O’Brien as J.R.R. Tolkien, and Al Marsh as C.S. Lewis:

If you don’t have time right now for almost-one-hour videos, Bishop Barron wraps it up in 10 minutes or less.

Here’s a look at “The Hobbit” movie and book:

And a two-part look at “The Lord of the Rings”:

If you want to watch the movies, they air regularly on cablenet TNT, and a bunch of “LOTR” and “Hobbit” DVDs are clustered here on Amazon, and “The Hobbit” is here on Amazon Video. And, of course, you can also read the books, which are available in many places, including your local library.

Image: Courtesy Wing Nut Films/New Line Cinema/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Warner Bros.

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