Hot off their Summer Seminar 2021 where they put the focus on “Tolkien and Diversity,” The Tolkien Society will now feature a paper at their upcoming Oxonmoot event claiming there is an alt-right religious crusade to appropriate J.R.R. Tolkien.
If you are unfamiliar with Oxonmoot, The Tolkien Society describes it as “an annual event hosted by The Tolkien Society which brings together Tolkien fans, scholars, students and Society members from across the world.”
Oxonmoot 2022 will be held beginning on Thursday September 1st and will conclude on Sunday September 4th. The event will take place in person at St Anne’s College in Oxford as well as online.
As part of the event’s programming, The Tolkien Society revealed they will feature a talk or paper by Robin Reid, a professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce, titled “J.R.R. Tolkien, Culture Warrior: The Alt-Right Religious Crusade’s appropriation of ‘Tolkien.'”
While it’s unclear what the actual contents of the paper or talk actually are, the title makes it very clear it appears to be a political piece and will more than likely highlight Robin Reid’s political views rather than any kind of actual discussion about Tolkien.
And this type of discussion is no stranger to Reid as she previously gave a talk during the New York Tolkien Conference at Baruch College titled “Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh My!: Secular Readings of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium” back in 2019.
Regardless of the contents of Reid’s talk or paper are, Tolkien made it very clear that The Lord of the Rings were a Catholic work.
In letter 142 to Father Robert Murray S.J., Tolkien wrote, “I have been cheered specially by what you have said, this time and before, because you are more perceptive, especially in some directions, than any one else, and have even revealed to me more clearly some things about my work. I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.”
“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision,” he declared. “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. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
“However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel,” Tolkien wrote. “For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it.”
In letter 195 to Amy Ronald, Tolkien also made it very clear he was a Roman Catholic.
Tolkien wrote, “One point: Frodo’s attitude to weapons was personal. He was not in modern terms a ‘pacificst’. Of course, he was mainly horrified at the prospect of civil war among Hobbits; but he had (I suppose) also reached the conclusion that physical fighting is actually less ultimately effective than most (good) men think it!”
He then declared, “Actually I am Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”
In letter 213 to Deborah Webster, Tolkien again reiterated you could see his faith and the fact that he was a Christian and a Roman Catholic from his stories.
He wrote, “I was born in 1892 and lived for my early years in ‘the Shire’ in a pre-mechanical age. Or more important, I am a Christian (which can be deduced from my stories), and in fact a Roman Catholic. The latter ‘fact’ perhaps cannot be deduced; though one critic (by letter) asserted the invocations of Elbereth and the character of Galadriel as directly described (or through the words of Gimli and Sam) were clearly related to Catholic devotion to Mary.”
Tolkien further wrote, “Another saw in waybread (lembas)= viaticum and the reference to its feeding the will (vol. III p. 213) and being more potent when fasting, a derivation from the Eucharist. (That is: far greater things may colour the mind in dealing with the lesser things of a fairy-story.)”
He further reiterated his comments about Galadriel letter 320 to Mrs. Ruth Austin, where he wrote, “I was particularly interested in your remarks about Galadriel. … I think it is true that I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary, but actually Galadriel was a penitent, in her youth a leader in the rebellion against the Valar (the angelic guardians). At the end of the First Age she proudly refused forgiveness or permission to return.
“She was pardoned because of her resistance to the final and overwhelming temptation to take the Ring for herself,” Tolkien added.
Aside from Tolkien making it very clear that his work on The Lord of the Rings is Catholic in numerous letters, he also has numerous letters discussing his Faith.
In letter 250 to his son Michael Tolkien, he wrote, “The only cure for sagging of fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.”
In letter 49 to C.S. Lewis, Tolkien wrote, “You will observe that you are really committed (with the Christian Church as a whole) to the view that Christian marriage – monogamous, permanent, rigidly ‘faith’ – is in fact the truth about sexual behaviour for all humanity: this is the only road of total health (including sex in its proper place) for all men and women.”
“That it is dissonant with men’s present sex-psychology does not disprove this, as you see: ‘I think it is the instinct that has gone wrong,’ you say. Indeed if this were not so, it would be an intolerable injustice to impose permanent monogamy even on Christians,” he wrote. “If Christian marriage were in the last analysis ‘unnatural’ (of the same type as say the prohibition of flesh-meat in certain monastic rules) it could be imposed on a special ‘chastity-order’ of the Church, not on the universal Church. No item of compulsory Christian morals is valid only for Christians.”
Tolkien’s letters make it abundantly clear that not only was his work Catholic, but he also believed in the Church’s teachings and truths.
It’s hard to imagine any kind of argument made by Robin Reid that would have any validity about Tolkien being appropriated. I’m sure she will find it a way, but as Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher in letter 64, “evil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.”
What do you make of The Tolkien Society featuring a paper or talk titled “J.R.R. Tolkien, Culture Warrior: The Alt-Right Religious Crusade’s appropriation of ‘Tolkien'”?