J. R. R. Tolkien is considered by many to be one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. However, he did more than write great adventure stories. And, starting Sept. 22, Lacombe’s Tolkien fans will have an opportunity to learn more about and discuss their favourite author and the meanings of his stories.
‘The Lord of the Rings: Exploring the Hidden Meanings of Tolkien’s Fiction’ is a series exploring the themes of power, ethics, morality, friendship, camaraderie and faith in Tolkien’s writing.
Reverend Ross Smillie, who will be coordinating the series, said he thought a conversation about these themes would be productive as he has noticed the many messages behind the story of The Lord of the Rings each time he reads the novels.
“Whenever I read those books, I always have a sense of being encouraged and inspired,” said Smillie. “I want to be a better person having read them.”
Smillie said he first read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a teenager and has read them many times since.
He added that when Peter Jackson released his epic film trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings from in 2001-2003, he watched films with interest as well.
As many who have read Tolkien, Smillie began to notice the parallels between the stories and religion, as well as other themes.
He added that he knew that Tolkien had been a devout Catholic. And with his good friend and fellow novelist C. S. Lewis, he had many conversations with his friends about what it meant to express religious beliefs through their art form.
Of course, Smillie isn’t the first to notice the parallels between Tolkien’s writing and religion, or the parallels between Tolkien’s writing and any parallels for that matter. As such, a number of resources already exist on this topic, some of which Smillie said he has been researching and plans to use to aid in the discussions in the series.
Smillie said that there is a reason the teachings of the Gospel are in a narrative form rather than just a list of beliefs.
He went on to say that artists like Tolkien fashioned narratives in response to “That great narrative” of the Bible story that can really change a person’s perspective.
“They can help us to see life in a different way,” said Smillie. “To see our lives in a different way and to see the world we live in in a different way.”
In Smillie’s opinion, one of the great things about The Lord of the Rings is the moral universe Tolkien created as the setting for the story.
“It can help us to identify those ways in which good and evil, right and wrong, intersect in our lives.”
While the series is being hosted within St. Andrew’s Church, Smillie said anyone is welcome, regardless of faith tradition.
He added that the series will appeal to both fans of Tolkien and those looking to learn more about their faith and of course, those who fall into both categories.
Those interested simply as fans of Tolkien can take this as an opportunity to learn more about a beloved author and his writing, he said. For those approaching it from more of a faith perspective, Smillie said Tolkien’s writing can help them to understand their faith better.
“We certainly hope that people from outside the church who are interested in Tolkien will participate because that will add a great dimension to the conversation.”
‘The Lord of the Rings: Exploring the Hidden Meanings of Tolkien’s Fiction’ will focus predominately on The Lord of the Rings but will also reference its prequel, The Hobbit and other works by Tolkien as well.
The first meeting of the series will take place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22, (the mutual birthday of The Lord of the Rings protagonist Frodo and his Uncle Bilbo from the novel) at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Participants are encouraged to bring copies of the novels as well as any other literature or resources related to Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.