The Allure of Middle Earth

A glorious post on how Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth continues to allure us back time and time again by Tony Reinke:

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More than seventy-five years after J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, the glory and majesty of Middle-earth continues to draw millions of readers, and more recently, moviegoers. This week, theaters prepare for Friday’s opening of the acclaimed new movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Partly, Tolkien’s enduring popularity can be explained by the way he artfully touches the greatest themes of our collective experience of this world. Tolkien draws on themes of glory and majesty and kingship — intangible and abstract realities not easy to tap in art — and deeply embeds those themes into Middle-earth.

On a massive scale in The Lord of the Rings, and on a smaller, but no less significant, scale in The Hobbit, we encounter the longing for the right king to emerge from the shadows and to recapture his rightful empire, an ancient yearning older than mythical kings like King Arthur.

No Kings

Today, kings are mostly marginalized to meaningless pageantry. But there remains in kingship an enduring significance that is inescapable, something deeply burned into our souls, something telling us the world will only prosper when it’s ruled by the true king.

Where no kings reign, evil reigns. Tolkien knows this. This is what makes the Misty Mountains so treacherous for the company of Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf, the travelers in The Hobbit. From the outset of their journey together, the wise wizard knows full well that to travel “over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled,” meant danger and “fearful adventure.”

No foot treads casually through realms unruled.

To read the rest, click here.

If you have not seen the movie yet, I cannot recommend it enough.  I had very high expectations for it, and the movie far exceeded my expectations.  Here is another quote from Tim Keller on how the theme of “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” is weaved throughout the movie to allure you to breath more of Middle Earth air:

This is a very important theme in Tolkien. The elves are often described as both old and young, both joyful and sad.

A more explicit expression of it is the description of Gandalf in Book 3-

. . . in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.

And I agree—it is very helpful in describing the demeanor of Christians, who will feel the fallenness of the world most keenly because they know what God created the world to be, and who know that nothing within history will ever bring about any fundamental repair of things, and yet Christians also have an unquenchable, infallible assurance that in the end, everything will be joy and glory. So how else can we act, but “sad, but not unhappy,” “afflicted, but not crushed”—weeping, but rejoicing.

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