If you follow me on social media at all, you’re already aware of this, I’m sure, but just in case you’re one of the folks who follow this blog and not much else, I wanted to let you know about a brand new Ancient Faith Radio podcast that launched today: The Amon Sûl Podcast.
Here’s the official description:
Join host Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick and his guest co-hosts as they explore the life, works and Middle-earth legendarium of author J. R. R. Tolkien, informed by the Orthodox Christian faith.
And here’s the description for the first episode:
Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick launches his new podcast with guest co-host Steven Christoforou, sharing their mutual love for the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, and discussing how journeying through Middle-earth helps us on the journey through our modern secular world.
It will likely take a day or so for the podcast to propagate to iTunes, Google Podcasts, etc., but you can access it right now on the AFR website as well as the AFR mobile app.
Besides the link given above for the main podcast page, you can also follow the podcast on Facebook.
Hope you’ll give it a listen and subscribe! Thanks.
Thank you so much for starting this! I really enjoyed listening (and verbally responding) to it this morning. Every time I go back to Middle Earth, I find that my faith is enriched, too, and I could listen and talk about these topics for days. I’m looking forward to many more episodes!
It’s interesting. Your view of Eru Illuvatar is more charitable than the impression I have. I don’t see Eru having much in common with God. Eru seems very distant and almost a kind of Masonic ideal of who God should be–a grand, but not accessible, architect of the universe who makes few demands of us.
Well, that’s definitely not how Tolkien himself describes him, who is explicit that he intends Eru Iluvatar to be the very true God he himself knows and worships. That said, the depiction of how Iluvatar is approached and understood is very much dependent on the setting and (fictional) “time” that JRRT picked. Here’s something from one of his letters that somewhat accounts for that:
“The Fall of Man is in the past and off stage; the Redemption of Man in the far future. We are in a time when the One God, Eru, is known to exist by the wise, but is not approachable save by or through the Valar, though He is still remembered in (unspoken) prayer by those of Númenórean descent” (Letter 297).
There is also this footnote from Letter 153: “There are thus no temples or ‘churches’ or fanes in this ‘world’ among ‘good’ peoples. They had little or no ‘religion’ in the sense of worship. For help they may call on a Vala (as Elbereth), as a Catholic might on a Saint, though no doubt knowing in theory as well as he that the power of the Vala was limited and derivative. But this is a ‘primitive age’: and these folk may be said to view the Valar as children view their parents or immediate adult superiors, and though they know they are subjects of the King he does not live in their country nor have there any dwelling. I do not think Hobbits practised any form of worship or prayer (unless through exceptional contact with Elves). The Númenóreans (and others of that branch of Humanity, that fought against Morgoth, even if they elected to remain in Middle-earth and did not go to Númenor: such as the Rohirrim) were pure monotheists. But there was no temple in Númenor (until Sauron introduced the cult of Morgoth). The top of the Mountain, the Meneltarma or Pillar of Heaven, was dedicated to Eru, the One, and there at any time privately, and at certain times publicly, God was invoked, praised, and adored: an imitation of the Valar and the Mountain of Aman. But Numenor fell and was destroyed and the Mountain engulfed, and there was no substitute. Among the exiles, remnants of the Faithful who had not adopted the false religion nor taken pan in the rebellion, religion as divine worship (though perhaps not as philosophy and metaphysics) seems to have played a small part; though a glimpse of it is caught in Faramir’s remark on ‘grace at meat’.”
And this from Letter 156: “I might perhaps have made more clear the later remarks in Vol. II (and Vol. III) which refer to or are made by Gandalf, but I have purposely kept all allusions to the highest matters down to mere hints, perceptible only by the most attentive, or kept them under unexplained symbolic forms. So God and the ‘angelic’ gods, the Lords or Powers of the West, only peep through in such places as Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo: ‘behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker’s’ ; or in Faramir’s Númenórean grace at dinner.”
So, all of that said, I think that JRRT’s depiction of Iluvatar is actually somewhat resonant with our own experiences of the one true God, namely, that most of what we tend to get here and now are “hints” and also mediated contact through holy people or angels. In any event, JRRT intends his world to be long, long before the Incarnation or even the revelation to Abraham, so there is not much direct intervention like we see in Scripture.
Ah, not having read Tolkien’s letters, I didn’t know all the background of how he constructed the world. I never thought of it being analogous to a pre-Abrahamic understanding of God. I always saw the destruction of the ring and of Mordor as being the End of Days for Middle Earth and that there really wasn’t anything better in store beyond that.
Well, there’s something to that, in that he actually once talked about writing a new story after LotR but couldn’t really get it off the ground. That said, his project was to try to create something of a myth (in one sense, for England), and he spent a lot of his latter years working to reconcile his world with the real one. So he definitely intended at least feigned continuity.
It’s also worth noting that he intends The Silmarillion to be specifically the Elves’ story about their own origins. You’ll note that Men get relatively short shrift in there, and Hobbits aren’t really accounted for at all. So there is necessarily a limitation to the foundations of the legendarium.
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